This Week in LA Theatre

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By Julio Martinez


  • In honor of the 100th year of Veterans Day and the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, the play If All the Sky Were Paper, about Andrew Carrol and his journey around the world for the “most extraordinary war letters ever written,” is coming Nov 10 to Chapman’s Musco Center for the Arts. To date, Anette Benning, Gary Cole, Daytime Emmy Award-winner Kate Mansi, and Ed Asner have joined the all-star cast. John Benitz directs; composer Peter Boyer’s original score will be performed live.


  • Lonnie Hughes’ autobiographical play, Talking Trees, a “therapeutic tale centered around a mixed-race couple and their refusal to effectively communicate,” premieres Oct 12 at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood. Marjorie LeWitt directs.
  • The Fountain Theatre is presenting the West Coast premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cost of Living, focusing on “the forces that bring people together and the realities of facing the world with physical disabilities,” written by Martyna Majok. Stars Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Maurice G. Smith, and Katy Sullivan. Directed by John Vreeke. Opens Oct 20.
  • Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood completes its 2017-2018 season with the premiere of Cleo, Theo & Wu, “a heroine’s journey with remarkable women,” with the fate of the universe at stake. Written by Kirsten Vangsness and directed by Lisa Dring. Stars Vangsness and a supporting cast of 13. Opens Nov 1.
  • Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum will premiere Valley of the Heart, written and directed by Luis Valdez. Set in California, the play examines “the difficult divide between America’s ideals and its actions.” Opens Nov 7.


  • Long Beach Opera opens its 40th anniversary season with Three Tales, a documentary video opera in response to nearly 100 years of modern technology, composed by Steve Reich, with visuals by Beryl Korot. Sung in English, conducted by Andreas Mitisek. Nov 3-4 at Ernest Borgnine Theater, Scottish Rite Event Center in Long Beach.
  • Odyssey Theatre in West L.A is reviving Bruce J. Friedman’s 1970 off-Broadway hit comedy, Steambath, imagining the Afterlife to be a seedy steam room with God serving as a Puerto Rican bath attendant. Helmed by Odyssey Artistic Director Ron Sossi. Stars Paul Rodriguez as the bath attendant (a.k.a. “God”). Opens Oct 20
  • Greenway Arts Alliance has announced the cast and creative team for the Tony Award-winning The Color Purple, book by Marsha Norman (adapted from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the 1985 Steven Spielberg film), music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray. Directing and choreographing the cast of 15 is NAACP Theater Award-winner Jeffrey Polk (Smokey Joe’s Café). Featuring Gabrielle Jackson (Celie), April Nixon (Shug), (Mister) and Jeremy Whatley (Harpo). Opens Nov 10 at Greenway Court Theatre on the campus of Fairfax High School.
  • Ruskin Group Theatre Theatre in Santa Monica is hosting its monthly Library Girl series, an evening of stories, poetry, and music, created and hosted by Susan Hayden, this Sunday, Oct 14. This month’s theme is That’s What You Get For Loving Me: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings, and 9-Year Anniversary Show in Words and Music, featuring readings by writers Bruce Ferber, Conney Williams, and others. Waylon songs to be performed by singer-songwriters Bliss Bowen, Lisa Finnie, Irene Greene, JD Hinton, Amilia K Spicer, and Mason Summit.


  • Comedian Jeannette Rizzi is presenting her acclaimed solo production, Blindsided, a personal journey about how Rizzi, at the age of 17, dives into a tailspin after the suicide of her best friend. Opens Oct 13 at Hudson Guild Theatre in Hollywood.


Director Chris Fields and cast members discuss Echo Theatre Company’s West Coast premiere run of Gloria, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, now extended through Oct. 28 at Atwater Village Theatre.


Playwright Henry Ong, a 16-time recipient of Artist-in-Residence grants from the City of Los Angeles, passed away on September 29th, after a long battle with cancer. Born November 23, 1949, Ong was a first-generation Asian-American who grew up in Singapore and later attended graduate school at Iowa State University in Cedar Rapids, receiving a master’s degree in journalism. Moving to Los Angeles, he began to pursue a career as a playwright, working with Interact Theatre Company and Company of Angeles. In 2014, Ong was honored with the Lee Melville Award from Playwrights Arena for outstanding contribution to theatre in Los Angeles. Ong’s works, which ranged from plays inspired by true events to biographical dramas and adaptations of classic novels, include Madame Mao’s Memories, Sweet Karma, Fabric, The Legend of White Snake, and People Like Me, which garnered him a Drama-Logue Award for writing excellence in 1998. Ong’s works have also been produced at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Latchmere Theatre, London; Queens Theatre in the Park, NY; and Bailiwick Theatre, Chicago. In 2017, Ong fulfilled a lifelong dream to have his six-hour adaptation of the Chinese classic, Dream of the Red Chamber, staged at Edward Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood. As a champion of L.A. theater, Ong saw an average of 150 plays annually and served for many years as an active voter for the Ovation Awards. His family is planning a celebration of his life on a date TBA.


Henry Ong (Photo by Tom Carmichael)

Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review, celebrating the best in theater and cabaret in the Greater Los Angeles area. Airs Fridays (2-2:30 pm) on KPFK 90.7 (FM).


Julio Martinez

Julio Martinez

Julio pens the weekly LA STAGE Insider column for @ This Stage Magazine, as well as the monthly LA STAGE History column. He is a recurring contributor to Written By (the monthly publication of the Writer’s Guild of America) and is the TeleVision columnist for Latin Heat Entertainment. On air, he hosts the weekly Arts in Review program for KPFK 90.7 FM. An active journalist for over 30 years, Julio’s articles and reviews have appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Weekly, Stage Raw, Backstage West, Westways Magazine, and Drama-Logue Magazine, among others.