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The Taper's Delayed Reciprocity

September 21, 1997|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

If you missed "Nine Armenians" at the Mark Taper Forum during the summer, you can see the same production in Denver.

Gordon Davidson's staging of Leslie Ayvazian's play opened at Denver Center Theatre on Friday. It's there in exchange for the Denver company's production of "Black Elk Speaks," which played the Taper in early 1995 after its production in Denver.

This is the first Taper production to move to another theater since 1993, when "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" moved to New Jersey and New York. But "Twilight" changed directors and was considerably rewritten by the time it got to New York.

Playing through Oct. 11, the Denver "Nine Armenians" features two cast members who weren't seen in L.A. In the role of Aunt Louise, Marsha Waterbury is in for the playwright-actress herself, who had suddenly replaced Brenda Vaccaro during the L.A. rehearsal process. Jacob Witkin plays the Armenian grandfather in Denver, while his L.A. counterpart Hal Robinson moves on to "Old Wicked Songs" at the Geffen Playhouse. Davidson has been in Denver integrating the new actors into the ensemble and adjusting to the new space.

If it seems that nearly three years is a long time for the Denver company to wait for a reciprocal show from the Taper, don't mention this to Kenneth Branagh. After staging two plays at the Taper in 1990, his Renaissance Theatre Company was going to host a Taper play or two in London in 1991, in an exchange. But those plans were canceled by travel restrictions and a sagging London box office during the Gulf War, and now--six years later with no exchange--the Renaissance company is defunct.

However, though the intention then was to do a Taper-Renaissance exchange, the actual reciprocal agreement was not with the Renaissance company. It was a pledge to Actors' Equity to send American actors to England in exchange for Equity's permission to import the English actors in Branagh's company--and that obligation was officially satisfied when "Smokey Joe's Cafe" (which the Taper's parent organization Center Theatre Group co-produced) went to England last year, according to both CTG and Equity.

* ANOTHER TWIST OF "FATE": "Twist of Fate" may have a fate better than death.

The Gypsy-oriented musical by Lissa Levin and Ron Abel was a hit at the 99-seat Tiffany Theater in 1995. Today and Monday, it will be one of eight musicals to receive a staged reading at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's annual Festival of New Musicals in New York. It's sponsored there by Broadway/L.A., formerly known as Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, an Alliance member. Broadway/L.A. managing director Martin Wiviott said this doesn't mean the small musical will find a home at the group's Pantages or Wilshire theaters--which would be too big for it. It's just a way to introduce the show to some of the other Alliance members that operate smaller theaters.

* TANNER PART 2: Last week Theater Notes discussed the discrepancy between an announcement from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre of "a new comedy" by Justin Tanner next summer, with former "Roseanne" star Laurie Metcalf, and Tanner's assertion that nothing had been settled.

Metcalf--the bridge between Tanner and Steppenwolf--phoned the next day to say that a Tanner play will indeed be done at Steppenwolf next summer, but that it won't be a premiere; Tanner premieres all of his plays at the Cast Theatre in Hollywood. If Tanner's next play--the one after his upcoming "Coyote Woman"--isn't ready yet to venture beyond the Cast, Metcalf said the long-running hit "Pot Mom" would fill the slot. "Steppenwolf doesn't care if it's 'Pot Mom' or a new play," she said--and indeed, "Pot Mom" would be a new play in Chicago or anywhere outside L.A.

Despite Metcalf's confidence, Tanner continues to say that no one has made him or Cast producer Diana Gibson a formal offer. "It's a little more than a pipe dream, but not a reality," he said.

* EQUITY TO MOVE: Actors' Equity will move its Western Regional Office from Hollywood to Museum Square, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., on or around Dec. 1. Equity will become a neighbor of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, which have offices in the same building.

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