Help Wanted: Ovation Awards Seek Voters

Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

The people who run the Ovation Awards are looking for a few good voters--50, to be exact. Interested applicants can apply through the end of July.

The search for new Ovation voters is part of an overhaul of procedures of the peer-judged theater awards that was recently approved by the board of the sponsoring organization, Theatre LA. The 50 extra voters will be at-large, as opposed to most of the 120 current voters, who represent Theatre LA's constituent theaters or producing organizations.

Potential voters must have at least three years of experience in professional theater. Theatre LA especially hopes to lure new voters from the technical fields--such as lighting, sound and production design--or from relatively outlying areas such as the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, Long Beach and the South Bay.

Applicants are asked to send a resume and a cover letter in which they describe five favorite moments in L.A. theater during the past year. The point of the essay question is to make sure that voters are inclined to go to a wide range of theaters, said Jon Lawrence Rivera, head of Theatre LA's Ovation Review Committee.

In other words, if an applicant listed all favorite moments as occurring at a single theater--even at Rivera's own Playwrights' Arena--that would count as a wrong answer, Rivera said. Otherwise, there are no right or wrong answers, he added.

Being a voter is no get-rich-quick scheme; each of the chosen will have to pay $35 a year to become associate members of Theatre LA. However, they will receive one or two free tickets to a minimum of 25 shows a season, 20 of which must be in sub-100-seat theaters. They won't necessarily be able to see every show in town, however; for economic reasons, some producers put a cap--as low as eight--on the number of Ovation voters allowed free tickets. Voters must attend an orientation session in August, before the next round of Ovation eligibility begins in September.

Applications should be mailed to the Ovation Review Committee, Theatre LA, 644 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90017 or faxed to (213) 614-0556.

SUCCESSFUL SCENARIOS: Let's hear it for "California Scenarios," South Coast Repertory's first site-specific project, held in Isamu Noguchi's sculpture garden, about a block south of the South Coast complex in Costa Mesa.

Presented only for two weekends, and not offered for review, the project featured five short plays on the Latino experience in California, at five locations in the garden. The audience carried folding chairs from one play to the next.

The works, commissioned by the theater's Hispanic Playwrights Project, offered a variety of subjects, styles and tones, all accompanied by the evocative sounds of Alfredo Rolando Ortiz on Paraguayan harp. Despite the outdoor spaces, the words were clearly audible, and the directions to the audience about where to go next were equally clear. The experience offered a sense of audience adventure akin to the old, fabled days of the site-specific Padua Hills Playwrights Festival.

The garden, its spare Southwestern textures dwarfed by surrounding high-rises, deserves further use by South Coast. It's encouraging to see one of the Southland's most established companies literally breaking out of the box in such a dramatic fashion.


FALCON CHANGES: Meryl Friedman has left her job as executive producer of Garry Marshall's Falcon Theatre in Burbank to become executive director of the Virginia Avenue Project, the Santa Monica-based theater mentoring program for youth. Arts journalist Jan Breslauer, who has written for The Times, is the Falcon's new producing director.


SAN DIEGO: Marie Jones' "Stones in His Pockets" will open Globe Theatres' 2002 season in February. The two-actor, nearly 30-character comedy about a film crew in an Irish village will be a co-production with the Bushnell Center in Hartford and the Playhouse Theatre in Wilmington and will travel to those theaters following its San Diego run.

San Diego Repertory Theatre will open its 2001-02 season with the West Coast premiere of "Love, Janis," a musical based on singer Janis Joplin's letters, conceived and directed by Randal Myler, Sept. 28-Oct. 28. Also coming up: "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," Nov. 2-25; "A Christmas Carol," Nov. 30-Dec. 23; "Aliens in America," Jan. 18-Feb. 10; "The Merchant of Venice," March 8-31, in conjunction with the solo show "Shylock," March 26-April 14, starring Ron Campbell as an actor accused of anti-Semitism for his performance as Shylock in "Merchant"; and "Culture Clash: Coast to Coast," April 12-28.

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