Colony Curtain Call!
The Newsletter of the Colony Theatre Company: August 2004

$50,000 Challenge Donation Matched by Community

Total donated funds exceed $100,000 after Burbank businesses step up and accept challenge proposed by an anonymous donor, who pledged to match $50,000 if raised within community.

A few months ago, an anonymous Colony supporter and Burbank resident made a proposal to Colony Producing Artistic Director Barbara Beckley. She challenged Barbara and The Colony to convince the Burbank business community to cumulatively donate $50,000 to the theatre. If successful, she would match it, dollar for dollar.

While the initial task of getting an entire city to rally to support a relatively new cultural organization seemed daunting, the chance to raise $100,000 in this economic climate seemed almost too good to be true. Buoyed by the blessings of the City of Burbank, especially City Manager Mary Alvord, Mayor Marsha Ramos, and Council Member Stacey Murphy, we put a plan into motion. Spearheaded by Colony Board of Trustee members Sunder Ramani and Jan McElwee, the matching funds were raised during our First Annual Community Spotlight Award (see page 2), a ceremony which coincided with an event we had planned before the donation challenge came along.

The achievement of our goal would not have been possible without the hundreds of supporters and volunteers who donated their time and energy to the cause, and to the dedicated staff who worked above and beyond the call of duty to make the event a success, most notably Colony Director of Development Sara Painter and Development Associate Erin Haley. Special recognition goes to these Burbank businesses and individuals who provided unique support, without whom our goal would not have been reached:

  •   M. David Paul & Associates
  •   Patterson Graphics
  •   Crown Realty
  •   Cusumano Real Estate Group
  •   The Los Angeles Equestrian Center
  •   City of Burbank Community Development Department
  •   The Walt Disney Company
  •   Full Spectrum Lending
  •   Victor & Sue Georgino
  •   Dave & Pat Augustine
  •   Mandy & Sunder Ramani
  •   Scott Schaffer

We couldn't be prouder to be a part of this amazing city. Thank you, Burbank!

First Annual Community Spotlight Award Honors Stacey Murphy

The First Annual Colony Community Spotlight Award has come and gone in a whirlwind of success!

Spotlight AwardOn June 30th, 2004, the Colony Theatre, in conjunction with the City of Burbank, organized the award's inaugural event to recognize leaders in the community who have helped to make Burbank what it is today. Appropriately enough, the first recipient of the award, Council Member Stacey Murphy, was also the Mayor of Burbank during the Colony's move to the area in 2000. It was Murphy who served as an outspoken advocate of The Colony during the early stages of negotiations with the City of Burbank, and without her support we would not be here today.

Murphy received her award in style on the evening of the event. (Pictured: Producing Artistic Director Barbara Beckley and Board of Trustees Chairman David Rose.) She attended the gala along with many other Burbank leaders, including City Manager Mary Alvord, Cusumano Real Estate Group co- Owner Michael Cusumano, and Council Member Todd Campbell.Award to Stacey Murphy

Following a reception catered by PF Chang's, event attendees were treated to selected scenes from The Colony's hit production Around the World in 80 Days, along with some surprise transitions written especially for the evening by playwright Mark Brown. After the laughter died down, Master of Ceremonies and Colony Board of Trustees Member Sunder Ramani took the stage to welcome the guests and to introduce Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos, who presented Murphy with City and State proclamations congratulating her on being named the first recipient of the Community Spotlight Award. Finally, The Colony's Producing Artistic Director Barbara Beckley and Board of Trustees Chairman David Rose presented the award itself, a shimmering blue and green original piece designed just for the occasion by artist Douglas Bashaw.

As the evening closed out, the other big announcement was made: The Colony had reached its goal of raising over $50,000 to match a challenge grant issued by an anonymous donor. By matching it, the theatre reached a total donation of $100,000, a major boon to a non-profit theatre in these times.

The Colony is looking forward to seeing everyone who attended this year's event and many new faces at the Second Annual Colony Community Spotlight Award next year!

