Play Series Takes Wing at the Taper

Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

At first glance, the Mark Taper Forum's new series of readings and performances called "The Wing: New Theatre Taking Off" sounds a lot like the Taper's annual New Work Festival.

Scheduled for Monday through June 27, "The Wing" is at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, just as the New Work Festival was last fall. Both series are open to the public free of charge, on a first-come, first-served basis. (The box office opens an hour before curtain time; due to Actors' Equity regulations, both series use only 99 of the Falcon's 120 seats.)

So what's the difference?

"They're organized in a different fashion," said Taper associate artistic director Corey Madden. The New Work Festival "is a competitive, submission-based process. 'The Wing' is more invitation-based or commission-based." The scheduling also is different--some of the New Work Festival shows receive two "workshop" performances, but everything in "The Wing" gets only one performance.

"The Wing" is designed primarily to focus public attention on the work of four Taper wings--Asian Theatre Workshop, Blacksmyths, Latino Theatre Initiative and the Other Voices Project (which focuses on developing work by disabled writers about the disability experience), but that's not an ironclad rule, Madden said. "The majority of the work comes under the rubric of these groups, but some associations are less formal than others."

Madden's hope is that by unifying this work under the umbrella of "The Wing," the Taper might persuade the separate audiences for the groups to "cross-pollinate."

Although most of "The Wing" occurs on Mondays and Tuesdays, the series will conclude with weekends in June that will center on two small series-within-the-series: the six play readings that make up Blacksmyths' fourth annual Juneteenth, June 19-21, and the Other Voices' fifth annual Summer Chautauqua, which includes four programs on June 27.

Information: (213) 972-7389.


SHOW TUNES NEWS: It took just a little more than one day last week for more than 150 callers to complain to KGIL (1260/1650 AM) about the change in its format from an all-show-music philosophy to a less purist approach. Beginning last Monday, the station filled much of its schedule with the syndicated Music of Your Life format, which plays soft standards, most of which have no connection to theater or movie music.

However, theater music fans should not despair, said KGIL President Saul Levine: "We want to keep show tunes on the air, so we're finding the best times we can for them."

So far, that means show tunes are still on KGIL at 7-9 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. each weekday, 4-8 p.m. Saturdays, and 3-6 p.m. Sundays, under the guidance of new music director Chuck Southcott. The emphasis on show tunes in the early evenings, when people might go to the theater, makes their broadcast "more of a theatrical event," Levine said. "But you don't go to the theater between breakfast and lunch." Also, each hour during the rest of the schedule will begin with a show tune, Levine said.

The station had already lost its two top female deejays, Florence Henderson and Stephanie Edwards, before the format change, Levine said. Edwards left to do a daytime TV show and Henderson exited for eight weeks of concerts and personal appearances.

But the main problem with the former format was "that we had been on since July and we had yet to show up in the quarter-hour shares"--ratings that measure how many people are listening for at least 15 minutes at a time. "It's like a show closing--if people don't buy tickets, you can't keep it going.

"We know we have a loyal audience" of show-tune listeners, Levine said, but callers who said they would never listen to the station at all, as long as it isn't totally devoted to show tunes, "are not helpful," he added.

The format change has not affected KGIL's 8:55 a.m. broadcast of information about availability of half-price theater tickets at Theatre LA's Times Tix booth.

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