The critically acclaimed Acme Comedy Theatre is leaving the San Fernando Valley for a new venue on the Westside.
In its three years in North Hollywood, critics have called the company's work "refreshing, chiseled, clever and imaginative." In July, The Times' Ray Loynd declared the group "superior to the L.A.'s famed Groundlings." But, unfortunately, that wasn't enough, said M.D. Sweeney, the Acme's artistic director and founder.
"We couldn't draw the crowds, even with the critical acclaim. It's unfortunate, but there is a mind-set against the Valley that nothing hip or cool is happening out there," Sweeney says.
So it's off to the more fashionable Westside. The company's new theater at 135 N. La Brea Ave., a former synagogue, will open Jan. 20 for the company's latest show, "Acme Collector's Edition."
"We found a great place, and we're very excited about it," says Sweeney, who hopes the new theater will allow the company to reach a broader audience.
The new theater is being designed by John Fisher, whose other projects include the Los Angeles Theatre Center and the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles.
The company had planned to use the North Hollywood venue at 5124 Lankershim Blvd. for its theater school, but Sweeney is now looking for another group to take over the old theater.
FIGHTING WORDS: Southland professional wrestling fans will soon have a radio program devoted entirely to their sport. "Squared Circle," a weekly talk show, will premiere at 10 p.m. next Friday on Glendale's KIEV-AM. The one-hour show will allow fans to call in and talk to featured guests.
James Boone, 28, the producer and host of "Squared Circle," certainly knows his subject. He is a professional wrestler who has performed locally as "Shadow Man" since 1987. Boone says there is great fan interest in pro wrestling in Southern California and that local wrestling matches are drawing crowds. Boone says wrestling is especially popular in the Latino community.
"A lot of shows are in San Bernardino and in East L.A.," Boone says. "There are about 10 independent wrestling leagues. One of the reasons I started this show is to give the wrestling community an outlet. No one has tapped into this market.
"On the East Coast, you can watch wrestling on TV every day," Boone says. "But here, it's only on the weekends."
The featured guests on Boone's debut show will be wrestling commentator Bill Anderson and wrestler Jesse Hernandez, who run a wrestling school in San Bernardino.
Boone dismisses criticism that professional wrestling is entertainment and not sport. He says those critics do not understand the concept of wrestling or the athleticism involved.
"Look at the stamina of wrestlers," Boone says. "Some matches last an hour, you have to be an athlete to do that. You have to learn to protect yourself and you have to get a character that people like and can relate to. That's the entertainment part, but that's also the part that grabs the kids."
NEW SHAKERS: John Edwin Shaw, who had been the literary manager of Actors Alley theater company, has been named associate artistic director, and Gene Freedman and Lou Felder have been appointed co-literary managers.
Shaw says the reason behind the changes is the anticipated increased workload for artistic director Jeremiah Morris once the company's three acting spaces are operational sometime in 1995. Shaw, who has been an actor with the company since 1987, will help Morris select material for the company's productions.
The El Portal Theater, a 1,200-seat movie house, had just been renovated when the earthquake severely damaged it. Since then, the company has performed in a tent, but plans to complete construction on at least part of its new complex this spring.