In February, Theatre To Go! launched its monthly readings of various classics by multiethnic casts at the Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood. The next reading by the company's Classic Playreading Consortium, George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara," is scheduled for Wednesday evening. Next month's event will be Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" on May 8, followed by the season's last reading on June 12 of Philip Barry's "The Philadelphia Story."
Sally Shore, artistic director of Theatre To Go!, casts readings about two weeks in advance from a file that contains the names of about 100 professional actors.
"We're really committed to working with actors from all walks of life," she said. She deliberately casts actors from various ethnic backgrounds. "It's a way for actors to attempt parts or roles they would not ordinarily get a chance to do," she said.
Actors are expected to develop characters on their own, Shore said. They don't rehearse together beforehand or work with a director and are seated throughout the reading. But here is an "inherent value in seeing the actors work on a raw level," said Shore. "That's part of the excitement of a reading. Its own sort of chemistry comes out."
"Sally always has a strong ensemble of actors," said Wheaton James, who has been cast in three readings. "All the readings have been first-rate. . . . Although we're not paid, you meet other actors and it keeps the creative juices flowing. It reinforces what you're trying to do as an actor."
Like the classics, Theatre To Go! has a long history. It was founded in 1978 in Sacramento by Bob McFarland, then a theater arts major at the California State University there. Because of financial cutbacks, the touring group lost funding.
McFarland then established Theatre To Go! as a nonprofit organization and continued to deliver live theater to schools, parks, senior citizen centers and low-income areas of Sacramento.
In May, 1989, McFarland and other group members relocated to Los Angeles and established Theatre To Go! here. Now a Chatsworth resident, McFarland serves as the theater company's executive director. The company's associates in the Sacramento area continue to present theater programs there.
So far, activities in Los Angeles have been limited. In 1989, Theatre To Go! produced "The Stories of Mark Twain" at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre and, in 1990, "Journeys: The Immigrants' Tale" was presented at the Lankershim Arts Center as part of the L.A. Festival.
Members unofficially began their play-reading series in September, 1989, meeting in one another's homes or in church auditoriums. "But the quality of the work was so good, we decided to take it public," Shore said.
A year ago, the group began performing at Mama Pajama, a vintage clothing shop and espresso bar in Venice. When the shop was unable to accommodate the group any longer, Theatre To Go! found a new home at the Lankershim Arts Center, which is run by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.
Shore said she was surprised by the warm reception from San Fernando Valley audiences. "The Valley," she said, "has a strong theatergoing audience."
Since actors perform in the main gallery of the Lankershim Arts Center--a space that doubles as an art gallery--there are limitations. The area only accommodates about 25 people, Shore said.
"We hope this is a way that the public can come and enjoy plays they're not familiar with," Shore said. "A play comes alive when you see actors read it. You see and hear things you might not catch just reading from a book."
\o7 The reading start\f7 s\o7 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Free. For information, call (213) 559-6894. \f7