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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

Tanner a Chicago Hopeful

September 14, 1997|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

Chicago's respected Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced a 1997-98 Studio Season that would conclude with "a new comedy" by Justin Tanner, June 24-July 26. So said Steppenwolf's press release. It even listed casting--Laurie Metcalf of "Roseanne" fame, Tom Irwin, and Metcalf's daughter Zoe Perry, who would be introduced as "the first 'second generation' Steppenwolf actor."

The only problem is that this was news to Justin Tanner.

If the production were to take place, it would be a first for L.A.'s most popular home-grown playwright, who has never allowed his plays to be produced anywhere outside the Cast Theatre in Hollywood since he became so prolific in the early '90s.

Informed of the press release Tuesday, Tanner said that months ago he informally talked to Metcalf, who had appeared in his "Pot Mom" for a Cast Theatre benefit, and to someone from Steppenwolf. "I'd love to write a play for Laurie," he said, "and I'd love to go to Steppenwolf." But he said no final agreement was reached, and he had no idea any announcement was planned.

Tanner, who has recently been through 40 drafts of his next play, "Coyote Woman," said he can't write a play to fill a specific slot, but he and Metcalf had discussed the possibility of bringing "Pot Mom" to Chicago if a newer play wasn't available. Any brand-new play would have to premiere at the Cast, he said. "I couldn't make a move without [Cast producer] Diana Gibson's approval."

After consulting with Steppenwolf officials, a theater spokes-woman said, "there is a firm understanding among the theater, Laurie Metcalf and her friend Justin Tanner that we are planning to do his new play next summer."

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THEATRE GEO CLOSES: Theatre Geo, a popular 93-seat house on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, has closed, with the landlord reclaiming the space for offices.

The theater's producer Geo Hartley cast no blame on anyone, saying that the landlord had cooperated by giving him extra time in the space. However, he hadn't warned his 105-member company about the closing in advance--"because I didn't want a lame-duck theater and a sad situation all summer. So it was a shock to them."

Hartley looked for three months for a new space, to no avail. He said the problem with building a new sub-100-seat space in L.A. is "parking--whether it's needed or not, it's a requirement when you're building a new space."

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PLAYWRIGHTS' EXPO: Playwrights can stop their solitary fretting about, say, L.A. city taxes on home-based businesses, and come together for communal fretting at the third Playwrights' Expo, 7-10 p.m. Monday, at the Friendship Auditorium, 3201 Riverside Drive, on the east side of Griffith Park. More than 60 producers, literary managers and vendors are expected in addition to several hundred writers. The sponsor is the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, which held two similar events in 1994 and 1995 but skipped 1996. Admission is free.

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THEATRE PASS: South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego are offering a joint Southern California Theatre Pass, with vouchers redeemable for tickets at either theater through June 15, 1998.

The pass comes in two sizes: four vouchers for $120 or six for $180. (This $30 ticket price compares to regular single ticket prices of $26-$43 at South Coast and $30-$39 at the Old Globe, or regular subscription prices of $25.50-$38.50 per ticket at South Coast and $25.50-$33.15 at the Old Globe.) The vouchers can be used in any combination--for example, six tickets to one performance or one ticket at six performances. Seating is subject to availability. Information at (714) 708-5555 (South Coast) or (619) 239-2255 (Old Globe).

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RECALLING "ALWAYS": The Aug. 31 Theater Notes raised the question of whether any plays by African American writers were presented at the Pasadena Playhouse in its early years. Reader Peter Parkin recalled that he was in one such play in 1967, "Always With Love." The playwright, Tom Harris, is a librarian at the downtown Los Angeles library, where he runs the Audrey Skirball-Kenis New Play Collection, among other duties.

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