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THEATER NOTES : S.T.A.G.E. Shifts AIDS Benefit Site

February 05, 1995|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer.

S.T.A.G.E. has moved to a different stage.

Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event, the theater community's longest-running AIDS-related benefit, moves to the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills for its 11th-annual programs, on Friday, Saturday and next Sunday.

It will be the first time the event has been held outside downtown Los Angeles, where it began at the Variety Arts Center and continued at the now earthquake-damaged Embassy Theatre. The new venue's larger size--2,238 compared to 1,600 at the Embassy--means a larger potential take. Ticket prices range from $20 to $150.

This year's program, "Over the Rainbow: The Music of Harold Arlen," will feature new faces. Half of the cast of 30 will perform at S.T.A.G.E. for the first time, said spokesman Scott Barton. Among the newcomers: Celeste Holm, Brock Peters, Joanna Gleason, Charlotte Rae, the L.A. cast of "Forever Plaid" and Lorna Luft (who will sing "Little Drops of Rain," which her mother Judy Garland sang in Arlen's 1962 animated feature "Gay Purr-ee"). For the first time, Jon Maher will sign the program for the hearing impaired.

The event's beneficiary also has changed. Most of this year's proceeds will go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, with a small percentage going to the Search Alliance, an AIDS research organization. Barton said the S.T.A.G.E. board felt "overlooked" by AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), the event's 10-year beneficiary, which received $201,000 and $243,000 from the event in the last two years, respectively. "We were at the mercy of the Commitment to Life benefit," which raises much greater sums for APLA. However, he added, "there is no animosity."

Plans are afoot to record this year's S.T.A.G.E.--which would be only the second such recording. MCA released a recording of the 1993 Gershwin concert last year.

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