Will the "Phantom of the Opera" haunt the Ahmanson?
It isn't just the Center Theatre Group, which runs the Ahmanson, that wants to know. Other theater managers are also interested. For if the talks between the CTG and the producers of "Phantom" do bring Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical to the Ahmanson for an extended run, the CTG's Ahmanson season will have to move elsewhere.
The Doolittle Theatre is the likeliest candidate. "It would be high on our list," acknowledged CTG's president, Lawrence J. Ramer, "not only because it's a fine theater but also because of our past relationship with UCLA," which is the sole owner of the Doolittle after an earlier partnership with CTG/Mark Taper Forum fell apart. The Wiltern is another possible site, Ramer said.
Again, this all hinges on the presence of "Phantom" in the Ahmanson, "and nothing has been confirmed," said Ramer, who is doing the negotiating. Asked about a report that the negotiations would conclude within the next week, he demurred: "It's quite possible. When and if anything firm is settled, we'll let you know."
Of the recent plays set in Los Angeles, perhaps none has received more attention than "Hurlyburly," David Rabe's account of fear and loathing in the Hollywood hills. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Theatre Center announced that "Hurlyburly" would finally show up in the city where it's set, in a production scheduled to open June 3, four years after the play became a hit on Broadway.
Now those plans are off. Philip Kan Gotanda's "Yankee Dawg, You Die," another play set in Los Angeles, has replaced "Hurlyburly" in the June 3-July 10 slot on the LATC schedule.
The reason: Rabe wanted to direct his own play, and Bill Bushnell, LATC artistic producing director, said no.
"My sense was that he has never directed," said Bushnell, "and this was not a proper situation for him to make his directorial debut."
Speaking by telephone from New York, Rabe acknowledged that "I had an unsuccessful try at directing a few years back at the (New York) Public Theater." However, he added that he now felt qualified on the basis of his direction of a workshop production of one of his plays at Lincoln Center, starring Harvey Keitel, Sean Penn and Madonna. Said Rabe: "It had its ups and downs, but I knew what I was doing, and I think most of those actors would work with me again.
"I would take 'Hurlyburly' very seriously in L.A.," he continued. "I wouldn't want to make a fool of myself in L.A."
At any rate, Bushnell is pleased about the addition of Gotanda's play to his schedule, not only because he likes the play but also because it represents a cooperative venture with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it premiered on March 19. Except for adjustments in the set and lighting to fit the new space, the LATC staging will be "exactly the same" as the Berkeley production.
"Yankee Dawg" is about two Asian-American actors, one a veteran and the other an up-and-comer, in contemporary Hollywood.
The Los Angeles Theatre Center is about to unveil "Alarums & Excursions," a quarterly magazine edited by Charles Marowitz, LATC's iconoclastic associate director in charge of dramaturgy.
The magazine will replace previous Theatre Center house organs, but "the only way to make it viable is to not make it a house organ," noted Marowitz. "I don't know how much the theater will be true to its word, but the magazine will be as independent as I can make it." Indeed, Marowitz's goal is to make the magazine "entirely independent" of LATC funding or control.
He cited several signs of editorial independence in the first issue. An edited transcript of a recent LATC symposium on the play development process is followed by a commentary that's critical of the symposium, by Marowitz himself. This article was "the audition piece for Bill (Bushnell)," said Marowitz, "a testing of the waters" to see how freely they might flow.
Another example: London Times critic Irving Wardle's article about American plays in London includes "highly critical" comments about Donald Freed's "The Quartered Man," which was initially produced at LATC.
"I'm the last editorial veto," said Marowitz, "except the publisher (that is, Bushnell or someone else from the LATC staff) will check the copy for legal liability."
Marowitz hopes the magazine will be "as international as possible, while still retaining an emphasis on theater in Southern California and surrounding states." The initial press run will turn out 8,500 copies, most of which will be sent to LATC subscribers, with much of the remainder used for promotion. However, the public will be able to buy copies for $1.50 in the theater lobby or through the mail, and Marowitz hopes "there will be newsstand distribution beginning with the second issue," scheduled for September.
The money spent on "Alarums" ($7,000 for the first issue, according to Marowitz) might otherwise have been spent on the fancy programs that were briefly tested during LATC's festival of plays earlier this year. Bushnell suspended the publication of the colorful programs because "they were costing us $1.50 to produce and the market would only bear the cost of $1."