Malibu, the affluent seacoast suburb of Los Angeles where many of Hollywood's biggest stars have beachfront homes, now has its first and only playhouse. Malibu Stage Co., under the direction of Charles Marowitz, formerly with Open Space in London and Los Angeles Theatre Center, recently opened for business in a 99-seat theatre converted from a Lutheran church situated on Pacific Coast Highway. It took three years and $175,000 to convert the church, but Marowitz has worked for ten years to find a home for his company, which has previously been itinerant, putting up shows at such Malibu venues as the Old Courthouse and Raitt Recital Hall at Pepperdine University.
The opening show at Malibu Stage is Stage Fright, a black comedy exploring the traditional conflict between artists and critics. Written and directed by Marowitz, the play is a world premiere starring Nan Martin, Alan Mandell and Jeremy Lawrence. The run is through July 2.
Selecting the church as the company's new theatre was no accident. The site, nestled on the flower-filled grounds of Cowan's Nursery, was the perfect place to stage productions, Marowitz said. "Ages ago, the church gave birth to theatre. It's been this long tradition in theatre to convert churches. It was because of this mystical idea of consecrated ground that helped the muses perform their craft."
While finding a permanent home was not an easy task, holding on to it will continue to be a struggle, Marowitz said. "This is a tempestuous time for us because we have no subsidies. Malibu City Council has offered to grant us $75,000 if we can match that. We have about a year. If we have $150,000, we could put on four or five shows a season. I already have the productions lined up."
For Stage Fright, Malibu resident Jackie Bridgeman put up the $13,000 needed to finance the production. Bridgeman has been working with Marowitz since he started up his ensemble company and has been his leading fund-raiser.While grateful for her help, Marowitz said the theatre company shouldn't rely on one person, but on ticket sales to let the show go on. "I think the audience will be pleasantly surprised," he said. "There is no theatre in all of California predicated on a nucleus company. The objective is to have a permanent ensemble of nine or 12 actors so that we can tackle Shakespeare and other classical works."
Malibu Stage Co. is located at 29243 Pacific Coast Highweay. For tickets and information call (310) 289-2999.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent