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THEATER NOTES : Crossroads Looking for Dollar Signs

<i> Don Shirley is a Times staff writer</i>

In January, Crossroads Nation al Arts Academy announced an upcoming spring season of shows at its Vision Theatre complex in Leimert Park. It sounded as if it might have been the most ambitious season of African American theater ever seen in L.A.

But spring came and went--without the shows.

Crossroads executive director Avril Harris said the season was postponed until it could be better financed. Since then, Harris and Crossroads founder/"227" star Marla Gibbs have been pursuing financing nationwide. They hope to raise at least one-fourth of their $1-million budget before setting any further dates for the season.

Harris reports more success with out-of-state companies than with local firm and attributes that to the severity of California’s economic problems. Out-of-state companies are looking for a way of tapping their logo into the consciousness of Californians, she said.

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SONDHEIMANIA: The first issue of the Sondheim Review, a new quarterly devoted to you-know-who, is out with 32 glossy pages of information, reviews and photos.

Included are detailed descriptions of the revisions made during the “Passion” previews, a list of 98 U.S. productions of Sondheim musicals this summer alone, and an article about the 1966 TV musical Sondheim wrote, “Evening Primrose.” The composer himself submitted to an interview, and another article describes his appearance at a June 6 seminar sponsored by the Dramatists Guild and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

Sondheim told the seminar audience that the audience laughed at “20 places where we didn’t want them to” during the first preview--each one of which was changed. So don’t expect the Tony-winning musical to be a laugh riot. “This is the first show I’ve written with no irony,” Sondheim said. “The characters have no humor--actually, Fosca (the show’s obsessed lover) does. People say it breaks new ground. I say, ‘Yes, as the world’s first humorless musical.’ ”

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While Sondheim told the seminar audience that “Passion” is “an opera in attitude,” he told the Sondheim Review interviewer that “I don’t much like opera because I like the contrast between the spoken word and the sung word. To me the spoken word is another kind of music.” The underscoring may give the impression that “Passion” is more of a sung show than it is, he added. “In fact, the percentage of sung to spoken here is no different than ‘Oklahoma!’ or, you name it.”

Information on the Sondheim Review: (800) 584-1020.

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WILL THIS IDEA FLY?: Get off an airplane at LAX, and what’s your first impression of the city--that it’s a great theater town? That there are more professional stage productions here than in any other city in America? Hardly. But Barbara Bain wants to change that.

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The actress--who’s probably best known for “Mission: Impossible"--complained about the low profile of L.A. theater at LAX while addressing an audience of several hundred at the recent Audrey Skirball-Kenis theater conference. She suggested that those long corridors at the airport should be lined with posters promoting L.A.'s theatrical wares.

The next speaker at the conference lectern, KCRW radio moderator Warren Olney, said he’d ask Mayor Richard Riordan about this subject but jocularly added that if the mayor went along with the poster idea, “I’m sure they’d all have his picture on them.”

A spokeswoman for the city Airport Department later told The Times that the rules are quite strict about prohibiting anything on the airport walls except directional information. But all such rules are under review because of the mayor’s determination to generate more revenue at the airport. Of course not much revenue could be expected from nonprofit theater or from the sub-100-seat productions that make up the bulk of L.A.'s theatrical output.

But Adolfo V. Nodal, the city’s cultural affairs general manager, said he thinks the idea has possibilities. “If not on the walls, maybe kiosks,” he said--or telephones that would offer free information about L.A.'s cultural events. “The airport is changing a lot,” Nodal said, “and it’s worth talking about.”

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SAN JOSE BUILDING BOOM: The San Jose City Council has approved allocations of big bucks for that city’s theaters. San Jose Repertory Theatre is getting a brand-new 500-seat home, to be built with $15.3 million of redevelopment money, while another $12.5 million of redevelopment funds will renovate the old Jose Theatre. The design of the latter theater is being tailored for El Teatro Campesino, although no business agreement has yet been signed between the city and Luis Valdez’s company, which recently co-produced “Bandido!” at the Mark Taper Forum.


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