New Welk Theatre Director Stars On and Off the Stage : Theater

The Lawrence Welk Dinner Theatre’s newly appointed (and first official) artistic director, Frank Wayne, is amid a flurry of activity that makes the word “busy” seem inadequate.

This year he helped develop the Lawrence Welk Stage II, which is a different name for the same stage where a second show appears on the first show’s dark nights.

Then, before he got the nod as artistic director, he signed to star in Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite,” opening Jan. 18 on the Lawrence Welk II, playing the three male roles that traditionally go to one actor in this three-plays-in-one comedy.

This, of course, is scheduled to happen the day before “Can Can” opens Jan. 19.


Given the 14 shows a week that he is supposed to be overseeing, it is fortunate that Wayne is highly familiar with “Plaza Suite.” Not only has he directed it before, he has also played in it with Walter Matthau--in the movie version.

Wayne played the bandleader who argues with Matthau in the third segment about just how many players Matthau’s character paid for at his daughter’s wedding.

One element of “Plaza Suite” that Wayne said he is particularly proud of is that all four actors involved (Pat White, Zoe Zodufour and James Eldon, in addition to Wayne) are San Diego actors. Using local talent is one of his ongoing goals for Stage II.

“It keeps the budget down,” he said, explaining that this way they don’t have to house people from Los Angeles. “And it’s good for the community.”


In line with his plans to develop what he calls “a good local cadre of acting talent and technical talent,” Wayne has begun a paid training program for young actors, stage managers and technical staff, open to applicants 16 years of age and over. Those interested should write to Wayne at 8845 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, CA, 92026.

Wayne said all this work would be enough to turn his hair white, if it wasn’t already. “Maybe this will turn it black again.”

- Even though the North Coast Repertory Theatre said it planned to open “Joe Egg” in its new 200-plus-seat theater, the theater only set aside its usual 126 tickets for each performance just in case there would be delays--as, indeed, there were. Now, instead of opening Jan. 8 in the new theater, “Joe Egg” is opening Jan. 14 in the old theater and “Salt-Water Moon,” a love story by David French, will inaugurate the new theater.

Still, with the surge of interest in the new theater, subscription sales have multiplied threefold and, for the first time in the theater’s history, there are six sold-out performances way in advance of opening night. And just how many seats will there be in the theater? North Coast doesn’t know because it is negotiating with the builders on whether to give up a few of what could be 204 seats in favor of a larger stage.