The Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood will remain a professional venue, at least for now.
Assuming negotiations are completed successfully, union contracts will be in effect when a reworked production of "Selena Forever," the musical about the slain tejano singer, reopens the theater in January--the first production under the auspices of the theater's new owner, the Ricardo Montalban Nosotros Foundation.
When the foundation bought the Doolittle earlier this year, vowing to turn it into a Latino performance center that would host community groups, some observers expressed fears that the history of professional productions at one of L.A.'s most venerable theaters might end.
Indeed, when "Selena Forever" was produced earlier this year in several Texas cities and Chicago, it did not operate under an Actors' Equity contract. However, in arranging for the show's resurrection at the Doolittle, producer Tom Quinn agreed to the foundation's request that he negotiate union contracts--and not only with Equity but with the unions representing musicians and stagehands.
The contracts are not likely to be nearly as demanding--or as expensive--as those in effect when the Doolittle regularly hosted touring, Broadway-style shows. Quinn said he can't charge Broadway prices for tickets because Latino audiences "come as families, and the ticket prices have to be scaled accordingly." Tickets will cost from $25 to $45.
In part because of the union affiliation, the cast won't necessarily be the same as the one in the earlier production, Quinn said. Also, at the request of the Montalban Nosotros Foundation, Quinn is trying to draw more extensively on the Southern California talent pool, he said.
The show will have a new director--Daniel Valdez, who acted in the earlier "Selena Forever" and has often worked with his brother, playwright-director Luis Valdez. It also will include a little more Spanish than the earlier version, in both the dialogue and the singing. Some members of the target audience don't speak much English, Quinn said.
The initial production cost about $1.7 million, and the remount will require another $750,000, Quinn estimated. Last time he was one of four producers. At least two of the other three producers are not expected to return, but Quinn has recruited one new co-producer. Quinn was the original driving force behind the show, obtaining the rights to Selena's story.
He has arranged a two-month rental at the Doolittle and hopes to extend it, playing Tuesdays through Sundays each week. The Doolittle makes sense as the show's L.A. home, Quinn said, not only because of its new status as a Latino arts center, but also because of its size. It seats about 1,000--compared with the 2,200-seat Wiltern and the 6,200-seat Universal Amphitheatre, which were the venues that had been slated to host the first production of "Selena Forever" (before the L.A. dates were canceled in a dispute between the producers and the promoters). "I've always felt that the scope and size of the other venues was much too large," Quinn said.
Although the foundation eventually plans to rename the theater after Montalban, it's still the Doolittle for now, said foundation spokesman Jerry Velasco. "We want to get our entire staff together and renovate the facade back to its original look" before the theater is officially renamed, he said.
A NEW STAGE AT STAGES: Paul Verdier, artistic director of Hollywood's Stages since he founded it nearly 20 years ago, is embarking on a year's sabbatical, leaving the day-to-day operations of the theater complex in the hands of its new managing artistic director, Arye Gross. Verdier, 64, said he wants to travel, teach, write and direct without attending to administrative duties. "We need some new blood, and someone to do some of the sweating," he said.
Gross, a generation younger than Verdier, has been involved with the theater as an actor almost from the start and recently produced "The Bullfight" there in a 99-seat alfresco space that will become a permanent installation. The theater is best known for its productions of European and South American playwrights in its 49-seat indoor space. *