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O.C. THEATER / JAN HERMAN

'Wales' Cast May Defect From Grove

March 19, 1993|JAN HERMAN

As if GroveShakespeare didn't have enough trouble, the mainstays of its annual production of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" have been invited to do the show elsewhere. And they're seriously considering it.

Gary Bell, Marnie Crossen and Danny Oberbeck--and others who have been connected with the production for the past seven years at the Gem Theatre--were approached several weeks ago by High Octane Productions, a Laguna Beach-based company that claims to have acquired the amateur rights and is negotiating for the professional rights to the stage adaptation of the Dylan Thomas story that the Grove has been using.

"We were asked if we'd be willing to go somewhere else with the show because it seemed unlikely it would be happening at the Gem," Oberbeck said Wednesday. "We said we would, because we are going to go wherever the professional rights go. If it's not at the Gem, so be it. Our first loyalty is to the show."

Grove artistic director W. Stuart MacDowell said last week that chances are only "60-40" that "A Child's Christmas" would be staged at the Gem this year (even though it has been officially announced) and that the Grove still owed $2,200 on royalties from last year's production.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 22, 1993 Orange County Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
QUOTE: Discussing GroveShakespeare last week, actor Danny Oberbecker said, "It's weird seeing all these administrators come and go." In Friday's Calendar, the quote was attributed inadvertently to another actor.

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MacDowell also said members of the Grove company--not necessarily the cast--had told him they want to do a different Christmas production this year. While he said he was not averse to doing "A Child's Christmas" again, praising the cast and director Bud Leslie, he nonetheless spoke enthusiastically of the possibility of doing another holiday show, to be chosen from a host of seasonal prospects.

Crossen said the offer for her, Oberbeck (her son) and Bell (her husband) to do "A Child's Christmas" for High Octane came from Renata Florin, who has been in the Grove production for the last two years.

"I know the Grove is having financial problems," Crossen said. "We want the best venue for the production under the best conditions. We are emotionally attached to the Gem Theatre, but we want to go where the show is likely to happen. And we want to get paid for it."

Chuck Estes, the show's musical director since 1987, said Florin also had asked him to be part of a High Octane production. He said he "agreed in principle, based on a number of things to be spelled out, like money and location and casting."

High Octane executive producer Bradford C. Moseley said he is scheduled to meet with Leslie next week and would offer him the directing job. He confirmed that Florin is an associate and that he had asked her to talk with the Grove cast. Moseley met Florin at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, where she frequently directs student productions.

Florin said she is trying to arrange bookings for "A Child's Christmas" in early December at the Norris Theatre, a 450-seat venue in Rolling Hills Estates, and in late December at the 750-seat Irvine Barclay Theatre. The Grove's Gem Theatre is a 172-seater in Garden Grove.

Irvine Barclay President Douglas Rankin confirmed that he'd been contacted. Scheduling the show is possible, he said, but he cautioned that High Octane would have to prove it could market the production and not just stage it. Peter Lesnick, managing director of the Norris, confirmed that Florin had been in touch with him too. "If they want to bring the show in here, we would welcome them," he said. "It sounds like it would be great for the community, and I'm a huge Dylan Thomas fan."

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Lesnick said his recent hiring of Michele Roberge, the Grove's director of community outreach and education, to be the director of marketing and development for the Norris was "purely coincidental." Roberge, who had been on the Grove staff since last year, begins at the Norris on Monday.

Her departure--not so coincidentally--is the latest in a series of staff defections from the Grove. Barbara Hammerman, who had been the top executive, quit in December. Charles Johanson, who had been business manager, left in October.

"It's weird seeing all these administrators come and go," said Bell, cognizant that the departure of "A Child's Christmas" from the Gem, if it happens, simply would add to the defections.

"It's not a conspiracy," he added. "My mother, Gary and I love the (Gem) building. But I'm a professional actor. This is a business. You definitely have to go with the money."

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'M. TURKEY': When South Coast Repertory passed up David Hwang's "Face Value" last year, did SCR mogul David Emmes know something that a trio of high-powered Broadway producers didn't know when they insisted on taking it to New York--where it closed Sunday after just eight preview performances?

Probably not.

Hwang owed SCR a play for a commission dating from 1986, two years before he became famous for his Tony Award-winning "M. Butterfly." As a courtesy to SCR, "Face Value" was given to Emmes and company for a read. But all involved knew that the script was preordained to hit the big time without making a stop in Costa Mesa.

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