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New CRA Loan Gives Variety Arts a 90-Day Lease on Life; Harelik’s ‘Immigrant’ Named as 1986-87 Opener at Taper

Times Staff Writer

It isn’t exactly magic, but almost. Milt Larsen’s Society for the Preservation for Variety Arts, which was close to shutting down last week due to a lack of operating funds, has been given a $175,000 emergency loan by the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The loan, granted Monday, enables the club/restaurant/entertainment and archival center to remain in business another 90 days (and raises the Variety Arts’ existing debt with the CRA from $805,000 to $980,000). Failure to find a permanent solution to the center’s mounting financial problems within that time would result in automatic foreclosure.

“It’s taken the immediate pressure off,” said Janet Allyn, director of finance and administration for Variety Arts, “and I think we have a pretty good shot at putting something together. Milt has been approached by a combination of business investors and arts contributors interested in the concept of buying the building, retaining its flavor and our involvement, but putting it on a business footing. In 90 days, we have at least a chance of hammering something out.”

Larsen’s plan is to sell the five-story building at 940 S. Figueroa St. (a historical landmark appraised at $8 million two years ago) to just such a group of investors and arrange for a low-cost leaseback.

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Should the plan succeed, it will enable the society, which houses priceless collections of burlesque and vaudeville scripts, among countless other show-business artifacts, to continue preserving some dying arts and function as the unusual center that it is. Should the plan fail, foreclosure proceeds and the CRA owns the building.

So Larsen, who’s been pulling rabbits out of hats for a long time, has to come up with one more. . . .

NO RUMOR: Artistic director Gordon Davidson has announced it to his subscribers, so look for Mark Harelik’s “The Immigrant” to be the opening show of the Mark Taper Forum’s 1986-87 season.

This is a tenderly etched, intensely personal portrait of the author’s grandfather, the first Jew to settle in the small town of Hamilton, Tex., in the 1890s, where he became a leading citizen.

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“Immigrant” was commissioned by and originated at the Denver Center Theatre Company. It became the sleeper of that theater’s 1984-85 season and a hit of its ’85-86 season, when it was moved into a larger theater.

The play will be presented at the Taper in association with the Denver Center Theatre Company and comes to us with three of the original four actors: Ann Guilbert, Guy Raymond and Harelik himself playing his own grandfather. The Denver Center’s Randall Myler, who worked closely with Harelik on the script and staged the Denver productions, will again direct.

“Immigrant” is a first play for actor/author Harelik, a current member of the Denver company who was last seen at the Taper in “Wild Oats” in 1984.

The balance of the Taper 1986-87 season is, as they say, to be announced. Any minute now.

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ROLL ‘EM!: The Ensemble Studio Theatre will host a 9-to-5 symposium May 10 at Paramount Studios (5555 Melrose Ave.) examining the creative process of writer, director, actor and producer in taking a stage work to the screen.

Panelists include writers Bill C. Davis, Beth Henley, Fay Kanin (who’ll moderate), Lyle Kessler, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee; directors Randa Haines, Stanley Kramer, Daniel Mann (moderator), Tom Moore and Ed Zwick; actors Eileen Brennan, William Devane, Richard Dreyfuss and Fionnula Flanagan. Director Ed Sherin moderates the actors’ panel.

Asked how he views Hollywood’s renewed interest in stage properties, Kramer said: “It’s the attraction of taking a chance on something that has already been tried in another medium. It becomes just a secondary gamble.”

Kramer’s stage-to-film conversions include “Member of the Wedding,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Home of the Brave,” “Cyrano de Bergerac” (“not commercially successful, but Ferrer was extraordinary”), “The Fourposter” (“a real dare with just two characters”) and “Inherit the Wind” (written by co-panelists Lawrence and Lee).

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Registration deadline is Monday and the $95 fee includes a buffet lunch in the Paramount Commissary (late registration: $115). For more information, (213) 466-2226.

PASS IT ON: An anniversary luncheon marking the first year of the L.A. Theatre pass (offering five tickets to five Waiver theaters) was held Tuesday at Stages’ new Cafe Des Artistes, 1534 McCadden Place in Hollywood.

“The pass has been incredibly successful,” said Paul Verdier, artistic director of Stages, one of the five theaters (the others are Actors for Themselves, Back Alley, L.A. Theatre Works and Odyssey Theatre Ensemble).

“We started it as an audience development tool and had hoped for 1,000 subscribers the first year. We got 2,700--a lot of people thought it was a great idea. This time we’re angling for 5,000. We did a random survey and got a 60% commitment to renew. The flexibility of the pass is its best aspect.”

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Second-year passes cost $50 and are good for any show, June 15 to June 15 (one ticket per theater). Reservations are essential. For information, call Stages, which serves as clearing house: (213) 465-1010.

RETURNING: " . . . about Anne,” Salome Jens’ one-woman show based on the poetry of Anne Sexton, reopens next Thursday at Stages. This solo flight has earned the exceptional Jens lavish acclaim both here and in New York.

MORE AWARDS: Shakespearean scholar, literary critic and professor Jan Kott, 72, author of numerous essays on Shakespeare and perhaps best known for his book “Shakespeare Our Contemporary,” is this year’s winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for criticism. The accolade comes with a $5,000 prize.

EXECUSHOP: In business and scared? The Groundlings School has come up with an Execuprov workshop designed for the business person intimidated by the demands of business life. The workshop applies improvisational game techniques to help individuals relax and overcome inhibitions.

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The two-week course runs next Thursday to May 10, with classes Thursdays (6:30-9:30 p.m.), Fridays and Saturdays (9-5 p.m.) at the Sheraton Newport. Call (213) 934-4747.


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