Grove Theatre Company to Go Professional, Shorten Season

Times Staff Writer

The Grove Theatre Company in Garden Grove has unveiled sweeping plans to go professional and to consolidate its 12-month season into seven months--from June through December--with classical fare being offered at the indoor Gem Theatre and the outdoor Festival Amphitheatre.

At present, the 10-year-old company offers a five-play amateur season of middle-brow programming with professional guest artists at the Gem from October through May and, under the banner of the Grove Shakespeare Festival, a separately subscribed, semiprofessional summer season of three Shakespeare plays at the amphitheater.

The changes, which would take effect this June, “will allow us to pool our production resources for both theaters, maximize our strengths artistically and financially and unify our marketing campaigns,” Grove founder and artistic director Thomas F. Bradac said in an interview.

Bradac said the consolidated season, despite being shorter, will present the same number of productions and performances as it currently does because “we will take a festival approach,” producing shows simultaneously rather than one at a time.


The entire season will be known as the Grove Shakespeare Festival and begins in June with “Romeo and Juliet.” The remaining productions are: “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”; “Twelfth Night, or As You Will”; Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac”; Athol Fugard’s “A Lesson From Aloes”; “The Scoundrel” (an adaptation of Ben Jonson’s “The Alchemist”), a play to be announced, and the annual production of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

“By putting ourselves off-stride with the rest of the theaters in the county,” Bradac said, “we will play to the strength we have already established in the summer. It also enables us to get talented personnel without having to compete head-on for them.”

A key change, Bradac said, will be the implementation of an Actors’ Equity contract at the 172-seat Gem. Under the provision for Small Professional Theaters, this would require that half the cast and the stage manager be in the union. Cast salaries, recommended by Equity’s Western Advisory Board at $175 for a five-performance week, are awaiting final approval by the union’s New York office.

The 550-seat amphitheater would continue to operate under a current letter of agreement with Equity requiring five professional actors at $350 each a week.

Grove managing director Richard A. Stein said the theater will underwrite this and other changes by increasing its budget to $660,000 in fiscal 1989-90--up 16% from this year’s $570,000. The theater will institute a modest rise in ticket prices and a new, flexible subscription policy, Stein said.

The Grove also will reap fiscal benefits from the consolidation of the seasons, principally by making its marketing and advertising more cost effective. “Basically, it means we can run a single, coordinated campaign,” Stein said.

Moreover, the consolidation will help the theater’s fund-raising efforts by forging a unified image, Grove officials said. A much-publicized cash crisis last year, related to the Garden Grove City Council’s phase-out of a partial subsidy, has already spurred private contributions. In 1988 they soared to $180,000 from $47,000 the previous year, Stein said.