THEATER NOTES : Davidson Gets Behind 'Survivor'

Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

For the first time in eight years of New Work Festivals at the Mark Taper Forum, Gordon Davidson, Taper artistic director, will direct one of the two-day workshops at the Taper, Too: Eleanor Reissa's "The Last Survivor" on Dec. 16 and 17.

Does Davidson's interest in Reissa's account of a Holocaust survivor and his family give it a better chance of ultimately playing the Taper main stage than other festival entries?

"I wouldn't say that's a given," said Sheryl Bailey Heath, the new project coordinator for the festival (she replaced Mara Isaacs, who took a producing job at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey). "It all depends on how the script develops."

Davidson agreed that "The Last Survivor" has "no more or less opportunity" to move up than any of the other plays, but he said "this one happens to speak to me." He also noted that playwright Reissa is a former student of his father's at Brooklyn College. She's probably best known here for directing and appearing in "Those Were the Days," a 1990 Yiddish-English musical revue at the Westwood Playhouse.

The festival, a series of public rehearsals of workshops and readings, opens this week with readings: Robert Alexander's "A Preface to the Alien Garden," directed by L. Kenneth Richardson (Saturday, 4 p.m.); Reggie Cheong-Leen's "The Nanjing Race," directed by Chay Yew (next Sunday, 4 p.m.); Quincy Long's "The Joy of Going Somewhere," directed by Lisa Peterson (next Sunday, 7 p.m.); Russell Davis' "The Song of Grendelyn," directed by Corey Madden (Oct. 30, 7 p.m.).

Workshops follow: Han Ong's "Play of Father and Junior," Ong directing (Oct. 30, 9 p.m.); Guillermo Reyes' "The Seduction of Johnny Diego," directed by Tony Plana (Nov. 8-9, 8 p.m.); Diana Son's "Fishes," directed by Jessica Kubzansky (Nov. 11-12, 2 and 8 p.m.); Winsome Pinnock's "Mules," directed by Lisa Peter son (Nov. 15-16, 8 p.m.); Oliver Mayer's "Young Valiant," directed by Robert Egan (Nov. 18-19, 8 p.m.).

December begins with more readings: Lillian Garrett-Groag's "The Magic Fire," Garrett-Groag directing (Dec. 1, 7 p.m.); Wendy R. Leibowitz's "The Rosenberg Judge," directed by Corey Madden (Dec. 2, 4 p.m.); Ellen McLaughlin's "Flying Blind," directed by Lisa Peterson (Dec. 3, 4 p.m.); Cherrie Moraga's "Mexican Medea," directed by Jolitte Carrillo (Dec. 3, 7 p.m.).

The final set of workshops: Don Cheadle's "Groomed," Cheadle directing (Dec. 6-7, 8 p.m.); Robert O'Hara's "Insurrection," directed by Timothy Douglas (Dec. 9-10, 8 p.m.); Donald Freed's "The Mysterious Mrs. Nixon," directed by Robert Egan (Dec. 13-14, 7 p.m.); Diane Rodriguez and Luis Alfaro's "Ginger Esparza Is Alive and Well and Living in East Los Angeles," Alfaro directing (Dec. 13-14, 9 p.m.); Reissa's "The Last Survivor," directed by Davidson (Dec. 16-17, 8 p.m.).

Admission is free to all of the new works, but reservations are necessary. Information: (213) 972-7389.


PLAY LIST: In the last few months, 3,500 copies of a 126-page booklet have made the rounds of libraries, professional theaters and universities throughout the United States, Canada and England, spreading the word about the indigenous L.A. theater scene.

The book is the recently printed catalogue of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre Play Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library. It includes brief plot synopses and cast breakdowns for 516 unpublished plays that have been produced in Southern California. Texts of the plays are available in a "reference only" archive in the downtown branch of the library.

Tom Harris, the director of the collection at the library, said that at least 20 letters have already been received from producers or anthology editors in the United States and England inquiring about specific plays in the catalogue. Phone numbers of the playwrights or their agents aren't included in the booklet, but the library staff notifies playwrights of inquiries and passes along the phone numbers. If a play ends up published as a result of such connections, it can remain in the collection--the only requirements for inclusion are evidence of a Southern California production and no previous publication.

Since the deadline date for inclusion in the catalogue, the collection has already grown to nearly 600, but recent arrivals are still being processed. Harris said he hopes to update the catalogue after another 200 or 300 plays have arrived, but in the meantime, an updated version will be available online at the library.

Information: (213) 228-7327. *

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