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Orange County 1990 The Year in Review : Drawing the Curtains on 1990 : 3 Critics Look Back on the Highs, Lows and What Went on Behind the Scenes : THEATER

December 25, 1990|JAN HERMAN

Blast of trumpets. Drum roll, please.

The year 1990 was-- ta-dah! --a momentous one for Orange County theater.

Sorry. Let's take that over.

Blast of trumpets. Drum roll, please.

The truth is, with the dazzling exception of South Coast Repertory's "Man and Superman," 1990 was more memorable for what happened offstage than on.

It was the year the Irvine Barclay Theatre opened and a wealthy developer gave a million bucks to have it named for him.

It was the year the Grove Shakespeare Festival nearly closed and a less-than-wealthy woman gave 10 grand to keep it open while insisting on anonymity.

It was the year an implacable foe of Shakespeare did not run for reelection to the Garden Grove City Council, cheering thousands.

It was the year the Costa Mesa Playhouse ran into trouble with moral vigilantes with a decade-old play about a crazed nun that wouldn't raise an eyebrow in most quarters.

It was the year the Orange County Performing Arts Center blamed its trouble at the box office on Saddam Hussein, the all-purpose bad guy.

It was the year SCR went to Singapore and discovered what a live audience was like.

It was the year the Alternative Repertory Theatre stayed home and tried to recall what any audience was like.

It was the year the Orange County Black Actors Theatre didn't have a home. Again.

It was the year ART canceled a musical about a black woman because it couldn't find a black actress to cast.

It was the year the board of the La Habra Community Theatre put the kibosh on mixed-race casting.

It was the year the Orange County Coalition for the Theatre Arts established a 38-seat theater with folding chairs.

It was the year ART canceled a directors festival because it couldn't find enough directors.

It was the year the Way Off Broadway Playhouse did more off-the-wall productions than anyone else, usually badly but always with spirit.

It was the year the Laguna Playhouse stole its new executive director from the Grove, then learned it would lose its longtime artistic director.

It was the year the Grove appointed an exec to replace the one it lost, then announced its longtime artistic director would take a "part-time" sabbatical.

It was the year SCR lost three of its prized actors--one had a nearly fatal motorcycle accident and two made a career move to Northern California.

It was the year a major nudie revue came to the Celebrity Theatre 20 years after its Broadway premiere, and nobody complained.

It was the year the Center joined forces with the La Jolla Playhouse to produce a musical classic, and nobody came.

It was the year the Laguna Playhouse joined forces with Performing Arts magazine to produce glossier programs.

It was the year SCR playwright Craig Lucas got rich in Hollywood.

It was the year Hollywood actress Kelly McGillis got religion and joined the Grove board of trustees.

It was the year Brea put out a for-rent sign at the Curtis Theatre in search of a resident drama troupe. They're still searching.

It was the year Saddleback College officials decided "in principle" to build a 1,500-seat state-of-the-art theater for $10 million, but experts familiar with construction costs said they must have been dreaming.

It was the year the Center said publicly what many observers have suspected all along: that its long-proposed, long-awaited second theater has been put on hold.

It was the year the Laguna Playhouse promised to establish a second theater for the second year in a row, and didn't.

It was the year the Playhouse didn't buy the General Telephone Building in downtown Laguna Beach, for the second year in a row.

It was the year the Playhouse promised a summer festival in 1991.

Meanwhile, on stage . . .

It was the year Clifford Odets made a comeback with "Golden Boy" at UC Irvine.

It was the year William Saroyan made a comeback with "The Time of Your Life" at Rancho Santiago College.

It was the year George Bernard Shaw would have made a comeback at SCR with "Man and Superman," if he had ever gone away.

It was the year Caesar conquered Egypt at the Laguna Playhouse in "Caesar and Cleopatra"--Shaw again.

It was the year August Strindberg didn't make a comeback with "Miss Julie" at Laguna Beach's Forum Theatre.

It was the year five Broadway stars laid an expensive egg at the Irvine Barclay's inaugural show, but the black-tie audience seemed not to notice.

It was the year Shakespeare went Italian ("Much Ado About Nothing"), post-Industrial American ("As You Like It") and post-Napoleonic Middle Eastern ("Othello")--all at the Grove.

It was the year the Center couldn't get enough of "Starlight Express," so it booked the show twice.

It was the year the county couldn't get enough of "A Chorus Line." There were at least three productions, including the national "farewell" version.

It was the year Martin Mirkheim couldn't get enough coke in "Search and Destroy" at SCR.

It was the year of the Dust Bowl diorama--"Holy Days," also at SCR.

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