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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

Just Call Him Mister 'Sisterella'

April 21, 1996|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

In the program for "Sisterella," the hit musical at the Pasadena Playhouse, David Simmons is listed as director. But ask anyone affiliated with the show about who directed it and the answer is likely to be Larry Hart, the show's writer and composer, who also plays a supporting role onstage.

What gives?

Simmons is a friend of Hart's who "worked with me in laying [the show] out conceptually and what it should be visually," Hart explained last week. Simmons is now sick and hasn't worked on the show since 1994, but Hart said that he wanted to acknowledge his friend's early efforts. He also felt reluctant to plaster his own name all over the program: "How many times can we all stand to see 'Larry Hart'?"

Hart acknowledged that he made up the Australian directing credits for Simmons that appear in the program. Simmons has worked as a production assistant and consultant but not as a director.

One brand-name director, Sheldon Epps, is credited as "production consultant" on the show. Reached in San Diego, Epps said his role was that of "a strong directorial eye during the tech and preview periods, to make sure it worked on the technical level and to help Larry on a dramaturgical level."

However, added Epps, "with musicals it's always difficult to say, 'This is the director.' They're always such intense collaborations, they're really directed by a committee. When they work, it's because the collaboration is a good one."

Asked if he would like to be the show's director when it moves to Broadway, Epps replied, "It's certainly something I would like to consider."

Hart said that no decision has been made about the director's job on Broadway, where he hopes the show will land by August or September 1997.

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BAT THE HAT: The sub-100-seat theater companies that seek L.A. theater's Holy Grail--mid-size status--have a new model.

Latino Theatre Co., about to open its first season full season in mid-sized spaces, is using a contract based on an Actors' Equity prototype that--as one might guess from its name--has never been tried in the L.A. area: the Bay Area Theatre (BAT) Contract.

Unlike the Hollywood Area Theatre (HAT) Contract (which was designed for independent commercial productions in mid-sized theaters with between 100 and 499 seats), the BAT Contract was designed for entire seasons at nonprofit, subscription-based theaters that seat 100-325.

It's an indication of how rare such companies are in L.A. that no one here has used BAT. (By contrast, the HAT contract has been used often in the Bay Area, Equity reports.)

Under the terms of the Latino Theatre Co. contract, only 70% of the actors during the season must be on contracts, with a minimum of two actors on contracts per production--as opposed to 100% of the actors who would have to be on contract if HAT were used. The sliding wage scale of a BAT contract is based on average ticket prices over the past three years--but because Latino Theatre Co. is just beginning its first season, terms have been established reflecting the perceived potential of that first season.

"A lot of theaters feel HAT is too restrictive," said Russell Scott, Equity's local business representative for developing theaters. Yet another contract, the Small Professional Theatre Contract, is allowed only in outlying regions, not in cities (such as L.A.) with Equity offices.

"This is experimental--I don't know how [Equity's] developing theaters committee will feel about the results," Scott said. But if it works, "it could be the first step for 99-seat theaters that want to grow." A half-dozen such theaters are lined up, hoping to move up the scale within the next few years.

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L.A. WEEKLY AWARDS: L.A. Weekly's annual bash for achievement in sub-100 seat theaters was held Monday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Taking home the most awards were "Twist of Fate" and "Hellcab" with three honors each. "Therese Raquin" was named production of the year, "The Habitation of Dragons" was revival of the year (although Horton Foote's play actually had never played in L.A. prior to the winning production), and "Twist of Fate" was musical of the year.

*

"RAMONA" GOES P.C.: The annual Ramona Pageant opens this weekend in Hemet, and artistic director Dennis Anderson--in his second season--has instituted another round of changes in the interests of authenticity and political correctness.

Continuing changes that were started last year, the Native American buckskin costumes are being replaced with presumably more authentic garb and more of the Indians will speak their own language instead of Spanish. Also, "the way the Indians stand and work has been made less theatrical, less like the movies that have influenced the pageant, and more realistic," according to a spokesman.

The "rock Indians" who suddenly appear on a mountain slope in the show's most famous scene will now include girls as well as boys. There will be more of them, and they'll wear red headbands for greater visibility (so much for authenticity).

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