"Around the World in 80 Days" Takes Critics By Storm

The first production of our 2004-05 season captivated critics and audiences alike, as our Los Angeles premiere production of Around the World in 80 Days by Mark Brown, based on the novel by Jules Verne, soared to new heights of imagination and wit.

The show was so good, the critics could hardly contain themselves:

  • "It's easy to describe Mark Brown's adaptation of the classic Jules Verne novel in one word: BRAVO! This delightfully shimmering presentation takes advantage of the Colony's ample stage and its crew of creative geniuses to produce one of the season's most enjoyable offerings to date. The actors provide sterling performances and the result is a bouncy, wonder-filled journey that will easily make many top ten lists at year's end. Director Stefan Novinski has created a near perfect odyssey as Jules Verne's characters come alive in an exciting and joyous tale." 


  • "The best theater is illusion, a showcase for actors and directors with the ability to establish genuine atmosphere against a modest backdrop. Director Stefan Novinski and adapter Mark Brown have succeeded in conveying the expansive quality of Jules Verne's bustling novel through complete grasp of the book's humor and careful preservation of 19th century attitudes."

    - Daily Variety
  • CRITICS' CHOICE! "Clever. Crisp. Cunning.... The first production of The Colony's new witty in the extreme. That's not so much because of Mark Brown's adaptation of Jules Verne's classic, although Brown's is a briskly competent treatment that, save for a few well-considered elisions, is rigorously faithful to the original story. Chalk up this production's success to the efforts of director Stefan Novinski and a sparkling ensemble cast. They elevate what could have been a pedestrian chase to an inspired romp."

    - Los Angeles Times

  • "Easily one of the best shows around, the journey is a wonderful reward." 

    - Entertainment Today

  • "The 'feel good' play of the year, so far! Ingeniously adapted by Mark Brown, from the Jules Verne novel, this is a wildly wacky, unbelievably creative, 90-miles-an-hour, hilarious journey!"

    - The Tolucan

  • PICK OF THE WEEK! "And though there's no balloon in this version or in Verne's original, this entire production is a flight-of-fancy that never crashes into farce---a blend of giddy adventure, romance and moral rectitude."

    - LA Weekly

  • "Reaffirming the transcendent possibilities of theater, the Colony Theatre Company's opening production of the 2004-05 season will take you on an amazing journey without ever leaving your chair."

    -Burbank Leader

And finally, the best review of all, from an audience member:

  • "Dear Colony,

    I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed our trip Around the World in 80 Days. I have recapped the experience to friends and coworkers....'elephants, ships and trains are created with a table, a few chairs and a host of delightful characters portrayed by a mere 5 actors.' What an inspired and talented production. Thank you so much for producing such fun theatre!

    Sincerely, Cynthia Pfarr"

80 Days
80 Days

What a Ride it Was!

Kwana Martinez, Tony Maggio, Morgan Rusler, and Larry Cedar in the famous typhoon scene.
Photo by Michael Lamont

Tony Maggio as Phileas Fogg
and Jeff Marlow as Passpartout.
Photo by Michael Lamont

Introducing  The Colony's New Concessions Service!

  • We know that many of our patrons come to the theatre straight from work, so now we are offering a special expanded pre-show menu, featuring sandwiches, salads and other light fare!
  • We are also proud to announce an expanded intermission menu, including various fresh-baked items and coffee, cappuccino and hot chocolate, in addition to the usual array of juices, sodas, and water.
  • The pre-show menu will be available beginning an hour before showtime, so make plans to get to the theatre early and enjoy a treat before the show!

Colony Bids Farewell To Longtime Managing Director

After 13 years of loyal and dedicated service to The Colony, Managing Director Amanda Diamond (pictured below, center) has decided to say goodbye to the theatre that had been her home since graduating college.

Amanda accepted a position as Director of Finance and Human Resources at the Pasadena Playhouse, having presided over the business affairs of The Colony through the most eventful and successful years in our history.

Amanda DiamondAnd what accomplished years they were! Amanda started at The Colony right out of Occidental College in 1991 and saw the theatre through some of its most successful years at its old Riverside Drive location, including the award-winning musicals City of Angels (on which she served as Associate Producer) and On The Twentieth Century, among many other notable productions. Amanda was a key player in negotiations with the City of Burbank during the five years it took to get us here, and played a major part in the move-in process, often staying until midnight setting up the offices and getting the staff organized.

