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A roaring good time: Out of the Box invites audiences to ‘The Wild Party’

The production of "The Wild Party," adapted from a once-banned poem, will be turned into an actual party for the audience.

The production of “The Wild Party,” adapted from a once-banned poem, will be turned into an actual party for the audience.

When Out of the Box’s Samantha Eve put out the call for actors for “The Wild Party,” Andrew Lippa’s musical based on Joseph Moncure March’s Prohibition Era poem of the same title, she got a surprise.

“We had responses from people all over the place. I had someone write me from Florida (who wanted to audition).” Turns out that “The Wild Party” is on many musical actors’ to-do lists, with its wealth of meaty roles and its smart lyrics. Everybody wants to get invited; it’s that kind of party. It’s also an Out of the Box production in which a majority of the cast members are new to the company.”

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A new Jane Austen work is created every show with the Impro Theatre

Impro Theatre

Impro Theatre

Jane Austen wrote six major novels in her life, but created such a particular world that the Impro Theatre can work within it and figure out some new stories to tell. Like Impro’s co-founder Dan O’Connor did to the world of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Sondheim, “Jane Austen Unscripted” takes improv theater to a new level. Those who come to the New Vic tonight or Saturday night will leave having seen hilarious Austen romantic comedy made up on the spot, with no two shows or characters the same. These are parodies of existing novels, or slash fiction with Mr. Darcy returning as a zombie. “This is something the author would recognize,” Mr. O’Connor says.

Impro Theater started as Los Angeles Theatersports in 1988, and some members of the company have been there from the beginning. It’s a specialized set of skills that extends beyond the skits and jokes of usual improv events.

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‘Light Up the Sky’ at SBCC is a love letter to the stage

Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group's production of "Light Up the Sky. Ben Crop

Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group’s production of “Light Up the Sky.
Ben Crop

Moss Hart, when he was sharing writing duties with George S. Kaufman, created a classic of theater with “You Can’t Take It with You,” a comedy that is still a repertory staple to this day. But he also wrote solo, and his last play, “Light Up the Sky,” has undergone a revival since 2009. This screwball comedy is a satire of theater itself, with a young playwright being put through the emotional wringer as his play is heralded, then bombs, then earns respect. Along the way, Mr. Hart writes delicious roles for every member of the cast. And that’s one of the reasons that SBCC Theatre Group’s R. Michael Gros has chosen it for this current season. “Light Up the Sky” runs through March 21.

“Hart shows his characters in the most loving moments but also when they’re at each others’ throats due to anxiety and ego,” Mr. Gros says. In the end, this is an affectionate play, and contemporary audiences would have spotted satirical jabs at Broadway starts Gertrude Lawrence, Billy Rose and Guthrie McClintic, but for today’s audience it won’t matter. Mr. Hart trades in archetypes, hilarious ones.

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UCSB brings a bold play by upcoming playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to the Hatlen

Joré Aaron-Boughton, left, plays Oya and Charles Grant plays Elegba in UCSB's Theatre and Dance Department production of "In the Red and Brown Water." David Bazemore photos

Joré Aaron-Boughton, left, plays Oya and Charles Grant plays Elegba in UCSB’s Theatre and Dance Department production of “In the Red and Brown Water.”
David Bazemore photos

I liken what we do to making a sand mandala,” says stage director Shirley Jo Finney. “You spend all this time making this wonderful, beautiful creation and then, with one breath, it disappears. But then it makes room for something new.”

Her upcoming production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water” marks the second time she has worked on this play, the first of a trilogy of plays featuring the same characters from this exciting new voice in theater. But where she mounted a successful five-month production at Los Angeles’ Fountain Theater, working with professional actors, this production comes out of her residency at UCSB’s Theatre and Dance Department, and uses 10 student actors.

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Fellini Fest brings three film-based plays to Santa Barbara

The cast members of "La La La Strada" are, from top left and clockwise, Erica Flor, James Connolly, Jeff Mills, Dillon Yuhasz, Dana Fox-Ortner, Blythe Foster, Christina McCarthy, Genevieve Anderson. Erin Davison

The cast members of “La La La Strada” are, from top left and clockwise, Erica Flor, James Connolly, Jeff Mills, Dillon Yuhasz, Dana Fox-Ortner, Blythe Foster, Christina McCarthy, Genevieve Anderson.
Erin Davison

Two of the best directors of the 20th century, and one of its most enigmatic actresses: that’s not the line-up of another film festival, but the five-day-long, three-play “FELLINIFEST,” the self-proclaimed “Live Theater for Movie Lovers.” With the Film Festival still in our minds, producer Jeff Mills (no relation to the author) is hoping cinephiles will be attracted to these three new plays at Center Stage Theater.

