'Terra Nova' Will Hit the Road--to Japan; Padua Hills Festival Pulls Up Stakes Again

May 07, 1987|DON SHIRLEY

The Mark Taper Forum will revive "Terra Nova" in Japan later this month.

Gordon Davidson, the Taper's artistic director, will restage Ted Tally's drama--first seen here eight years ago--about a 1912 race to the South Pole. The company will present 12 performances in Tokyo, opening at the 800-seat Sunshine Theatre on May 29. Single performances in Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka will follow, with a closing night June 13 in Yokohama.

The tour is sponsored by a Japanese organization, the Institute of Dramatic Arts (DARTS), as part of a 10-year plan to bring an American theater company to Japan every other year. New York's Circle Repertory Company toured in 1985 under the same program.

"Terra Nova" was selected by DARTS representatives from a list of previous Taper productions. Said Davidson: "The themes of 'Terra Nova'--heroism, honor, a code of conduct--will probably speak to the Japanese."

Initially, the plan was to export a new Jose Quintero staging of "A Moon for the Misbegotten" as well as "Terra Nova." Both were part of the Taper proposal to the Theatre Communications Group, which judged applicants for the Japanese.

The Taper learned that its bid was accepted a year ago, according to Taper general manager Stephen Albert. But not enough money could be raised for both productions, and "it got complicated trying to keep the free-lance director (Quintero) on a string."

So "Misbegotten" was called off. "The Taper is Gordon," added Albert, "and it was Gordon's work they (the Japanese) were excited at having."

The Japan-United States Friendship Commission and DARTS are providing more than half of the $215,000 funding, and Japan Air Lines has agreed to contribute a chunk of the transportation costs.

The Taper staged the West Coast premiere of "Terra Nova" in 1979, and Davidson attempted to reassemble that production. He went back to the Taper shop for Peter Berggren's original costumes and enlisted designers Peter Wexler (set and projections) and Richard Allen (sound) to tackle "Terra Nova" once again, this time for proscenium stages instead of the Taper's thrust stage.

He also recruited Donald Moffat to repeat his performance as English Capt. Robert Scott. Two other original cast members, William Glover and Ian Trigger, will go on the tour. John de Lancie will play Scott's rival, Roald Amundsen.

A Japanese translation will be available over headsets, said Davidson, who has never been to Japan and is studying basic Japanese in preparation for the trip. "But I don't know where the laughs will come."

Like an itinerant band of players, the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival is moving to its fifth location in 10 years. This year the annual assemblage of writers and actors will encamp at Chapman College, a private institution in Orange, from June 22 to Aug. 2.

The festival has followed a circular route, from Padua Hills (near Claremont) to CalArts to the Paramount Ranch (in the Santa Monica Mountains) to Loyola and now to Orange County. Noted artistic director Murray Mednick: "We're surrounding Los Angeles with maverick playwrights."

The festival is known for its use of natural landscapes (especially at its original location) and for its unconventional stages, such as loading docks and lawns. Are there any promising sites on the Chapman campus?

"There's nothing wild about it," replied Mednick, "but there is a big, oval-shaped, depressed lawn in the middle of the campus. And I hope to use one of the rooftops." How about the campus theaters? "We wouldn't use their big theater, but there is a real nice little theater we might use."

Chapman is smaller than Loyola, the last home of the festival, said Mednick. "It's easier to do something (at Chapman) and not get hung up with the administrative departments."

This year's festival will offer John Steppling's "Euripides' Children of Heracles," Julie Hebert's "Corridor of Sphinxes" and as-yet-untitled works by Maria Irene Fornes, John O'Keefe, Jon Robin Baitz, Kelly Feeney, Susan Champagne and Kathy Hemingway Jones. Public performances begin July 16; until then, it's open only to workshop students.

The festival will benefit from a screening of Wayne Wang's new movie "Slam Dance," Friday at 8 p.m. at the Directors Guild, followed by a reception with the film makers. Tickets cost $50 or $100. Then, on Saturday at 2 p.m., Mednick and Steppling will host a round-table discussion of Padua Hills at the L.A. Theatre Works rehearsal hall, 3962 Ince Blvd., Culver City.

Information: (213) 466-1015.

Another movie premiere/theater benefit (do theatrical premieres ever benefit movies?):

On May 15, a screening of Home Box Office's "Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8" at UCLA's Wadsworth Theatre will benefit the Odyssey. The movie was "suggested by" the Odyssey's 1979 hit, "The Chicago Conspiracy Trial," and that production's actors were given a pay-or-play clause in the contract for the movie rights. Two of them actually made it into the film, but most of the movie roles went to such famous names as Martin Sheen, Elliott Gould and Peter Boyle.

The screening and buffet reception that follows are expected to attract members of both casts, as well as a sprinkling of the actual Chicago 8 defendants and attorneys. Tickets cost $50-$250.

Information: (213) 826-1626.

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