L.A. TIMES - Thursday, November 30, 1983
By SYLVIE DRAKE, 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
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
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
DRAMA-LOGUE, Nov. 17-23, 1983
Julie Harris: A Premiere 'Bell' Enthralls AFT/Matrix Benefit
By POLLY WARFIELD, Times Staff Writer
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.
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
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.