Mayor's Blue Ribbon Theater Panel Convenes--Sort Of

How to raise L.A.'s theatrical profile?

That's the mandate for Mayor Tom Bradley's new Blue Ribbon Panel on Legitimate Theater, which convened last week for the first time.

According to a statement prepared by the panel's organizers for its first meeting (but not yet officially endorsed by the group), the panel's primary purpose is "to increase awareness of theater in Los Angeles through improved media attention." But individual goals go beyond a narrow public relations focus.

Among its broader aims:

* "To explore avenues of utilizing legitimate theater production as a means of developing film and television projects" (see related story on Page 8).

* "To encourage traditional film and television artists to appear on stage in Los Angeles and to cross-promote such appearances with current film or television projects."

* "To create a philanthropic resource to enable theater artists to develop and enhance their professional skills and crafts and to continue the development and stabilization of theater organizations."

That last goal sounds as if the group will try to raise money--which wouldn't be surprising, in the wake of the financial collapse of the Los Angeles Theatre Center company and the continuing need to fill and finance the city-owned complex that LATC occupied.

Furthermore, the group includes a number of heavy-hitters who conceivably could help raise funds: film/recording moguls Peter Guber and David Geffen, Vons president Bill Davila, and TV/"Will Rogers Follies" producer Pierre Cossette.

Some of the other big names on the committee are Center Theatre Group artistic director Gordon Davidson, Music Center president Esther Wachtell, Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau president George Kirkland and Nederlander West president Stan Seiden--who recently disclosed that his firm probably will bid to become the permanent operator of the municipal theater complex.

However, none of the above attended the first meeting of the panel on Tuesday.

Ten panelists did show up, plus chairman Henry Rogers, the P.R. maven of Rogers & Cowan fame, and Bradley. But thoughts that this group might help raise money were quickly discouraged.

The idea of fund-raising is "far-fetched," said Rogers in a telephone interview Tuesday. The fate of the LATC building was not discussed at the group's first meeting. And Rogers didn't even realize the city owned the Spring Street building until he was informed of it by Stage Watch.

"I am not extremely well-versed about theater in Los Angeles," acknowledged Rogers.

Rogers said his first priority is to collect whatever data already exists about L.A. theatergoers. Then he hopes to help publish a guide to Los Angeles theaters that would be distributed in travel agencies, hotels, shopping centers.

Valerie Fields, the mayor's arts and entertainment coordinator who helped put together the committee, also emphasized that it is "not a fund-raising group. It's supposed to come up with policies and ideas."

"When a visitor travels to London or New York City, attending a play is often on their itinerary," Bradley told the panel Tuesday. "I want the wide variety of theaters here--offering Equity Waiver and large-scale productions--to get the same attention from visitors and residents alike."

Memo to Mayor Bradley: Equity Waiver ended in 1988, replaced by Equity's 99-Seat Theatre Plan.

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