There's a Ford (Space) in the Future

Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Inside at the Ford.

That's the new name for the sub-100-seat space on the bottom floor of the Los Angeles County-owned John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in the Cahuenga Pass. The space was known for years as the Taper, Too, because its most frequent occupant was the Mark Taper Forum. The downtown company used the small Hollywood location for full seasons of intimate productions as well as play workshops (including the L.A. public's first glance of "Angels in America") and readings.

Most of the Taper's public workshops and readings have moved to the new Falcon Theatre in Burbank and may eventually move to the Taper's long-awaited second facility, planned for Culver City.

In the meantime, the county spent more than $100,000 renovating the space formerly known as Taper, Too, said L.A. County Arts Commission executive director Laura Zucker. At 87 seats, it now has a new lighting grid over the stage, a tension grid over the audience that allows lights to be hung and focused without using ladders, a rear entrance to the audience area for latecomer seating and a small indoor lobby.

In contrast to its previous incarnation, Inside at the Ford meets federal requirements for accessibility to the disabled. A new elevator "makes each level of the Ford completely accessible," Zucker said.

The county is offering the space in three two-month slots, from November through April, at a subsidized rate of $750 a week, and is soliciting proposals from what Zucker said were the 60 small professional theater companies in the county that lack their own facilities (according to a county survey two years ago). Preference will go to applicants who have annual budgets between $50,000 and $800,000, who employ at least one full-time staff person, and who pledge to use the savings from the relatively low rental fee to pay artists more money.

Many of the city's better 99-seat houses charge at least twice or even three times as much in rent. The other government-owned, rent-subsidized sub-100-seater, the city-owned Los Angeles Theatre Center's Theatre 4, is available for $225 per performance.

Karen Wood, the Ford's new general manager, was the Taper's general manager during part of the time the Taper used the facility. She is accepting proposals for this season through July 31. Information: (213) 974-1343.

RIVERSIDE UPDATE: Peggy Shannon, who has been trying to launch the Riverside Repertory Theatre in her hometown of Riverside, has been named the new artistic director of the Sacramento Theatre Company.

This doesn't mean she's abandoning Riverside. She will continue as the Riverside company's producing artistic director, with a full-time associate based year-round in Riverside. The company has yet to stage a full production, but it is busy raising money and planning five one-night performances in the coming season at Riverside Municipal Auditorium.

Although the Sacramento company announced Shannon's appointment last week, Shannon said she has not yet signed a contract that would specify how long she'll stay in Sacramento. "I've asked for a one-year evaluation," she said. If Riverside becomes a viable company, she said that she might eventually program the same shows for both theaters, in a permanent co-production deal.

Shannon has directed productions in each of the last two Sacramento seasons. She's currently directing "The Taming of the Shrew" at the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Former Los Angeles director Stephen Rothman, who has been Sacramento's artistic director, is taking a job as producing director at Pennsylvania Centre Stage, where he will be closer to his young son.

KIDS GET IN FREE: San Diego's Starlight Musical Theatre, which was revived last summer after two dark years, is instituting an audacious marketing policy: anyone under 13 gets in free.

Ticket sales to preteens brought in $32,000 in revenue last summer, but the group is counting on more families being able to afford the parents' tickets if they don't have to pay for the kids, said Starlight President Dave Twomey.

Starlight is emphasizing the policy so much that the only pictures in the season brochure were cutesy photos of children dressed in costumes like those worn by the characters in the season's offerings. Twomey acknowledged that this led to some confusion, with some callers wondering whether kids would perform the roles. The answer is no--the musicals, which include "Hello, Dolly!," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Camelot" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," will be performed by adult actors, including at least four Equity members per show.

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