With support from celebrities such as "New York Undercover" director Bill Duke, Debbie Allen and Charles Dutton, as well as from behind-the-scenes theater professionals, Youth 'N Play, the new youth performing arts wing of the Institute of Musical Art, is putting on a show at the Vision Complex Theatre today through Sunday.
Don't expect kid stuff. The group is performing "The Piano Lesson," by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, to benefit the institute and the educational and recreational Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center for at-risk young people.
"We want to reveal to the public the extraordinary talent that exists among these inner city youth," said director Ahmad Enani, the theater pro who directed the cast in a Dorsey High School production of the play last year.
Youth 'N Play, inspired by the production's executive producer and KGFJ radio talk show host, Melba Jackson Carter, is planned as "an ongoing company for inner city African Americans ages about 14 to 22, to promote the theater arts and their existence not only in L.A. but in the inner city."
Enani's motto: "We need to keep the inner city youth living by keeping the arts alive."
Enani, who said he received encouragement for the production from playwright Wilson and cast members of the Ahmanson's just-ended run of Wilson's "Seven Guitars," chose "The Piano Lesson" for its "musical language" and because "it takes a good look at the black human condition in a comical and a dramatic way."
* "The Piano Lesson," Vision Complex Theatre, 3341 W. 43rd Place, today-Saturday, 7 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. $30; (213) 292-7044, (213) 756-7203.
String Section: Some of the nation's leading puppeteers, including Bob Baker, Jim Gamble and Phillip Huber of the Huber Marionettes, will take part in the L.A. Guild of Puppetry's "A Day of Puppetry" on Saturday at First Lutheran Church of Monrovia.
The event runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is open to kids ages 7 and up, parents, educators, child care providers, librarians and professional puppeteers.
"It's a rare opportunity to experience a variety of puppetry," said Nancy Mitchell, the nonprofit guild's president and owner of Minikin Puppet Productions. In addition to programs for professionals, she said, "absolute scratch beginners can get an introduction to ventriloquist technique, shadow puppets, birthday party shows and using puppets in the classroom.
Others among the regional and national professional participants include ventriloquist Randel McGhee and his dragon Groark; Joe Selph, currently with the new "Muppets Tonight" show; and Alan Cook, guild co-founder, who will discuss the history of puppetry.
Separate tickets are available for the 4 p.m. Huber Marionette show only.
* "Day of Puppetry," 1323 S. Magnolia Ave., Monrovia, Saturday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Adults: $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Children (ages 7-18): $15 in advance; $20 at the door. Children's half-day special workshop and performance: $10. Performance only: $5. Information: (818) 577-6827.
"Goosebumps" Alert: R.L. Stine's hugely popular, chills and thrills book series-turned-hit-TV-show for kids, made its home video debut last week with "The Haunted Mask," the film that launched the TV series.
The spine-tingling tale, not for the faint of heart, is about a mysterious Halloween mask that you wear at your peril.
Fans with a cyberspace connection can explore Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's new "Goosebumps" web site (http://www.foxhome.com) for a preview of the video, graphics to download and color, and a "Haunted Mask" game.
* "The Haunted Mask," , $14.98.