Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fire Breathing Theatre

I paid my first visit to Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble last night for a performance of Hurricane in a Glass, the world premiere of a play by Kimberly Del Busto. I was one of 5 in the audience--all right, it WAS Valentine's Day (Alison had to work that night, so I am guiltless).

This drama focuses on an exiled Cuban matriarch in the Alzheimers ward of a nursing home and her daughter and granddaughter. Writing, acting and direction made you really care about these people. Loving attention was obviously given to the production of this play in the tiny performance space above El Curtido, the Salvadorian restaurant that anyone who's ever served on jury duty in downtown Santa Ana has been thrilled to discover. Hurricane in a Glass continues its run through March 7.

In previous posts and in the Spark-e! newsletter, I've commented on the abundance of storefront theatre in Orange County.

There has been some attrition, like the loss of the respected Alternative Repertory Theatre several years ago after about 15 years which was attributed in part by some to its move from its original location to the Santa Ana Artists Village, the disappearance of the long-standing Fullerton-based Vanguard Theatre, which closed up shop within the past four years, and the promising Orange Curtain Theatre in San Juan Capistrano which just seems to have stopped producing without any big announcement.

Of course, the splitting of Rude Guerilla into two companies, compounded by the loss of their current space, makes me concerned about their future, particularly since Dave Barton, whose new spinoff group has been named Monkey Wrench Collective, is considering locations outside of Orange County, too.

And why have Hunger Artists and STAGES Theatre storied theatres in Fullerton, each produced The Shape of Things within weeks of one another? I love the play and directed its West Coast Premiere at Laguna Playhouse--but does this back-to-back situation help or hinder the stability of these companies? Perhaps their representatives can answer in comments to this post.

Maverick Theatre made a successful move to Fullerton after its auspicious beginnings in The Block at Orange, so Fullerton seems like a hospitable place for theatre. (Previously, Hunger Artists had moved there from early digs in Santa Ana.) A gay company, Theatre Out, and a burlesque (!) troupe, OC Underground Burlesque Company, perform at the Hunger Artists space, and boosters of the city's theatre offerings have formed a Fullerton Theatre League.

The Chance Theatre--the largest of all of these companies, and Orange County's only true "mid-sized budget" theatre (i.e. between the shoestring storefronts and multi-million dollar budget theatres, like SCR and Laguna Playhouse)--has developed a loyal base of attendance and support in a storefront on La Palma Avenue in Anaheim Hills and produces a very busy schedule of plays.

Storefront theatre has an image of being cutting edge, but most of these companies offer a wide range of plays and musicals, so depending upon your taste, you're bound to find something worthwhile on their schedules. Consider it a New Year's Resolution for you and your friends to pay a visit to each one in 2009!

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