The view from this desk after an absence of four months (putting together staged readings of new plays in Denver) is a predictable mixed bag of change--some of it subtle, some marked. Many of the same things are going on, but some with internal alterations. For instance:
The Grove Shakespeare Festival has new directors this summer and and new directions this fall.
The new directors are Richard Rossi (staging "The Rivals " opening July 5 at the indoor Gem Theatre), Jack Fletcher ("The Tempest," July 12, in the outdoor Amphitheater) and Grove producing artistic director Thomas F. Bradac ("The Taming of the Shrew," Amphitheater, Aug. 16).
A bonus production, free to the public, will be the Donald Freed/Geoffrey Forward "Shakespeare 1614--Alive!" with Freed directing and Forward performing the one-man play they had originated at the Joey Harris Theatre last year under the title "Will."
The new directions for the 7-year-old Grove are the launching of a full Equity season in the Gem Theatre this fall. It starts with a reprise of "Going to See the Elephant," seen at both Theatre/Theater in Hollywood and the DeLacey Street Theater in Pasadena. "Elephant" will feature Karen Hensel (one of the play's creators) and will be directed by Carl Reggiardo.
The nomadic Padua Hills Festival, in its eighth year, reopens in yet another new location--at Barnsdall Park, Monday through June 30, with especially invited teacher/playwrights, including many of the old stalwarts: Irene Maria Fornes, Martin Epstein, John O'Keefe, artistic director Murray Mednick and others.
July 16 to Aug. 3, Mednick's seven folk/myth plays known as the Coyote Cycle and spawned largely through the Padua Hills festivals over the years, will be performed at Paramount Ranch as a co-presentation of Padua Hills and L.A. Theatre Works. The pieces will be distributed over different evenings, with two special (and specially priced) marathon dusk-to-dawn performances of the entire cycle July 27 and Aug. 3. (For details call (213) 827-0808.)
Speaking of L.A. Theatre Works, it has become part of a noticeable Southland trend toward consolidation of forces and resources. Producers Susan Loewenberg (L.A. Theatre Works), Peg Yorkin (L.A. Public Theatre) and Susan Dietz (L.A. Stage Co.) have formed a tentative behind-the-scenes alliance with just that thought in mind.
"It's time to collaborate," Dietz confirmed. "We run very different organizations, but if producers do not start co-operating we're going to wipe each other out. Look at how many producers it takes to do a Broadway show."
So everybody's doin' it--even the Mark Taper Forum, which joins forces with San Diego's Old Globe to present Peter Parnell's "Romance Language" Jan. 23 through March 9. (The show then moves to the Globe for a San Diego run March 27 to May 4.)
Is there life after the Tony?
Yes, says Des McAnuff, recipient of one of the seven (Best Direction of a Musical) harvested by "Big River" 13 days ago.
"There's certainly work ," emphasized McAnuff, whose La Jolla Playhouse (the place that gave birth to "Big River") is about to open a revised "Merrily We Roll Along" under the guidance of composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and of director James Lapine. (See related story on page 1.)
"It was also nice to get away from it," McAnuff added. "You can only party for so long. But I think it's got to change the way New York perceives the regions.
"Within the industry there's recognition that we're doing new work and new work with maybe populist appeal. That's good. But it won't change our policies.
"We want to continue to bring in everyone who's seriously interested in theater."
"CATS" REVISITED: Those stealthy felines at the Century City Shubert are more comfortable than ever in their lithe and canny furs, and Kim Criswell is now lending grace as well as power to her Grizabella, making it at least as memorable as Betty Buckley's was on Broadway.
But--and we've mentioned this ad nauseam--getting out of that underground parking garage continues to be the evening's greatest challenge. A stalled car in the single exit lane late Sunday underscored the potential magnitude of the problem. The application of elementary logic could have theatergoers pay as they go in instead of out , so all gates could be thrown open at show's end to expedite traffic, but logic apparently remains too radical an idea.