News for May/June 2005:


Theatricum Botanicum's 2005 season has been announced. Working outdoors in the Topanga Canyon ampitheater built fifty years ago by the late actor Will Geer, TB has been presenting a summer bill of plays since 1973.

The new repertory season will commence on June 5 with OTHELLO, starring James Avery in the title role. Another Shakespeare classic, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, will open a week later, joined in July by FASHION, a comedy (with music) written in 1845 by Anna Cora Mowatt, one of America's first female playwrights. Arthur Miller's THE RIDE DOWN MT. MORGAN follows (July 30-Oct. 8)

TB's summer schedule also includes a new-play reading series, a Friday night Songwriters' Series, Family Fundays, a Hootenanny and an annual tribute to Woody Guthrie.

Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga. For tickets, group discounts and scheduling info, call (310) 455-3723 or visit


Michael Ritchie, the new artistic director of Center Theatre Group, has announced his first season of plays at the Mark Taper Forum.

A new play by David Mamet, the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan's latest work, a drama by the Israeli dramatist Joshua Sobol, a Chekhov classic and works by Alfred Uhry and Culture Clash comprise the new season, which opens Oct. 9 and continues through Sept. 17, 2006.

ROMANCE, a "full-throttle courtroom farce" by David Mamet, is first on tap. First produced this past March by the Off-Broadway Atlantic Theater Company, the play will be directed by Neil Pepe. It will be followed in December by Shenkkan's LEWIS AND CLARK REACH THE EUPHRATES, an "imaginative and comical" dramatization of the quest by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. The time-travel aspect of the story has them encountering other American crusades in 1898 Cuba and 1963 Vietnam.

Annette Bening will star in the Taper's production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD, directed by Welsh director, Sean Mathias. Bening was last seen on L.A. stages in Talking Heads at the Tiffany and Hedda Gabler at the Geffen.

Sobol's iWITNESS (translated by Barry Epstein) is based on the true story of Franz Jaegerstatter, an Austrian farmer who was executed in Berlin for his refusal to wear a Nazi uniform and serve in the army of the Third Reich. In its premiere in Tel Aviv, the play caused near riots as it gave voice to the controversy over the "refuseniks," Israeli soldiers who declined to take part in certain military actions against the Palestinian intifada.

WITHOUT WALLS by Alfred Uhry, set in 1977 in a non-traditional high school in Manhattan, follows the fate of an idealistic and popular drama teacher who cares "perhaps too deeply" about his students. Uhry won Pulitzer and Oscar awards for Driving Miss Daisy.

WATER & POWER--A LOS ANGELES STORY by Richard Montoya and Culture Clash tells the story of twin brothers and the city they love, played out "against an ever-shifting landscape of power and politics." The world premiere runs from Aug. 6-Sept. 17, 2006.

Tickets for the Taper's 39th season are currently available by subscription only; single tickets will go on sale in Sept. 05. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit


Watts Village Theater Company (WVTC) presents UP FROM THE DOWNS, a newly commissioned play written by Lynn Manning and directed by Gregg T. Daniel. It runs May 5-22 at the Los Angeles Design Center located in the heart of south Los Angeles.

UP FROM THE DOWNS takes place during a gang war in Watts and deals with the black and brown power struggle in L.A. Manning describes the play as an Afro/Latino twist on Shakespeare's Othello.

WVTC is a multicultural nonprofit theater company, co-founded by Quentin Drew and Manning in 1996. Its mission is to effect positive social change through the development and production of new, innovative theatre, as well as through educating the youth of the under-served community of Watts in the theatrical performoing arts.

Manning honed his playwriting skills in the 1990s as a member of The Mark Taper Forum's Mentor Playwrights Workshop and the Blacksmiths lab. His previous plays include The Last Outpost and Private Battle.

Daniel graduated from NYU's School for the Arts and UCLA Education's Director program in Film and Television. He was most recently a member of The Lincoln Center's Directors Lab 2004.

UP FROM THE DOWNS' cast includes Rico E. Anderson, Aaron Keith Braxton, Wilson bell, Kurt Caceres, Taji Coleman, Saskia Garel, Ruben Garfias and David Johann.

Phone (310) 259-5513 or visit


The American premiere of British playwright Robin Soans' THE ARAB-ISRAELI COOKBOOK will take place on May 20 at the Met Theatre, with a scheduled run through June 26. Nine actors play forty roles drawn from documentary-like interviews conducted by the playwright with ordinary people in today's Israel and Palestine. Louis Fantasia directs.

The play premiered last year at London's Gate Theatre, produced by the Caird Company. A second London production is planned for this summer, followed by a U.K. tour sponsored by the British Council.

Soans was approached by two British directors who invited him to write a play about the Arab-Israeli conflict and about how people in that part of the world manage to survive and live everyday lives. Since food is so important to all of them, the characters prepare authentic recipes on stage as they talk about the issues that confront them.

As Soans explains, "Everyone in the Middle East is passionate about food, and if they were talking about food, it would stop them from getting propagandist. The individual stories prevailed over the recipes. The dishes are all deeply personal statements and have a real importance. They speak of friendship and generosity and have more to do with concord than recrimination, with what we all have in common. They represent a glimmer of hope in these dark times."

The cast includes Dorothy Constantine, Jill Holden, Ismail About-El-Kanater, Sarah Bell, Iman Nazemzadeh and Dre Slaman, among others.

The Met Theatre is located at 1089 N. Oxford Ave. Call (323) 957-1152 or visit     

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