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Back in Control of Her Class

Theater Notes

October 28, 2001|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES THEATER WRITER

Sister is taking over her own show, "Late Nite Catechism."

Although Maripat Donovan co-wrote and stars in the long-running solo comedy about a tough-minded nun who's conducting an adult catechism class, she long ago sold most of her rights to the property to a company called Entertainment Events, based in New York. She retained only one production for herself and writing partner Vicki Quade--the one in Chicago, her hometown.

But now Los Angeles is Donovan's hometown--she bought a house in Hollywood and finally gave up her Chicago apartment.

Nearly two years after the show opened the 172-seat upstairs space at the Coronet Theatre (following an unsuccessful short run earlier in 1999 at the Henry Fonda Theatre), Donovan found herself in disagreement with her producers over the future potential of the production here.

"They thought it had run its course. I know it hasn't," she said. "It's in its 10th year in Chicago. We can do the same in Los Angeles. Did you know this city has the largest Catholic archdiocese in the United States?"

So she asked Entertainment Events to return the L.A. market rights to her and Quade, and the company agreed. Donovan is once again her own producer.

Tim Flaherty, president of Entertainment Events, confirmed that he believed the L.A. production "was coming toward its tail end. We weren't losing money, but we weren't making much either." However, he added, "if there's a local presence who's willing to commit more money for advertising, it should have a positive effect. And we'll still get a little royalty."

Since Oct. 16, Donovan has performed the show at the 500-seat Hermosa Beach Playhouse as part of the theater's subscription season, closing today, while Maureen Kelly has taken over at the Coronet. Donovan sold out the house in Hermosa, and three extra performances were added.

In Hermosa Beach, where she isn't as close to individual theatergoers, she wields a laser pointer for moments when she calls on audience volunteers. But Hermosa Beach is hardly her biggest venue--that would be the Anaheim Convention Center, where she performed for thousands last year. Meanwhile, Entertainment Events is not withdrawing entirely from L.A. or even the Coronet--it's opening "Maybe Baby, It's You" on Nov. 7, in the same upstairs theater inhabited by "Late Nite Catechism." The new show, consisting of 11 vignettes about couples looking for true love, will play Wednesdays-Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 p.m., while "Late Nite" plays Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Donovan said she would prefer not to lose her extra show times, "but when their 20 years is up, I'll take my space back."

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PADUA UPDATE: When the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival was revived earlier this year as Padua Playwrights Productions, its first season consisted of three plays by festival founder Murray Mednick. Padua is now producing one of the three, "Mrs. Feuerstein," in New York off-off-Broadway, opening Nov. 28.

Meanwhile, Padua artistic director Guy Zimmerman has announced a four-play second season, with only one play--title still to be announced--by Mednick. The season will open Jan. 12 with the U.S. premiere of "Dog Mouth," by John Steppling, perhaps the one playwright--other than Mednick--whose work is most often invoked as representative of the Padua spirit. It will be his first full-length, fully staged work in L.A. since 1992 and will be staged at L.A.'s Evidence Room, which is co-producing.

The rest of the season will return to the site of the 2001 season, 2100 Square Feet in L.A., and will include plays by Wesley Walker, Sarah Koskoff and Mednick.

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'LION KING' EXTENDED: "The Lion King" celebrated its first anniversary at the Pantages Theatre this month, and the show plans to stick around beyond the end of the year, with tickets for Jan. 1 through March 3 going on sale Nov. 4.

As part of its celebration, the Pantages will host a gospel concert Monday at 8 p.m., when four gospel choirs and gospel singer Donnie McClurkin will perform gospel arrangements of music from the show. A choir from the cast will sing original music. Admission is free. Information: (818) 972-5119.

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