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LATC Fest to Feature 3 Mainstage Plays; 'Utamaro,' a Japanese Musical, to Open

December 17, 1987|DON SHIRLEY

"Maybe I'm finally catching up to the New Age," said Los Angeles Theatre Center's Bill Bushnell, discussing the "connecting thread" between the three mainstage plays that will appear in the 9th Los Angeles Theatre Center Festival.

Opening the festival on Jan. 15 (previews start Jan. 8) will be Marlane Meyer's "Etta Jenks," a story of a would-be starlet's corruption in the Hollywood pornography business. One of the characters in the play talks about "out-of-body transference"--hence the New Age connection. "Etta Jenks" will play through March 13 in LATC's Theatre 2.

In the next mainstage production, Norman Lock's "The House of Correction," one of the characters "talks of how we exist on several planes at one time," said Bushnell. The play is set in a New Jersey suburb and was described in a press release as "black comedy touched with absurdity and a philosophical bent that puts the torch of terrorism to middle-class complacency." It opens Jan. 22 (previews on Jan. 15) in Theatre 3, playing through March 13.

The plot for Jose Rivera's "The Promise," opening Feb. 12 (previews start Feb. 5) in the Tom Bradley Theatre, includes "the invasion of one person by the spirit of another," said Bushnell. The play is about the bond and then the feud between two families, first in Puerto Rico and later in a Patchogue, N.Y., backyard. "The Promise" will run through March 13.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday December 18, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 8 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 13 words Type of Material: Correction
"The Film Society," a play by Jon Robin Baitz will open next month in London, not on Broadway.

No, Shirley MacLaine is not in charge at LATC. But perhaps her spirit has invaded Bushnell's? The scheduling of three plays that deal with psychic phenomena, among other subjects, "was not a conscious effort," said Bushnell. Hmmm. . . . The festival will continue with an Adrienne Rich poetry reading on Jan. 25 in Theatre 2 and with two different programs of staged readings from March 3-6: Labworks, which will feature "informal" readings of work from LATC's Latino Theater Lab, Women's Project and Young Playwrights' Lab; and the New Works Project, more formal readings of four new plays.

Finally, on March 5 at 4:30 p.m., a panel will discuss "Developed to Death?: Creative Alternatives to Developing New Playwrights." Although participants haven't been selected, Bushnell pledged that the symposium would include opponents of the type of play development that exists at LATC.

This year's festival lacks the $200,000 plus promotional support that AT&T contributed to last year's festival, but Bushnell held out hope that a corporate sponsor may yet come forth, noting that "we didn't have a sponsor last year until Dec. 13."

He also cited last year's example for the work it produced. Two mainstage productions, "The Film Society" and "The Stick Wife," were among the "best plays" of 1986-87, (produced off Broadway), as selected by the American Theatre Critics Assn.; "The Film Society" is scheduled to open next month on Broadway. And "Etta Jenks," on the mainstage next month, was in the New Works Project last year.

The other two mainstage plays in the upcoming festivals came to LATC via their directors. Bradford O'Neil, the 23-year-old director of the New Playwrights' Theatre in Ashland, Ore., had staged "The House of Correction" at his own theater and brought it to LATC after a referral from film director Robert Altman. And director Jose Luis Valenzuela brought "The Promise" to LATC after seeing a reading of it at South Coast Repertory's Hispanic Playwrights' Program last July.

FAR EAST SIDE STORY: AT&T may not be contributing to LATC's festival this year, but it will sponsor the Feb. 2-6 Los Angeles performances of "Utamaro: The Musical," billed as the "the first Japanese Broadway-style musical to tour the United States."

The production, featuring a 50-member company direct from Tokyo, will open its six-city tour with five performances, preceded by a Feb. 2 preview, at the Japan America Theatre.

The composer is Taku Izumi, who has written nearly a hundred musicals over 25 years. Playwright Toshio Fujita's subject is the 18th-Century woodcut artist Utamaro and the women in his life. The show will feature English narration and supertitles.

Appearing at the Japan America Theatre later in the season will be Tenkei Gekijo in "The Water Station" (June 25 and 26) and a new program from the Grand Kabuki (July 6-10).

CHANGE OF ADDRESS CARD: The Pasadena Playhouse's "Mail" is en route to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., according to a Pasadena Playhouse press release. Previews will begin in the Center's Eisenhower Theater on Feb. 13 or 14, followed by a five-week run.

Kennedy Center chairman Roger Stevens, reached in Washington on Wednesday, declined to confirm that the move was definite. "We're enthusiastic about doing it, and we expect to do it, but I don't want to say it's positively coming. Things can happen." Such as? "We've got to build a new set. It won't be firm until we get bids on the set."

At any rate, the musical's run in Pasadena has been extended another four weeks, through Jan. 30. Last Saturday marked the show's 100th performance at the Playhouse.

McANUFF TO MOSCOW: La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff recently agreed to direct a play next fall at the Sovremennik Theatre in Moscow. Yet Soviet theaters usually rehearse plays three or four months--in contrast with the six or seven weeks that's standard in America. Can McAnuff spare the time away from La Jolla and his other stateside engagements?

No. "I can't afford to be there four months," he told Times staff writer Hilliard Harper, so he's looking for a compromise.

"I had a wonderful conversation with the actors on Thanksgiving Day," he said. "I think (rehearsals) will be a combination of both systems. They may rehearse longer hours. Hopefully they won't have a heavy performance schedule."

McAnuff returned Dec. 8 from a trip that included 10 days spent in the Soviet Union.

He hasn't decided which play he'll direct, but it'll probably be a musical--perhaps "Big River," which he staged at La Jolla and on Broadway.

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