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Westside Watch

A 15th-Century Drama Unfolds at Shopping Mall

September 15, 1994

If we were to mention drama in the shopping mall, you might imagine the tale of a toddler who got separated from his absent-minded parents.

Think again. Try the Grim Reaper roaming the food court.

That's part of the drama that the Cornerstone Theater Company has brought to Santa Monica Place.

"Everyman in the Mall," an updated version of a 15th-Century English play, unfolds on escalators and service corridors throughout the mall, and has had shoppers doing double takes since it opened last week. To catch the entire 90-minute show, one must follow the cast as it stops here and there to perform scenes.

For Cornerstone, a low-budget company that is based in Santa Monica but has worked in communities all over the nation, the unusual venue seemed a logical choice.

"One of the things that struck members of Cornerstone was how much malls are a part of American culture from sea to sea," said managing director Stephen Gutwillig. "That's not something we're interested in making fun of so much as embracing. . . . Thematically 'Everyman' raises questions about what is of value in human life."

Besides, using glass elevators and three-story staircases as backdrops was a lot cheaper than building a new set. Gutwillig said mall management even donated an empty shop for office space and gave cast and crew free run of the place.

"One of the things we love about this show is that it draws a lot of onlookers," Gutwillig said.

The show runs through Oct. 9.

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TARGETING HARMAN: A new chapter of the National Rifle Assn. could make trouble for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills), whose district includes Venice, Marina del Rey and Westchester.

Gun rights advocates formed the NRA Members Council of the South Bay several months ago to become more active in local politics. (It also plans a community program to teach gun safety).

Members "were disgusted with what was going on at the federal level," said Ed Worley, coordinator of NRA Members Councils in California. "They just didn't want to be made felons because they own semiautomatic weapons."

Harman backed a five-day waiting period for gun ownership and voted last month for the crime bill, which includes a ban on assault weapons.

"It will not be difficult to get anyone to volunteer against Jane Harman, I can tell you that," Worley said.

But the new chapter's parent group has not decided whether to invest money and time in a bid to oust Harman in the November election. For instance, it has not endorsed her Republican opponent, Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks, who opposes attempts to restrict gun ownership, with conditions.

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