Producers explain why duplicate productions of the same play show up in the same season.
Thursday, May 14, 1998
This summer, audiences will be treated to two productions of the musical Gypsy. Separated by a mere two weeks and less than 20 miles, Baby June, Gypsy Rose and friends take the stage at The Western Stage (7/10-26) and at Monterey Peninsula College (8/13-30). It''s not the first time conflicting productions have shared the same season; in fact, in the last year, twins seem to have become a trend: In 1997, both MPC and Unicorn Theater offered productions of Neil Simon''s Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and The Western Stage and Pacific Repertory Theater both presented Forever Plaid (and narrowly avoided duplicate productions of The Complete Wks. of Willm. Shakespeare... by agreeing to a joint production).
Although there is a generally accepted procedure for announcing seasons to avoid duplications, producers say there are a variety of reasons for the conflicting productions. Some regard it as a problem; others don''t think it''s a big deal. And audiences? Audiences are left to deal with the confusion.
The Monterey County Theater Alliance was formed more than a decade ago, principally as a meeting place for theater producers. At the time, one of the catalysts for MCTA''s formation was the problem of duplicate productions and the bad blood it was creating between theater groups. (How do I know? I was there as founding president). Since then, MCTA has changed its focus to be more inclusive of the entire theater community, but the organization still maintains--or tries to maintain--a list of who''s planning to produce what.
Laverne Seeman of California''s First Theater is the current president of MCTA. She says, "It [a list of planned productions] comes out in the newsletter every month and it lists the upcoming plays. Everybody is supposed to tell us, and we try to get a hold of ''em, but that''s not always the case."
"I don''t know how well it''s working, in general," says Pacific Repertory Theater''s Steven Moorer, "but for us it''s working. We announce our plays and get them listed as far in advance as possible."
Yeah? So, what happened last year?
"We were apparently the only ones paying attention at the time," says Moorer.
"Fortunately we were able to work out a dual cast [for Complete Wks...]. It worked out really well; in that case, we worked out the problem."
In the case of this year''s dueling Gypsy productions, Peter DeBono, head of MPC''s drama department, says marketing played a big part. Whereas MPC starts selling season tickets nearly a year before the next season, Western Stage waits until several months later to sell tickets. So, while MPC was going to press with plans, Western Stage had their own production in development. And, like riders in midstream, neither felt it advisable to switch horses.
Whether the dual productions will hurt audiences is questionable. According to DeBono, especially when it comes to Western Stage productions, MPC sees little crossover.
"We don''t get much crossover in audiences," says Debono. "There''s still that real or perceived barrier between Peninsula and Salinas audiences. But normally we''ve been trying to keep on top of duplication."
"Generally speaking we try to avoid duplications," says Harvey Landa, executive director of the Western Stage, "but we just accept that they''re sometimes going to happen."
Landa says when doubled productions cause confusion with audiences, it''s easily remedied by box office personnel. He points to last year''s Forever Plaid as an example.
"We got telephone calls in the ticket office from people who thought we were doing more performances of the same show when it was a production that was going on at Pacific Rep," says Landa. "So we just gave them Pac Rep''s telephone number." cw
Dance With Me
Thursday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 4&7:30pm. Comedy. Original play. Part of Unicorn''s Works in Progress. Unicorn Theater, Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. Through: 5/17.
Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. About a year ago, Layne Littlepage debuted her one-woman show, An Evening with Beatrice Lillie (a comedienne from the ''40s and ''50s) to critical favor. This show condenses the Lillie material and adds Littlepage''s characterization of Julie Andrews. Littlepage, who spent a couple decades as a singer and actress in New York, offers up music that is associated with both performers (so look for Broadway music from My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and Sound of Music. With direction from Kathy Deskin-Jacobs and musical direction from Barney Hulse, this should be an entertaining evening of theater lite. Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. 646-4213. Through: 5/31.
Friday & Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. Classic melodrama about the evils of drink. California''s First Theater, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. 375-Through: 5/31.
Friday & Saturday, 8:30pm. Comedy. English comedian Tony Morewood returns to Monterey with an all-new comedy in which he plays more than a dozen different roles. Over the past three years, Morewood has become one of the most popular performers in Unicorn''s "Second Stage" series. Since his last appearance here with How to Become an American, Morewood has attained his own television comedy show in England. (Reservations are advised for this show, Morewood has regularly sold out his previous gigs at Unicorn.) Part of Unicorn''s Works in Progress. Unicorn Theater, Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. Through: 5/23.
Performance Brunch Series
Sunday, 11:30am. Music. Mary Lee Sunseri presents "The Songbird''s Art." The General Store/Forge in the Forest, Junipero Street and 5th Avenue, Carmel. 624-2233. $14/includes brunch/general.
The Time Machine
Saturday, 2&4pm. Children. Primarily a show for children, this original show by Carey Crockett follows the exploits of a pair of young children who travel through time with a laptop computer. Ultimately, in the future, "they have to save the world from a raptor who''s come through time. The kids are the heroes and learn how to interact with humans, rather than with TV." Part of Unicorn''s Works in Progress. Unicorn Theater, Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. Through: 5/30.