Colony Theatre Has Been Saved – For Now

The Colony Theatre today announced that it has achieved the first goal of its emergency “Save the Colony” campaign by raising $49,000 in ten days so that it can open THE MORINI STRAD as scheduled on November 17th.  However, the award-winning theatre company still must raise $500,000 by year’s end to continue serving the region.
“We have been overjoyed by the outpouring of support from our audience, actors, directors, designers, crew, friends, and the theatre community,” states Artistic Director Barbara Beckley.  “The notes, letters, and emails that have accompanied the donations have been tremendously encouraging.”  Executive Director Trent Steelman adds “We still have a long way to go, but we’ve made great progress. The response so far has been very heartening, and has given us hope that we’ll make it.”
Founded in 1975, the theatre announced on October 27th that it needed to raise $49,000 in just under two weeks and $500,000, including pledges, by year’s end in order to meet financial obligations and remain open to the Los Angeles theatre-going public.  Artistic Director Barbara Beckley, who was one of the founders, cited the economic downturn that began in 2008 as the cause of reductions in charitable support and audience size, resulting in a budget shortfall that has recently become crippling.
“We are very proud of the tremendous popular and artistic success the Colony has achieved, but we have simply run out of money,” said Beckley in announcing the campaign. “The economy has been particularly hard on institutions such as ours, with far too many of America’s stages having already gone dark.”
“Like all non-profit theatres, we cannot subsist solely on subscriptions and ticket sales,” added The Colony’s Executive Director, Trent Steelman. “We have made all the operational cuts we can without harming the quality of our shows. If we are unable to raise the necessary funds, we will be forced to suspend operations indefinitely. This is an opportunity to turn things around so that the Colony can be put on sound footing for the long term.”  Steelman added “Barbara and I have both forgone our salaries for many months, wiped out our personal savings, and maxed our personal credit cards in an effort to keep us alive.”
The Colony has long been a vibrant center of L.A.’s theatre life. Its subscribers renew at an astounding rate of 90%, and this year the theatre received nine Ovation Award nominations, including the coveted one for Best Season.  From its beginnings as a 99-seat Equity-waiver theatre in Silver Lake, the company became so successful artistically, and built such a large subscriber base, that in 2000 it was able to move into a 270-seat state-of-the-art theatre created for it by the City of Burbank. As such, it became one of only a handful of mid-sized professional theatres in the L.A. area that produce a year-round season of plays and musicals, and that employ actors under contract with Actors’ Equity Association.  Its current season features two Los Angeles premieres, three West Coast premieres, and a World Premiere musical.
Now that it has raised the necessary funds, The Colony is thrilled to present the fourth production of its “Season of Premieres” with the West Coast Premiere of THE MORINI STRAD, written by Willy Holtzman, directed by Stephanie Vlahos, and starring Mariette Hartley.  THE MORINI STRAD will preview on Wednesday, November 14; Thursday, November 15; and Friday, November 16 at 8:00pm and will open on Saturday, November 17 at 8:00pm and continue through Sunday, December 17 (there are no performances Thanksgiving week, November 22-25).
After a full and rewarding life as a world-renowned musician, aging Erica Morini inadvertently damages her legendary Stradivarius, a violin worth millions that accompanied her throughout her long career on the top concert stages of the world.  It is an act akin to scratching the face of the Mona Lisa, and she hires an unassuming but dedicated violin maker to restore her priceless instrument in secret.  At first she proves to be a difficult client, but the two develop an unexpected friendship over the priceless instrument in this inspired drama based on a true story that rocked the classical music world.
