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Area stages undaunted by times

Audiences can expect riskier projects and high production values at area theaters.

February 04, 2012|By Dink O'Neal

To survive and thrive in 2012, local theaters in Burbank and Glendale have adjusted to the times, expanding repertoires and finding niches in musicals, the avant-garde and the classics. They offer a wealth of affordable, engaging art and entertainment worthy of support.

Back in 2000, the Colony Theatre made a big transition after 25 years as a “99-seat” venue in Silver Lake by moving to a much larger space in Burbank. It was an important learning experience, says artistic director Barbara Beckley. “We couldn’t simply take what had worked in our intimate space and transfer it to a 270-seat space.”

The Colony now enjoys a loyal base of over 3,000 season subscribers, but single ticket sales are just as important as grants and donations when it comes to keeping the doors open for performances of engaging, well-made plays.

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Operating under contracts with the Actors Equity Association — the union representing stage actors — has made payroll a prominent factor in planning each season’s well-rounded slate of shows. An important line item is stretching every dollar for production values in scenic design, lighting and costuming. It’s a recipe that serves the community well, given the results.

Among those results are four Best Production Ovation Awards — Los Angeles’ version of the Tonys — along with special recognition for Beckley, who received the James Doolittle Award for “Special Leadership in L.A. Theatre.” Clearly, the Colony has become a regional powerhouse.

Located adjacent to Burbank’s Town Center mall, the Colony presents the Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Old Wicked Songs,” running through March 4. Info at (818) 558-7000 and colonytheatre.org.

Developing an artistic voice has worked equally well for the award-winning Victory Theatre Center, founded by artistic co-directors Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny. Relocating to Burbank 32 years ago was a fluke of luck, following the collapse of the roof at the company’s successful Hollywood acting studio.

Along the way, the Victory Theatre has gained renown for staging new works, including the world premiere of “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Beth Henley, a former Gobetti student. The educational tradition continues there, with classes offered in commercial audition skills and the Sanford Meisner acting technique.

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