Once we had moved in and were ready to perform, it was Amanda who began the negotiations with Actors' Equity, the theatre acting union. To achieve our goal of being a nationally-recognized professional theatre, we knew we needed to develop an agreement with Equity which would allow us to become a professional producing house that hired union actors while still operating within our small budget. It was a long and complicated process that Amanda completed with the assistance of Colony Producing Artistic Director Barbara Beckley. Our first Equity production, The Laramie Project, premiered on June 1, 2002, and was a watershed moment in The Colony's history, largely due to Amanda's dedication and hard work.

Under Amanda's managerial direction, The Colony has gone from an annual budget of $360,000 to a $1 million plus---an amazing feat for such a short period of time. Her commitment to The Colony had never once come in question, as she had been known to work well into the evenings on most nights. Like everyone else who works in non-profit theatre, her personal life often took a back seat to the demands of running a live theatre, but Amanda still found the time, in the past 13 years, to get married (she met her husband when he was working on a Colony set-building crew!), to buy a house, and to get her MBA. She enrolled in the UCLA Andersen School of Management in the Fully-Employed Masters of Business Administration program, determined to earn her Masters degree while still working full-time as The Colony's Managing Director. She achieved her degree and chose to stay with The Colony to help it get to its goal of becoming an professional mid-sized theatre.

Beckley is finding Amanda's leaving to be bittersweet: "I feel like a parent watching her child graduate and go out into the world. I'm so very sad to see her go, and at the same time, so proud that she's 'graduated' from The Colony to a position of such enormous responsibility and prestige [at The Pasadena Playhouse]." She remembers fondly all that Amanda has meant to the company over the years: "I still remember the day Amanda began working for us 13 years ago, two days after her graduation from Occidental College. In those days, we were truly The Little Theatre that Lives Down the Road -- Amanda was our only employee, and her job was answering the phone, taking reservations, and doing general office work. She grew with us, even earning an MBA while working full time at The Colony. Now that we have arrived as a regional Equity theatre with a national reputation and a million-dollar budget, I can state categorically that this miracle would not have been possible without her. Amanda has been such an intrinsic and vital part of our lives at the theatre, to say that we'll miss her is the understatement of the decade. The Colony will be forever in her debt."

Over the years, Amanda made many friends of subscribers, actors, staff, and volunteers, and we will all miss her. Her tremendous contributions to The Colony and her work toward securing its future will never be forgotten or unappreciated. We may not be her employer any longer, but we will always be her home. We wish her all the luck in the world and know that she will always be a member of The Colony family.

Legends Collide in The Ladies of the Camellias

The ultimate love-letter to the theatre, Lillian Groag's play imagines what would happen if legendary divas Eleanora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt were in the same theatre on the same night. Toss in an anarchist looking for a revolution, and you've got an explosively funny comedy.

By Clay Larsen

Following the resounding success of Around the World in 80 Days, the second production of the season will be The Ladies of the Camellias, a behind-the-scenes comic drama of dangerous proportions.

In her Colony Theatre debut, acclaimed director and playwright Lillian Groag brings her play about the famed actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse to our stage. Set in 1897 in Paris, the play imagines a meeting between Duse and Bernhardt, by far the most celebrated actresses of their time. (See Below: "Two Divas. One Theatre.") In fact, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that their names meant more at that time than the name "Madonna" means now. In a time before our current culture of celebrity, Duse and Bernhardt were the most well-known performers on the planet.

In the play, tensions run high as the two famous divas find themselves in the same theatre on the same night and attempt to handle each other and their respective theatre companies. Playwright Groag explores not only the relationship between these two legends, but also the relationship between theatre and stark reality. When an armed anarchist invades the theatre, the characters are forced to question their own place in the world, as well as that of their profession. After all, in the face of violence, what can Art do?

