Paul Verdier, artistic director of Hollywood's trilingual Stages, has returned from a two-month trip to New York and France with a coup and a half.
From Le Theatre du Soleil's Ariane Mnouchkine in Paris, he has obtained the rights to stage the American premiere of her 1970 chronicle of the French Revolution, called simply "1789." It will be mounted in a major space as a bicentennial salute to the event itself in the spring of 1989. The undertaking will be a co-production with USC's Division of Drama.
"I spent two weeks at the Theatre offices researching the project," Verdier said, "looking through documents, talking with Ariane. Roberto Moscoso, who had designed the original sets, may in fact come and work with us."
It's too early to nail down plans, but one idea is to tear up the seats in the Embassy Auditorium (owned by USC) and use that space to mount the heavily environmental/improvisatory piece.
"Assuming the funding, etc. can be put together, we'd like to do it as part of our 1988-89 season," confirmed Richard Toscan, current chair of USC's Division of Drama.
The show's 26-person cast is expected to consist of a 50/50 mix of students and professionals. Budget is around $100,000, of which the university would contribute roughly half. A bicentennial celebration grant may also be forthcoming from the French government, which has expressed an interest. Fund raising and workshopping can't start too soon.
A major diversion will interrupt this agenda, however: June 11-July 11, Stages will remount its compelling productions of the plays of Eduardo Pavlovsky ("Camaralenta," "Potestad" and "Pablo") for the First New York International Festival of the Arts, focusing exclusively on 20th-Century arts. It is the only Los Angeles-based company invited to participate.
HEADING THE HILLS: The itinerant Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop, which has been in some artistic and logistical turmoil for three years, has done some internal reshuffling.
Founder and artistic director Murray Mednick has chosen to step down as head honcho: "It was time." Roxanne Rogers, his appointed successor, has brave new plans. "I've been with the festival every year for 10 years," she said.
"Our focus was always between production and playwriting, but our forte is the playwriting. I want to get back to the writing workshops. Our gift to American culture is this collection of playwrights who are wonderful teachers: Murray (Mednick), John Steppling, Maria Irene Fornes, John O'Keefe, Michael Monroe, Leon Martell.
"I'd also like to bring Sam (her brother, Sam Shepard, an early participant) back into it. And John (Patrick) Shanley and Eric Overmyer. I don't have commitments yet, but we're talking. If I can bring them in for short-term master classes, it could work."
Lack of a home and finances have been the nagging problems.
"We need to do some private fund raising, over and above any grants," Rogers acknowledged, "and find a permanent home. We're looking. We have a location scout, literally a movie location scout, who knows what we want. It has to be something we can touch base at year round, not just summers.
"Next year we'll do toned-down productions of three plays (by Mednick, Steppling and Fornes)," she added. "As a backup we're considering a play by Kelly Stewart (untitled), one by me ("Bird in Hand") or Susan Champagne's 'Take a Picture,' done earlier this year at the Boyd St. Theatre. It's a nice sampling of our new and established writers.
"Next summer's format will be smaller, making a bit more sense, so we can make a little money and maybe have a bigger festival the next year. We have an offer from Theatre of the New City in New York to co-produce the summer plays there in the fall. And we have a new administrative director, Cheryl Bianchi, who's pulled a lot of stuff together, so we go into the year stronger and simplified."
HERE TODAY, GONE . . . : Rumor had it that Scott Kelman, the artistic director of downtown's Pipeline, was thinking of closing Pipeline's doors. Rumor had it only partly right. Kelman, a vocal advocate of theater in the inner city, will be closing his doors on downtown--but reopening elsewhere.
"Our lease expires at the end of October and I'm not renewing," the gravel-voiced Kelman said Monday. Where will Pipeline go?
"Anywhere but downtown," said this former downtown enthusiast. "When they put in parking meters in front of the theater at 18 minutes for 25 cents, I realized there was no real political support for small theaters downtown. Everyone has moved out or is moving out: the L.A. Theatre Unit, Theatre of Note--twice--the Nighthouse. Others. Galleries are vacating too.
"Fred Croton, (controversial former general manager of the city's Cultural Affairs Department), only came to the theater once in six years, but you can't blame it all on him. No one in City Hall has come down here--not the mayor, not one councilman.