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Los Angeles Festival : Robert J. Fitzpatrick: A Trail Of Two Cities

August 31, 1987|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

"Part of that was started with a telephone," Fitzpatrick replied, "in which I took my Rolodex and I called everybody from outside the United States that I had ever known or met, and said, 'What is it that you have seen in the last two years that irritated, provoked, frustrated, in which you rejoiced, any of the above, but which six months or a year later you still think about or you're still aggravated about and you still enjoy thinking about? . . . I placed, in a several-month period, several hundred phone calls, obviously in the United States as well. With that collection of names, I literally sat down with a map and tried to figure out what made sense in scheduling several trips, what were the performance dates available.

"Some things I saw, and it was true in the Olympic Festival as well, were absolutely wonderful, but they were the kinds of wonderful things that we get here regularly. So if it was simply one more soloist, or one more classical musician doing something that the Philharmonic does very well, it didn't make sense for the festival to do it. I've been very adamant in my own personal definition of what's appropriate for a festival in this city, and that is that it be things that we wouldn't normally get access to, things that are somehow special, somehow different, and will provoke us, stimulate us into understanding things we might not have understood, or seeing things in a different way that stretch us, that push us." He says he didn't want to duplicate 1984 or "live in reflected glory."

2:45 p.m. After lunch at a sushi bar in West Los Angeles, Fitzpatrick visits Bella Lewitzky's outdoor studio overlooking Universal Studios. Lewitzky and her dancers are choreographing a new work based on the sculptures of Henry Moore, a spare piece that Fitzpatrick considers "a marvelous juxtaposition" to other dance that the festival is presenting. As Fitzpatrick ambles in, Lewitzky says to her dancers, "I don't have to introduce you to Baby (Sol) Hurok?" Fitzpatrick earlier gave his pack of cigarettes to Kurtti. Lewitzky doesn't allow him to smoke on the premises.

3:20 p.m. Lewitzky gives Fitzpatrick a jar of her special vitamins. She says she worries about his health, what with all those cigarettes and bad hours. He says his doctor tells him he's "in the best of health." Lewitzky frowns.

3:40 p.m. Stuck on the Hollywood Freeway going back to his office, Fitzpatrick returns a call from Karole Armitage who heads the Armitage Ballet. Besides offering the West Coast premiere of "The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler," Armitage wants to add a ballet called "The Tarnished Angels" to the program; it will be a United States premiere. "You say it's (the work) hot? " Fitzpatrick repeats. "I love it; it'll be a great juxtaposition to the 'Elizabethan.' "

4:25 p.m. Back at the office he discusses design plans for "The Mahabharata" with festival production head John De Santis.

5 p.m. In a conference call with Armitage, Fitzpatrick, De Santis and associate festival directors Tom Schumacher and Leigh Drolet approve the added ballet. He also learns from Drolet that on June 11 the festival took in another $10,800, bringing the total to $962,239, and projects they will hit the $1-million mark within two weeks.

5:30 p.m. Fitzpatrick and key staff members meet with representatives from the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency to discuss advertising copy for newspapers. Fitzpatrick loves the headline: "Enjoy 24 Days of Culture Shock" but he worries that the copy isn't specific enough about individual troupes, and he sends the copy writers back to their words.

5:55 p.m. Emerging from the ad meeting, Fitzpatrick dramatically falls to the floor in the Embassy lobby, flat on his back, proclaiming to one and all: "If I don't do something about this shoulder, you're not going to have a festival director." Fitzpatrick goes to the showers.

After a salad at his desk, it's off to the high school. Fitzpatrick's timing is exquisite. Just before the curtain goes up, he slips into a seat reserved for him by his wife, Sylvie. By intermission, he has decided to call it a night.

9:02 p.m. On the way home, he talks about dropping in at Los Angeles Theatre Center to catch the last act of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Kurtti turns around with a look that suggests the man in the back seat has taken leave of his senses. "Even when I was a kid in school, I couldn't sit still," Fitzpatrick muses, and grins contentedly.

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