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THEATER | Theater Notes

Taper's New Work Festival Flies From Falcon Theatre to Actors' Gang

October 24, 1999|DON SHIRLEY | Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

After two years at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, the Mark Taper Forum's annual New Work Festival is again on the move, to the Actors' Gang in Hollywood.

The Falcon, busy with its first full season, was unavailable this year, said Taper producing director Robert Egan.

Part of the Taper festival was at the Actors' Gang in 1994, and "the ambience of that space is conducive to a new work festival. The audience that comes to that space is interested in this kind of work," Egan said. In the past year, separate from the festival, the Taper has co-produced two alternative pieces in the Gang's space: "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop" and "Bordertown." Egan himself is on the Gang's board of directors.

This year's festival lineup is unusually balanced, at least according to a couple of the criteria that it's often measured against, said Egan: Half of the playwrights are from this area, half from out of town; half are returning, half are new.

The festival opens with a weekend of one-time readings: Robert Glaudini's "Swing or the Identical Same Temptation" (Nov. 5, 8 p.m.), Murray Mednick's "Mrs. Feuerstein" (Nov. 6, 5 p.m.), Steven Drukman's "Hobson's Choice" (Nov. 6, 8 p.m.) and Sunil Kuruvilla's "Rice Boy" (Nov. 7, 8 p.m.).

Workshops, including two open public rehearsals per show, begin the following week: Annie Weisman's "Be Aggressive" (Nov. 10-11), Bridget Carpenter's "Fall" (Nov. 13-14), Christopher Shinn's "What Didn't Happen" (Nov. 17-18) and Oliver Mayer's "Conjunto" (Nov. 20-21).

The workshops continue after Thanksgiving with John Belluso's "The Body of Bourne" (Dec. 1-2), OyamO's "The Black White Man" (Dec. 4-5), Kelly Stuart's "A Shoe Is Not a Question" (Dec. 8-9) and Lillian Garrett-Groag's "Midons" (Dec. 14-15).

December also brings more readings: Roy Conboy's "Drive My Coche" (Dec. 11, 5 p.m.), Nilo Cruz's "Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams" (Dec. 12, 2 p.m.), Louie Perez and Octavio Solis' "The Song of Orfeo" (Dec. 12, 5 p.m.) and Shem Bitterman's "The Circle" (Dec. 12, 8 p.m.

Two special events are also part of the festival: Dan Gerrity's "Katey Sagal: Random Access Memories," featuring the former "Married With Children" star (Dec. 10, 8 p.m.) and "Universes," performed by five New York artists directed by Jo Bonney, who has worked with Eric Bogosian and Danny Hoch (Dec. 11, 8 p.m.).

Tickets are free, distributed at the box office on a first-come, first-served basis. Information: (213) 972-7389.

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VENTURA GOES PRO: Professional theater is gradually establishing a beachhead in Ventura, spearheaded by the Rubicon Theatre Company, opening its first subscription season this weekend with John Ford Noonan's "A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking." The company performs in the 220-seat Laurel Theatre, a former Pentecostal church at Laurel and Main in downtown Ventura.

Run by the husband-and-wife team of artistic director James O'Neil and co-artistic director/executive director Karyl Lynn Burns, the Rubicon has booked a season that also includes Linda Purl in a Jenny Sullivan staging of "The Little Foxes" (opening Feb. 5); a new stage adaptation by screenwriter Dan Gordon of his movie script for "Murder in the First," to be staged by former "Dallas" star Linda Gray (June 3); and the Harry Chapin revue "Lies and Legends" featuring Amanda McBroom and George Ball (July 29).

Last year, the company produced a couple of solo shows, a "Forever Plaid," a concert version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and a schools-oriented tour of "Romeo and Juliet," but this year will mark the first subscription campaign. More than 800 have signed up even though the brochures aren't out yet, Burns said.

Trained by decades of community theater and access to pros in L.A. and Santa Barbara, the Ventura audience is "longing for professional theater," Burns said. "The response forced us to grow more quickly than our infrastructure was prepared to handle."

Nonetheless, the Rubicon, which is named after the Italian river that marked a point of no return in a Roman military campaign, plunged ahead.

The company will operate on Actors' Equity's Small Professional Theatre contract. And Rubicon isn't the only Ventura company to use Equity actors; Theatre on Main is using lesser Equity contracts for its 70-seat space, including one for the opening this week of two one-acts, "Peter Pan in Hollywood" and "A Need for Less Expertise."

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REMEMBERING GROTOWSKI: The late theatrical guru Jerzy Grotowski was a professor of drama at UC Irvine from 1983 to 1986. Next Friday and Saturday, the university will remember Grotowski and the Focused Research Program in Objective Drama that he ran at UCI with a series of performances, panels and lectures called "Grotowski at Irvine--and Beyond."

Performances include the Theatre Labyrinth production of "Frankenstein's Wake" and the New World Performance Lab production of "Woyzeck."

Information: (949) 824-2787 or artstix@uci.edu.

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