Monday, March 8, 2010

Interview with GRT's Artistic Director Ernest Figueroa

Artistic director Ernest Figueroa has been steadily making changes at Group Rep @ Lonny Chapman since he began the position September, 2009. “Ernest’s intent is to keep Lonny’s legacy alive while moving the membership of the theater forward with new and innovative ideas,” said Janet Wood, newly elected Board President. “With his vast theater experience as a producer, director, playwright and actor, Ernest has both a strong artistic sensibility and solid business savvy. In addition, he epitomizes an exciting energy and direction for our theater. Already, everything is moving forward at a fast clip, with a new board, a new season, new ideas and untold possibilities.” It is a rebirth of sorts for the 36 year-old theater company.
In our interview he talks about the changes and their overall effect on the progress of the company.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge in reshaping GRT?
I think the greatest challenges for The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre this season have been the same challenges facing every theatre, finding and reaching our audience and updating our infrastructure to explore new media. With papers and other traditional marketing tools going by the wayside, it is imperative to position the theatre to take full advantage of social networking. It's all about the audience. Otherwise, why do what we do?

Q: Tell me about your vision for upcoming shows, particularly those with an emphasis on women.
Currently our Actors Company has more men than women. We also know that women comprise the greater part of the theater going audience.

I have felt a strong obligation to give our company members the opportunities to explore themes and characters to which they can relate. This is also why I have chosen such multi-generational pieces to showcase some of our older actors as well as the younger ones.

Plays written about and by women are still strangely few and far between. Many women's roles written by men are strong, but still the majority of plays are male dominant. I love AR Gurney and feel strongly that he belongs on our stage. He is also very balanced when he writes women's roles.

Sweet Sue (opening March 19) explores many of today's themes. For a long time, drama has dealt with the male mid-life crisis… Death of a Salesman being the most famous, but few plays have explored the angst or passions of women of a certain age. Sweet Sue is not only funny, but honest in its depiction of the ongoing struggle we all have to define ourselves. Is Susan a wife, a mother, an artist, or lover? She is all these things.

Sweet Sue also explores the themes of love and lust, men and women, older generation and the younger generation, what A.R. Gurney calls the "tragic gap." This is something I think is of great interest to our audiences and our membership. Our future offerings will also try to explore these universal themes and try to bridge that "tragic gap".

We are also excited about the play we have picked for the Group Rep summer musical - Maltby and Shire's BABY. We are so excited we have decided to offer it as our NEXT production instead of waiting until mid-summer. Although this is a change from what was previously announced, BABY is such a charming and fun musical we feel it has the potential to last all summer and is a topic to which many people of all ages can relate to. Three couples explore their relationships in light of their newly expectant parenthood. It is light, charming and poignant.

Q: And the rest of this season?
I had really hoped to launch a new play this season and I do feel that The Redemption of Mrs. Satan by Julie Daniels will be a great show. But the play might be better suited for a charged election season like next November since the play deals with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States. Historical dramas are wonderful to produce, and this one is great exploration of women's themes. I hope we can see it come to our stage sooner rather than later.

What has been exciting as well has been the sudden flurry of activity within our own company. Two company generated projects, A Walk in the Woods and String of Pearls were so excellently presented as company projects that we hope to include them on our stage soon. The freedom that has developed in the Company to create wonderful art has been inspiring and I am sure it will continue.

Q: Anything else you care to add?
It has been inspiring to see the devotion and creativity which is continually demonstrated by our company and I'm looking forward to the summer and especially creating our next season.

Sunday, March 21st, at 7:00 p.m., the Group Rep will hold a Bingo Fundraiser at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood to raise money with proceeds going towards refurbishing the Lonny Chapman Theatre’s ninety vintage theatre seats.

Bingo festivities begin at 7:00 p.m. The evening includes Bingo Games with fabulous prize packages for winner and auction items including tickets to The Broad Stage, The Colony Theatre, Crown City Theatre, the Group Rep, & the Laugh Factory; Dinners at Morton’s Steakhouse, Eclectic, Cheesecake Factory, and Maggione’s; Gift certificates/giftcards to: Beverly Hills Cheese Store, Bodies in Motion Studio City, Golfsmith, Dr. Jay Silverman (Eye Dr./Beverly Hills), Hypnotherapy Session with Barbara Brownell Cht., and more!
The suggested donation for the event is $20, which includes 10 rounds of bingo.
Donations are tax-deductible.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 8288 Santa Monica Blvd at Sweetzer in West Hollywood.
Valet Parking is available. Some street parking available. Please read posted signs.
For more information please call (818) 700-4878.
Upcoming as well:
The Group Rep Presents
YARMY’S ARMY One Night Only Fundraiser Event
Wednesday, April 21 at 7:30 pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Blvd. North Hollywood 91601
Tickets: or (323) 822-7898

Performers will include as available: Shelley Berman, Sam Denoff, Pat Harrington, Jr., Steve Landesberg, Jim MacGeorge, Peter Marshall, Jack Riley, Howard Storm, and Jonathan Winters among others.
The group of comedians is named after the late actor-comic Dick Yarmy (brother of Don Adams) and was formed by his comedian pals in 1995 to honor him and to raise money for performers who may have need of financial help. The group is donating their time and talent for this very special Group Rep Fundraiser.

Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood 91601
Lot & Street parking
Wednesday, April 21 7:30 pm Reception to follow
Tickets are $30.
Seating is very limited!!!
Pre-purchasing tickets is recommended .
For information please call 323-822-7898

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