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THEATER : Global Look for Santa Monica Playhouse

August 28, 1994|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Santa Monica Playhouse is making all the world its stage.

It recently scored a big hit in England, where it joined its two sister theaters--Japan's Model Language Studio and Britain's Playbox Theatre--for three performances of Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's futuristic musical drama, "1994: A Telling of Tomorrow." The cast was made up of 75 actors from the three companies.

This fall the Playhouse will host 30 members from the British company who will perform "Yerma," geared for older teen-agers, on Oct. 25 and 26, and a piece for younger children, "Peach Boy," on Oct. 27 and 28.

The international connections help spread goodwill and expose members to other cultures, said Cheryl Moffatt, who oversaw a smaller-scale production (with half a dozen British and Japanese actors) last May at the Playhouse.

In England last month, the Playhouse members helped teach the others the play--and got to perform in unorthodox environs.

"The Playbox had cast 50 teens, ages 10 to 20, so we spent a week teaching them the play," Moffatt said. "Then a group of eight from Japan arrived, ages 20 to 35. We were playing inside a ruined castle, but there was no roof, so it was really outside. We used a large grass area in the middle of the castle and incorporated the areas around it--different levels, turrets."

Assisting Moffatt with the enormous undertaking was Aisha Wagle, a member of the Playhouse's Young Professionals' Company, who began working at the Playhouse 14 years ago, when she was 6.

"When I was 12, I did my first play with the Young Professionals' Company," said Wagle, who is a women's studies major at UCLA. "I was so hooked with the process of theater, using your own life to say something. It's like, 'I can do something right now'--not using someone else's words. It's so empowering. With this piece, we wanted to say something about the environment. So it's a personal voice that really draws you in."

The playhouse's connection with the British company began a couple of years ago when the Santa Monica company was doing workshops in England.

"They were real excited to have us," said Moffatt, who also heads the theater's summer camp program. "They were so similar-minded in their approach and artistic values."

The Japan connection began in 1989, as the Santa Monica company, on its way to perform "Dear Gabby" in China, detoured to several cities in Japan because of the Tien An Men Square uprising.

In Japan, the company came upon the Model Language Studio. Said Moffatt: "Last February, we were there for three weeks doing 'Cinderella' and 'Alice and the Wonderful Tea Party,' and we also did a play with half our group, half Japanese actresses--'The In and Out Cafe'--which was made up of different vignettes, each dealing with cross-cultural situations."

In addition to the cultural exchange, the 32-year-old Playhouse, which has also toured in Ireland and Canada, has benefited from its Japanese sister theater financially; last January, the Model Language Studio quietly came to the Santa Monica company's aid with a $1,500 check for earthquake repairs.

"Every bookcase, computer and filing cabinet fell on the floor," said Moffatt, who joined the Playhouse 22 years ago while still in high school. "That triggered the automatic sprinkler, so the carpets were ruined, the walls were ruined, the computers were ruined."

With all the repairs completed, the Playhouse is once again in full gear.

A new "Night Owl" show--John Rustan and Frank Semarano's 1940s whodunit spoof "The Tangled Snarl"--is upcoming, as is the experimental theater piece "Answers to Unmailed Letters," and the premiere of DeCarlo and Rudie's space exploration musical, "Computers Don't Cry." Now playing are "Alice and the Wonderful Tea Party" and the premiere of the hit Jerry Sroka/John Fleming comedy "Dying for Laughs."

Show Times

"Dying for Laughs" plays Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., indefinitely. Tickets: $19.50-$20.50.

"Alice and the Wonderful Tea Party" plays Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 3 p.m. to Oct. 16. Tickets: $8.

"Computers Don't Cry" plays Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday and Sept. 4 and Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. Tickets: $12.

"Answers to Unmailed Letters" previews Sept. 6 and opens Sept. 22, playing Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $15.

"The Tangled Snarl" opens Sept. 9, playing Fridays at 10:30 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. to Oct. 16. Tickets: $12.

The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th St. For information, call (310) 394-9779.

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