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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

Lescots Take Their Grass-Roots Theater to L.A.

* Creators of the tiny Theatre District company in Costa Mesa will take over Cast Theatre in Hollywood.

November 19, 2000|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mario and Joan Lescot, fixtures on the Orange County grass-roots theater scene since 1992, are taking over a Los Angeles stage institution, the Cast Theatre in Hollywood.

The Cast, which houses separate 99- and 55-seat theaters, has been recognized as an incubator of new and adventurous work since the 1980s. But its tradition of steady, committed, in-house artistic and business leadership ended in 1999, and the Cast stopped producing its own shows last spring.

The Lescots, theatrical refugees since January, say they have signed a five-year lease to operate the Cast, with an option for an additional five years.

Their company will now be known as the Theatre District in Residence at the Cast. The Theatre District was the 66-seat house that artistic director Mario Lescot headed at the Lab in Costa Mesa for five years before deciding the facility was too flawed and expensive.

The Cast "is very different," Joan Lescot, the company's production manager, said this week from the Costa Mesa hair salon she and her husband operate. "It's got good seating, lots of bathrooms, a kitchen, and it doesn't leak when it rains."

While looking for a new space for their company in Orange County, the Theatre District leaders decided to stay active by putting on a guest production last summer at the Cast--a reprise of the Mario Lescot-directed mounting of Alan Ball's "Five Women Wearing the Same Dress," seen in Costa Mesa in 1999.

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The Lescots loved the Cast, once a screening room for Charlie Chaplin and RKO studios more than 60 years ago. They grabbed the space when it recently became available.

At the Cast, the Theatre District will be able to use Actors' Equity members for the first time, under rules that allow union actors to work for token pay at small theaters in Los Angeles. Equity's 99-Seat Theater Plan does not apply in Orange County, where small theaters are limited to casting amateur talent.

Joan Lescot said she and her husband are commuters now, maintaining their business in Costa Mesa and their home in Lake Forest, while pursuing their art in Hollywood. Their first choice had been to continue doing theater in Orange County, but their search didn't turn up a suitable venue.

The first production of the Theatre District's reign at the Cast will be another transplant from the company's Orange County past: its annual holiday season staging of Jim Geoghan's "Light Sensitive," using the same cast as seen in Costa Mesa.

The show begins an open-ended run Dec. 1 at the Cast, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. (323) 957-2343.

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