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One Man With Many Admirers

May 19, 1997|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's not often an audience has the mixed pleasure of seeing one of the world's great Shakespearean actors in one of L.A.'s worst neighborhoods.

By night, downtown's South Spring Street is to Rodeo Drive what, as an actor, Don Johnson is to Sir Ian McKellen, who Saturday opened his one-man show, "A Knight Out in Los Angeles," at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

"People will come here," said McKellen. "What's the big deal? They come in cars."

It is true that no one hiked in to hear the Cambridge-educated McKellen recount his life in what he calls "two parallel journeys"--his life in the theater that culminates with a knighthood bestowed by Queen Elizabeth and his own decision to publicly reveal his homosexuality.

McKellen (or "the devil's poodle" as he says in the show he was once called by a ranting homophobe) had drawn a full house that included Lynn Redgrave, Ahmet Ertegun, Virginia Madsen, Brendan Fraser, Diane Ladd, David Mixner, Lolita Davidovich, director Gregory Cooke and underwriter Michele Rogers Berk. They stayed for a reception hosted by Venice Magazine's Nancy Bishop.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 20, 1997 Home Edition Life & Style Part E Page 3 View Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Party coverage--In Monday's Life & Style, actor Brendan Fraser was misidentified in a photo caption accompanying a story on the opening night reception for Sir Ian McKellen's one-man show.

Armistead Maupin, a longtime friend of the actor, said McKellen has the gift for "displaying a huge talent in a self-effacing way." The San Francisco-based writer was also impressed by the English actor's ability to make the Bard "sound like we should have understood it all along. A lot of us go through life slightly baffled by Shakespeare, at least the honest ones do."

David Schwimmer came because a dozen years ago his parents brought him to see McKellen's other one-man show, "Acting Shakespeare," and the experience fueled his desire to seriously study acting. "When you see him transform himself so quickly and so smoothly you realize what an incredible amount of craft he's developed," said the "Friends" star.

McKellen hopes the benefit show will raise $100,000 for the Hobart Boulevard School Shakespeare Program, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Highways Performance Space, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center Youth Services Department and a UCLA acting scholarship that bears his name.

"Doing a one-man show is cheap so it makes it easier to do a benefit," said McKellen. "We won't raise a huge amount of money, but $15,000 to the Hobart school means lots of books and trips for the kids."

He doesn't have long to raise the money. The show is scheduled to run for two more weeks.

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