When it was just a small 'Wedding'

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" has become reigning Exhibit A for the showcase possibilities of small L.A. theaters. The story of how Nia Vardalos' monologue was seen by Rita Wilson at a small L.A. theater and then developed into a hit movie is a template for Vardalos wannabes.

Occasionally the storytellers mention the name of the theater where Wilson saw the show -- Acme Comedy Theatre in late 1997. So why is the Globe Playhouse, in West Hollywood, billed as the site "where 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' started" in a press release for the Globe's next show?

Actually, Vardalos explained, both of those theaters -- and the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood as well -- are part of her story.

The show first went up at the Hudson in August 1997, with a few midweek performances. It moved to the Acme in November, running Tuesdays only -- but the fact that Wilson saw it there gives the Acme its points in the "where it started" sweepstakes.

Both the Hudson and Acme runs, however, were workshops, Vardalos said. The show officially opened at the Globe in January 1998 for a three-night-a-week run. Vardalos said the other theaters couldn't offer her as good a deal. She affectionately recalled that Globe owner Thad Taylor personally swept the stage for her upon her arrival.

"I had a very favorable, very warm experience with L.A. theaters," Vardalos said.

If that's the case, responded Taylor, why hasn't Vardalos mentioned the Globe in the interviews she has given? "I feel quite slighted," he said, adding that he thinks Vardalos is afraid of being asked for "a big, fat donation." Taylor has been hoping to revive his long tradition of producing Shakespeare at the Globe, but he said he hasn't enough money.

M.D. Sweeney, who operates the Acme, said the fact that Wilson saw "Greek Wedding" at his theater "has piqued interest in some actors doing one-person shows" about renting the Acme. But "it hasn't led to a surge of bookings" -- despite the fact that the current Acme Sunday show, following a tradition of using titles that are takeoffs on movies, is called "My Big Fat Sunday Show."

-- Don Shirley

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