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6 Views of Immigrant Experience

March 02, 1997|'Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

'No one in my grandfather's clan would ever have imagined that I'd be on the West Coast doing plays about immigrants," said Louis Fantasia, whose forebears crossed the Atlantic from Italy in the early 20th century.

But this spring Fantasia is co-producing a provocative series of performances and readings on that very subject, presented by the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles in conjunction with "Exiles and Emigres: The Flight of European Artists From Hitler," the acclaimed exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The performance series, "Six Evenings in Search of a Homeland," is held at the Institut at 5700 Wilshire Blvd., just down the block from the museum. All performances are free of charge, but seating is limited to around 100, so reservations are recommended.

The "Six Evenings" cover a wider swath of the immigrant experience than the exhibition, which focuses on artists who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and '40s. The first of the "Six Evenings," last Monday, was a reading of Janusz Glowacki's "Hunting Cockroaches," about 1980s immigrants in New York.

Next up, on March 10, is "Assimilation," a solo performance by Cornerstone Theatre's Shishir Kurup about his own journey from India to Africa to America.

Two of the performances are more directly related to the exhibition: short stories, poems and music by Stephan Lackner in "Life for Life's Sake" on March 20, and a staged reading of Christopher Hampton's "Tales From Hollywood" on April 24. Lackner fled the Nazis, and one of his paintings is in the LACMA show; Hampton's play, which premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in 1982, is a fictionalized treatment of the artists who escaped to Hollywood in the late '30s.

But the other two programs, both directed by Fantasia, return the series to contemporary times. Klaus Pohl's "Waiting Room Germany" has its American premiere on April 7. Based on interviews, it focuses on the lives of Germans before and after reunification of their country.

Finally, on May 5, the English-language premiere of Anna Langhoff's "Transit Heimat/Gedeckte Tische" will examine life within a refugee shelter in modern Germany, where immigrants from several countries confront each other as well as their new homeland. Fantasia said this play is "very reflective of what is going on in Los Angeles. Part of us view all immigrants as the same, but this shows how 'the other' is subdivided into smaller groups of 'others.' "

For reservations: (213) 525-3388.


CALLING ALL "-IANS": The Mark Taper Forum is looking for at least nine Armenian actors. For the summer production of Leslie Ayvazian's "Nine Armenians," the Taper is "giving Armenian actors the first shake," said casting director Stanley Soble. "The playwright feels there's a certain flavor she can get from Armenian actors."

A majority of the play's casts in Seattle and New York were not Armenian, and Soble would like to change that for L.A.

This isn't the result of any pressure-group protest. Nor do the actors have to know how to speak Armenian, though it would come in handy for actors in the roles of a few older characters, Soble said.

Armenian American actors are "a really untapped community," Soble said. He believes that some Armenian actors have changed their names so as to avoid being identified as such. A few have not--yes, Eric Bogosian is on Soble's list of possible contenders for a role.

Still, Soble cautioned, "the roles will wind up being cast with the best actors, Armenian or not."

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