LOS ANGELES -- One of the most important small theatres in town is one which is off-limits to the public. The HBO Workspace, a 67-seat theatre in Hollywood, was opened two years ago by Home Box Office, the pay-TV company, essentially to provide young comics a place to hone their material.
In recent months, however, various local actors and performance artists have also been using the Workspace to develop one-person shows.
"We offer them the Workspace free of charge," said Bob Read, who along with Annie Albrecht is executive producer of HBO Independent Productions. "We put up two shows a month to non-paying, invited audiences, some of whom are HBO executives, others of whom are industry people or just plain friends. We try to offer the performer a friendly, unpressured environment."
Read stressed that the HBO Workspace is not a comedy club. "The audience is accepting and knows why the performer is here. He can work things out without being punished for it, like a comedy audience would."
Besides such comics as Jason Kuller and Steve More, the actors Nia Vardalos and Deena Mullen have used the Workspace to develop their one-person shows. Vardalos' My Big Fat Greek Wedding is about to open at the Globe Theatre in Hollywood, while Mullen's monologue Juror No. Five is still being refined. "Mullen was juror number five at the O.J. Simpson trial," Read said, "and because I had a strong personal interest in the subject I went after her to develop a dramatic monologue. It deals with what went on behind the scenes, intercut with documentary footage."
HBO Independent Productions has first option on all material developed at the Workspace and while the company is open to theatrical projects, its main purpose is to develop comedy shows which can be sold to the networks.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent