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Control Issue

Theater troupes are vying for exclusive contract to run Lankershim center.

July 16, 1998|ROBIN RAUZI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Time flies when you're making art.

It's been nearly three years since the four tenants of the Lankershim Arts Center moved in, and their lease expires at the end of the year.

One of the four, the Road Theatre Company, has reapplied to stay in the city-owned building in North Hollywood, but under a different arrangement. The new lease would be for five years, and rather than being part of a consortium running the center, the Road would have an exclusive contract with the city. The company would then subcontract out the space for use by other theater, dance or art groups.

What's the difference? Well, it's like the difference between being the lead dog pulling a bobsled, and being the bobsled driver. For the last three years the Road, Synthaxis Theatre Company, Martin Dancers and Los Angeles Printmaking Society jointly ran the space--which made for complications.

"It's really hard to run anything democratically, really. Especially when you have four different groups with four different missions," said Marci Hill, a member of the Road's artistic board.

Three outside groups--plus the Martin Dancers and Road--have applied to be the contract organization. After a panel from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department evaluates the proposals, it will make a recommendation to the department's general manager. A final recommendation goes to the City Council and mayor, who award the contract.

If the Road is selected, the troupe hopes to present theater, dance and art exhibits linked by a common theme, and subcontract acting and dance classes, children's theater and art shows. The Road would also hire a full-time building administrator to do scheduling.

*

After 41 years, you might think the Teenage Drama Workshop at Cal State Northridge would rest on its laurels, maybe revive an old production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Nope. Starting Friday, the workshop's 73 kids, ages 12 to 18--most of them from Valley middle and high schools--will put on two new plays for family audiences. Opening this weekend is Greg Atkins' adaptation of "The Emperor's New Clothes," subtitled "A Costumer's Nightmare."

Workshop Executive Director Doug Kaback wrote the book for the second premiere, "Bye Bye Orpheus." The musical, with songs by Irwin Appel, is something like Disney's animated "Hercules" meets "Orpheus in the Underworld" with a good dose of "Bye Bye Birdie." It opens July 25.

"Orpheus" has lots of pop culture references that kids will recognize, Kaback said, including Hades "Wheel of Torture," modeled after "Wheel of Fortune." Orpheus is a rock star--he plays a mean lyre, apparently--whose voice wins him back his love, Eurydice. At least briefly.

The "Emperor," too, has a certain twist at the end. The Emperor, who was a slave to fashion, is liberated by his new outfit.

I think they have beach-side resorts for people like that.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" plays Friday and July 31 at 7 p.m.; Saturday and July 24, 25 and Aug. 1 at 11 a.m.; and July 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. "Bye Bye Orpheus" plays July 24 and 31 at 7 p.m., July 30 at 2 p.m., and July 25, 31 and Aug. 1 at 11 a.m. All performances are in the CSUN Speech and Drama Building, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. $5. (818) 677-2488.

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If a free show is better than no show, and two shows are better than one . . . what to make of the free double-bill at Actors Alley this weekend?

Previous cabaret programs have almost exclusively featured music, where these two shows add more comedy and drama. Stand-up comedian Lisa Ann Orkin combines music and comedy in "Teetering on the Edge," which she described as "Generation X meets Steve and Edie."

The short show puts much of her stand-up material--about being a Valley housewife and how she got there--together with song parodies.

Lauri Johnson, a veteran of cabaret shows at Actors Alley and elsewhere, is using the second half of the bill to workshop portions of "She's a Handful." Johnson said she had an idea--"A play about a gay man who has HIV and he sends a letter to the five women in his life"--and then she got six writers to dramatize the letter and each woman's response. The full show runs more than an hour, so Johnson will do only one-third of the show each night.

Still, it sounds a little heavy for late-night cabaret. "No, it isn't," Johnson said. "There are moments when it's moving and you may get a lump in your throat, but it's not maudlin at all."

"Teetering on the Edge" and "She's a Handful," at Actors Alley at El Portal, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Friday and Saturday at 10:15 p.m. An Equity Fights AIDS benefit performance will be Aug. 8 at 8:30 p.m. Ends Sept. 5. Free. (818) 508-4200.

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