Valley Weekend



Theaters are sometimes called houses, but, can houses sometimes be theaters? The California Cottage Theater in Sherman Oaks is a house. It's also a theater. It's different .

Veteran actor-director Roy Brocksmith has staged professional productions at his Sylmar Avenue home for almost eight years. The theater/house is also different in that the productions run only one weekend a month and admission is free. Reservations are required, as the house sits only 32 people.

Brocksmith's current production is "Letters From Queens," based on the actual personal correspondence of several English monarchs, including Elizabeth I, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Victoria.

Like many of Hollywood's successful character actors, Brocksmith's face is more familiar than his name. His recent credits include a recurring role as school principal Michael Oslo in CBS' "Picket Fences" as well as feature films "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Road to Wellville" and "Arachnophobia."

* "Letters From Queens" plays at 8 tonight and Friday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the California Cottage Theater, 5220 Sylmar Ave., Sherman Oaks. Free admission, but reservations required. Call (818) 990-5773.


MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: America's most popular comedy writer of the last 40 years will be honored Saturday in Universal City.

Playwright Neil Simon, author of such comedy classics as "The Odd Couple," "Plaza Suite," "Barefoot in the Park" and "The Goodbye Girl," will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in Drama at the fifth annual PEN Literary Festival and Awards Program.

PEN Center USA West is part of an international organization of professional writers founded in 1921 to foster understanding among men and women of letters from all countries. In addition to literary awards, PEN West sponsors grants, competitions and other programs for writers.

The group will present its Freedom-to-Write Award, which honors writers who have produced work in the face of extreme adversity, to Chinese writer Bei Dao and Sarajevo poet-playwright Goran Simic.

PEN will honor 10 other outstanding writers during the Saturday program, which will be emceed by author Scott Turow and will feature dramatic readings by Robert Guillaume, Tippi Hedren, Stella Stevens, Robert Mandan and others.

* The Fifth Annual PEN Literary Festival & Awards program begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Universal Studios restaurant and the Alfred Hitchcock Theater, 100 Universal City Plaza. Tickets are $65 general, $100 VIP. Call (213) 365-8500.


LOTS O' PUMPKINS: The name Calabasas is derived from the Spanish word for pumpkin. And pumpkins are indeed the stars of this weekend's Calabasas Days Pumpkin Festival, all 30 tons of them.

Besides the huge selection of holiday pumpkins offered for sale, the festival will have pumpkin bowling, pumpkin seed spitting and pumpkin pie eating contests. But just in case the orange gourd is not your favorite fruit, the event will also have music, entertainment, arts, crafts, food and games.

The almost continuous entertainment includes jazz by Chet McCracken, rockabilly by Russel Scott and the Red Hots, and bluegrass by the Witcher Brothers and Rock Springs Road. Also appearing will be Terry Williams & the First Edition.

The band was once Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, but Rogers left the group in the late '70s to pursue a solo career. That band, formed from former members of the New Christy Minstrels, had several hits in the late '60s and early '70s, including "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," and "Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In."

* Calabasas Days Pumpkin Festival runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Paramount Ranch, Cornell Road, Agoura. Admission is $7.50 general, $6 seniors and youths 13-18, $3.50 children 3-12; children under 3 are admitted free. Call (818) 225-2227.

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