Broad Stage 2009-10: Baryshnikov, Domingo, Florez, Hoffman among the highlights

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Although many arts organizations are hunkering down and cutting budgets in light of the economy, the new Broad Stage in Santa Monica plans next season to feature twice the number of performances as it is presenting during its ongoing first season

Dale Franzen, artistic director of the center, which is announcing its 2009-2010 season today, said the new season will include 81 performances (some of them free), compared with the current season’s 40.


Franzen said that, although the economy hurt attendance during some performances last fall, many events have been sold out during the current season and that expanding the season increases much-needed ticket revenue. ‘We’re going in a different direction — we’ve cut costs, but it’s better for us to expand,’ she said. Next season’s operating costs will be cut in part because there are none of the first season launching costs; also, many artists have cut their fees due to the recession. It is also less expensive to bring in performances for more than one night, which is happening more than it has in the inaugural season.

The season will open Sept. 4-5 with weekend performances by Mikhail Baryshnikov (Sept. 4 is a gala celebration and Sept. 5 is the official season opening night). He will perform with ballerina Ana Laguna in two U.S. premieres of dances by Alexei Ratmansky and Benjamin Millipied.

Other season highlights include appearances by Placido Domingo, conducting a zarzuela program; tenor Juan Diego Florez; the American debut of pianist Ludovico Einaudi; tap dancer Savion Glover and the introduction of the Broad Stage’s first multi-night theatrical runs.

In addition, the Broad Stage will participate in Gustavo Dudamel’s America’s L.A. Phil Festival by presenting the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela. Venezuelan Dudamel is the incoming music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

As was the case in the debut season, next year’s schedule includes free family outreach programs and the Under the Radar series of more experimental, lower-priced performances at the Edye. Composer and saxophonist Ben Wendel, an adjunct professor of jazz at USC, has been appointed associate producer for Under the Radar.

For 2009-2010, the Broad Stage is also introducing a literary series titled ‘From Page to Stage’ and is planning another series featuring Dustin Hoffman, the artistic chairman of the Broad Stage, in conversation with various artists. The Hoffman series is free to donors and will be available for single ticket sales beginning Aug. 1.

‘The ‘I Wonder’ series is a chance to explore, be spontaneous and let artists get together and dream and process onstage in front of an interactive audience,’ Hoffman said. ‘We, and they, are making this up as we go along.’

Franzen said that the Broad Stage is offering its first theatrical runs in 2009-2010 because of public demand: ‘People want us to do full-on theater,’ she said. Presented by KCRW, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will present 12 performances of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ on Nov. 19-29; Basil Twist performs his puppet version of ‘Petrushka’ on Feb.4-7. At the Edye Second Stage on Dec. 11-26 will be ‘Jane Austen Unscripted With High Tea,’ featuring an improv troupe dressed as Jane Austen characters but offering very un-Austen-like unscripted comedy.

She added that the ‘From Page to Stage’ literary series will present writers and their work in a setting with ‘theatrical elements.’

Franzen said she believes the Broad Stage is filling a performing arts gap on the Westside. The facility also began offering free parking a few months ago, dropping an $8 charge, and will continue to in the upcoming season. ‘I probably shouldn’t say this, but people are saying to me they don’t even care what they see here, it’s so close to home,’ she said. ‘I always go downtown; we can never replace Disney Hall or the opera, but we can add to it. You can see a smaller version of that here and then go downtown.’

For a complete 2009-2010 schedule, visit the Broad Stage website or call (310) 434-3200 for more information.

— Diane Haithman