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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

2 Troupes Postpone Seasons

September 29, 1996|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Two of the Southland's few mid-sized theater companies canceled shows recently. While this often is an ominous sign for a young subscription company, leaders of both companies say the cancellations are merely temporary setbacks.

The more established of the two companies, Santa Susana Repertory Company, canceled "Dark of the Moon," which had been scheduled to open its season, Sept. 28-Oct. 20, at the Forum Theatre of Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

Artistic director Lane Davies said "administrative shortcomings" delayed mailings about the new season, and so far only about 500 subscribers had signed up, compared to 1,100 last year, resulting in "an alarmingly low advance" for the season. So, "for the overall longevity and health of the company, we're taking time off to regroup," Davies said.

Subscribers have been offered compensatory tickets to productions of two other groups that regularly produce at the Civic Arts Plaza--the Theater League and Cabrillo Music Theatre.

Santa Susana's next scheduled show, "A Christmas Carol," is expected to run as planned, Davies said. The rest of the season is more tentative--but the current plan has "On Golden Pond" in February, and "Pump Boys and Dinettes" replacing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in April--with the possibility of a special midsummer presentation of "Midsummer."

Davies discouraged pessimism. He called the group's current deficit "very manageable." "Dark of the Moon" had already begun rehearsals and probably could have opened, Davies said, "but I'm loath to put hard-earned donated money at risk." He said he was "nervous that the quality wouldn't meet our standard."

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the Latino Theatre Company canceled, or at least postponed, the second production of its first full season--"Latinos," an adaptation of Earl Shorris' book, which had been slated for Sept. 11-Oct. 6.

Artistic director Jose Luis Valenzuela said the adaptation, on which company members were collaborating, had been planned for six actors but was now being adapted for nine actors and a band. "When we started workshopping it, we realized the monologues were more interesting as songs," Valenzuela said. "But we don't have that kind of money."

The company also realized that in order to do justice to the subject, the casting would have to expand beyond the Mexican American actors who make up most of the company to include actors of other Latino nationalities, Valenzuela said.

The lighting and sound systems of the company's theater at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights are still being improved, Valenzuela said. So a yet-to-be-announced new play that will substitute for "Latinos" won't open until November. And "Latinos" will be rescheduled for next season.

*

DETOUR: "Sisterella," the big hit at the Pasadena Playhouse earlier this year, is heading overseas. Larry Hart, the show's creator-director, said that Michael Jackson's record company, MJJ Music, and his tour promoter, Mama Concerts, will sponsor a 15-week tour opening in Munich on Dec. 14 and moving on to Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt and possibly other cities in the area. The tour will help promote a campaign for the cast album, which was produced by MJJ.

Although the Pasadena-Munich route may be unorthodox in the theatrical world, Hart said that Germany is "a completely logical territory" for the purposes of introducing a pop recording.

Meanwhile, the next U.S. production of the show is on hold. One of the U.S. rights holders, Miramax Films, had brought the project to its corporate sibling, Walt Disney Theatrical, for development. But Hart said his relationship with Disney broke down over creative differences and a bid by Disney to obtain the worldwide rights.

A Disney spokesman declined comment. Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said, in a written statement: "When it became clear that Larry Hart had a certain vision, Disney graciously and amicably moved on so that Mr. Hart would feel comfortable with his direction. Miramax and [partner] Tribeca Productions remain involved and enthusiastic about continuing to work with Mr. Hart on the development of 'Sisterella.' "

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