Although founding artistic director Tim Robbins has recently stepped down from his position as artistic director of the award-winning Actors' Gang Theatre in Los Angeles, the troupe is going forward full-force with a season of its own as well as presenting other companies' productions of powerful new plays.
As the theatre wraps up its run (May 18) of Robert Beltran's Hamlet in collaboration with The Classical Theatre Lab, it recently opened the world premiere of Lynn Manning's Private Battle, in the theatre's El Centro second space. New York based theatre company Naked Angels is gearing up to pull the trigger on the premiere of Gunplay, running on the Gang's mainstage May 21-June 15.
Private Battle is a modern re-telling of Buchner's Woyzeck. Manning uses a backdrop of contemporary racial and political issues as the African-American lead descends into madness.
Private Battle was originally workshopped in Mark Taper Forum's New Work Festival in 1994-95, and subsequently given staged readings at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, The Public Theatre in New York, the Minneapolis Playwrights Center and The Audrey Skirball-Kennis Theatre in L.A..
In addition to being a playwright, Manning is an actor and poet who is completely blind. His play Love is Blind was produced in this seasons New Work Festival at the Taper, and he is a member of the Taper's Mentor Playwrights project, as well as a satellite member of Blacksmyths, the Taper's black playwrights project. The Public Theatre recently commissioned Manning to write a new play. Private Battle is directed by Beth Milles, who received an Ovation award for her direction of the Gang's 1996 production of The Imaginary Invalid. She recently directed Lisa Loomer's Maria! Maria, Maria, Maria at the Taper's New Work Festival, and Julia Sweeney in Sweeney's one woman show And God Said, Ha! on Broadway.
What better way to kick off a Battle than with a play of guns? A week after Battle's premiere, the Gang's mainstage flourishes with Naked Angels, whose well- dressed company members include the likes of Jon Robin Baitz, Joe Mantello, Rob Morrow, Ron Rifkin, Fisher Stevens, and Lili Taylor.
Gunplay is Naked Angels' original evening of theatre, inspired by a meeting producer Victoria Brady had with Sarah (no relation) Brady, the wife of former White House Press Secretary James Brady, about the issues of guns in America. The piece is a collage of different works by various playwrights, such as Jane Anderson, Patrick Breen, Mick Jones, Orlando Jones, Lisa Loomer, Jose Rivera, Theresa Rebeck, Stephanie Relles, Jose Rivera, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld, Dana Smith and Stephen Sondheim.
A cast of 25 will be directed by nine directors, including Tracy Young a comapny member and director for The Actors' Gang.
For tickets or more information about these or upcoming productions at The Actors' Gang Theatre call (213) 465-0566, or refer to the regional listing on Playbill On-Line.
--By Blair Glaser