UCLA Live eliminates international theater festival in 2010-11

UCLA Live has officially extinguished the house lights on its signature international theater festival, eliminating theater from its 2010-11 schedule, announced Tuesday.

The series will offer a reduced number of individual performances in dance, jazz, world music and more — 47 this season, down from 85 performances last year. But the entire theater festival was a casualty of budgetary and other economic factors.

Christopher Waterman, the dean of the arts and architecture school, said he and members of Chancellor Gene Block’s staff decided to cut the festival.

“The decision was made with absolutely no pleasure at all on our parts,” Waterman said. “Hopefully, it’s not a permanent decision. If the economic prognosis improves, we will be interested in staging theater at UCLA, no doubt about it.”

He added that UCLA Live is not going to turn into a commercial operation that puts on “bland productions” and that “there will be no turning away from cutting-edge programming.”

In past seasons, the theater festival has brought a number of prestigious international and experimental groups to L.A., as well as a handful of stars including Ian McKellen, Annette Bening and Isabelle Huppert. But Waterman has said that attendance has fallen in recent seasons and that the recession has made fundraising — which accounts for the majority of the series’ budget — more difficult. The annual budget for UCLA Live hovers around $8 million.

The axing of the theater festival was a factor in the May resignation of David Sefton, who served as artistic director of UCLA Live for close to 10 years. A search for a director will start this summer.

Among the highlights of the 2010-11 UCLA Live season are five dance companies, including Helios Dance Theater (Oct. 23), Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM (Feb. 25-26), the Stephen Petronio Dance Company (March 11-12), dancer Barak Marshall’s “Monger” (April 15-16) and a revival of Lucinda Childs’ “Dance” (May 6-7).

The season also includes six classical music events: pianist Murray Perahia (Nov. 4), pianist Menahem Pressler and clarinetist Richard Stolzman (Nov. 20), violinist Daniel Hope (Feb. 11), the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin (March 3), the Takacs Quartet (April 3) and a Royce Hall organ recital (April 23).

Stephen Sondheim will appear Nov. 8 as part of the series’ spoken-word program. Other speakers include the Yes Men (Oct. 14), Wallace Shawn (Jan. 22), Maya Angelou (Feb. 19) and Nobel-laureate Seamus Heaney (April 14).

The jazz lineup features legendary saxophonist Ornette Coleman (Nov. 3), guitarist John McLaughlin (Dec. 1), a tribute to Alice Coltrane (Dec. 5) and Chick Corea and Gary Burton (March 5).

The season’s world music schedule includes Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (Oct. 2), Taj Mahal with Vieux Farka Toure (Oct. 22), Gamelan Cudamani (Nov. 11), Karsh Kale (Jan. 29), Acoustic Africa (March 26) and the Indian-Iranian ensemble Ghazal (April 21).

Velvet Underground musician John Cale will kick off the season with a performance of his 1973 album “Paris 1919" on Sept. 30. Laurie Anderson will present her latest multidisciplinary work, “Delusion,” on Oct. 21.