Colony Curtain Call!
The Newsletter of the Colony Theatre Company: June 2005

Subscribers sound off

Long-time subscribers celebrate The Colony's 30th Anniversary by discussing their favorite Colony shows, why they subscribe and what keeps them coming back

A theatre does not survive, let alone thrive, for 30 years without a group of supporters who believe in and actively promote that theatre's work. The Colony is no exception. On the occasion of our 30th Anniversary, we felt it was time to stop and take a moment to give credit where credit is due---to you, our subscribers. Without you, we would not be celebrating this milestone. You continue to come back and support us, year after year, show after show. You not only renew your subscriptions, you also support fundraisers. You bring your friends and encourage them to subscribe. YOU make it happen and continue to serve as the lifeblood of all we do.

Curious as to why so many of you have stuck with us through so many changes over the years, we gathered a group of long-time subscribers, all of whom have been with us for at least 10 years, for a round-table discussion, so we could get some answers.

The Colony: When did you first discover The Colony?

Rosemary Polito (subscriber since 1990): I started here with Skin of our Teeth (1990). The Colony was this little theatre and we said "this is really nice." The sets and the costumes were wonderful and at that point we decided to subscribe.

Jim Lare (subscriber since 1983): My late wife and I came to The Colony and began subscribing almost immediately, in the early '80s. There were some people from Oxy [Occidental College, where Lare was a Professor] who were involved in one way or another and that's how I found out about it. What first drew me to The Colony was the intimacy of the theatre itself, and the creativity of the sets in that space. It was really amazing.

Bill Wilk (subscriber since 1992 with wife Christa): Our good friends, Ken and Dick, had been subscribers for several years, and they introduced us to The Colony on Riverside Drive in the early '90s. The Colony has always been appealing because of the quality of the acting, and the stage settings are just superb. There's a high level of performance. The expectation is that it's going to be at that level, it's not going to be lower. When we go to other theatres, we say, "Wow, The Colony would've done this with it and it would've been much better," so we keep coming back. We also love the great variety of plays. I got tired of the political plays. If there's a tank on the stage, forget it! The Colony presents a range of human emotions, psychology, people, places, situations--- it's greatly varied and it's stimulating!

Jim: I would second that. I do think the range of different kinds of experiences in a single season is just amazing.

The Colony: Any particular shows that really stand out?

Christa: The Laramie Project was one of the plays I really remember. And Morning Star and A Shayna Maidel. I mean, some of these really dramatic things are wonderful.

The Colony: Do you have an all-time favorite Colony show?

Jackie McCoy (subscriber since 1991): The Last Metro.

Rosemary: Skin of Our Teeth, because it's my favorite play.

Jim: Watch on the Rhine was very meaningful. I got very interested in Lillian Hellman after seeing that play.

Bill: Nobody's mentioned Toys in the Attic. I thought that was very good.

The Colony: What keeps you coming back?

Jackie: One of the things that's really exciting about a place like The Colony is that I don't know how you manage to put on such exciting musicals! I mean, Grand Hotel was incredible! You can't see anything better than that! I spent a lot of time going to Broadway growing up and I think this is just as good! The musicals here are just amazing to me!

Bill: We've been to New York twice in the past years and have been disappointed.

Rosemary: The reason we keep coming back is it's very consistent, the performance level is very professional. I've been to a couple of smaller theatre performances and they're nice, but the acting isn't as strong as it is here. It's the consistency of the performances, the sets that are always good, the costumes---it's always a very high-class performance and I've never been disappointed with that. I come to the theatre just to see what it does. I don't have any expectation. People say to me, "what are you going to go see?" and I say "I have no idea!" I just buy the tickets and I go. And we both love the comedies and the musicals. The heavy ones are real tough at times, but that's what life is about....that's another experience of it. So I don't come with a preconceived idea of what's going to happen to me. I just come to enjoy it. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry.

Bill: We come from Pacific Palisades. We go to local theatres because you feel you want to support them, but I would say the difference is you don't know if it's going to be a quality show or not. That's not the case here. The Colony is really at the top for us.

The Colony: What makes The Colony unique?

Bill: Barbara!

(everyone nods in agreement)

Jim: Barbara's accessibility before, during and after each show is a big part of it. It means a lot. It makes a difference.

