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Curtain Goes Up on LA Stage

October 15, 2000|DON SHIRLEY

LA Stage magazine, a slim but glossy publication devoted to theater in Los Angeles, arrived in about 6,000 mailboxes last week.

It's the latest outreach effort of Theatre LA, the city's leading organization of producers, which hopes to turn the quarterly magazine into a monthly by early 2001.

The first, free autumn issue went to a group culled from the subscription lists of theaters that advertised in it, as well as to all Theatre LA members, most of whom are theater companies or independent producers. However, Theatre LA hopes to attract new members--groups or individuals who aren't necessarily theater practitioners--by including the magazine as one of the benefits of a $35 associate membership. It's a model that some theatergoers know from their subscriptions to the national American Theatre magazine--which also purchases membership in the sponsoring organization, Theatre Communications Group.

East West Players artistic director Tim Dang and chorines from the East West production of "Follies" last season are on the cover of the first issue. The magazine's 16 pages include a brief cover story and a welcome by editor Lee Melville; a social column by Karen Kondazian; an essay by Moving Arts artistic director Lee Wochner; a commentary on how to read reviews by Back Stage senior critic Polly Warfield; a theatergoing memoir billed as "A View From the Audience" (the first one is by Lyn Spector, a Pasadena Playhouse board member); a restaurant review by Vern Lanegrasse; and a roundup of Bay Area theater events by A.J. Esta.

Seven theater companies or productions bought ads, as did the restaurant that's the subject of the first restaurant review--al-though editor Melville told The Times that buying an ad will not a prerequisite for getting a review.

Wochner's column comes closer to controversy than anything else in the first issue. He endorses "an honest theater, not a sitcom theater, not a showcase theater, not a theater that brings us neurotic jokes without consequences"--though he names no names.

Melville's cover story on Dang was somewhat limited by the vagaries of the magazine's production schedule and Dang's travel schedule. Melville, who did the first issue pro bono, didn't conduct an in-person interview with Dang.

Face-to-face interviews will surface in future issues, said Melville, who had plenty of experience assigning and editing interviews when he edited the late Drama-Logue trade paper. And while LA Stage will not run reviews of shows, it may include a little more controversy--or, at least, some discussions of topics with more than one point of view represented. Melville suggested that future topics could range from the relatively serious--is Shakespeare produced too often?--to something as trivial as when is the best curtain time for Sunday performances.

Because it was initially intended to appear in September, the first issue occasionally refers to events that have already happened. Deadlines were earlier than they will be for subsequent issues, Melville said. However, he pointed out that while Kondazian, for her social column, gathered her quotes last summer (at the opening of "Expecting Isabel" at the Mark Taper Forum), the quotes that she used were about people's future plans, so they retained a degree of currency.

The next issue will focus on the Oct. 30 Ovation Awards ceremony, also sponsored by Theatre LA. It probably will appear around Thanksgiving, with 24 pages.

While supplies last, complimentary copies of the first issue can be requested via e-mail: info@theatrela.org.

EL PORTAL NEWS: Jim Brochu, producer at El Portal Center for the Arts in North Hollywood, has been promoted to artistic director, at least for a few months. However, he has no contract, and an already announced search for a long-term artistic director will continue--although probably not in earnest until 2001, said managing director Pegge Forrest.

The board was compelled to name an immediate replacement for Jeremiah Morris as a result of language in Morris' contract that required that he be allowed to stay on until someone else was hired.

Morris is leaving more than just his job as artistic director; plans for him to direct three plays at El Portal next season have been canceled. An official statement from the theater said that Morris declined the invitation to direct because of other commitments.

Eventually, Brochu could be a contender for the permanent position. He has directed 80 plays and musicals, has worked as an agent and casting director, and won awards for his book and direction of the musical "The Last Session."

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