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Celebration Theatre Director Is Set to Depart

Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

Robert Schrock, producing artistic director of the Celebration Theatre since 1993, is leaving the company to take the musical revue “Naked Boys Singing!” to the Big Apple and beyond.

“Naked Boys” has become the longest-running hit ever for the Celebration, L.A.'s primary gay-oriented theater. Schrock credits the show’s box-office success with keeping the theater’s doors open last year--after the proprietor of Showtixx, the ticketing agency that was used by Celebration (and some other 99-seat theaters), skipped town, allegedly taking an estimated $25,000 of Celebration’s ticket proceeds.

Schrock has a “95% certain” deal to co-produce and direct “Naked Boys” off-Broadway, in Greenwich Village, in May. There have been indications of interest in staging it in many other American cities and in Mexico City, Sydney, Johannesburg and on a European tour. For Schrock, 53, it’s “an opportunity to make more of a living.”

“If I was Gordon Davidson [of Center Theatre Group] or Jack O’Brien [of the Old Globe], I could leave for a while and then come back. But we don’t have that kind of structure at the Celebration,” Schrock said.

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The company has begun a search for Schrock’s replacement, with the emphasis being on someone who can raise money as well as keep the artistic side going. Schrock said he wished that he had been able to move the theater closer to mid-size status during his tenure, but any such move requires a lot of money. In case “Naked Boys” becomes a worldwide hit, the Celebration will receive a percentage of the author’s royalties, but the theater is not serving as a co-producer.

Schrock is directing one more Celebration show before leaving, “Too Old for the Chorus,” another musical revue from some of creators of “Naked Boys Singing!,” opening March 20. Its subject, described as “getting older in a youth-obsessed society,” almost sounds like a response to those who questioned whether “Naked Boys” was in part a symptom of such obsessions.

The juxtaposition “wasn’t intentional,” Schrock said, “but it’s true that it’s the perfect show to follow ‘Naked Boys.’ It’s the other end of the spectrum.” However, he also defended “Naked Boys” against doubters: “It shows a broad spectrum of gay men,” he said. “They’re not all gorgeous.”


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