WILLY HOLTZMAN (Playwright) was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Wesleyan University where he majored in American Studies.  His plays have been produced in New York at Primary Stages Theater, Theatre for a New Audience, and the Working Theater.  He has been produced regionally at the Long Wharf Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre Company, Baltimore Center Stage, the Alliance Theatre, Geva Theatre, the Cleveland Play House, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and Portland Stage, Northlight Theatre.  In addition to The Morini Strad, his plays include Something You Did, Hearts, Sabina, Bovver Boys, The Closer, Blanco, San Antonio Sunset, and Inside Out.  In 2007, he helped Bonnie Dickinson and her Wilton High School Theatre Arts students create Voices in Conflict, a play about returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans which ran at the Public Theatre, the Vineyard Theatre, and the Culture Project.  He taught as a visiting artist at Bronx Regional High School in the South Bronx, and was Resident Playwright at the Juilliard School.  He has worked with the 52d Street Project in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and on the Navajo Reservation.  Holtzman is a former member of New Dramatists and now serves on its Board of Directors.  He is also on the board of Harlem Stage Company.
STEPHANIE VLAHOS (Director) is a graduate of Yale University and the Juilliard School.  Although best known in Los Angeles for her years as house mezzo-soprano at LA Opera, she has crossed over into a variety of diverse musical and theatrical arenas, collaborating with cutting-edge luminaries such as Pierre Boulez, Van Dyke Parks, John Adams, Maury Yeston, Sir Peter Hall, David Was, Jonathan Miller, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ry Cooder, and Andre Previn. Her work as stage director was recently acknowledged when Stephanie was tapped among 30 artists across the country as a nominee for the prestigious United States Artists Grant.  Most recently, she has staged Old Wicked Songs for the Colony Theatre, as well as productions at the Bob Cole Conservatory Opera Institute at CSULB, the Yale University Dramat, the Young Musician’s Foundation, and a number of performances at the Broad Theater for the LA Opera Domingo-Thornton Young Artists with Placido Domingo conducting.  Stephanie is currently the Artistic Director for the new boutique opera company, OPERA POSSE, which has already produced two critically-acclaimed productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors (Pasadena Playhouse) and Carmen High (Japan America Theater)OPERA POSSE’s 2013 season features a collaboration with renowned Russian baritone Vladimir Chernov, as well as a new jazz opera entitled Cooperstown.  Stephanie recently co-produced a recording of Cooperstown with Stereophile Magazine’s editor John Atkinson and composer Sasha Matson at Schnee Studios.  Cooperstown is due for release in 2013 and features Rod Gilfry and Daniel Montenegro.  Stephanie currently serves on the USC Thornton Board of Councilors.
MARIETTE HARTLEY (Erica Morini) is an Emmy® Award-winning actress, and is recognized as one of the most versatile actresses in the industry through her impressive career in television, film, and theatre.
Recurring on Law & Order: SVU, Mariette has also recurred on the FX series Dirt, and has appeared in many television shows including recent appearances on Big Love, Grey’s Anatomy, The Cleaner, and Saving Grace.  She has starred in such movies for television as Silence of the Heart and MADD: The Candy Lightner Story.  A three-time Clio Award winner for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner, she also hosted the CBS Morning Program and is currently hosting her tenth season of Wild About Animals.  Her recent stage appearances include Grace Notes & Anvils at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles and the Broadway production of Cabaret.  One of the last young performers chosen by MGM Studios to be groomed for motion picture stardom, Mariette conquered Hollywood in Sam Peckinpah’s classic Ride the High Country.  Her other film roles include Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie,  Encino Man, 1969, and Improper Channels.  Her bestselling autobiography, Breaking the Silence, about overcoming a family history of alcoholism and suicide, is now available as an e-book on  ─ it is a surprising, powerful memoir of family secrets and personal courage.  Mariette has been honored with numerous awards for her humanitarian efforts, especially focusing on mental health, and is the co-founder and national spokesperson for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Mariette facilitates survivor groups in Los Angeles and received the 2010 Personal Legacy Award from the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health.
