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Stage Watch

'Black Bottom' Is Due at the Doolittle; Odyssey's Ambitious New Latino Troupe

September 24, 1987|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

It's been talked about for weeks but has just become official: August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is moving into the Doolittle Theatre for a reprise run Oct. 21-Nov. 22.

This is the same show that played the Los Angeles Theatre Center earlier this summer as a co-production of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre and the Theatre Center.

It will have the same director (Claude Purdy), set (Jesse Hollis), lighting (Derek Duarte), costumes (Fritha Knudsen), sound (Jon Gottlieb) and above all cast, with the sizzling Richard Lawson as that luckless trumpet player Levee and Ann Weldon as Ma Rainey herself.

New presenters for the show are the Southern California Theatre Assn., the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts and LATC.

The production follows the Flying Karamazovs in "Juggle & Hyde." They'll be doing their thing at the Doolittle Oct. 6-18.

OLE! ODYSSEY: Of all the Equity Waiver entities in this town, Ron Sossi's Odyssey Theatre Ensemble has most frequently dipped into European theater, mostly German and Polish. Now add Latino.

Over the last three months, Sossi, his associate artistic director Frank Condon, dramaturge Lea Chartok and literary manager Jan Lewis have been putting together a Latino company.

Said Sossi: "Frank and I kicked the idea around with some Hispanic actors--Tony Plana, Diane Rodriguez and Danny Addes. The idea was to delve into Hispanic literature more than to showcase Hispanic actors. So we called up some actors, had a few meetings. At each meeting more actors would show up. I wanted to see how interesting the idea was to them.

"Some things became clear very quickly. One was that many of them were tired of doing plays about the Hispanic experience in America. They wanted to do other things, especially the classics."

Twice weekly workshops began about three months ago, Sossi said, and the troupe picked some plays for reading: Calderon's "Life Is a Dream," "Three Top Hats" by Miguel Mihura, as well as some unknown South American plays. When Sossi found that the Latino group was taking too much of his time, he combined it with his other company--the actors who did "Journey to Arcturus."

"Now we're seriously considering maintaining this (mixed) group," Sossi said. "Other options are to let the smaller company function as a Hispanic group or function together for a show or two, and see how it feels."

Although no decision's been made on the size of the group--to stay at 15 or go as high as 25--Sossi hopes to launch the troupe's first production as soon as November or, at the latest, early next year. Current plans call for the group's plays to be in English, but Sossi says Spanish-language performances may come in time.

"There's going to have to be a lot of extra training in areas of style--ways of performing Greek tragedy, romantic classical Spanish plays, commedia ," Sossi said. "That's another thing I have to weigh: How far, with our limited means, can we take an actor who doesn't have the training? There are a lot of 'ifs' and a lot of this has been a step at a time. I never intended to lead but I've enjoyed it tremendously.

"Fate dealt the hand."

PIECES AND BITS: In lieu of admission, the second annual Shakespeare Festival, sponsored by Citicorp and held on Citicorp Plaza, collected about $7,000 of "non-perishable essentials," including canned food, for the homeless. And that was only four performances of "Two Gents of Verona." A real success story. . . .

For the first time this year the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP is separating its theater awards from the rest of its Image Awards. "Excellence of Black theater in Southern California" will be the theme of the first NAACP Legitimate Theatre Awards to be held Nov. 2 at the Wilshire Ebell.

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