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THEATER NOTES : Taper Still Eyeing the Westside

February 11, 1996|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Wanted: Someone to replace Hiro Yamagata. He's the wealthy artist who recently withdrew his offer to put up at least $3.4 million for a branch of the Mark Taper Forum at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station.

"We're all scrambling" to find a replacement or replacements, said Bergamot developer and gallery owner Wayne Blank. "I've been getting a lot of calls from heavy hitters who are interested in the theater."

Blank sounded down but not out: "I want performing arts to be a part of this complex. I'll move and shake until it happens."

Mayor Paul Rosenstein of Santa Monica said that he was "very disappointed" by the collapse of the deal. He's trying to "talk to all the parties involved to see if there is any possibility of reviving the negotiations. I haven't concluded that it's totally dead," he said. And if Bergamot doesn't work out, "maybe we can look for" another Taper site within Santa Monica.

Producer/screenwriter Allan Burns, a board member of Center Theatre Group (the Taper's parent) and an early booster of the Bergamot/Taper alliance, noted that CTG's interest in Bergamot predated the "incredible boon" of Yamagata's involvement, so "I think we'll attempt to see if something can still be worked out. It's the best place [for the Taper's Westside wing]. We did surveys around L.A., looking for likely places"--and Bergamot, with its ample parking and freeway accessibility, placed first, he said.

As a member of CTG's Entertainment Council, which attempts to interest entertainment industry powers in supporting CTG, Burns said that Bergamot gives the council "an obvious goal. It makes it easier to keep our eye on the ball. If we ask for money without it, they say, 'For what?' "

The Entertainment Council was already planning to help raise $5 million to $7 million to build the theater on the property that would have been purchased by Yamagata, so now--with the purchase price thrown in--their "obvious goal" is approaching the $10-million range.

If not Santa Monica, where else might CTG turn? One CTG board member suggested this: "Would the guys at DreamWorks SKG like to put in a theater" at their new Playa del Rey complex? True, DreamWorks partner David Geffen ("G") is already giving $5 million to the Westwood playhouse that now bears his name. Maybe, suggested this board member, "S" (Steven Spielberg) and "K" (Jeffrey Katzenberg) would like to join the club.

*

BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN: The Colony theater company may be Burbank-bound. It's a much likelier possibility since the Burbank City Council met on Jan. 30.

Eliminating proposals from six other groups, the council unanimously directed city staff to see if the Colony and the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department can devise a plan to share the Media City Center building that formerly housed a branch of the county Museum of Natural History.

The Colony proposes to carve a 99-seat theater out of the former museum within six months, then expand it to 199 seats within a year and 299 seats within four years--which would enable the Colony to fulfill a long-held goal of graduating to a mid-sized space. The proposal from the city's Parks and Recreation Department aimed for a 199-seat theater, plus extra meeting rooms and rehearsal space, to be used by community groups--Burbank's civic light opera, symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra and chorale.

The disparity between the ultimate suggested seating capacities "won't be a tough hurdle" between the city and the Colony, said Mary Alvord, Burbank's parks and recreation director--some of the community groups would prefer the larger capacity of the Colony plan.

The bigger hurdle is whether the Colony and the parks and recreation department can coordinate performance schedules, agreed Alvord and Colony producing director Barbara Beckley.

Council members did express a concern that the city not be obligated for continuing maintenance support. The Colony requested $253,000 from the city for converting the museum into a theater but made no request for maintenance funds. The parks and recreation proposal asked for $135,000 for capital improvements and said that operating costs could be covered by theater rentals and concessions.

The Colony previously was allocated (though has not received) Glendale redevelopment funds to build a mid-sized theater there. But that idea is stymied right now--and it would be much more expensive than the Burbank plan.

"I have high hopes" about the Burbank proposal, Beckley said.

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