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NAACP Honors South Coast Rep : Theater: ‘Jar the Floor,’ the company’s high-grossing, first-ever production of a work by a black American playwright, gets 4 awards.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

South Coast Repertory’s production of Cheryl West’s “Jar the Floor,” the first and only work by a black American playwright ever mounted by the company, swept top honors in the eighth annual NAACP Theatre Awards.

The Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People bestowed four prizes on the comedy, which revolved around four black women of different generations.

The prizes, awarded earlier this week at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, went to SCR (best professional production), Benny Sato Ambush (best direction), Juanita Jennings (best actress) and West (best playwright).

“Jar the Floor,” staged on SCR’s Second Stage, received a total of 10 nominations--four for set, costume, lighting and sound designs and two other acting nominations. Last year, another SCR Second Stage production--"Playland,” by white South African playwright Athol Fugard--received six nominations but came away empty-handed.

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Two months after The Times reported in February, 1994, that SCR had never done a play by a black American playwright in three decades and 297 productions, SCR announced “Jar the Floor” for its 1994-95 season.

Ironically, SCR artistic director Martin Benson earlier had told The Times that he had read West’s plays, including “Jar the Floor,” and that none of them interested the theater company.

“Jar the Floor,” which opened at SCR in November, 1994, set a box-office record as the highest-grossing play on the Second Stage.

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Also this week, SCR and Berkeley Repertory landed a $100,000 grant for their upcoming co-production of Philip Kan Gotanda’s “Ballad of Yachiyo.” It will run at SCR’s Mainstage from Jan. 5 to Feb. 11, a week after the closing of the world-premiere production, which opened Wednesday at Berkeley Rep.

SCR, which co-commissioned the play, will receive half the AT&T;: On Stage grant. Nationally, AT&T; awarded a total of $490,000 to underwrite the staging of eight plays this year.


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