In another month, the new Los Angeles Theatre Center begins its 1986-87 season--perhaps its most financially critical one.
Only Monday, the Community Redevelopment Agency Commission, which has pumped about $10 million into the theater, announced that it has hired William Severns to serve as its arts consultant with LATC. Severns, a top arts administrator who was head of the Music Center Operating Co. for many years, will evaluate the LATC’s operations for the CRA, with an eye to bringing costs down.
He arrives at a propitious time.
Tuesday, artistic/producing director Bill Bushnell and LATC producer Diane White announced 15 major productions for the new season--and “three or four more” in a developmental program.
Three play series have again been lined up: the Classic/Revival, the Premiere and the Discovery.
The first of these launches the season with Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” (May 22-June 14), which Bushnell will direct and White produce. Heading the cast are Philip Baker Hall, Nan Martin, Bill Pullman and Julie Fulton. “Sons” starts rehearsals Monday.
A trendy “Tartuffe,” adapted by Charles Marowitz and “set in Beverly Hills with Tartuffe as a Baghwan and other gurus that seem to develop around the world and on the West Coast in particular” will run July 17-Aug.9.
Stein Winge (who staged LATC’S controversial “Three Sisters” last year) returns from Norway to direct Michel De Ghelderode’s “Barabbas” (Aug. 7-Sept. 3).
“It’s the story of what it must have looked like from the foot of the cross that day,” Bushnell said. Added White: “It’s a very Marxist piece--and quite religious.” Timian Alsaker is designing.
Alan Mandell will direct Piper Laurie in Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” (Oct.9-22), with Alsaker again designing the encroaching ant-hill set. The series closes with another Winge staging, this one of the Michael Feingold translation/adaptation of Brecht/Weill’s “Happy End” (Jan.14-Feb. 28).
The Premiere series (the name tells you what you need to know) starts out June 5 with Joan Holden’s “Spain/36,” a musical play on a sweeping scale commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. Holden, a stalwart of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, wrote this one under a Rockefeller grant.
Music and lyrics are by Bruce Barthol. The Mime Troupe’s Daniel Chumley will direct. Said Bushnell: “It’s the San Francisco Mime Troupe combined with us.” Watch for guest appearances by Hitler, Mussolini and many more . . . .
“It’s their troupe; we’re not casting,” said White, who is producing. “Spain/36" runs through July 13.
Next in the series is the American premiere of “Alpha” (Sept. 18-Oct.12), a new piece by Slawomir Mrozek that just closed its maiden run in Paris. Translated by Jacek Laskowski, “Alpha” is described as “a tragicomic parody of politics scrambled.” The director will be Robert Goldsby.
William Mastrosimone, who gave LATC “Nanawatai” last season, returns with “Tamer of Horses” (Sept. 25-Nov. 16).
“It’s a three-character play about a black couple who take in a foster child who’s a monster, a subway mugger,” Mastrosimone had said in an interview last year.
“The title comes from Homer--the last line of ‘The Iliad’: ‘And thus did they celebrate the funeral of Hector, tamer of horses.’ The kid’s name is Hector. It’s really about the power of love on a kid like that.”
Los Angeles playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s “The Film Society” follows, Nov. 19 to Dec. 14.
“It’s about the British in South Africa,” said White, “an unsuccessful actor turned teacher. Jon was in school in Durban from his ninth to his 16th year. It’s loosely based on that experience.”
Bushnell will complete the series with more of his annual Festival of World Premieres (the eighth).
“I hope to announce very shortly some major, major corporate underwriting,” he said. Also more play titles. Among the possibilities are Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind,” Israel Horovitz’s “Henry Lumper” (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Parts I and II”) and a new play by Luis Valdez (author of “I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges,” still running at the center).
As for the Discovery series, “It’s the least complete,” Bushnell said. “We’re going to revive Beckett’s ‘Company’ with the whole team (that staged it in the theater’s old quarters in February, 1985). And the only other play set is ‘Alfred and Victoria: a Life’ by Donald Freed, with Gerald Hiken directing. That’s it so far. This takes us from May to March, 1987.”
“Company” will run Aug. 14 to Sept. 21 and “Alfred and Victoria” Oct. 30 through Dec. 7. Philip Baker Hall and Kim Cattrall will play the couple of the title--characters whose last names happen to be Bloomingdale and Morgan.
The Theatre Center also will continue to provide free parking and, on Fridays only, free child care for subscribers and for audiences attending “Badges.”
Given the ambition of the program--which always translates into cost--Bushnell welcomes the arrival of consultant Severns.
“There’s nobody in the country with better experience with major institutions,” he said. “Bill has real insights into the problems, and into the interaction between artists and management. One of his real charges will be to give them (the CRA commission) a realistic picture of what the future looks like.
“When you’re carving out new territory like this it’s important that people be made comfortable by getting the right knowledge. I think it’s going to work fine--good for them and good for us.”
Contacted Wednesday, Severns said, “I’ve done this before. One of the things that’s happened in our business (the arts) is that suddenly it has become so technically involved that there is a lot (for a theater) to carry. It’s very expensive. I hope I can help.”