DAVID NEVELL (Brian Skarstad) enjoys an eclectic career as an actor, producer and educator.  Recent acting credits include productions with International City Theatre (God of Carnage), Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara (The Scene), Working on a Dream (Mary’s Turn), and Pasadena Playhouse (The Commons).  Other theatres include: South Coast Repertory (Arms and the Man), Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet), Huntington Theatre Company (Amphitryon), Pittsburgh Public Theatre (The Crucible), Utah Shakespearean Festival (Henry VIII, The Tempest), Geva Theatre (A Christmas Carol), La Mirada Theatre (Crazy for You, On Borrowed Time, My Fair Lady), and San Jose Repertory (The Game of Love and Chance).  From 1997-2000, he was a resident artist at PCPA/Theaterfest, where he appeared in, among other productions: Light Up the Sky, The Winter’s Tale, Arcadia, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Amadeus, Twelfth Night, and Anything Goes.  As a director and/or educator: Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Collaborative Arts Project (Tisch/CAP21), Marymount Manhattan College, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  He is currently Head of Voice/Movement in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Cal State Fullerton.   An Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, he is regularly invited to teach master classes and workshops in the U.S. and abroad.  Since 2008, he has served as a consultant to Walt Disney Entertainment Productions.  David earned his MFA in Drama at U.C. Irvine, and his BA in Political Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
GENEVA LEWIS (Young Violinist) is 14 years old, and began playing the violin at the age of three in her hometown of Auckland, New Zealand.  In 2005, she moved to the United States and began studying at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, where she is a merit scholarship student, with Aimee Kreston, Concertmaster of the Pasadena Symphony.
Geneva’s violin studies have grown to include playing for the Colburn Chamber Orchestra, and with the Cantando Piano Quartet at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.  In addition to her studies on the violin, Geneva is an accomplished pianist.  She studies piano and music theory at The Pioneer School of Music, and has attended the Sierra Academy of Music and Gold Coast Chamber Music Festival.  She made her orchestral debut at the age of 11 with The Pasadena POPS conducted by Rachael Worby.  In 2011, Geneva won the Los Angeles VOCE junior string division.  In 2012, competition first-prize wins of both the Brentwood Symphony “Artists of Tomorrow” Concerto Competition and Junior Chamber Music Concerto Competition gave Geneva the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Brentwood Westwood Symphony Orchestra and the Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra.  As a first-prize winner of the American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition, she performed at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall.  Geneva is the recipient of the 2012 Horton-Kohl Young Artist Award, and 2012 MTAC scholarship (first-prize).  In 2012, the Cantando Piano Quartet studied and performed at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  Upon their return, they took first prize at the 2012 VOCE State Chamber music competition.
THE MORINI STRAD has assembled an award-winning design team.  The Scenic Design is by Stephen Gifford (Ovation Award nominations – Old Wicked Songs and Celadine).  The Lighting Design is by Jared A. Sayeg (Ovation Award nominations – Trying and Kiss Me, Kate).  The Costume Design is by Kate Bergh (Reprise! – Cabaret).  The Sound Design is by Drew Dalzell (Ovation Award – Songs for a New World, Ovation Award nomination – Old Wicked Songs).  Props design and set dressing is by Colony Theatre resident designers MacAndMe.
THE MORINI STRAD will open on Saturday, November 17 at 8:00pm and continue through Sunday, December 16 (no performances Thanksgiving week).  Performances for THE MORINI STRAD are Thursdays & Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm; and Sundays at 2:00pm. Ticket prices range from $20.00 – $42.00 (student, senior, and group discounts are available). THE MORINI STRAD will preview on Wednesday, November 14; Thursday, November 15; and Friday, November 16 at 8:00pm at The Colony Theatre, 555 North Third Street (at Cypress) adjacent to the Burbank Town Center Mall.
Opening night performance with reception – all tickets $50.00.  There are question-and-answer talkbacks after the performances on Friday, November 30 and Thursday, December 13.  For tickets, call the Colony Theatre Box Office at 818/558-7000 ext. 15 or online at www.ColonyTheatre.Org.