Bill: Yes, it doesn't happen at any other theatre you go to.

Jim: It's nice to see the actors after the show too. And they seem genuinely willing to talk to you too. They are easy to engage and they seem appreciative. It's a very nice feature.

Jackie: I love the artwork too! We've bought so much of it!

Jim: Yes, we've always enjoyed the art shows.

The Colony: If you were approached by someone who was thinking about subscribing to The Colony, what would you say to them?

Rosemary: One of the things I'd say to them is if you want to see professional performances with great sets, great scenery, great plays at a good cost, this is the place to come. The tickets are not that expensive. We get a lot of bang for our buck here! It's hardÉ.you have a lot to compete with. I don't go to other theatres. Our friends took me to a play---I think the theatre was this little storefront in Canoga Park and it was pretty cool. The play was good and the acting was ok, but it wasn't consistent. I mean, there's nothing like somebody performing and getting out of character a bit and then getting back into character. Well, that never happens here! So I brought my friends here and they subscribed! This is better! I think for the money, we get a really good benefit and that's why I don't mind giving you extra money because I feel like I'm stealing. That's why I donate.

Jim: The consistent quality is the reason to come.

The Colony: What are you most looking forward to this season?

Bill and Christa: Amadeus!

Rosemary: I like it all! (looking over the brochure) It's differentÉit's got something serious and it's got a musical!

Jackie: The musical is always something to look forward to.

Bill: (to Rosemary) I'm like you, I don't come with a preconceived idea of what the play's about or what I'm going to experience---I just know I'm going to have a good time!

Jackie: I don't even know what we're seeing! We just write "Colony" on our calendars.

Bill & Christa: So do we!

Rosemary: I associate it with live performance. Some nights, that's going to happen, and some nights it's not going to happen. And I go because if I don't go, I'll never know! With live performance, there's energy going back and forth. It doesn't matter to me what it is. But even when it's really heavy, I still walk away with the energy of what's happened. That's what it's all about for me, the energy between the people that are trying to tell me something, make me feel something, make me laugh, make me cry, whatever, and that's why I go. And this theatre has very consistent performances of a high quality. And you don't get that at a lot of smaller theatres.

Bill: Or big theatres!

Rosemary: It's a very comfortable place to be. It's not impersonal, like at bigger theatres.

Jackie: I think this is a beautiful venue. It's clean, you can use the restrooms, the [art] gallery is really nice.

Bill: The parking is easy!

Jackie: I want to re-emphasize the point about Barbara. I think every one of us who attend on a regular basis can give her speech! But I don't think any one of us could give that speech with the same impact---making the audience feel as welcome.

Thank you, Jackie, Jim, Rosemary, Bill, and Christa, for your time and your kind words and support over the years. And thank you to every one of our subscribers who have made the past 30 years possible and make the next 30 years so promising!

Ambitious World Premiere Draws Mixed Reviews

Our recent World Premiere presentation, Climbing Everest, written by Margit Ahlin, was one of our most ambitious undertakings in years. Set against the backdrop of the tallest and most dangerous mountain on earth, the play tells the story of a woman who is Climbing Everestdriven to climb Mt. Everest in order to recover the body of her brother who perished while making his own attempt at the summit.

World Premieres are inherently challenging, so we were disheartened by the negative comments the play elicited from some of the critics who reviewed the show. The Los Angeles Times said "Certainly it takes guts for an award-winning theater like The Colony to commit to a completely new play. However, The Colony's World Premiere of Climbing Everest is a textbook example of good intentions gone awry."

Having learned over the past 30 years that critics can be wrong on occasion, we hoped that our audiences would rally behind the show and that's just what they did. Perhaps motivated by the reviews, some audience members even took the time to contact us to tell us how much they enjoyed it. The reactions to this one particular show turned out to be some of the most passionate in our history:

"I thoroughly enjoyed it! ... I thought everyone did a superb job. ... My congratulations to all of you for a job well done."

-Louise Vien

"It was my and my wife's distinct pleasure to attend last night's performance. ... I must tell you how emotionally moved I was by the play. ... Its theme and characters still resonate in my mind. ... I applaud you for choosing such an ambitious play for production. ... You and the cast, production artists, and crew should be proud of your accomplishments. ... I wish you continued success in the future, the fruits of which we eagerly await."

