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Theatricum Botanicum, Panjandrum Press Get $2,500 Apiece : Theater, Book Publisher Win Arts Grants

July 31, 1985|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

North Hollywood book publisher Dennis Koran said the Los Angeles Actor's Theatre first gave him the idea to put together a book of nine one-act plays by award-winning local playwrights.

Now he has the money to do it, thanks to a grant approved earlier this month by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Koran's firm, Panjandrum Press, and Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum, an outdoor playhouse in Topanga Canyon, have each received $2,500 from the newly formed National/State/County Partnership.

The partnership, which is supervised by the county Music and Performing Arts Commission, provides matching grants to local arts groups with limited resources or fund-raising abilities.

Kate Fielder, administrative director for the 350-seat Theatricum Botanicum, said she hopes to use grant funds to help publicize the theater.

"We're always told we're the best-kept secret in town," Fielder said.

Informal Actor's Workshop

The late television and Shakespearean actor Will Geer started the Theatricum Botanicum in 1973 as an informal actor's workshop. He also planted a Shakespearean garden to complement his outdoor amphitheater. Today, the informality remains in the natural canyon setting, but the group itself has grown into an Equity repertory theater, Fielder said. Actor's Equity is a union of stage actors.

Three plays are featured during the theater's season, which runs from June to September, she said. Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" are the current productions.

Fielder said she feels that the grant will allow the theater to reach out beyond the community of Topanga and its current patrons. "The more public support we develop the less dependent we are on foundations and grants," she said.

Koran, a 38-year-old poet as well as publisher, said he is not dependent on grants to make his living. But he added that the $2,500 grant will pay for about a third of the printing and publication costs of his Los Angeles drama anthology, "Best One-Act Plays." Koran said he hopes to match the grant with contributions from local theater groups.

But he said he has published other books without financing.

"I like reading manuscripts and deciding what books should be published," Koran said.

55 Books Published

Panjandrum Press has published about 55 books dealing with poetry, music, drama and health since 1971, when Koran started the firm in San Francisco. In 1979, the publisher moved to North Hollywood.

Koran said a friend suggested the name "Panjandrum." The term is a satirical one denoting a pompous, self-important official. But, although he enjoys his business, Koran said he has had second thoughts about the name.

"After spelling the word 10,000 times over the years, I wish I had chosen a simpler name," he said.

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