On Theater: Curtains up at three local colleges

Three local collegiate theater departments launch their respective seasons this month with openings on Friday night and the following two Fridays — all classics in one form or another — and for one of them, it's a very special event.

That would be UC Irvine, which will honor its longtime drama professor and director, Robert Cohen, by naming the school's Studio Theater after him. The commemoration comes in conjunction with Cohen's production of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," which opens a two-weekend engagement Oct. 21.

Cohen was present at the creation of the UCI Drama Department, moving West following his graduation from Yale in 1965 with a doctorate in fine arts. He's been at UCI ever since, first as the founding departmental chair of drama — a post he held for 25 years — and currently as a Bren Fellow and Claire Trevor professor of drama.

Over the past 46 years, Cohen has directed more than 70 productions, including new plays, classics (often in his own translations), musicals, experimental works and operas. He's also found the time to direct professionally at the Utah and Colorado Shakespeare festivals and other venues around the country, as well as author several books on theater.

Cohen received the university's highest honor, the UCI Medal, in 1993 and won a Claire Trevor professorship in 2001, two of the many laurels he's collected over the years. He conducts workshops around the country and abroad.

His production of "Godot" will be staged in the soon-to-be rechristened Studio Theater at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 and 22 and Oct. 28 and 29. with matinees at 2 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29. The official theater-renaming ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Call (949) 824-2787 for ticket information.


Orange Coast College cast its production of "Sherlock Holmes," which opens Friday, from a pool of 100 actors seeking one of two dozen roles in the classic detective story. The drama features Chris Arnold, an Irvine High School graduate, in the title role, with Raymond Mau as his assistant, Dr. Watson.

Alex Golson, who heads the OCC Drama Department, is directing the production and has added four additional roles to accommodate the large audition turnout.

"We have a lot of new students who are really dedicated," Golson said. "They're working very hard."

"Sherlock Holmes" will run through Oct. 23 with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call (714) 432-5880 for ticket reservations.


Costa Mesa's Vanguard University is in rehearsals for a play that began as a novel but gained notoriety on the silver screen — Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." Marianne Savell directs the drama about prejudice and justice in the South during the 1930s.

Told through the memories of a young girl, whose father is defending a black man falsely accused of rape, "Mockingbird" became, as the New York Times put it, "a reassuring, stately expression of American idealism in the early days of the civil rights movement."

The drama opens Oct. 28 and will be staged at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 6, with an additional performance scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Tickets may be secured online at http://www.vanguardtickets.com.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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