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THEATER NOTES : A Pride of Royals : The prestige factor is high and the accent is decidedly British in the fall theater season, thanks to the UK/LA Festival.

October 02, 1994|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

A glance at the fall theatrical calendar reveals that the UK/LA Festival 1994 is a very big part of it.

Perhaps most significant are the back-to-back appearances of Great Britain's two most important theater companies: Previews begin today for the Royal National Theatre production of David Hare's "Racing Demon" at the Doolittle Theatre ( see related story, Page 4 ), and one month from today the Royal Shakespeare Company arrives at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts to present "Henry VI: The Battle for the Throne."

Both productions are making their only U.S. appearances this season as part of the festival, and festival officials say it's unprecedented for both companies to appear consecutively as part of an American festival.

"Never in a million years" would these productions have appeared in this area back-to-back without the UK/LA umbrella, declared the festival's executive director Bruce Joseph.

While "Racing Demon" is being produced here under the auspices of Center Theatre Group, CTG managing director Charles Dillingham agreed there was "no way" CTG could have done it apart from UK/LA, which issued the invitation to the Royal National, arranged the donation of air fares and provided 10% of the costs of remounting the production. An earlier notion to bring the same company's multiracial production of "Fuenteovejuna," a Spanish classic, to UK/LA was derailed over concern that its large cast could not be reassembled, Joseph said.

As for "Henry VI," Cerritos executive director Victor Gotesman said he's not sure if he could have obtained such a show without the UK/LA banner. Cerritos is not well known in London, and Gotesman had been trying to bring over a Royal Shakespeare Company show for almost two years. The UK/LA connection was "helpful" in finally accomplishing it, he acknowledged.

When Royal Shakespeare officials saw the theater at Cerritos, "they flipped," said French. The theater will be configured to its smallest capacity, 900, for the six performances. One of the theatergoers on Nov. 2, in the center of the orchestra section, will be Prince Charles.

Originally UCLA had planned to import the English company Theatre de Complicite as part of the festival (in addition to its presentation of "Stomp," currently at the Wadsworth Theater). But that company's touring plans collapsed in July. A substitute had to be found soon, and Joseph and UCLA quickly marshaled a formidable trio of one-person shows. Called "3 X 3: Great Solo Performances" and opening this week at UCLA's Freud Hall, the program features Lynn Redgrave's "Shakespeare for My Father" on Friday through next Sunday, Miriam Margolyes in "Dickens' Women" on Oct. 11, 15 and 16, and Steven Berkoff's "One Man" on Oct. 12, 14 and 16.

Redgrave did her show in Santa Barbara and Cerritos before taking it to a nine-month run on Broadway, but it has never been seen in Los Angeles. A scheduled run last winter at the Henry Fonda Theatre was called off when the theater required repairing after the Jan. 17 earthquake.

Margolyes did an earlier version of "Women" at the Tiffany Theatre in 1990 under the somewhat more problematic title, "Wooman, Lovely Wooman, What a Sex You Are!" It was produced there by Susan Loewenberg of L.A. Theatre Works, who is also producing "3 X 3" for UK/LA, in a brief return to stage production after years of focusing on radio drama.

The Berkoff show, however, has never been seen in the United States. It was Loewenberg, an early U.S. champion of Berkoff's work, who suggested him to UK/LA.

A fourth performer, Carol Cleveland--best known as one of the few authentically female members of Monty Python (as opposed to men in drag)--will do a recently announced one-night performance as part of "3 X 3" on Oct. 13.

UK/LA also includes British-themed work by several L.A. theaters under its banner. The only one in a theater larger than 99 seats is Will & Co.'s "The Merchant of Venice," alternating in English and Spanish at Los Angeles Theatre Center, opening Friday.

A HOME FOR "PICASSO": When an L.A. staging of Steppenwolf Theatre's production of Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" was first talked about, the plan was for the L.A. County Museum of Art to present it. Martin is a trustee of the museum and shot part of his movie "L.A. Story" there. But now it'll open at the Westwood Playhouse instead, on Oct. 22. LACMA isn't one of the producers.

"We were working closely with Steve to identify a non-traditional theater venue on the museum property," said Melody Kanschat, the museum's development director. Galleries, outdoor spaces, even the May Co. property next door were considered. "But we were unable to find one that met the requirements of the production company and fit the museum's public program schedule."

Nonetheless, tickets to the play will be used as premium offers in the museum's subscription renewal campaign.*

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