-David Gale

And finally, in response to the negative review in the L.A. Times, that included the words "chimerical" and "preternaturally," we received this supportive email:

"Please pass on to Ms. Keane and her fellow actors that perhaps because we don't use words like 'chimerical' and 'preternaturally,' my wife and I enjoyed attending our first performance at the Colony Theatre. ... It was a delightful afternoon."

 -George Roberts

After the show, many in the lobby commented that it was one of the best plays they'd ever seen! One patron called to tell us that he and his wife discussed it all the way home on the drive to Long Beach, and two days later they were still talking about it.

We are very proud to have presented this stunning World Premiere.

Matching Gifts Update

Since The Colony started its Matching Gift program, thousands of dollars have been matched by participating companies!

Many companies offer employees---and even retirees and/or spouses---a matching gift benefit that, in effect, doubles (or in some cases even triples) your gift to The Colony. These gifts make a critical contribution to the work we do here. PLUS you'll get your name listed in the Colony showbills for the entire amount!

Companies have various methods by which you can submit your matching gift request: online forms, automated phone systems, or paper forms that you submit to the theatre with your donation.

If you are not sure if your company has a matching gift program, please contact your company's Human Resources officer or check their web site to find out what your options are.

If you are using a paper matching gift form, please mail it to us at:

The Colony Theatre
555 N. Third Street
Burbank, CA 91502

A few of the companies that offer matching gifts are:

Aetna Foundation
California Wellness Foundation
Capital Group
Chubb & Sons Insurance
Merrill Lynch
Pfizer Inc.
Pitney Bowes
Uptown GLA

The Game's afoot...

A recent Los Angeles Times review of a new Holmes/Watson adventure by a modern author----based on the classic tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--- begins, "The tales of Sherlock Holmes have spawned more pastiches (from the Italian word 'pasticcio,' originally a pastry that was a medley of flavors, now meaning a work composed in an imitating style) than any other written work. At last count (and Sherlockians have counted these things), the list numbers well over 4,000."

Sherlock's Last CaseThe Colony is pleased to offer our audiences the tastiest Sherlock Holmes pastiche we have ever seen. Charles Marowitz's Sherlock's Last Case is being served up on a silver platter, beginning June 8 and continuing through July 11. Those of you familiar with the exciting world of Dr. John Watson and his penetratingly perceptive and devastatingly logical partner, Sherlock Holmes, are in for a treat. For the true Sherlockians out there---be warned---our play has a bit of fun with everyone's time-honored preconceptions. Sherlock may in fact have met his match this time around, but it is all in good fun.

Some Sherlock Holmes Fun Facts:

The first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887. Conan Doyle was paid 25 pounds for it.

The American publishing firm J. B. Lippincott likely saved Sherlock from a premature end by commissioning Conan Doyle to write The Sign of the Four, the second Holmes Ð Watson tale, in 1889.

In December of 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle finished off Sherlock Holmes in the story entitled The Final Problem, the tale that had Holmes and his nemesis, the evil genius Professor Moriarty, plummeting together in a death struggle over Switzerland's Reichenbach falls. In a diary entry soon after, Conan Doyle wrote, with brutal simplicity: "Killed Holmes." He resisted the public's demands for more Holmes tales for nearly a decade, but finally relented and brought Holmes back in 1903 in The Adventure of the Empty House. It was explained that he escaped the death plunge and had hidden out for several years.

In all, Conan Doyle wrote roughly 60 Sherlock Holmes adventure tales.

The famous deerstalker cap worn by Holmes does not appear in any of the stories. It was the invention of artist Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories for The Strand magazine.

The curved meerschaum pipe, intimately identified with Holmes, was the addition of American stage actor William Gillette, who played the part some 1,300 times between 1899 and 1935. He used the pipe so his voice was more audible.

Dr Watson is neither corpulent or an ineffectual bumbler in any of the stories. He is described as "a middle-sized, strongly built man Ð square jaw, thick neck, a moustache."

It is the interpretation of character actor Nigel Bruce in 13 Universal features starring Basil Rathbone that have cemented an inaccurate portrait of Watson in many people's minds.

