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Joel Beers theater notes

The clocks, they are a-tickin' at the Grove Theater Center(GTC). For nine years, Kevin Cochranand Charles Johansonhave worked valiantly to build a professional theater company in Garden Grove—work that may end in less than a month, when city officials want the pair to prove they should keep running the complex. The city's cultural-affairs committee recommended the City Council kill its deal with the GTC. Two weeks ago, the council voted 3-2 to grant the company a 30-day extension.

The complaints lodged against GTC include too few productions, low attendance and a lack of community-oriented programming.

Enter Tom Bradac, artistic director of Chapman University-based Shakespeare Orange County. Shakespeare OC hasn't staged anything since the summer of 2001, but the city's cultural-affairs committee likes a proposal Bradac made to run the city theater, citing the fact that Bradac said he'd open the venue to organizations such as the Garden Grove Unified School District.

The Orange County Register reported Jan. 12 that Bradac was "inspired" to make the proposal last summer, after he attended a choral concert at his daughter's school. Bradac didn't like that the event was stuffed into a school cafeteria. He thought the kids really deserved an opportunity to do their stuff in a professional setting. Gee, thanks Tom. I'd much rather see a junior high ballet recital than the GTC's performances of Samuel Beckett.

Beyond that, there's this: Bradac used to run the Grove Shakespeare Festival, the producing entity that once ran the city's two theaters. But Bradac was booted out in 1991 when the theater ran into financial trouble. In 1994, Johanson and Cochran, two East Coast theater types with dreams of creating a professional theater, stepped in.

Theatrically speaking, Bradac knows his stuff—particularly when it comes to Shakespeare. And if all Garden Grove wants is a glorified community theater that does good Shakespeare, maybe it should go in that direction.

But we'd hate to see Cochran and Johanson exit the local theater scene. They've done an admirable job of balancing economic realities (Steel Magnolias), Shakespeare and their own far more interesting personal preferences (The Beckett Project, the Troubadour Theater Co.). They want to do good theater. Their absence would be greatly missed. Stay tuned.

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The clock is also winding down at The Maverick Theater, the theater built in large part on the success of the Elvis Presley musical homage, The King. Management at The Block at Orange, where the Maverick has been housed since September, told head honcho Brian Newelllast week that it has found a permanent tenant to take over the cavernous space originally occupied by Mars Music. The Block said Newell would have between two weeks and two months to get out. That uncertainty prompted Newell to cancel the Maverick's next play, Breakfast of Tiffany's. Now comes news that the Maverick doesn't have to leave until March, too late for Newell to resuscitate the play.

Not all is grim. The Maverick will relocate to another space in the Block, but that means starting from scratch and dealing with city codes. But if all goes according to schedule, Newell plans to open The Rocky Horror Picture Showat the new space sometime in April. To fill the breach left by exterminating Breakfast at Tiffany's, Newell has offered the space to the Insurgo Theater Movement, which is seriously entertaining the thought of extending its clowned-up version of The Taming of the Shrew, which closes at the Hunger Artists Theater in Fullerton on Jan. 26.

And who is the new tenant taking over the Maverick's space at the Block? A killer bookstore? An independent cinema? A state-of-the-art Internet café? It's a bowling alley. Who says culture is dead?

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Stages Theatre opened Of Mice and Men last weekend. There was supposed to be a review of the show on this page. But there isn't. How come? Well, seems like the guy in charge of theater listings at OC Weekly(hint: it's me) fucked up and printed the Sunday evening show starts at 7 p.m. That's what the reviewer, Kelly Flynn, went by. Turns out, Sunday shows at Stages are at 5 p.m. Our official apologies to all concerned. The offending party has been executed.

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Speaking of Flynn, he's directing The Scottish Play in a couple of months at the Hunger Artists. First, that company will stage Tom Strelich's play, BAFO, which debuted in 1997 at South Coast Repertory. BAFOis a killer piece about an employee at a major Southern California defense contractor who goes ballistic when his firm loses a major contract. The play is intriguing, but so are the people putting it on—a supergroup of OC storefront-theater people. It stars Allen Casey, who lights up the stage at the Hunger Artists; Paul Castellano, who has done fine work with the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble; and Jay Fraley, one of Rude Guerrilla's indispensable dramatic forces. It's directed by Sharyn Case, who has worked with several theaters, including Rude Guerrilla. BAFO opens Feb. 14.

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Speaking of the Hunger Artists, founding member Shannon Flynn (wife of Kelly), who graduated last year with a master's degree from Yale University's directing program, is back in LA and pursuing a career. In what, you ask? Intense experimental drama? Cutting-edge forms? Really bitchen play stuff? Well, kind of. She has assisted directors on several shows at SCR recently. But though theater remains Flynn's passion and love, eating is prompting her to try to make some dough directing TV sitcoms.

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