Culver City may be known as the "Heart of Screenland," but live theater will take center stage there with the creation of Theater in the Park, a series of four plays to be performed next month in Carlson Memorial Park.
Sponsored by the city's Human Services Department, the city's first free outdoor productions will present "Eumenides" by Aeschylus, "The Imaginary Cuckold" by Moliere, " 'Tis Pity She's a Whore" by John Ford and "This Property Is Condemned" by Tennessee Williams.
"It is something unique," said Jack M. Nakanishi, the department's recreation manager. "It will give the community something special to enjoy and the actors the opportunity to perform. It is similar to what they do back East in public theater. We hope that it becomes a tradition here in the Heart of Screenland."
The idea for the productions came from Anne Laskey, an assistant librarian with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who has directed plays and helped to organize theater productions in other communities.
"I asked Culver City because they have been incredibly nice and because there is not much else going on there," she said. "It seems ripe for something. It is a little city and easier to work with than larger cities like Los Angeles."
After receiving approval from the department, Laskey published notices in trade publications, and 75 actors auditioned to perform without pay for 25 parts in the productions.
The cast includes actors who moonlight as waiters, bartenders and even a skin-care specialist.
"Almost all the actors are people who want to act but must earn their living doing something else," Laskey said. "It has to be fun or it is not worth doing it."
Laskey said the productions have "no budget at all. The costumes will be, very simply, old sheets, robes and tablecloths. Since it is community theater, actors' salaries are not a problem, and Culver City is giving us the space."
The cast has only four weeks to learn lines, she said.
Laskey will direct the first play, "Eumenides," a 2,500-year-old Greek drama that she compared to the modern-day TV soap, "Dynasty."
"It is a wonderfully complex, horrible story, and I love it," she said.
The play recounts the classic Greek tale of Orestes, who avenges the murder of his father by his mother and her lover. However, because he committed matricide, Orestes is pursued by the Eumenides, or Furies, three goddesses of vengeance from the underworld, and he must seek help from the gods to save himself.
Starting time for all four productions will be at 2 p.m. at Carlson Memorial Park, at Motor Avenue and Braddock Drive.
"Eumenides" will be performed on Aug. 1 and 2; "The Imaginary Cuckold," a farce by French playwright Moliere will be performed Aug. 8 and 9; " 'Tis Pity She's a Whore," an Elizabethan drama by English playwright John Ford on Aug. 15 and 16; and "This Property is Condemned," a one-act play by Tennessee Williams will be performed on Aug. 22 and 23.