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STAGE NOTES : Eviction, Money Woes Peril Irvine Light Opera

March 12, 1992|JAN HERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — Unless it finds an angel, the cash-strapped Irvine Civic Light Opera is out of show business.

Make that a pair of angels.

"We're looking for two major sponsors to put up $25,000 each for 'Cabaret,' " ICLO board member Mike Hickey said of increasingly doubtful plans to stage the musical, already postponed from February to July, at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Without those sponsors, he added, the 2-year-old troupe is likely to go out of business altogether.

"We've been paralyzed for the last three months," Hickey said Tuesday after a board meeting. "We've run out of money. We've run out of ideas. We don't have the proper mix of people who know how to raise funds. We're out of our league."

Come Sunday, the nonprofit theater company will also be out of a home.

After waiving ICLO's monthly rent of $3,300 for 12 of the last 14 months, Koll Management Services has asked theater officials to vacate the leased warehouse it has been using for an office and rehearsal space near John Wayne Airport at 17835 Sky Park Circle.

By Hickey's estimate, ICLO is more than $100,000 in the red:

* Roughly $50,000 in long overdue bills and wages to printers, stage crews, orchestra personnel, singers and others who worked on a poorly attended production of "The Music Man." It opened the ICLO's projected 1991-92 season at the Barclay in September and was expected to be the first of three ICLO shows there.

* Another $55,000 or so in refunds to about 1,100 subscribers who bought season tickets, if the two other promised shows are not produced--a likelihood that looms much larger with ICLO's eviction.

"We've already spent the money," Hickey said.

Three-show subscriptions for the ICLO season ranged in price from $60 to $77, depending on seat locations and performance dates. Because ICLO is broke, it could not give refunds even if they were demanded.

"So far we've gotten very few complaints," Hickey said.

ICLO artistic director Daniel R. Trevino and business manager Ronald P. Kennihan were unavailable for comment. They and the other members of the board, as well as staff, are unsalaried.

Hickey said ICLO has incurred total costs of about $450,000 over the past 18 months, while generating gross revenues of some $350,000. Most of that income came from ticket sales, he said. Only a small fraction--perhaps $25,000--came from donations.

"That's our biggest problem," said Hickey. "Since 'Music Man' closed, all we've been able to raise in donations is $500 to $600."

At one point ICLO tried holding a raffle for a luxury car donated by a local auto dealer. But theater officials could sell only eight raffle tickets (priced at $500 each) and had to call off the drawing.

"Cabaret" originally was scheduled to run Feb. 20-29. But when an expected grant from an unidentified corporation fell through and an eleventh-hour appeal for financing from the Barclay's board of trustees also failed to pan out in January, ICLO decided to postpone the show until the summer.

To cut costs further, "Cabaret" was scheduled to replace "A Little Night Music" (which would have been more expensive to produce) and the current season was scaled back to two musicals.

ICLO made its debut at the Barclay in February, 1991, with a near-sellout "Evita" that received mixed reviews. Its second production the following July a critically praised "Pacific Overtures"--was not as well-attended but was still deemed successful at the box office. This season's "The Music Man," the third ICLO production at the Barclay, received negative reviews and turned out to be a box-office disaster.

"We don't want to declare bankruptcy," Hickey said. "We want to keep going."

NAME YOUR PRICE: South Coast Repertory is offering a Pay-What-You-Will performance of "Billy Bishop Goes to War" on the Second Stage on Saturday at 3 p.m. Reduced-price tickets, limited to two per customer, are available only on the day of performance and must be ordered in person at the SCR box office, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. The box office opens Saturday at 10 a.m. SCR officials recommend a $5 minimum per ticket but will take less.

CLARVOE READING: South Coast Repertory will present a staged reading of "A Play to Be Named Later" by Anthony Clarvoe on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The fourth offering of the 1991-92 NewSCRipt Series, it is a romantic comedy about two singles people who have been through the gender wars. Admission: $7. Information: (714) 957-4033.

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