Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Nov. 1, 2001 at 3:13 PM
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HOLLYWOOD (UPI) -- There's a small town element in the movie capital that nurtures nascent talent diligently.

The community has its own periodicals, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

It has hangouts for peripheral performers, agents and promoters: mom and pop restaurants and acting "schools" where professionals hone their work.

Best of all are a handful of small theaters where plays and shows feature mixed casts of celebrities and newcomers.

Among them are the Geffen Theater in Westwood, the Ivar in Hollywood, the Colony in Burbank, The Interact in North Hollywood and The Actors Gang in Hollywood; the Improv and Comedy Store to name a few of many.

One of the most unique is Theatre West in Cahuenga Pass, seating capacity 168, where Hollywood insiders flock to see friends and contemporaries working on stage rather than in movies and TV.

There isn't a bad seat in Theatre West, not even in the last row, which is only 40 feet from the stage.

Executive Director John Gallogly, an actor himself, runs the informal, neat little theater, which produces two-to-seven plays a year.

"We do new plays or new takes on old plays where an artist gets the theater for one weekend only, Gallogly said.

"At those times we bring in an audience (no critics) where we get a new look at 'Hamlet' or something like that.

"The stage is only 40 feet wide by 25 feet deep, so our largest cast is about 18. We've done musicals here too with small groups or combos down front.

"We have an active membership of 200 actors, writers, directors and designers, plus some 400-600 subscribers who pay $50 for season tickets.

"In the theater the sound man is as important as the actor playing Hamlet," said Gallogly.

"We're a non-profit organization. In addition to our productions we run a workshop on acting on Monday nights and on Tuesdays there's a writers workshop and on Wednesday a musical comedy workshop.

"Out of those workshops grow the pieces we are going to do for our New Works Festival and later in our main stage work when we feel they're ready.

"We utilize the workshops until we feel a whole works should be seen in a performance on stage. We call it playrighting, meaning you make a play by actually doing it. That's a different thing from playwriting.

"We allow writers to work with actors and directors at their workshop to give actors the benefit of the writer genius while they're doing his work.

"It has performers, writers and actors talking across artistic lines."

Gallogly said only members of the organization are allowed to attend the workshops. Members also make suggestions to the actors and writers on a work in progress.

Gallogly continued, "We are what is called an Equity house working with a special letter of agreement with the union (Actors Equity) negotiating different rates.

"This week we're doing Ray Bradbury's 'Falling Upward,' a play Ray wrote when he returned from a trip to Ireland, where he spent a year working on 'Moby Dick' with John Huston.

"Our theater is open all year long.

"Theatre West is a company of artists. We are the oldest company in Los Angeles with our fortieth season coming up.

"We act as a greenhouse for artists. We let people who are just starting out grow new work and encourage veteran artists who want to add a new branch to their tree.

"We help young people to flower for the first time.

"We have developed works like 'Spoon River Anthology' by Charles Aidman and will reprise that work in the spring starring Betty Garret and Joyce Van Patten directing.

"They were in the original cast. The theater is the only medium where you can pass things on; not like video tape or audio tape. You can only do it from human being to human being.

"We believe in fostering new talent by curing them with a history of the past. The same way Artur Rubinstein said there was only one teacher (Tchaikovsky) between him and Chopin. When he was teaching people in the last century they were getting it only once removed from the master.

"The tradition of passing on information orally is something that we are part of."

In addition to producing shows like "A Little Night Music," Theatre West provides several charity shows a year to benefit a variety of causes.

The box office is open to the public, and often sells out for popular attractions.

"We even have Story Book performances for children," Gallogly said.

"We try to schedule attractions for all ages determined by our artistic board, selected by the members. It helps keep theaters alive."

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