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Главная » 2013 » Сентябрь » 30 » J. Joplin in Pasadena Playhouse 2013
J. Joplin in Pasadena Playhouse 2013
One Night With Janis Joplin, open casting call, Pasadena Playhouse
Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin (Photo by Jim Cox/Pasadena Playhouse)
Reporting Britt Bickel

The acclaimed stage play One Night With Janis Joplin currently running at the Pasadena Playhouse is looking for its new crop of lead actresses.

One Night Productions is seeking out powerful rock ‘n’ roll Caucasian singer/actresses to play the role of "Janis Joplin” and strong African-American singer/actresses to play the role of the "Blues Singer” in upcoming productions of the play.

The play, written and direct by Randy Johnson, takes a musical journey exploring the legendary singer’s influence on rock and roll and features hit songs like "Piece of My Heart,” "Mercedes Benz,” "Me and Bobby McGee.” The musical also shines a spotlight on the many African-American female singers who influenced her career like Bessie Smith, Etta James and Aretha Franklin.


Beginning around 1912, the period known as the Little Theatre Movement developed in cities and towns across the United States. The artistic community that founded the Pasadena Playhouse was started in 1916 when actor-director Gilmor Brown began producing a series of plays at a renovated burlesque theatre with his troupe "The Gilmore Brown Players". Brown established the Community Playhouse Association of Pasadena in 1917 that would later become the Pasadena Playhouse Association, which necessitated a new venue for productions.

The community theatre organization quickly grew and in May 1924, the citizens of Pasadena raised funds to build a new theatre in the city center at 39 South El Molino Avenue. Completed in 1925, the theater was designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style by Pasadena artist and architect Elmer Grey.

Its non-professional, community beginnings and the tremendous amount of local support for the project led George Bernard Shaw to dub Pasadena "the Athens of the West", likening the enterprise to the ancient Festival Dionysia.

The building that was designed by Grey and built by the Winter Construction Co. drew the attention of the nation, bringing Southern California world premieres by authors such as Eugene O'Neill, William Saroyan, Noël Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams, as well as many English language premieres of significant Continental dramas. The Playhouse was recognized by the Legislature as the State Theatre of California in 1937 after the laudable achievement of having performed the entire Shakespeare canon on a single stage for the first time in the United States.[2]

A school of theatre arts was established in the late 1920s that became an accredited college by 1937, eventually training such notable talents as Raymond Burr, Victor Mature, Ernest Borgnine, Eleanor Parker, Charles Bronson, Mako, Jamie Farr, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Sally Struthers and others.[5] During the school years, the Playhouse was very active, having as many as five independent stages in operation at any given time, giving 306–322 performances annually on the main stage alone.[4] In order to provide housing for the many students, older homes along El Molino Ave. were modified to become dormitories.

The varied staging capabilities offered by its five venues led the Playhouse to become one of the first companies in California to experiment with new theatrical forms such as theater-in-the-round. The Playhouse also built and operated one of the first television stations in Southern California. In addition to training the Air Force to use television and radio equipment, the Pasadena Playhouse supplied the majority of Southern California's early TV stations with the first trained technicians in the business.
Due to changes in Actors Equity Association laws, and the opening of drama departments in many schools and universities across the country, the School of Theatre Arts shut down in 1969. Later that year, after the death of founding director Gilmor Brown, the theatre itself went bankrupt. After six years, the city bought the building in 1975 and later transferred it to real estate developer David Houk. After 17 years of lying dormant, he relaunched the theater in 1986 as a place to develop shows that would tour other California venues. While the Pasadena Playhouse reopened for use as a community theatre, the acting school remained closed. Over the next twenty years, the theatre staged classic drama, new musicals and plays, and integrated itself as an educational facility, slowly regaining a prominent place in the national theater scene to become a major operation of over 8 million dollars a year
La Weekly Stage
Steven Leigh Morris


A Janis Joplin musical boosts the Pasadena Playhouse box office

Writer-director Randy Johnson's musical bio-concert One Night With Janis is breaking records for daily sales, reports the Pasadena Playhouse, the theater where it's now playing. The press release cited March 19 as the day that shattered all records for a single day's sales at the theater, as though selling tickets is an Olympic event.

Perhaps that's not so surprising, given the $100 ticket prices and the lure of Mary Bridget Davies' Joplin impersonation, which has been drawing rave reviews in cities around the country.

