Hot off the presses: Simon Callow, who translated and directed last year's classy production of Milan Kundera's "Jacques and His Master," will come back to the Los Angeles Theatre Center next fall to stage Lope de Vega's "Fuente Ovejuna" ("Sheep's Well") and Schiller's "Don Carlos," back to back. The mega-object: to try to create a resident company.
"It's what the Taper's been trying for years," said artistic director Bill Bushnell, who was instrumental in putting together San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre in the late 1960s. "We'll try it--as an experiment."
It all came together in Vienna last year, Bushnell said, "as Simon, who had come in from Zagreb, and I, who had come in from Hamburg, sat around all day waiting to see Klaus Maria Brandauer in 'Hamlet' that night. We wanted to find a way for Simon to do more than one play with us. I gave him all my arguments as to why it might be an exercise in futility and he gave me all of his as to why it might not."
Such a project requires lots of money. Bushnell says he's got some set aside, but acknowledges that to make this possible one would have to offer actors at least $55,000 to be attached to the theater for a year. " That kind of money we don't have," he said.
Asked if he'll go after star names to make the company a draw, Bushnell said, "I don't discriminate against stars, if they have the training. But they'll be billed alphabetically and will all get whatever we can afford to pay.
"Theater operates over the long haul," he elaborated, "not two, three seasons at a time (like television). We have to build an infrastructure that will sustain itself well after I'm gone, thank you.
"I have a lot of questions about whether this can be done in Hollywood. If it can, then I have to go out and find the money to keep it alive.
"Building a kind of family that has an open door to it is what we want. And keeping that door open for a steady influx of new talent of all sizes and shapes is important. Too many times I've seen what happens when that door is closed."
As for the particular choice of plays, "We wanted to link them, if not thematically, then as a couple of classics in which we can also involve some of our Latino actors."
ROLLING THE DICE: Whatever else we may have to say about it in weeks to come, the new theater year is getting off to a busy start. Here, for that new calendar on the wall, are some potential highlights for this first month:
TONIGHT - "Stew Rice," by Edward Sakamoto (who gave us the delicious "Chikamatsu's Forest") opens at East West Players. This one's a play about growing up in Hawaii.
FRIDAY - "Little Mary Sunshine" comes to the new Richard Basehart Playhouse in Woodland Hills, staged by Cynthia Baer Wynant who directed the original New York production.
WEDNESDAY - A reprise of "Me and My Girl" launches the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera 1989 season at the Pantages, with Tim Curry playing the Robert Lindsay role.
- The Acting Company's "Much Ado About Nothing" comes to the Norris Community Theatre in Palos Verdes for one performance only (see Jan. 19).
NEXT THURSDAY - The Pacific Theater Ensemble presents "Don't Go Back to Rockville," a "Southern romance" written and directed by Jamie Baker, at its space in Venice. Some members of this cast are fresh from the company of the Dr.Seuss-inspired "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which recently played Solvang and the Westwood Playhouse.
- That winning team of writer Craig Lucas and director Norman Rene" (who gave us "Blue Window" and "Three Postcards") returns to South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. Their newest collaboration: "Prelude to a Kiss"--an urban fable of love and knowledge.
- "Etta Jenks," a play by Marlane Meyer about L.A.'s sleaziest subculture opens at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Roberta Levitow directs (she staged last year's "The Stick Wife"). Jonelle Allen and Ebbe Roe Smith are in the cast.
- Kevin Heelan's "Distant Fires" opens the International City Theatre's 1988 season. This 1986 Dramatists Guild/CBS New Play award winner was previously produced at Connecticut's Hartford Stage. Deborah LaVine directs. - Norwegian actress Juni Dahr will offer the human face of Joan of Arc in "Joan of Arc: Vision Through Fire." This is the second entry in Pipeline's foreign theater festival at the Wallenboyd.
- John Ford Noonan's "Some Men Need Help" opens at the Flight Theatre. This marks the fifth Noonan Southern California premiere in the last 12 months.
- Steven Metcalfe's "Vikings," a play about three generations of carpenters of Danish descent, has its local premiere at Garden Grove's Gem Theatre. It features Bert Conway and Daniel Bryan Cartmell directed by Jules Aaron.
- The Catalina Production Group offers "Blame It On the Movies: The Reel Music of Hollywood," a new review celebrating film composers and their songs. Blame it on David Galligan and Larry Hyman who direct and choreograph, respectively. At the Coast Playhouse.
- The Acting Company moves into the James A. Doolittle Theatre for two weeks with a pair of nontraditional Shakespeares: "Kabuki Macbeth" (Jan.19-24) and "Much Ado About Nothing" (Jan. 26-31). The former is an extensive rewrite by Karen Sunde, directed by Kabuki expert Shozo Sato; the latter is staged by the company's associate artistic director Gerald Guttierez and set in 1930s Cuba. Each show will have Wednesday and Sunday matinees.
- The unclassifiable Spalding Gray continues his stand at the Taper, Too with "L.A. the Other, Building a Monologue." (He's currently doing "L.A. the Other, Conversations With . . .," same address.)
- Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind" opens on the Taper's main stage, featuring, among others, "Broadcast News' " Holly Hunter. Robert Woodruff directs.
- Norman Lock's "The House of Correction," described as "a dark comedy about domestic terrorism, responsibility and revenge," starts at LATC. This one's a long shot.
- Brian Friel's "The Freedom of the City" opens at Theatre West under the direction of Fionnula Flanagan ("James Joyce's Women"). The massive production (it has a cast of 35) expects to turn this smallish theater into a Northern Irish battle zone, circa 1970.
- "City Gents/Lunch Girls," a double-header by British playwright Ron Hart, will be the visiting production at LATC's Theatre 4. "Gents" deals with the topic-of-the-month: the London and international stock markets. "Girls" is about four women who try to arrange a luncheon, "despite their domestic, social and personal relationships." Despite . . . ?
- For those who like their theater Yiddish, Mary Soreanu and Off Broadway's Yiddish-English musical "On Second Avenue"--a chronicle of Yiddish showbiz on the Lower East Side from the turn of the century to the 1950s--light up the Wilshire Ebell.
- Speaking of Jewish themes, the Back Alley in Van Nuys opens "What's Wrong With This Picture?," a Jewish comedy by Donald Margulies ("Found a Peanut").
- Finally, Daniel O'Conner's highly praised environmental staging of his own "Slaughterhouse at Tanner's Close" moves to a new theater: Hollywood's Stages.
Place your bets . . .