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THEATER NOTES : Taper Offers Peek Into the Future

November 06, 1994|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Each year the Mark Taper Fo rum offers sneak previews of possible coming attractions in its New Work Festival. The public attends free rehearsals of projects in development at either the workshop level or simply as readings.

Among the Taper main stage productions that first went through the New Work Festival are "The Waiting Room," "Bandido!" "Angels in America," "The Kentucky Cycle," "Jelly's Last Jam" and "Stand-Up Tragedy." Last year "The Woman Warrior" was at the festival; next year it'll play the Taper's sister theater, the Doolittle.

Other theaters also schedule plays that went through the festival. Taper literary associate Oliver Mayer's "Blade to the Heat," which opened last week at the New York Shakespeare Festival, went through the Taper festival under the title "Ragged Time" in 1993. Taper staff member Peter Brosius will stage Milcha Sanchez-Scott's "The Old Matador"--which was read in the festival last February--at the Arizona Theatre Company in January.

The festival's associate producer, Mara Isaacs, predicts this year's festival, which opened last week and continues into February, will also turn up its share of future productions. Three of the productions scheduled for workshops "are real contenders for next season" on the main stage, she said. She demurred about which three, though--too much pressure on the writers, she said.

Isaacs has been promoted to a new title with new duties this year, running the nuts and bolts of the festival under the supervision of Robert Egan. Egan's own 1993 promotion to the title of Taper producing director expanded his responsibilities on the main stage, allowing him less time for the day-to-day details of the festival, which operates--this year--at two 99-seat spaces: the Taper, Too in the Cahuenga Pass and Actors' Gang in Hollywood.

The Actors' Gang space was added this year primarily to accommodate two performance art evenings, especially one featuring a performer in a wheelchair, Cheryl Marie Wade. The county-owned Taper, Too is still not wheelchair accessible, although the county is working on it, Isaacs said, so it was necessary to move Wade's performance elsewhere. The Taper and the Actors' Gang have cooperated on several previous projects, so the Gang space was drafted for the festival.

Isaacs arrived at the Taper in 1990 shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley, where she majored in medical anthropology. It may sound like an unorthodox major for a budding producer, but Isaacs said the theater and anthropology have a lot in common. In both fields, "you move into a society and you're both participant and observer. You analyze and react accordingly. Theater is a fascinating culture."

SPIEGEL SUSPENDED: The Actors' Equity 99-Seat Theater committee has suspended Ivan Spiegel's producing privileges under Equity agreements for one year and plans to conduct regular safety and sanitation inspections at the theater Spiegel runs, the two-stage Burbage complex in West Los Angeles.

The committee confirmed a revocation of Spiegel's producing rights made by an Equity administrator two weeks ago. The action was prompted by complaints about an agreement Spiegel required actors to sign and by reports of unsanitary conditions at the theater.

Spiegel said he would appeal the decision to higher Equity authorities or, if necessary, go to court. In the meantime, productions using Equity actors may continue to use the Burbage as long as Spiegel is not the producer.*

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