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Little Victory, Big Dream : Bare Bones Theater Company finds a home and artistic mentoring. The group will debut with "Eastern Standard."

July 16, 1993|TOM JACOBS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Tom Jacobs is a regular contributor to the Times.

Every theater company has its little victories. Thus it only seems fair that the Little Victory now has a theater company.

The Little Victory--a 48-seat playhouse next to Burbank's 99-seat Victory Theatre--has become the home base for the new Bare Bones Theatre Company, which opens its first production, Richard Greenberg's "Eastern Standard," on Thursday. This marks the first time either of the Victory theaters has housed a resident company.

Being affiliated with the Victory puts company founder Jeff Olde in a good position, and he is duly appreciative. His 16-member company is utilizing the Victory's box office and marketing facilities, as well as the newly refurbished, comfortably air-conditioned theater (which contains seats formerly used by "The Tonight Show" and discarded when Jay Leno succeeded Johnny Carson).

Even more important, however, is the artistic mentoring that is occurring. Veteran thespians Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny, who run the Victory, are overseeing Olde's operation, and Gobetti is directing the first show. "This company has priority. If they're not ready with a production, we'll consider renting the theater out to other organizations."

With the exception of occasional rentals--which Gobetti dislikes because of the uncertain quality of the production--the Little Victory has been largely vacant in recent years. Olde hopes to stage four to six productions a year. Gobetti said particularly successful shows may be moved into the bigger theater.

The members of the group, all experienced actors, range in age from 24 to 45. All of the actors have been involved in pre-production work that has included getting the theater ready and pre-selling 300 tickets to give the group some working capital.

Olde noted that Tim Hannon, who plays the architect in "Eastern Standard," constructed the set along with some of his fellow actors.

Olde, 27 and a Denver native, acted in some plays at the University of Colorado before deciding an acting career was impractical and moving to Washington, D. C., to study government. While at American University, he interned for then-Vice President George Bush--a plum job Olde "just hated. I was so bored by it. The day after graduation, I packed my bags and moved to Hollywood."

He has since acted in television, film and theater, as well as working as director of special events and promotions for the television show "Studs." Eighteen months ago, he also participated in a showcase performance directed by Gobetti--an evening that went so well that the actors involved decided they should continue to work together. Thus Bare Bones was born.

One of the six actors in "Eastern Standard" is from outside the company. Olde said that although company members are the first to be considered for parts, the most important factor is finding actors who perfectly fit each role. If that cannot be accomplished within the company, auditions will be held.

Olde said he is opening with "Eastern Standard," a Broadway hit of several seasons back, because of the high quality of the writing and what he perceives as a strong interest in the play among area theatergoers. Unlike the Victory, which exclusively stages world premieres, Bare Bones plans a mix of American plays, including new works and revivals of classics. Ormeny said he would like to stage at least one classic such as "Our Town" per year and put on special performances for schoolchildren.

Olde said that for most productions, audiences shouldn't have any idea that the shows were staged for minimal cost.

"We have a commitment to do productions as elegantly as possible, on shoestring budgets," he said.

Where and When What: "Eastern Standard." Location: Little Victory Theater, 3324 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank, one block east of Hollywood Way. Hours: Opens at 8 p.m. Thursday and continues on Thursdays and Fridays indefinitely. Price: $15. Call: (818) 841-5421.

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