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STAGE NOTES / JAN HERMAN : Offer of Aid Could Allow 'Elephant Man' at Gem

July 21, 1993|JAN HERMAN

An anonymous benefactor, eager to help an amateur troupe mount "The Elephant Man" at the Gem Theatre in Garden Grove, reportedly is offering to pay some of the Gem management's old royalty debts to clear the way for a production later this month.

Samuel French Inc., which licenses "The Elephant Man," told The Times last week it would not allow the Bernard Pomerance play to be done at the Gem until outstanding royalties are settled for Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night," another of its properties, produced at the Gem last fall by GroveShakespeare.

Michael Ambrosio, artistic director of the amateur New Mission Ensemble, said Monday he and his associates hope to come to an accommodation this week with Samuel French, the nation's largest play licenser. He said the benefactor has volunteered to pay the entire royalty fee for "The Elephant Man" in advance--a total $330 for eight performances from July 30 to Aug. 14--in addition to $500 as a first installment on the Gem's debt.

Arden Heide, who handles professional licensing for Samuel French in Los Angeles, said Monday that GroveShakespeare owes "a little less than $2,000" for the O'Neill play and that the partial payment could be the "first step in an accommodation" now under discussion with Ambrosio's group.

"The only people I haven't heard from is the Gem," Heide said, noting that he also received a call Monday from a Garden Grove city staffer inquiring about GroveShakespeare's royalty problems.

The 178-seat Gem is owned by the city, which has been leasing it and the 550-seat Festival Amphitheater to GroveShakespeare at no charge on a five-year management contract that ends in August of 1996. Either party could break the contract by giving written notice a year in advance.

GroveShakespeare went belly-up as a producer in June when it canceled its 1993 season. It owes thousands of dollars in royalties to other major play licensers in addition to Samuel French. Several licensers have told The Times they will not allow productions of their properties at the Gem until its debts are settled with them.

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BARCLAY SERIES: El Teatro Campesino will revive Luis Valdez's play "I Don't Have to Show You No Stinking Badges!" at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Feb. 16. The production is part of the Barclay's 1993-94 theater subscription series along with three previously announced events.

"Badges," first staged in 1986, centers on a middle-aged Chicano couple that has made a successful living as the "King and Queen of Hollywood extras." Playing maids and gardeners, the couple has earned enough money to put a daughter through medical school and a son into Harvard. Conflict arises when the son suddenly drops out of Harvard and drops back into Hollywood to become an actor.

The Barclay series also will include the Montreal-based Dynamo Theatre's "The Wall" (Oct. 18); the Berkeley-based California Shakespeare Festival's "Hamlet" (Oct. 20), and Spalding Gray's latest monologue "Gray's Anatomy" (May 1).

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