Taper Holds Slot for Riot Examination

The play that will probably occupy the third slot in the 1992-93 mainstage subscription season at the Mark Taper Forum hasn’t been researched yet, let alone written.

Sources say the May 23-July 18 slot is being saved for Anna Deavere Smith’s Taper-commissioned, one-woman piece about the recent civil disturbances.

Smith is the writer-performer who has won much acclaim for “Fires in the Mirror,” her piece about racial and religious strife in the Crown Heights section of New York. “Fires,” in which Smith portrays 37 characters, is scheduled to play at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York through Aug. 16, and Smith is due to begin research in Los Angeles later in the month.

If her L.A. project makes it to the mainstage, it will supersede a number of already-developed plays that were being considered for a Taper production. In renewal brochures sent to subscribers, the slot in question was reserved for a production that had gone through the Taper’s New Play Festival. Four possible titles--by Oliver Mayer, Kathleen McGhee Anderson, Eduardo Machado and David Lee Lindsey--were cited.


Some of these could still be presented next spring if the Taper’s idea of joining a cooperative that would use the stages at the municipal theater center on Spring Street comes to pass.

At this point, however, Smith’s untitled piece has dibs on the mainstage slot. It would be part of a projected trilogy that also would include “Fires in the Mirror” and a third piece that would be a co-commission from several other major resident theaters.

Is there a chance that Smith could present “Fires in the Mirror” at the Taper, Too or elsewhere in town under Taper auspices, before she goes on the mainstage with the new piece? Stay tuned.

‘S GERSHWIN: A Gershwin revue called “ ‘S Wonderful” has been booked into the Wilshire Theatre for an Aug. 18-Sept. 13 run--pending completion of negotiations on rights from the Gershwin estate.


The show is an expansion of a cabaret revue presented at Rainbow & Stars in New York. The cast includes Lorna Luft, Christine Andreas, Martin McVey, Carol Woods and Vernel Bagneris, known for his work in the 1980 revue “One ‘Mo Time.” Hinton Battle, who just appeared in “Stardust” at the same theater, was almost set to do the role Bagneris took, but a movie took precedence.

The accompaniment is arranged for two pianists, Stan Freeman and William Roy, who will do a duet of “Rhapsody in Blue.” The current Broadway hit, “Crazy for You,” also uses a Gershwin score, but there will be no overlap in songs, said co-producer Gregory Dawson.

“ ‘S Wonderful” will replace “Ziegfeld” in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera season. “Ziegfeld” was to have used a non-union cast and orchestra, which raised a few eyebrows. Dawson said he plans to use an American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) contract to cover the performers in “ ‘S Wonderful.”

NOT READY FOR THE PENTHOUSE PLAYERS: Inner City Cultural Center has found temporary headquarters in Hollywood.

After reading in The Times of Inner City’s need for at least six months of rent-free office space near the group’s Ivar Theater, the managers of a seven-story building at 1800 N. Highland offered their top floor--some 3,500 square feet.

“We were not ready to live up to that image” of the penthouse suite, which had formerly been occupied by ad and talent agencies, said C. Bernard Jackson, Inner City’s executive director. And Inner City didn’t need so many offices.

So the building managers offered a smaller space on the second floor, and Jackson accepted. “Our furniture would look shabby up on the top floor; it’ll look fine on the second floor,” said Jackson.

“My staff is still mad at me” for passing up the penthouse, he said.


Inner City’s annual talent competition began last week. It’s being staged at the Ivar and several other venues offered by the city’s Cultural Affairs Department and the Beverly Plaza Hotel.