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Long Beach Rep to Open With Mayo Simon; No New Directions for East West Players

The West Coast premiere of Mayo Simon’s “Elaine’s Daughter” will open the first and somewhat-delayed season of the new Long Beach Repertory Theatre at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Earlier plans to open the play in the fall in the 864-seat Center Theatre have been moved back to Feb. 24, according to the theater’s artistic director, Shashin Desai. The theater’s board wants to raise $300,000 before the opening of the first show, he added, and the board members hope to accomplish this by the end of 1989.

The postponement will cut back the number of shows in the initial season, from four to three, said Desai: “We want to start the second season in October, 1990,” and scheduling will permit the staging of only three shows between February and October. Desai was not ready to announce the remaining two titles, though he had previously said that a revival of Kevin Heelan’s “Distant Fires,” which Desai staged last year at his smaller Long Beach theater, International City Theatre, would be part of the first season.

“Elaine’s Daughter,” by the Pacific Palisades-based Simon, is described by its author as a play about “an old-fashioned mother and a modern daughter and the reconciliation between the generations.” Jules Aaron will direct, Simon said. Aaron staged two earlier productions of the play, at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival in 1987 and the Philadelphia Theatre Company in 1988. The play is set in Los Angeles.

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Simon’s other produced plays include “These Men,” seen at Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre in 1982 and scheduled for a London production next year, and “A Rich, Full Life,” produced at Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1985.

EAST WEST WATCH: Nobu McCarthy, the new artistic director of East West Players, has announced a season that reveals no startling changes in the policies of the Asian-American theater group. Last month, McCarthy replaced the group’s only previous artistic director, Mako.

The season will open Oct. 25 with a musical to be staged by Paul Hough, director of Los Angeles Theatre Center’s Music Theatre Lab. Under consideration are Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” or an original.

Wakako Yamauchi’s “Chairman’s Wife,” a story about Mao Tse-tung’s wife Jiang Qing, will appear Jan. 17. Yamauchi, a resident of Gardena, wrote one of East West’s most acclaimed productions, “And the Soul Shall Dance.”

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Next up is Vernon Takeshita’s “Performance Anxiety,” a farce in “a very avant-garde style,” said McCarthy (and not to be confused with a piece of the same title created in 1982 by the Dell’Arte Players of Blue Lake, Calif.).

It will be directed by Alberto Isaac and open March 21.

The fourth production will be Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” staged by Rick Edelstein, opening May 3. McCarthy said she hopes to include “an American classic in every season,” to show that Asian-American actors can handle non-Asian roles and “because they will never have a chance to do it somewhere else.”

East West has been criticized for failing to reflect the influence of newer Asian immigrants from such countries as Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines. McCarthy said she would like to delve into these cultures, but “I have seen far more Japanese-American material than that of any other Asian group. This is the problem with any new immigrant group. They’re so busy building and surviving that they don’t have time to write. They can’t eat their writing.”

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Canadian-born McCarthy was raised in Japan but immigrated to the United States in 1956. Her predecessor, Mako, who co-founded East West, resigned last January after a dispute with the board. He had served 23 years.

McCarthy said she hopes Mako will return to the theater in some capacity--"That would be wonderful. It would be like the father coming home.”

BACK TO THE SOURCE: The Spolin Players will resume their improvisational theater games for paying audiences at the Heliotrope Theater, every Wednesday at 8 p.m., beginning next week.

Known in earlier incarnations at the Heliotrope as Sills and Company and then as the Spolin Games Players, the group is overseen by Viola Spolin, the grande dame of theatrical improvisation. Her early work in the field led to the creation of Second City--which, in turn, led to the spate of improvisational groups that dot Los Angeles.

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Second City has now established its own beachhead in the area. But “they do a very different type of work,” said Gary Schwartz, one of the Spolin Players. “We try to stay pure to Viola’s goal--to encourage a spontaneous moment on stage.” Unlike Second City, the Groundlings and most other improvisational groups, the Spolin Players present no rehearsed sketches. Everything is improvised.

“The games produce laughter, but they’re not specifically geared to get laughs,” Schwartz said. “Rather than being funny, it’s fun.”

A cast of 20 will be available to play the games, though the group on any given night will be smaller. Among participants: Edie McClurg, Dan Castellaneta, Pat Musick, Anne Ryerson and Randy Brenner.

SAN BERNARDINO Civic Light Opera has announced a new non-musical series of comedy revivals to be staged at the California Theatre of Performing Arts from July through March. The schedule: “Social Security” with Bernie Kopell and Deborah Raffin (July 13-23), “Same Time, Next Year” with Mariette Hartley and Earl Holliman (Aug. 17-27), something starring Barbara Rush and Carole Cook in January (title to be announced in September), and the distaff “Odd Couple” with Lee Meriwether in March. This will be in addition to the usual musical offerings.

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