The stories without Watson, or in which he plays a minor role, are thought to be more arid, lacking in humanity and untempered by Holmes's shameless narcissism.

Holmes and Watson have survived outside of the fictive context that had first given them life---they are often referred to and are recognized as real people, not characters. The world reacted to the death of Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem with horror and shock. Men and women in London wore black armbands and veils, and Conan Doyle received letters of protest and sorrow from around the world begging him to return Holmes to life. One devastated reader began her entreaty with this salutation: "You Brute."

Conan Doyle received numerous letters throughout his life addressed to the great detective seeking help with the solution of a knotty problem. A press-clipping bureau wrote to Watson in care of Conan Doyle, asking if Mr. Holmes might wish to subscribe to their services. When Conan Doyle finally retired Holmes, a number of elderly women wrote him offering to keep house for Sherlock. The London post office, to this day, still receives letters addressed to Holmes at 221b Baker Street.

Many scholars believe the Holmes & Watson relationship is the most timeless and symbiotic in all of literature.

Graphic Design by Ricky Vodka


The second annual Community Spotlight Award to honor Burbank's own Barry Burnett
by Joanna Packham

This summer, The Colony, again in partnership with The City of Burbank, will continue an exciting new tradition with the Second Annual Community Spotlight Award Gala. The event will be held at the theatre on July 20, 2005.

The Colony boasts a large subscription base from all over the state and beyond. While we appreciate the endless support of the entire Colony community, we owe a special debt of gratitude to the City of Burbank. After all, our beautiful building and exciting neighborhood have been provided by the city. This event was created to give back to the community that has gone out of its way to do good for us.

The Community Spotlight Award was conceived to honor those whose contribution to Burbank makes it the community we have all come to cherish. This year we are thrilled to honor Barry Burnett for his service to The City of Burbank and his inspiration to the community. Barry has supported business, civic, and artistic endeavors. His commitment to his family, church, and neighborhood make him an exemplary candidate for this award. Wherever he goes, Barry's positive attitude and contagious kindness inspire all those around him.

Sunder Ramani, a member of The Colony's Board of Trustees, says "A community is formed because of people like Barry --- people who give to the greater good of all those he can see and to all those he will never see. Barry's spotlight is one that shines brightly on everyone he comes in contact with --- lifting their hearts, minds and souls---to achieve far greater good than they thought possible!"

Referring to Barry's motorcycle accident that cost him his right leg, Mayor of the City of Burbank Jef Vander Borght adds, "as great a physical loss as Barry has suffered, he still bubbles over with humor, genuine enthusiasm, and concern for his fellow human beings. ... He epitomizes the reality that each one of us can control our own happiness. We owe him a debt of gratitude for showing us the way."

In fact, it is we who feel honored to celebrate Barry's achievements.

Preparations for this exciting evening have already begun. After a catered reception by event sponsor, Pomodoro, guests will be treated to a dazzling collection of performances including highlights from The Colony's upcoming musical production, The Grand Tour. Presentation of the 2005 Community Spotlight Award to Barry Burnett will conclude the formal festivities.

Don't forget to leave room for dessert and coffee! After the performance and presentation, the theatre will remain alive with excitement as guests mingle and socialize.

There are many ways to become involved in this exciting and inspirational event. Sponsorship packets come in all sizes, and include added benefits, from dedication space in our Spotlight Tribute Book to our Golden Tickets which can be redeemed for any of The Colony's 30th Anniversary Season productions. Individual tickets to the event are also available for $100. A portion of all sponsorships and tickets are considered tax-deductible donations to The Colony.

For more information or to become an event sponsor, please call Sara Painter at (818) 558-7000 ext. 20.

Volunteer at The Colony!

Whether to get Service Learning Hours for school, learn more about theatre, or just to help, The Colony is a great place for people of all ages to volunteer.

We need volunteers to usher for shows and special events, and for the occasional help with large mailings. Our volunteers have gone on to paying jobs at the theatre, but above that, have gained valuable experience working with our artistic and administrative staff.

Make a positive impact in the Burbank Arts community by helping out at The Colony. And tell your friends!

It's easy to sign up! Just contact Lee Webb Pitts at or use our handy on-line form.