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by William Luce

Monday, November 7, 1983, at 8:00 p.m.

JOSEPH STERN, producer
BRENDA MEZZ, managing director
SAM WEISMAN, associate producer

CLIFF FAULKNER, set design
CHUCK ESTES, original music
JON GOTTLIEB, sound design
KIM O'BANNON, stage manager
LAWRENCE METZLER, associate lighting designer
DAVID PORTER, music recording engineer
DALE ISAACS, wig styling
KAREN KATZ, master electrician
LEIGH ROMERO, public relations
SHERI GOSHO, invitation graphics
MAY SUN, program graphics
JOHN SAMSON, technical director

Alice Hirson
Constance McCashin
Karen Moore
Mary Rapoport
Mariane Ross
Lanna Saunders
Peppy Stern

Place: Near the village of Haworth, high moor country,
Yorkshire, England. Time: June 21, 1849.

ACT I -- Morning
ACT II — Late afternoon, same day


L.A. TIMES - Thursday, November 30, 1983

Times Staff Writer

From Bridget Potter, Home Box Office's senior vice president for original programming: HBO's version of "Private Lives" has been "postponed indefinitely."

Translation: Forget it. It's not happening.

Word came Tuesday that Elizabeth Taylor and Zev Bufman have terminated not only "Private Lives" but also their entire Elizabeth Theater Group venture.

Fini. Kaput. Over. Period.

Taylor and Bufman were quoted by Taylor's spokeswoman Chen Sam as having arrived at the parting of their ways "in a professional and amicable manner."

"Lives'" rocky history and pallid Los Angeles grosses Chouses averaged 60% of capacity) may have spurred the dissolution.

Some friendships don't fade fast enough or joint ventures divorce soon enough.

On the other hand, other ventures glow from the sheer quality of their undertaking.

Julie Harris' appearance Monday at the L.A. Stage West in "Currer Bell, Esquire" was just such an occasion. No one plays the genteel, middle-aged, sexually repressed daughters of stern country parsons better than Harris. And if "Currer Bell" felt mightily like "Belle of Amherst Revisited," there's good reason.

William Luce is the author of both.

In "Currer Bell" he's merely traded New England for England and Emily Dickinson for the far less neurotic Charlotte Bronte. Despite a certain bleakness of tone (due in part to the sedentary existence to which both ladies were relegated), Harris gave a vibrantly modulated performance, with a surprising—and welcome— sprinkling of domestic humor.

The event was a benefit for Joseph Stern's Actors for Themselves/Matrix Theatre. Proceeds have reportedly plumped the theater's coffers by about $18,000.

Footnote: The Matrix is also basking in some of the reflected glory from the Chicago success of "Chapin," a revue based on the songs of the late Harry Chapin that originated at the Improvisation in 1977 as an Actors for Themselves production. Stern is correctly credited with the original concept in the Chicago program.

Other Matrix habitues who share in the current praise are Sam Weisman, director, and Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral, who did sets and lighting. Headliners are Amanda McBroom and George Ball.

DRAMA-LOGUE, Nov. 17-23, 1983

Julie Harris: A Premiere 'Bell' Enthralls AFT/Matrix Benefit

By POLLY WARFIELD, Times Staff Writer

"Everyone's here!" an elegantly dressed patron in the front row breathed in her escort's ear as the L.A. Stage Company West filled to near capacity. An expectant electric excitement heralded the appearance onstage of actress Julie Harris in her special one night only benefit performance (Monday, Nov. 7) for Joseph Stern's Matrix Theatre and its corollary Actors For Themselves. This was the premiere live performance of Miss Harris as Charlotte Bronte in Currer Bell, Esquire, beautifully directed by Kristoffer Tabori. The new one-woman show was written especially for Harris by William Luce whose Belle of Amherst, based on the life of Emily Dickinson, won wide acclaim for both actress and playwright.

There was a sense of privilege at being present for such an occasion, and it was borne out by the transcendent performance of Miss Harris alone onstage through the entire full-length play. The actress held her audience enthralled with changes of mood and character: irony and bitter humor, gentle railing at old Auntie's "morbid little teapot"; sensitivity to such trifles as a lapwing's feather ("for every smallest thing there is sadness"); sharpness of bravely borne heartbreak and loss (the constant "business of dying and funerals"); forlorn hopeless passion for her Belgian professor, M. Heger.

Above all, her masterpiece Jane Eyre — "the story that would become my stake in life" —and the glory of great talent ("I know that I can write gloriously!") in this amazing fragrant Bronte flowering on the bleak moors. Charlotte Bronte wrote gloriously; Julie Harris acts gloriously and lays claim to the title First Lady of the American Theatre

Matrix owner/producer Joseph Stem, appreciative recipient of the benefit, at the reception that followed presented his star with a special leather bound copy of Jane Eyre. He said later, "My feeling about that night? It was an affirmation of theatre's place in our culture, and I feel Julie Harris is the symbol of that.

"The event and its meaning is bigger than the Matrix; it reinforces what we feel about Los Angeles as a serious theatre community. The audience was made up of people who work in the industry—television, movies —all being brought back to their roots in the theatre. It was a cross section that night: soap opera actors, stars, important theatre producers like Jimmy Doolittle and Bobby Fryer, all coming together to celebrate theatre through this woman. There was a lot of resonance about that evening—people are still talking about it."

The event at $100 a ticket, Stern says, raised "more than $18,000 — pretty good for a small theatre. Even better was the generosity and cooperation. Susan Dietz gave me her theatre without hesitation; it cost her a few bucks. John Miller, an executive of the Bank of California around the corner, gave us his bank lobby for the reception afterwards. That was a costly gift. Kristoffer worked his tail off as director.

"So many others donated their time and talent, among them sound designer Jon Gottlieb, lighting designer Martin Aronstein and two artists I had never even met before—set designer Cliff Faulkner and composer Chuck Estes, who created the original music. Also, flutist Steve LaCoste. The set, converted from Cloud Nine, was dressed with pieces borrowed from Orphans, our show that just closed at the Matrix, and with Julie's own furniture, that rocking chair, for example. She brought all her own props with her, wouldn't let us pay for her wigs or their styling. There was truly a common bond throughout the whole thing, a fairytale evening from start to finish. It was as close to a pure event as anything I've ever been involved in."

And it may be just beginning. In a gracious curtain speech, Julie Harris thanked everyone for coming and urged them to support the Matrix Theatre where she said she has seen many good productions and where, best of all, she looks forward to performing some day. Some day soon, we hope.

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