A Versatile Theft

The OC Theater Festival, in all its ill-planned glory

The Orange County Theater Festival (OCTF)—which was basically created by me, and for which I also serve as artistic director and executive producer, along with writing the first play, Rube!—is a summer-long series of four previously produced productions generated from the county's fertile storefront-theater scene. It opens this week at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton. Here are 13 things you probably didn't know about the OCTF.

1. It opens Thursday, July 15.

2. You would have known No. 1 if the simpletons running this thing hadn't waited until less than a week before the first play opened to do their one and only bulk mailing, or if you'd signed up for their mailing list.

3. Two of the four plays—The Taming of the Shrew, which opens Aug. 5, and the Importance of Being Earnest, which opens Sept. 16—are proud recipients of the much-coveted OCIE Award for theatrical excellence. The clowned-up version of Shrewwon last year for best ensemble, and the all-male production of Earnestwon six years ago, also for best ensemble.

4. The script of the festival's first production, Rube!—a fanciful recounting of the turbulent life and legend of baseball pitcher Rube Waddell—has sparked interest from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, which has requested it be submitted to its accessions committee. If accepted, the script will be added to the hall's permanent library collection.

5. Sean Francis, owner of the Continental and the Slide Bar Café, blew off the festival when asked to be a sponsor. The Back Alley Bar and Grill, Stubrick's Steakhouse, Mulberry Street, Ziing's, Plush Lab, Winklemann Realty, the Keg and the Kettle, the Shire Real Estate Group, the Save the Fox Foundation, and OC Weekly, however, generously ponied up.

6. The Rivals, an updating of Lord Sheridan's English 17th-century comedy—which introduced the world to the concept of malapropisms—is the third play of the festival.

7. Lord Sheridan is as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile is a malapropism.

8. "Enough toy actors eat vital free" is an anagram for Orange County Theater Festival, while "A Versatile Theft" is an anagram for Theater Festival.

9. Tickets are $12-$15.

10. It's highly rumored that Culture Clash, the kick-ass Latino comedy troupe out of Los Angeles, might drop by for a special one-time performance on a weeknight in August.

11. The theater festival is a celebration and affirmation of the county's storefront-theater scene. The four plays, all critically acclaimed, were from some of the county's best storefront theaters. Rube! was originally produced at Stages last year. The Taming of the Shrew was originally produced by the Insurgo Theater Co. at the Hunger Artists space and was also produced at the Maverick Theater. The Rivalswas another Insurgo production, while The Importance of Being Earnestwas a Hunger Artists show.

12. The first Sundays of each run are Festival Days, which will see theater reps from across the county manning tables on the nine-acre Muckenthlaler lawn from 2 to 6 p.m. and unleashing their propaganda—in the form of brochures, fliers, mailing lists, etc.—on unsuspecting patrons. Stuff will also be happening inside the amphitheater on those afternoons, with this Sunday reserved for the winners of Fullerton College's Director's Festival.

13. Dave Frost, the California Angels' Pitcher of the Year in 1979, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on the official opening night of Rube! Festival organizers want someone notable to throw out first pitches for all eight performances. Thus far, calls in to Tommy Lasorda, Doug Decinces, Rod Carew, Bobby Grich and Cal State Fullerton head coach George Horton have yielded zilch. However, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night remains a strong possibility.

The Orange County Theater Festival at Muck Mansion, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, (714) 441-2381; octheaterfestival.com. Call or visit the site for more information.

 
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