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THEATER NOTES : The Show Will Go On at Pasadena Playhouse

August 28, 1994|Don Shirley

The Pasadena Playhouse is at least temporarily off the hook, reports its owner-manager, Theatre Corp. of America President David Houk. Money is in hand to do the next scheduled show at the Playhouse, "The Crimson Thread," and there is "no doubt" the current season will go on, with "The Lion in Winter" following "Crimson Thread."

Cash flow problems within Theatre Corp. had forced the company to pull out of the Alex Theatre in Glendale and cancel tours of Pasadena and Glendale shows to four satellite theaters. Even in Pasadena, the company had to borrow $200,000 from the city in order to stage "Heartbeats," which closed last Sunday.

But Houk said that single-ticket sales to "Heartbeats" were several times higher than single-ticket sales to any of the last three shows, and receipts of incoming subscription sales have been comparable to the take in previous years.

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ON THE OTHER HAND: One of Houk's fellow producers wants him to get out of the business. Irv Kimber, executive producer/artistic director of Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities, wrote to Houk that "with theater in general being in the rather precarious state that it is in right now, we certainly do not need someone 'spooking the herd' by bailing out on subscribers who gave up their hard-earned cash on the promise that you would deliver a product.

"The sooner you finally decide to fold up your tent and steal away into the night, the better off we will all be and can begin to repair the phenomenal damage you have done to the Southern California theater community."

"I don't think we've done the damage this guy says we did," Houk responded to The Times. "We got the Alex open spectacularly well and delivered three great shows." As for his withdrawal from the second season at the Alex after only one show had been presented, he noted that "efforts are ongoing" to find substitute shows. The first substitute show, "Dreamgirls," was announced Tuesday.

Kimber acknowledged to The Times he had no "concrete evidence" that would-be subscribers are spooked. His company's next telemarketing campaign hasn't begun. But he said it would be "an incredible uphill battle" for a company to start a subscription series in Glendale or the other cities abandoned by Theatre Corp. Any attempt would have to rely on single-ticket sales until a track record was established, he said, adding, "If I were John Q. Public, I'd be leery too."

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SPELVIN UNMASKED: Who is that actor playing the small role of Second Merchant in Shakespeare Festival/LA's touring "Comedy of Errors," which closes at Descanso Gardens today? He's credited in a program insert "George Spelvin"--the traditional pseudonym for actors who don't use their real names.

It's none other than Ben Donenberg, the company's artistic director. Donenberg couldn't afford to use members of Actors' Equity this summer in "Errors," the group's second-string production. But when an actor was in a car accident halfway through the run, Donenberg took over the role, though he belongs to Equity. "What are they going to do," he remarked, "kick me out of the union for keeping my show going?"

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