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Two new Orange County play companies don't hope to find fortune or fame. They in it for ...

The Thrill of Theater


So far, Nguyen said, most of the Chance's actors have come from Los Angeles. Like the Berubians, Spare Change asks its company members to pay monthly dues of $35 to $50--or to contribute an equivalent amount of time working at the theater.

"The Orange County actors seem to be waiting before deciding about vesting their time here. No one [here] is an established artist in Orange County. People are waiting and holding back and seeing what we're capable of," Nguyen said."

The Second Stage and the Chance Theater have entered a local small-theater landscape in which even long-established companies still struggle.

After eight years, the Vanguard Theatre in Fullerton still exists hand-to-mouth, said Wade Williamson, artistic director. "We're in a routine now where we have enough to pay the rent and mount the next show. We're still broke, but we're happy. If we get lean times, we go to benefactors or friends of the theater and say, 'If you're thinking of making a donation, now would be a good time.' "

Williamson doesn't see the arrival of new theaters as an unwelcome encroachment, an attempt to poach a limited audience. "I've found that if one theater is successful, then theater in general is successful."

Most of the small theaters have been able to hang in there, said Roosevelt Blankenship Jr., who has been producing plays in Orange County since 1987--including the past eight years at the Ensemble Theatre in Orange.

"I think as more of them open up, it's going to get better. People get the theater bug and start wanting to go."

Beyond survival, the leaders of the Chance and the Second Stage say, their chief aim is to be artistic seedbeds.

"We're creating a place for people to do their work," Nguyen said. "That's what's important to us. The visionary goal would be that a lot of people would use it."

"In a land of such broken dreams, everyone has that creative urge," rhapsodized Berube. "They need to express themselves or tell their story. The main [purpose] is to serve those people. Even if it's [a performance] for 10 of their friends, they can say, 'Look, this is my story.' "


"The Stroop Report," by Robert Preston Jones, Friday through Feb. 6 at the Chance Theater, 5576 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. $10-$15. Also playing through Feb. 6 is "The Stop My Insanity Trilogy," by Chris Secor. Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m., Sundays at 4:30 p.m. $5-$7. (714) 777-3033.

* "A Question of Faith," by Chris Berube, at the Berubians Second Stage Theatre, 2122 S. Grand Ave., Suite C, Santa Ana. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. $10. (714) 545-3852.

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