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Theater Loses 2nd Play to the Power of Equity

Poor Minerva Marquis. The artistic director of the Marquis Public Theatre has had to find out the hard way how easily non-Equity rights can be revoked when an Equity theater gets a bead on your play.

First, she announced a production of Christopher Durang’s “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and built the set, only to have her non-Equity rights taken away by the San Diego Repertory Theatre, which plans to produce the play in its coming season.

Her next choice for the main-stage space, Samuel Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot,” was announced in The Times Friday. Her cast had just completed its first reading Tuesday when she got a call from the Dramatist’s Guild that night informing her that her rights had again been waived.

This time, the Old Globe Theatre wants to produce the play.

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“They could hire me to pick their shows for them the way it’s working out,” said a frustrated Marquis. “Why not? I work cheap.”

Marquis said she has no recourse except to look for a new show and to keep her choice quiet as long as possible.

“I announced it early because I wanted to get written about in the magazines,” she said. “But it wasn’t worth it. I think this time I’ll wait awhile before I announce what I’m planning to do.”

Thomas Hall, managing director of the Old Globe Theatre, said that the Globe did call the licensing agent after reading the Marquis Theatre announcement, but only because the Globe had had a contract to do the play months before.

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“We were very shocked to see the show announced in the paper, because we had already made the arrangements to do the play,” Hall said. “We’ve been asking for those rights three to four times in the last few years and they were just released in the last couple of months. We already have actors and directors in mind.

“The licensing agent didn’t check to see if an Equity theater had a contract--which we had. It’s unfortunate, but I think it would be silly for two managements to do the same show.”

Ted Geisel of La Jolla, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, has given only one theater company in the United States the right to adapt his work. That company is the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, which plans to present Dr. Seuss’ classic “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” at the Moscow Central Children’s Theatre this spring.

You can catch the work of the Children’s Theatre Company tonight (8 p.m.) at UC San Diego’s Mandeville Auditorium.

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The bill of fare is “Two African Tales,” an African version of “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Kalulu and His Money Farm,” an authentic Shona folk tale about a swaggering rabbit who brags, boasts and bullies his way through life. They are adapted by Timothy Mason, a playwrighting veteran of the South Coast Repertory Theatre (“Before I Got My Eye Put Out”), the Circle Repertory Company in New York and the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. Mason also penned the “Bartholomew Cubbins” script.

While the cast dances and sings through a script in Swahili, the narrator will describe what’s happening in English.

The director, Richard D. Thompson, was 14 when he became an original cast member of “Two African Tales” in 1972. Now, he will direct his own brother and sister, Bruce and Audrey Thompson, in two of the parts.

The 27-year-old Children’s Theatre Company is one of a mere handful of world-famous children’s theater companies in the United States. Unlike the San Diego Junior Theatre, which emphasizes the production of classic American musicals by and for children, the Children’s Theatre Company develops its own material which is geared for children and adults, some of whom come to the shows sans bambinos.

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“For the most part, the body of literature that exists for young people is terrible,” Thompson said from his home in Minneapolis. “In their entire history, the Children’s Theatre has only done one pre-existing script. Everything else is adapted or done new. I directed this with the notion that anyone could watch this and be entertained and educated at the same time. I look at the material as being done for anyone who is young at heart.”

Meanwhile, the San Diego Junior Theatre opens its latest show tonight as well. “Bye Bye Birdie” plays through Jan. 29 at the Casa del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park.

BITS AND PIECES: The Gaslamp Quarter Theatre will be host to a women’s-only slumber party fund-raiser tonight at the Horton Grand Hotel. In honor of Friday the 13th, the entertainment includes seances and palm reading in addition to manicures, pedicures, cheesecake and the raffling off of a $3,000 gift certificate toward the plastic surgery of your choice. But it isn’t really women only. For $50, men can drop in for a midnight panty raid. . . . The Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2 preview nights of “As Is,” a play about AIDS presented by San Diego StageWorks at the Lyceum Space, have been designated as benefit performances for 10 local AIDS groups. The show opens Feb. 3 and plays Wednesday to Sunday through Feb. 26. . . . “Picture Perfect,” the kickoff play in the Latino Play Discovery Program of the Old Globe Theatre’s Teatro Meta, will present a free reading at 7 p.m Jan. 17 at the Progressive Stage Company to be followed by workshop performances priced at $3-5 at 7 p.m. Jan. 27-29 with a Saturday matinee Jan. 28. . . . San Diego should be having a Mostly Mozart year. Octad-One is currently presenting the San Diego premiere of “Amadeus” at Grossmont College. Lamb’s Players Theatre has a production of “Amadeus” coming in late February and the La Jolla Stage Company will take it on in April.


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