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New Name, New Lineup in Santa Barbara

Theater | Theater Notes

April 29, 2001|DON SHIRLEY | Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera, the seaside city's biggest theater company, has changed its name to Music Theater of Santa Barbara and announced a new season that consists of one premiere and four road stops of tours.

Anthony Rhine, executive director of the group, said the name was changed because "we don't do traditional light opera anymore." The organization joins two other Southland groups, Music Theatre of Southern California and Musical Theatre West, that dropped the "civic light opera" moniker for the "musical theater" label.

After facing the threat of fiscal collapse last year, the group is cutting costs by importing shows rather than producing them. The 2001-02 season includes tours of the Peking Acrobats (July 3-8), "Chicago" (Oct. 10-28), "Tap" (Nov. 7-18), a Las Vegas revue called "The Rat Pack" (Jan. 16-27, 2002) that features celebrity impersonators, and the circus "Apogee" (May 1-12, 2002).

However, there also will be a premiere, "Knight Life" (March 13-24, 2002), featuring a score by rock 'n' roll songwriter Jeff Barry and a book by sitcom producers-writers and Santa Barbara residents Prudence Fraser and Robert Sternin, president of the theater's board.

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CLOSER TO L.A.: Ventura's Rubicon Theatre Company has announced a 2001-02 season: Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" (Nov. 17-Dec. 16), with Joe Spano as General Burgoyne; "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" (Jan. 19-Feb. 17, 2002), with Amanda McBroom and George Ball; "Old Wicked Songs" (April 13-May 19, 2002), with Harold Gould and Joseph Fuqua; and "Sylvia" (July 13-Aug. 18, 2002).

Rubicon also has announced dates this fall for "J for J," a new play that was initially planned as part of the 2000-01 season but was held up by star John Ritter's stint on Broadway in "The Dinner Party." It's based on the late Hollywood actor Barry Sullivan's journal, focusing on the relationship between his daughter Jenny--now a prominent theater director, who adapted the piece--and his developmentally disabled son, John. Michael Kearns will direct, Oct. 20-Nov. 3. One other bonus attraction at Rubicon next spring: David Birney's adaptation of Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam and Eve," starring Birney, March 16-31, 2002.

Finally, Rubicon is launching a concert musical series with the 1946 "Beggar's Holiday" (March 1-10, 2002), featuring a recently updated book by original co-producer Dale Wasserman, the original Duke Ellington music and a cast including Carl Anderson.

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RETROACTIVE RAISE: Actors' Equity was happy to announce last week that an arbitrator ruled for the union in a dispute involving wages for actors in New York developmental workshops of shows that are produced by theaters outside New York.

The decision requires the theaters to pay the actors on the same level that they would be paid for main stage productions at the theaters' home stages. The theaters had been paying wages on a lower rung of the Equity contracts.

One of the two theaters involved in the case was the Mark Taper Forum, because of a 1998 Taper-produced workshop of "The First Picture Show" in New York. The Taper later presented a full production of the show.

A later New York workshop of a show that now appears as if it might be headed for the Taper, "Flower Drum Song," also will be affected by the decision, as will a New York workshop of "The Full Monty" that was sponsored by the Old Globe Theatre (now Globe Theatres) of San Diego.

Charles Dillingham, managing director of Taper parent Center Theatre Group, said he thought the decision was "nuts," but it will have little practical effect, because most Taper workshops are held in L.A. The decision will require the Taper to spend nearly $300 more per actor per week for its New York workshops, but Dillingham said the Taper will pay up if a New York workshop seems necessary.

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WEEKLY WINNERS: Top winners of the 2001 LA Weekly Theater Awards, for sub-100-seat theaters: "The Berlin Circle," production of the year; "The Man Who Had All the Luck," revival of the year; "bare," musical of the year. "The Master and Margarita" won five, more than any other show.

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