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On the Frontier

March 17, 2000|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NEWHALL — David Ian Stears, the Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre's producing artistic director, says running the professional theater company is like being a cowboy.

"Going out onto the frontier and opening up new territory," he said with a flair that betrays his formal training as an actor at the California Institute of the Arts in the 1980s.

Those who have never ventured into the historic district in Newhall, where the theater recently established a permanent home in a refurbished storefront, can make their own journey tonight through Sunday to attend a premiere performance of "The Majestic Kid," directed by David Colwell.

Presented to coincide with this month's Santa Clarita Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, the Mark Medoff play is about the idealism portrayed in old westerns that the writer enjoyed as a child.

Medoff's other plays include "When You Comin' Back Ryder" and "Children of a Lesser God," which was turned into an Oscar-winning movie.

One of the characters in "The Majestic Kid" is a landowning judge named William S. Hart Finlay, played onstage by Gregory Clemens.

"You think he's the bad guy at the beginning, but his motive is love for one of the other characters [and] he turns out to be good at the end," Stears explained.

Set in an unspecified Western state in a period about a decade ago, the play centers on a young activist-lawyer defending Native Americans in a case involving threatened nuclear waste pollution to their land.

The lawyer played by Aaron Angello is "shadowed" onstage by actor Justin M. Gorence, who portrays an archetypal western movie hero who has stepped down from a movie screen to serve as the lawyer's mentor.

In the end, the movie hero, "having fulfilled his usefulness [as an inspirational role model] rides off into the sunset," Stears said.

Unlike a silent western movie saga, however, the play contains a full-blown love story, pitting the lawyer against the judge for the attentions of a lady landowner played by Krista Schafer.

"I get the sense that Medoff was living this, having grown up with Saturday morning western idols like Aaron's character, and then growing out of having a need for an imaginary Kid character," Stears said.

In addition to their performances in the new theater this weekend, members of the Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre will present western-themed skits Saturday at 11 a.m. as part of celebrations for the recently opened Metrolink rail station, which is just around the corner from the theater at 24300 Railroad Ave.

BE THERE

"The Majestic Kid" performances begin Friday at 8 p.m. and continue Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. through April 22. Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre, 24266 San Fernando Road, Newhall. Tickets are $15 general, $12.50 for students and seniors, Call (661) 222-7278.

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