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Grove Will Get Use of Venues Free Through ’96 : Stage: The City Council makes good on its promise of extended lease agreement for Gem Theatre and Festival Amphitheatre.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the second time in as many weeks, the Garden Grove City Council showed its friendliness to the arts by delivering on an earlier promise to sign a new, five-year theater-lease agreement with the Grove Shakespeare Festival.

On a 5-0 vote at a special meeting earlier this week, the council approved a contract giving the county’s second-largest professional theater the right to operate the city-owned Gem Theatre and Festival Amphitheatre rent-free through December, 1996. The contract will take effect when an extension on the old contract terminates on Dec. 31, 1991.

“This was all part of a negotiating process that started last December and January,” Councilman Mark Leyes said Thursday. “We just consummated the new contract in terms of what we had agreed upon. There wasn’t any necessity to hurry (the signing), but since the theater is about to announce its (1992) season, and since they wanted to make sure the city was supportive, we decided to do the contract now.”

The most significant change in the new agreement is that it assures the not-for-profit theater troupe that it cannot be evicted by the city without a year’s written notice. The old five-year contract, also rent free, required only 90 days’ notice. Theater officials had feared that such short notice, if it ever came, could disrupt a season in mid-run and thus had sought the change when negotiations for the new contract began last year. As reported at that time, the council extended the old contract to the end of this season to allay those fears and also directed the city staff to revise the termination clause of the new contract.

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Leyes said that he expected a majority decision in favor of the new contract but that the council’s unanimity surprised him. He said the vote was “an expression of confidence in the leadership” of the theater board, which ousted former artistic director Thomas F. Bradac in June and found itself embroiled in controversy over that mid-season move.

But Leyes discounted any linkage of the new contract with Bradac’s departure, pointing out that the old contract was extended when Bradac was still part of the theater management. “That was a show of support back then, too,” Leyes said. “We didn’t approve the new contract because he’s gone.”

Among the seven subscription plays expected to be announced Saturday for the Grove’s 1992 season are “Macbeth,” “Henry IV, Part I” and “The Tempest,” with Alan Mandell as Prospero.

Mandell, who earned critical raves for his Shylock in this season’s “Merchant of Venice” at the Grove, said Thursday from Los Angeles that the Grove’s acting artistic director Jules Aaron had asked him to do “The Tempest” and that he had agreed.

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Neither Grove managing director Barbara Hammerman nor the theater’s publicist could be reached for confirmation of the titles. General manager Charles Johanson would not confirm them, but he said the new season represents an expansion over this year’s subscription offering of six plays.

Bradac is expected Tuesday to announce the formation of a new professional troupe, Shakespeare Orange County, to produce a nine-week, 1992 summer season at Chapman College in Orange. The troupe will stage two plays and will have an annual budget of about $200,000, he says, of which $50,000 must be raised over and above ticket sales.

The college, which changes its name to Chapman University on Sunday, will host the not-for-profit Shakespeare Orange County at the campus’s 256-seat Waltmar Theatre. Chapman President James L. Doti and provost Harry L. Hamilton are scheduled to be present during the announcement, according to the university’s director of public relations, Janell Shearer.


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