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Growing Up

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

New venues and new work arriving on the Valley theater scene in 2000 promise to shape the NoHo Arts District into the most active theater district in Los Angeles.

The district, centered on Lankershim and Magnolia boulevards, will host a range of works suggesting a maturing of the Valley’s small theaters.

Planning a move from its Chandler Studio space to the old Joe Tremaine Studio at Tujunga and Chandler avenues, Artistic Director Michael Holmes’ Action/Reaction Theatre Company will continue its successful run of “The Cleaning Man.” Early in the year, it also plans to reopen the dark-tinged “Voices From the Dark.”

A varied schedule without fixed dates will follow, including the “Macbeth” spoof, “Scots on the Rocks”; Holmes’ musical adaptation, with composer Cengic Yaltkaya, of Jack London’s “The Lark Bird”; an untitled adaptation of Carl Sandberg’s poetry; and a restaging of the musical “Has Anybody Seen My Rainbow?” by David Austin.

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A few blocks away will be perhaps the most anticipated artistic development of the new year, when the El Portal Center for the Arts opens with the maiden season of resident company Actors Alley. It will produce work in a mid-size (396 seats) venue, as well as the 94-seat Circle Theatre and the 42-seat Studio Theatre.

“We want to start with work [that] audiences can warm up to,” said Artistic Director Jeremiah Morris, “then move on to more challenging plays.”

First up is Joe DiPietro’s “Over the River and Through the Woods,” starring Joseph Campanella and Carol Lawrence (Jan. 11-Feb. 26). That will be followed by Ronald Smokey Stevens’ and Jaye Stewart’s look at black vaudevillians, “Rollin’ on the TOBA” (March 14-April 9); and Ferenc Molnar’s “The Play’s The Thing,” starring Hal Linden.

In an unusually busy year for moves, one of the biggest will be that of the venerable Colony Studio Theatre, long in residence on Riverside Drive in Silver Lake. The Colony plans to move to its new home in Burbank in April with a planned summer opening of the company’s 1981 hit, Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine.”

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The dates, notes Producing Director Barbara Beckley, will depend on the venue’s final construction phase. Following will be a revival of George S. Kaufman’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

By arrangement with the city of Burbank, the new theater’s seating will remain at 99 through 2001, than expand to 276 seats in 2002. That would make the Colony, after Actors Alley, the second professional company in the Valley to graduate from the 99-seat Actors’ Equity plan to its mid-size theater contract status.

Over at the Actor’s Forum Theatre, the company’s full production of “The Great Sebastians,” will be followed by Director Thomas J. Finnan III’s staging of “The Boy Friend.”

American Renegade Theatre Company, which recently moved into its new two-theater complex, plans to produce in-house productions and rent the larger, 99-seat space for outside productions. Its current main stage show, “The Sicilian Bachelor,” runs through March 20.

By the end of April, the main stage will be home to John Goff’s “The Wait,” a drama about three generations of Mississippi shrimp fishermen.

Having operated without a producing venue, The Antaeus Company is close to getting a space in NoHo, said Managing Director Dakin Matthews. Early in the year, the respected acting company specializing in classical works will stage Juan Ruiz de Alarcon’s 16th century “The Liar.”

Antaeus hopes to follow that show in April or May with a revival of Arthur Miller’s first play, “The Man Who Had All The Luck.”

The renowned Deaf West Theatre Company on Lankershim Boulevard opens its two-play season March 3 with a revival of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” to be followed by Lionel Bart’s musical, “Oliver!” tentatively set for May. Both shows will include deaf cast members.

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One of the most ambitious schedules in 2000 belongs to Eclectic Company Theatre, which will continue its “Scenes Through the Bathroom Window” until March 11 with the one-act pair of Chrissy Sonnek’s “Freakgirl” and Keith Morrison’s “Hope and His Family” on Sundays and Mondays. The group’s latest foray into Shakespeare, “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” opens April 7, followed by Jeffrey Hatcher’s version of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” opening June 8.

The critically acclaimed Interact Theatre Company will spend most of the new year setting up shop in its new arts district home, which has 90 seats. It plans to open to the public in February with Monday night readings of new plays. The annual summer series, “Interactivity,” is a typically dynamic smorgasbord of old and new works.

Lonny Chapman’s Group Repertory Theatre brings in the new year as it brought out the old, with the Cole Porter music revue “Cole,” running until Jan. 22. Minnesota playwright Phil Olson returns with “A Nice Family Gathering” on Feb. 18.

As the key resident of the city-operated Lankershim Arts Center and with a string of hit shows, Road Theatre Company has been able to extend runs indefinitely, said co-founder Taylor Gilbert.

The current hit, “The Angels of Lemnos,” is set to run into February. Jenny Laird’s new play set in 1937 Appalachia, “Ballad Hunter,” will open in April.

The new season is all about fresh work at The Victory Theatre. Playwright Lee Murphy, whose “Catch a Falling Star” premiered at the Victory, returns in January with “Monkey Grass,” the second play in her planned trilogy.

At 39 years and running, Theatre East in Studio City is the senior member of the Valley circuit. The 2000 schedule is still forming, with Seth Isler’s solo show, “The Godfather Workout,” continuing into January, followed by Gene H. Butler’s evening of six one-acts, “Howl at the Moon,” in February.


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