The larger question isn't revenue or gross profit but net profit. With five actors and an eight-piece band in an Equity house, One Night isn't a cheap show to produce.

Pasadena Playhouse needs to think this way, emerging as it is from fiscal insolvency, even with its unique audience demographic of old money in Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino and Arcadia, intermixed with newer wealth in the hills of Altadena.

Being the official State Theatre of California, the place is a gorgeous edifice, with its ornate Spanish Colonial arches, a fountain in the front, gentle patios, its faux mission-era wooden crossbeams and the grandeur of a history that seeps through the walls, including a training academy that drew the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Leonard Nimoy and Sally Struthers to study there.

Today, this nonprofit theater clearly is thinking like a commercial one: gambling on a central character who's a baby boomer pop icon (its next show is a new musical adapted from the movie Sleepless in Seattle) and making the strategic decision not to scrimp on production values, rather than following the model that's leaving so many institutions, in the arts and beyond, to die on the vine in their attempts to cut their way to prosperity.

There's an old Russian proverb that Pasadena Playhouse, to its credit, appears to be taking seriously when it comes to the gamble of investing in the future: We really can't afford to save so much money.

The result is an opulence onstage that, with luck, will feed the theater's coffers: a display of musical talent, rock-concert lighting, musical direction that can't be equaled and Davies' spot-on impersonation of Joplin, with her nasal-gravel voice and her husky-nuanced renditions of an array of standards and defining hits like "Mercedes Benz" and "Me and Bobby McGee." The equation's other side of brilliance comes from Kimberly Yarbrough (alternating with Sabrina Elayne Carten), rendering impersonations of Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin that are every bit as accurate and nuanced as Davies' Joplin.

Aside from being a stock bio epic told through song, with Joplin's biographical asides, the production's other thread of a concept derives from the idea that Joplin, a feisty "white chick from Texas," really just wanted to be a black blues singer. This point is driven home by Bessie Smith's "Summertime" from the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, followed by Joplin's reinterpretation. Throughout, between taking quick slugs of whiskey from a bottle, Joplin looks adoringly at images of the black singers she emulated, from the Chantels to Aretha.

The entire spectacle plays out on Justin Townsend's scenic and lighting design, which includes a series of lamps with shades parked on the stage floor. The proscenium comes wrapped in a scarf that looks like a cross between silk and cotton wool. Emerging through the puffery are sticks of light, when needed to transform what may well have been an opium den into the sheen and glare of a rock concert. The larger effects of the drug abuse that cut Joplin's career so short here go unmentioned. Nostalgia has a selective memory.

Aside from this show's unarguably high production and performance standard comes the philosophical question about the power of impersonation onstage and what people in the theater trade call "suspension of disbelief."

It's one thing to see a concert by stars of a former era, say Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell, using the infectious power of nerve endings through the songs they wrote and sang and made popular in their youth. It's easy to see how their generation of fans has come through life with them, and lives vicariously through them, singing along in camaraderie, as though to say that through the hardships and indignities of time, we're all still here, of a club. These are words and sounds we continue to share, and will take them to our graves. This is the forging of an identity.

When I was a child in the early 1970s, I remember driving in a car with my dad. On the radio was Joplin singing "Me and Bobby McGee." Without thinking, he flipped the station to his favorite genre, a station specializing in Big Band sounds of the 1940s, the sounds that brought back his youth, that brought him the same comforts of nostalgia to which Joplin now brings the aging audiences of the Pasadena Playhouse. The theater was a sea of gray hair swaying and clapping and singing along to songs Joplin made popular: "Down on Me," "Piece of My Heart," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "Ball and Chain."

But it wasn't Joplin. It was an impersonation, and they were behaving as though Davies were merely a medium for the channeling of Joplin. It was the same retrospective ecstasy as being with the star herself. This transference has become a cottage industry in shows from Jersey Boys to End of the Rainbow (now at the Ahmanson Theatre) to this one.

These are the comforts of idyllic remembrances and associations. These are the diversions that can set box office records in commercial theater and, possibly, hopefully, save such theaters from extinction.

L. A. Weekly's 34th annual Theater Awards, honoring the best work on L.A.'s small stages in 2012, took place April 8 at the Avalon in Hollywood. For a list of the winners, see bit.ly/laweeklyawards.

ONE NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN | Presented by the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena | Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 21 | (626) 356-7529 | pasadenaplayhouse.org

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