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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

Dramatic Payoff

Local producers wear many hats and often are productions' unsung heroes.

March 26, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If comparing a theatrical company to a business, the producer can be compared to the chief executive officer. In a magazine or newspaper context, the producer would be the publisher. In other words, the person ultimately responsible at the business end--determining budgets, for one thing.

But that's not all. Michael Jordan, whose Gothic Productions produces plays at the Arts Council Center in Thousand Oaks, says he originally became a producer "because [they] are the ones who get to pick the plays."

Producers at the Cabrillo Music Theater--whose "My Fair Lady" opens Friday night--report to executive director Cheryl Mastrovito, who reports to the nonprofit organization's board of directors. She has also co-produced several shows for the group since 1994.

During that time, in addition to duties that would be in the job description--if there were such a document--Mastrovito has had to find a last-minute replacement when the romantic lead actor of "South Pacific" dropped out for emergency surgery after the first weekend, and personally had to tend to clogged toilets backstage at a recent production when the actors and stage manager (all union members) refused. ("That's all right," says the mother of two. "I do it enough at home.")

David Ralphe is artistic director of the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center and the Santa Paula Theater Center. In Santa Paula, he says, the board of directors appoints a producer for each show. In Simi Valley, which produces no shows in-house, Ralphe "books the shows, pays the fees, provides a technical environment (lights, sound, etc.) and either winds up a hero, or not, at the end of the run."

In many cases, Ralphe adds, the producer is involved in marketing and promotional programs for the productions.

"If I were a big Broadway producer," says Gothic Productions' Jordan, who reports to nobody, "I'd be talking to Texas oilmen as potential investors. On our level, I supply the money."

For the Classics in the Parks program, which stages summer tours of east Ventura County and parts of Los Angeles, Jordan says, "There really isn't a producer. A tour director lines up the schedule, the technical people do what they do, and the director does everything else."

Jordan is tour director of this year's production of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure." His partner in the enterprise, Toni Frisk-Jourdan, will direct. (She's also directing Agatha Christie's "The Unexpected Guest" for Gothic next month.)

Last-Minute News: Even though the casting notices stated that all roles were open, one could have predicted that the Gold Coast Plays' production of "A Little Night Music" from April 24 to May 10 would star Dale Kristien and Amanda McBroom, singing actresses (or acting singers) with national reputations and local ties.

Word has it, in fact, that both were involved in this production from its conception. The new group is a division of the Gold Coast Performing Arts Assn., an umbrella organization for groups including the Cabrillo Music Theatre.

And, with two productions ("My Fair Lady" and "Bye, Bye Birdie") remaining in its current season, the Cabrillo Music Theatre has scheduled "Gypsy" for November, "Singin' in the Rain" for March 1999 and "The Pirates of Penzance" for July 1999 that last nicely coinciding with the second year of Comedy Tonight's Gilbert & Sullivan Festival.

BE THERE

"My Fair Lady" opens Friday at Thousand Oaks' Civic Arts Plaza Auditorium, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Show times: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, plus 2 p.m. matinees Sunday and April 4-5. Through April 5. $18.50-$28.50 at the box office or through Ticketmaster. (805) 497-8616.

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