Mr. Mills has been a Fellini fan since seeing “La Strada” when he was a student at UCSB. “It just floored me. It catches you right from the first scene.” He caught as many films by the director as he could and in 2003 made Fellini the theme of his wedding. Films like the quasi-autobiographical “8?” make even more sense to Mr. Mills now — having been a part of Boxtales for years and starting up Proboscis Theatre, he now has loads of directing and producing under his belt.

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Gerald DiPego’s ‘154 and Paradise’ offers a multitude of mystery

Mistress (Ivy Vahanian) and wife (Leslie Story) worry as James Henny's (Bill Egan) stress level reaches the breaking point. Janelle Odair

Mistress (Ivy Vahanian) and wife (Leslie Story) worry as James Henny’s (Bill Egan) stress level reaches the breaking point.
Janelle Odair

A fatal accident at the top of Camino Cielo. A group of people proclaiming innocence. And an examiner who seems to know a little too much about everybody involved. This is the world that screenwriter and playwright Gerald DiPego has created for the intriguing world-premiere play “154 and Paradise” that opens tonight at Center Stage Theater.

The play, the latest production from Peter Frisch of the Producing Unit, combines Pirandello with the Twilight Zone, and marks the first major collaboration between the writer and director.

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DIJO Productions mounts Margulies’ ‘Brooklyn Boy’

Brooklyn Boy Eric Weiss (Ed Giron) is not impressed by casting agent Aden Hailu and aspiring actor Sean Jackson.

Brooklyn Boy Eric Weiss (Ed Giron) is not impressed by casting agent Aden Hailu and aspiring actor Sean Jackson.

It’s that old saying, you can’t go home again.”

That’s how director Bill Waxman sums up the theme to “Brooklyn Boy,” the Donald Margulies play that opens this coming Thursday at Carpinteria’s Plaza Playhouse Theater. In this 2005 play, Eric Weiss (played by DIJO regular Ed Giron) is an author with critical respect but without the money to show for it. That is, until he writes a semi-autobiographical novel and finds himself shooting toward fame, and finds that, after all the time spent waiting for it to happen, he is not prepared.

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Playing it safe: Theater in Santa Barbara 2014 was a chance to reconsider and regroup

he biggest news this year in the world of Santa Barbara theater was the loss of the Circle Bar B Ranch Dinner Theatre. It’s not that the small but lovable theater was in the red. In fact, by all reports it was doing well and had a hearty subscriber base. But the owners of the surrounding ranch wanted to take the location in other directions and so in October, after 44 years, the theater closed with Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing Boeing.” Directors Susan and David Couch put their heart and soul into the little space and made it a shining example of what is usually a disparaged style of theater. It was also a home to many of our town’s favorite comic actors . . . and it gave them gainful employment too. It shall be missed.

The Ensemble Theatre Company finished its first full season at the New Vic and began its second, beginning with David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” and bringing out the big guns for Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” showing off all the stage goodies the New Vic has at its disposal, including a reflecting pool. But the stage also benefits intimate shows with small casts, like John Logan’s Mark Rothko bio play “Red” and the campy Tallulah Bankhead-led comedy “Looped.” The year ended with a standby — Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” — and a U.S. premiere, the uproarious comedy “The Best Brothers.” Executive Director Jonathan Fox has been balancing the new with the popular these two seasons and hopefully he’ll continue to do so.

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Rules of the game: SBCC’s premiere play takes on internet addiction

Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in "Ten Red Kings." Ben Crop photo

Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in “Ten Red Kings.”
Ben Crop photo

An infrequent but special occurrence in City College Theatre history is on tap with “Ten Red Kings,” the premiere of a brand spanking new play, copyrighted this year. Penned by author Mark Rigney, “Ten Red Kings” takes on Internet gaming addiction and the special camps where parents often send their addicted teens to give them a dose of outdoorsy medicine. It opens at the Jurkowitz Theatre Wednesday.

Sabrina Wagner stars as Margot , a young college freshman who is still grieving the death of her sister. Her one way of coping is spending hours immersed in the fantasy online game World of Warcraft, but her parents have other ideas and she is sent off to a summer camp, and unplugged from her online world. Now she must deal with fellow gaming addicts, counselors and creatures from her virtual world that creep into her reality.

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