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Mark Taper Forum Gets $50,000 Award; Short Play Competition at Inner City

October 08, 1987|Don Shirley and Sylvia Drake

It's just a coincidence, of course.

The Mark Taper Forum has won the $50,000 Jujamcyn Theaters Award--little more than a month after Jack Viertel left his job as Taper dramaturge and joined the Jujamcyn Theater Organization, a Broadway producing company, as its creative director.

"Don't you think $50,000 is a good ransom?" joked Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson, when asked about the Viertel connection. But seriously, he added, "I understand we were finalists last year"--evidence that the award wasn't a quid pro quo .

"I was told about it after it was a fait accompli ," Viertel said. "They (the Jujamcyn adjudicators) chose not to make me a part of it."

The annual award "honors a regional theater organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of creative talent in the theater," according to a Jujamcyn spokesman. Previous winners, all of them in New England, include the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, the American Repertory Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre.

The $50,000 will go into the general budget, said Davidson, adding, "It's nice to get something that's not designated for a specific purpose." However, he said that new-play development is the area most in need of money.

PLAYS MAZE: With the end of the Los Angeles Festival and the Fringe, some playgoers may be suffering from withdrawal. The supply of shows has been curtailed--from 200-plus down to a mere 100-plus. What's a festival junkie to do?

The Inner City Cultural Center offers help. A total of 75 plays are being produced in the Inner City's first Short Play Competition, nicknamed First Act. The festival began Sept. 21 and continues through Nov. 21.

Unlike the bigger festivals, this one is competitive. The initial entries will be winnowed down through four rounds of performances to a grand-prize winner. The prize is $1,500, with first and second runners-up receiving $1,000 and $500, respectively. The money goes to the winning play's sponsoring organization, with the stipulation that half of it must go to the playwright.

Although most of the entrants are local, the competition has attracted companies from Connecticut, Texas, Washington and Oregon. The most prolific participant is L.A. Black Playwrights, which submitted 10 plays.

"We were overwhelmed" at the response, said Inner City's C. Bernard Jackson. "Obviously we stumbled into a vacuum."

The First Act budget of about $30,000 is supported by a couple of small grants, as well as the Inner City's own resources, which include the proceeds from the Nov. 21 benefit performance of the four or five finalists. Inner City paid none of the participants' expenses.

The productions are "mounted," as opposed to mere readings. But the judging is primarily of the writing, not the acting or other production elements. Information: (213) 387-1161.

QUAKE NEWS: The first weekend of performances of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," a Fringe event at Cal State Los Angeles, was canceled in the wake of last Thursday's earthquake. But this weekend's performances are still on. Information: (213) 224-3344.

CODA: The theater world has suffered shattering losses in recent weeks (Charles Ludlam, Michael Bennett, Bob Fosse, French playwright Jean Anouilh), but in the shuffle one almost went unmarked: the death in London of the ineffable Emlyn Williams--actor, director, writer ("The Corn Is Green") and film-maker ("Woman of Dolwyn"). He had been suffering from cancer. We remember him most vividly and buoyantly for his one-man "Charles Dickens." Alone, he managed to create as rich a gallery of characters as the entire cast of "Nicholas Nickleby." It's hard to believe such a bright, enduring light could be extinguished.

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