Two roving theater groups have finally landed in permanent homes—but couldn't be farther apart in terms of symbolic location. The Maverick Theater, which began life at Stages and moved to the old Mars Music building at The Block at Orange, is midway through Amadeus, its first show in its new home. Though still located at the Block, the new space is much smaller and much less expensive, and it's home for the foreseeable future, says Maverick head honcho Brian Newell.
But whereas the Block is at the center of the county's consumer culture, the Insurgo Theater Movement is on the fringe. The company has signed a year-to-year lease for space in an industrial park near the intersection of La Palma and Lakeview avenues in Anaheim Hills. Much as the Chance Theater has done, the Insurgo people have converted the space into a theater that can seat up to 50 asses—and just as many people.
The neighborhood doesn't exactly scream high culture. "Or scream anything else," Managing Director John Beane said. "There's no local bar or much of anything else around but us and the Chance."
That remote location could work in the company's favor. Since there are no neighbors to bother at night, there's no one to offend. So Beane and his cronies can pretty much do whatever the hell they want.
And what are they doing? Well, following The Rivals, which opened two weeks ago, the company raises the curtain on Heaven's Café, an original rock opera written by John Minor. The show, a kinda New Age progressive-type thing about the afterlife and the search for ultimate truth, will feature Art Rock Circus, a kick-ass band that includes, among others, Chris Cornell's brother on bass. It opens May 16. Following that, on June 27, is Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's bloodiest revenge tragedy.
But before that, set to roll next week is one of the most novel theatrical ideas we've heard in a long time: Kill Your Television, a live midnight show loosely based around a late-night TV talk show format. It will run every Friday at midnight, hosted by Beane and fellow Insurgent Russ Marchand. The show will feature interviews with local art commentators and a wacky variety of musical guests. The company is looking into broadcasting the weekly event on local public-access cable, which would mark the first time a local theater company has ventured into cable since Stages' long-running sitcom Blood, Sweat and Beers. (In the interests of full disclosure, one of the first guests—at this Friday's debut of Kill Your Television—is none other than I, Joel Beers.)
The frenetic Johnna Adams, one of the county's best and hardest-working playwrights, is planning two rather ambitious playwrighting challenges over the next several months. The first, which takes place over four consecutive nights in late June and early July, is the Playwright's Survival Challenge. It's a bit complicated but based on the reality-TV show that bears its name. Twelve playwrights, divided into tribes, will compete for four nights. Each night, playwrights will be voted off the losing tribe. By the time the first rounds are over, two playwrights will return on July 12 with a 15-page one act. The tribal council then votes for the winning play. The deadline for interested writers is May 31. For more information, contact Adams at email@example.com.
The second challenge, though not as complicated, is just as daunting. It's Ghostwriter! A Playwrighting Adventure Challenge, which will pit six writers or writing teams against one another. The hook? Each team must spend the night at a reportedly haunted building or cemetery and write about the experience. The six locations, according to Adams, have been "verified by Orange County psychics as haunted buildings. We plan to strand six writers at the haunted locations overnight. Their mission is to find out why the ghosts are there and write plays that will appease the restless spirits."
Check out the haunted locations. One is the Fullerton police station. Seems that two Native American bodies were discovered in the bed of an old river when ground was broken on the police station's basement in 1930. Apparently, police officers have seen numerous apparitions in the basement and the old jail.
Speaking of terror, auditions for the Hunger Artists' production of Sweeney Toddare set for May 8 and 9. Though the lead role has already been given to Mark Palkoner, other roles are wide open. The show is directed by Shannon C.M. Flynn, who, along with a lot of capital letters in her name, also has this distinction: an M.A. in directing from Yale University.
Along with a bunch of other terribly talented people, Flynn once attended Orange Coast College—as does Casey Weber, who directs his own one-act play about what it's like to be deaf in America, My World and Yours, as part of OCC's annual Spring One-Act Play Festival, May 21-25.