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Rep Gets Much-Needed Lift From ‘Latins Anonymous’

The success of the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s season opener, “Latins Anonymous,” an extended sold-out hit at the Lyceum Space, is a balm that’s soothing the wounds of last year’s season at the Rep.

The show is selling all of its tickets--every night--with attendance averaging 93% to 100%. It has been extended to July 8, and further extensions are possible, at least through Aug. 19, when the Rep has tentatively rented the space to a show between the run of “Latins” and its next scheduled show in the Lyceum Space, “Cymbeline,” which starts previews Nov. 2.

The renter is “When Friends Collide,” the latest creation from the “Suds” team of Bryan Scott, Melinda Gilb, Steve Gunderson and Susan Mosher. Will Roberson, who directed “Suds” and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” two monster hits for the Old Globe Theatre, will direct.

Still, the Rep, which took it on the chin from subscribers last year for a risky series of world premieres that could have been called hit-or-miss if there had been hits, is not out of the woods yet.

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Subscriptions hover at about 3,500, down from last year’s high of 6,500. Managing director Adrian Stewart described the state of the theater as being “very fragile and very worrying. It hinges on our ability to raise contributed revenue.”

What the Rep needs to raise in its 15th anniversary season is both the subscription level--to about 6,000--and contributed income--to $726,175, or 30% of its $2.1 million budget (reduced $300,000 from last year), said Stewart.

If it doesn’t achieve this goal in 60 to 90 days, San Diego may find itself with three theaters in crisis campaigns, Stewart said, referring to the La Jolla Playhouse, which is scheduled to end its $1-million capital campaign June 30, and the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company, which needs to raise who knows how much to resume its 1990 season.

A representative from the La Jolla Playhouse said a statement regarding the status of the playhouse’s crisis campaign will be issued Monday.

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Money is, if anything, tighter than usual in the arts community, given these simultaneous campaigns. But at least the company could not have a more auspicious start to this critical season than its current revue spoofing Latino stereotypes, written by the four actors who play a version of themselves on stage.

Producing director Sam Woodhouse, on a rehearsal break from “Burn This,” opening at the Rep’s Lyceum Stage July 18, said that, although the show’s initial success has “wildly exceeded” his expectations, he now thinks it may have the potential to develop into another “Six Women With Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want to Know.”

“Six Women With Brain Death” ran for nearly two years, ending in August 1989, making it the longest-running show in San Diego history.

But what Woodhouse finds especially sweet about the success of “Latins Anonymous” is the way it demonstrates how one of the theater’s newer programs, Teatro Sin Fronteras (Theater Without Boundaries) can work in developing new audiences.

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Two of the goals of the Teatro Sin Fronteras project are to expose general audiences to Latino work and to bring in Latino audiences. The show is doing both, playing to an audience of 60% Anglos and 40% Latino.

At least one of the actor/writers, Luisa Leschin, would have to leave the show if extended past July 15 because of other contract obligations. But the Rep has a built-in extension option for the show through August, and Woodhouse said Leschin agreed to have her part recast.

In the meantime, the big question at the theater is if the Rep can get its “Latins Anonymous” audience to come back for the rest of the shows in the new season.

“We hope we will be able to convert them to subscription ticket bases,” Stewart said. “We hope that the people who did not renew their season tickets on the basis of last year’s season will change their minds. We need them to change their minds.”

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“The last thing a theater that is fighting for its life needs is adverse publicity,” said David Herring, the lawyer for the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company, who has been trying to stay low-key about the theater’s recent falling-out with patron Elizabeth North.

But it would take more illusionist than lawyer to downplay North’s refusal to donate the last $35,000 of her $75,000 pledge to the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company by the June 26 deadline in her contract with the Gaslamp.

North promised to donate the money as part of a contract with the Gaslamp in which the smaller of the company’s two houses on 4th Avenue was renamed the Elizabeth North Theatre.

The theater has extended her a deadline until the end of the month, said Herring. The hope is that North will either deliver or step back from the donor agreement, allowing the Gaslamp to find a new donor and namesake for the space.

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The contract stipulates that, for 15 years, “This theater shall at all times be a currently operative theater for theatrical purposes.”

North claims that, because the 99-seat house shut down operations after the closing of “Party of One” May 5, it has violated its agreement.

The contract, however, covers the event of a time lapse between theatrical presentations: “Should a time lapse occur, it shall be treated cumulatively and shall become additional allotted time added to the above agreed 15-year term.”

Herring said he would add the time the theater is dark, from the closing of “Party of One” to the July opening of Nehemiah Persoff, who is renting the space to produce and star in “Drinking in America” to the allotted 15 years.

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North said she interprets the words “currently operating theater” to mean a theater currently operated by the Gaslamp, not rented out to other producers of theater.

Herring is heading for a vacation this week and won’t be back until July 9, he said. In the meantime, North has scheduled a meeting with another Gaslamp benefactor, Ernest Hahn, for whom the theater company named the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre and Hahn’s son, Ron Hahn, who is a member of the Board of Trustees.

If the money hasn’t been paid when Herring returns, he said he will take “what actions are necessary.”

He declined to say what such actions would be.

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PROGRAM NOTES:

The Playhouse Pay What You Can performance of “Life During Wartime” is Saturday. Tickets will be available at the door. . . .

Two different theatrical takes on the Fourth of July: The Old Globe Theatre has canceled shows in all of its three theaters on Independence Day, but will offer theatergoers two tickets for the July 1, 2 and 3 performances of “Cobb,” “White Man Dancing” and “As You Like It” for $17.76. The La Jolla Playhouse will keep its theaters open July 4, but will start selling $10 tickets to “Life During Wartime” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” beginning at 10 a.m. at the box office on July 4. . . .

Forums will follow the first three preview nights of “Drinking in America,” July 7-9 at the Elizabeth North Theatre. Eric Bogosian’s 14-character, one-man show starring Nehemiah Persoff. The show, which is about addictions--from alcohol to drugs to sex to work and power--officially opens July 19.

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