Backing up the drama is a sharp, witty farce, brought to life with wonderful characters that will remind you of more than one classic theatre stereotype. Caught up in the unlikely turn of events are M. Worms and M. Andò, the ladies' leading men, Alexandre Dumas, Fils, the famed playwright (see below: "The Original Lady"), and an assortment of other characters who just may surprise you. This combination of wit, social commentary, and a dialogue rich with theatre history brings to life a story that will keep you thinking and laughing long after the play is over. From politics to history to theatre superstitions, The Ladies of the Camellias is a love letter to the theatre and all that it was, is, and could be.

Barbara Beckley, Producing Artistic Director of The Colony comments, "Eleanora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Groag - all at the Colony. I may as well just die and go to heaven right now! With an extraordinary cast and a design team that is pure perfection, our subscribers and audiences are going to enjoy this play as a remarkably wonderful entertainment, but will walk out of the theatre with so much to think about. And to me, that is the great joy of producing art…to entertain and to have one leave the play thinking, feeling and wanting to know or do more."

Director and playwright Lillian Groag brings a wealth of experience to the project. She has directed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Old Globe Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mark Taper Forum's Taper Too, New York City Opera, Berkeley Repertory, Milwaukee Repertory, Seattle Repertory, Glimmerglass Opera, the Sundance Institute Playwrights Lab, the Virginia Opera, the Juilliard School of Music, Opera San Jose and the Company of Angels. Her plays The Ladies of the Camellias, The White Rose (AT&T award for new American Plays), The Magic Fire (Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays), Menocchio, and Midons have been produced variously by the Old Globe Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Kennedy Center, The Guthrie Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Northlight Theatre, the WPA Theatre, Seattle Repertory, the Asolo Theatre, The Wilma Theatre, The People's Light and Theatre Company in Mexico City, Junges Theater in Bonn, Landesbuhne Sachsen-Anhalt in Eisleben, Shauspielhaus in Wuppertal, Hessisches Landestheater in Marburg, and Tokyo. She is currently completing Bones, originally commissioned by the Old Globe Theatre. She has done translations and adaptations of Lorca, Feydeau, Musset, Marivaux, and Molnar, which have been produced at the Guthrie, the Mark Taper Forum Taper II, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Missouri Rep.

Bringing this production to life will be some of the finest of Los Angeles' own leading ladies and men of the theatre, including Tony Abatemarco, Mark Bramhall, Victoria Carroll, Julia Coffey, Colony company member Chip Heller, Louis Lotorto, Melinda Peterson, Triney Sandoval, and Marcelo Tubert. This experienced group of professionals has graced the stages of such illustrious theatres as The Mark Taper Forum, New York Public Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre, South Coast Repertory, The Ahmanson Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, and The Laguna Playhouse, just to name a few. Colony audiences will remember company member Chip Heller from our recent hits The Drawer Boy and The Laramie Project.

Great seats are still available to this extraordinary play. Call our box office at (818) 558-7000 today to guarantee seats for yourself and your friends!

And it's not too late to join our subscriber family for the remainder of our great season for an equally great price! Call our box office at (818) 558-7000 for more information on how to get your season subscription!

The Ladies of the Camellias begins previews on August 18 and will open on August 21, playing through September 19. The play is appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Two Divas. One Theatre.

While Lillian Groag has created an inspired fictional meeting between Bernhardt and Duse in the play, she based the situation on an actual event in Paris in 1897. At the time, Duse was on her first professional French tour, including a repertoire of roles that mirrored those for which Bernhardt was most famous. At the last minute, the theatre Duse was supposed to play in fell through and, in a surprising gesture, Bernhardt offered her own theatre for Duse's company to use.

Find out more online about the two famed actresses with the Colony's "The Ladies of the Camellias Bonus Materials."

The Original Lady

The play within The Ladies of the Camellias is actually a real play, and the character of Dumas is indeed a real author. Dumas' 1848 novel, La Dame aux Camélias (in English, The Lady of the Camellias) was adapted to the stage by the author in 1852, and quickly became an audience favorite. Both Bernhardt and Duse became famous for the title role, hence the clever wordplay of the title: The Ladies of the Camellias.

Find out more historical trivia about the play online with the Colony's "The Ladies of the Camellias Bonus Materials."