Inner City Cultural Center Buys the Ivar; Pasadena Schedules More 'Great Performances'

The Inner City Cultural Center has bought the 327-seat Ivar Theatre, located at 1605 Ivar St. in Hollywood.

Inner City's plan, said executive director C. Bernard Jackson, is to raise $250,000 to transform the building, now used for sexually oriented movies and stage shows, into "an attractive live-theater facility."

Jackson declined to reveal the purchase price. Stan Seiden, representative of the building's owners, Argus Properties, said only that the price was "under a million dollars."

Inner City has "no intention of abandoning our present site" on New Hampshire Avenue, said Jackson, "but we've had a number of shows with long-running potential that we couldn't capitalize on because of the demand for space there." He cited the recent "Downpayments" as an example. "(The Ivar) will be an outlet."

"We'll also make it available to other theaters," Jackson added, "and it will be used for music, dance and all of the performing arts."

But don't rush to the box office just yet.

The current lease on the theater includes a clause requiring six months' notice of eviction. And the lease on the bar (which has a separate rear entrance) runs eight more years, Jackson added.

Also, Inner City hopes to raise funds for "fundamental renovations," he said. "The Ivar is in bad condition."

Jackson hopes Hollywood--"both the neighborhood and the entertainment industry"--will donate to this cause.

He offered to name the theater after any benefactor who contributes $2 million ("a million to fix it up, and a million for an endowment"). Asked Jackson: "If Mark Taper can give enough to have a theater named after him, why not Bill Cosby or Eddie Murphy or Oprah Winfrey or Sidney Poitier?"

Inner City presented the Negro Ensemble Company's production of "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" at the Ivar for six months in 1970, Jackson noted.

"It's a shame that what was once a beautiful theater has been so abused," he said.

UPSTAIRS IN PASADENA: A new play by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey and one-person shows about Sarah Bernhardt and John F. Kennedy will make up the Pasadena Playhouse's second "Great Performance" series of the current season, held in the upstairs Balcony Theatre at the Playhouse.

Katherine Helmond will appear as Bernhardt in "Sarah in America," by Ruth Wolff, to be directed by Annett Wolf, June 1-July 2. This will be the West Coast premiere of a piece done by Lilli Palmer in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., in 1981.

Next up is the world premiere of Michael Grace's "JFK: Of Cabbages and Kings," July 16-Aug. 6. Larry Fuller will direct, but the star has yet to be announced.

Hailey's "Joanna's Husband and David's Wife," is based on her best-selling novel and will feature her daughter, Kendall Hailey, and Richard Lenz in a story about 25 years in the life of a marriage. It's scheduled for Aug. 20-Sept. 10. Hailey's last stage adaptation of one of her books, "A Woman of Independent Means," was a major success at several local theaters.

RADIO DAYS: Tentative plans to record the Back Alley Theatre production of "Voice of the Prairie" for presentation on KCRW-FM fell apart this week. Too bad--this charmer about the early days of radio would appear to be a natural candidate for radio broadcast. It closes at the theater Sunday.

Another production that appeared on local stages, Louis Fantasia in "The Double Bass," will appear on KCRW May 19 at 1 p.m.

PIER PRESSURE: The City of Santa Monica has set aside $15,000 to pay for a month of theater at the western end of its famous pier, Aug. 1-Sept. 4.

Anyone may apply for the money, as long as applications are turned in by May 22. The applicants will be judged by "a panel of disinterested outside experts," said Henry Korn, the city's arts administrator.

Korn declined to speculate on what the panel wants, except to say that the "material should be accessible to a general audience and to all ages." The audience "will come from all walks of life, including people who are not necessarily initiated into the arts." Admission will be free. Performances could occur in the daytime or evening--but not on Thursday nights, when dancing is held in the same space.

How much theater will $15,000 buy?

"We don't expect 'Cats' for $15,000," said Korn. "We're relying on the ingenuity of the theater community." And also, perhaps, the community's matching funds: "Our expectation is that many companies will propose to match our amount with in-kind services or dollars of their own."

Information: (213) 458-8350.

READINGS: Olympia Dukakis and Robin Gammell are among the actors who will read "Better Living" by George Walker ("Nothing Sacred") at the Matrix Saturday at 1 p.m. Admission is free. . . . Poet William Matthews will conclude the Los Angeles Theatre Center 1988-89 poetry-literary series Monday at 8 p.m.

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