USIU Alumnus Foster Has Come Full Circle

It’s been old-home week for Christopher Foster. He’s the 35-year-old alumnus of United States International University (USIU) who made good on Broadway in the hit revival of “You Can’t Take It With You,” directed by Ellis Rabb. Foster is back at USIU directing the same play for a Wednesday opening.

“Everything has come full circle here,” Foster said. “The reason I worked at the Old Globe, where I met Ellis Rabb, was because of USIU. And here I am back at USIU. It’s like a charmed circle. You can go home again, and you can take it with you.”

Foster is staying in the same suite of rooms he lived in as a freshman 12 years before, which he said is like being in a time warp. He’s also reminded of the first production he ever saw of the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play about an eccentric family, whose daughter wants to marry the son of an up-tight businessman.

It was done by non-drama students at USIU and was not memorable.


“I was concerned, when I came here to do the show, about how do you top the Broadway production or at least make sure you don’t butcher it. I was delighted when I came here to find so many good actors and actresses. They don’t need to be Colleen Dewhurst, they just need to be good and appropriate. And they are.”

The most important advice he said he gives to his cast is to relax and not think about the giants, such as Dewhurst and Jason Robards, who filled the roles on Broadway.

That’s what Foster himself had to do when director Rabb, whom he met during his post-USIU Old Globe days, cast him--without an audition--opposite Dewhurst and Robards.

“I had idolized them ever since I was a student at USIU, saw them in ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ in Los Angeles, and even wrote a play with Dewhurst in mind. I was concerned about whether I could be able to keep eye contact with them on stage.”


Dewhurst got him to relax when she had the entire cast over to her suite for charades and then to her farm for a big picnic.

Foster overcame the problem of looking into Dewhurst’s eyes, but he still couldn’t do it with Robards.

Then in the Kennedy Center--where Foster did a performance of “You Can’t Take It With You” for an audience that included George Bush and his wife, Barbara--Foster and Robards attended a performance of the National Theater of the Deaf.

They went backstage after the show and a cameraman asked Robards if it was a problem that the actors in the National Theater of the Deaf don’t talk.

“He made the point that as important as language is, it’s not as important as seeing one man look into another’s eyes. And then he turned to me and looked at me and I held his eyes. “I’ve never had the problem since.”

The subject matter on stage in “In Trousers” may be slightly more risque than that of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But Sunday night’s backstage drama could have been plucked right out of Frank Capra’s classic about an ordinary man who spends an extraordinary life bailing folks out of trouble.

The actors and musicians, who play in William Finn’s comic musical about a gay man coming out of the closet, looked in vain for their paychecks Sunday night at the Hotel San Diego. But the cupboard at James Vaughn and Potpourri Productions was bare.

Not to worry. Their director, Tim Irving, had just come into an inheritance from an uncle who died two years ago and promised to buy the show, pay the salaries and reopen at the Bowery Theatre. This sparkling musical, a cross between “Stop The World, I Want to Get Off” and “Torch Song Trilogy,” reopens tonight and plays Thursday through Sunday at the Bowery Theatre, through Nov. 27.


William Virchis and Jorge Huerta couldn’t be happier about the two Hispanic plays opening this week at two of the city’s biggest theaters. The only complaint by Virchis, the artistic director of Southwestern College, is that nobody called attention to the fact that Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding” at the Old Globe Theatre, and Antonio Skarmeta’s “Burning Patience” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, is essentially a Latino double bill.

Ten years ago, Virchis and Huerta, a professor at UC San Diego, helped design Teatro Meta, an Old Globe project to promote Latino theater.

Huerta, who recently dropped out of Teatro Meta, is co-directing “Burning Patience” with the Rep’s artistic director, Doug Jacobs. It will mark the first time a major San Diego theater has made a bilingual production part of its regular schedule.

Bilingual productions would seem to be naturals in a city like San Diego. But the tentative stance on the part of theaters, explains Virchis, has a lot to do with getting a Latino audience into the shows.

“We still don’t have a Hispanic tradition in the theater,” Virchis said. “It takes time to woo the culture.”

Which puts Virchis and Huerta in the uneasy role of wooing two shy brides at once.

“The duality of selling the audiences and selling the theaters is a killer,” said Virchis. “It’s like a gold mine that’s not being mined. You know where the gold is, but before you rape the mountain, you’ve got to know how to do it.”

Will the Hispanic audiences come forward for the 13 scheduled Spanish performances of “Burning Patience”? That’s the burning question Virchis and Huerta know the theaters will ask. In the meantime, they plan to continue their work of getting the Hispanic population into the theater-going habit.


STAGE BRIEFS: “Suds,” the San Diego production now playing off-Broadway, will go national after its final New York performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. . . . Ralph Elias, artistic director of the Bowery Theatre, is holding auditions Nov. 20 and 21 for an ensemble theater company that he hopes to start when the Bowery relocates to 860 5th Ave. in mid-spring. Titles under consideration for the new season include “Coyote Ugly,” “Eccentricities of a Nightingale,” “Porno Stars at Home” and “Sand Mountain.” . . . Athol Fugard’s “The Road to Mecca,” which recently closed on Broadway, will be produced by the Old Globe Theatre March 4-April 16 on the Cassius Carter Centre Stage under the direction of executive producer Craig Noel. “Mecca” will also play at the South Coast Repertory Theatre Jan. 13-Feb. 16. . . . “For the Struggle of Wings,” a dramatization of a book of poetry by local poet Gerald Chorba, will debut Nov. 11 at Installation Gallery at 2400 Kettner Blvd. The show will play Friday and Saturdays through Nov. 19.