Pacific Stages prepares for its inaugural season
For a theater company to launch its first season in the middle of a recession takes guts. To do so in El Segundo -- far off the beaten track of Los Angeles' main theater hubs -- would seem almost foolish.
But risk-taking doesn't seem to scare Jeryll Adler, the founder and executive director of Pacific Stages. The company is scheduled to open its inaugural season in February at its 99-seat facility (a former church) in El Segundo. Pacific Stages has produced staged readings of plays since 2005 at various locations, including art galleries, private homes and even in the cafeteria of the Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach.
Its first production will be Kenneth Lonergan's 2002 play "Lobby Hero," a drama about a young man who takes a job as a security guard and is eventually drawn into a murder mystery. The production runs Feb. 4 to March 14.
The leap to a full-fledged theater company requires cold, hard cash, which Adler said she has been raising ever she founded Pacific Stages. Donations have come from people who attended past readings, family foundations and individual arts patrons. (One of them is Larry Field, the prominent real-estate developer, according to Adler.)
Pacific Stages' inaugural season consists of two productions -- the second a new play by L. Trey Wilson. The company is in talks to share a production with the Road Theatre in North Hollywood this summer. As for next season, the company plans to produce plays from its readings series and to look for work by new playwrights.
"It's important to take a role in nurturing new writers," said Adler.
The choice of opening the company in El Segundo was complicated. Adler, from New York, said that after moving to the South Bay, she didn't see theater offerings in the area that appealed to her tastes. "My idea of theater is the Public Theater in New York or Playwrights Horizons," she said.
She said she hopes Pacific Stages will develop into a midsize theater company and perhaps even into a regional theater. She said the company has a pending land donation near its current location on which it could one day build a larger facility.
Through its short history, Pacific Stages has attracted recognizable screen names to star in its staged readings, including Dana Delany, Holland Taylor and "Star Trek" actor Chris Pine.
Pine has performed two readings for the company, including a recent performance of Lonergan's "This Is Our Youth." He was originally referred to the company by his agent when he was still a relatively unknown actor, according to Adler.
"He's an absolute delight to work with, totally without pretense," said Adler. "I told him, 'Please don't change as you get famous.'"
Adler, who has spent much of her career in the entertainment marketing field, can claim a bona-fide theatrical pedigree: She is a distant cousin of the legendary actress and teacher Stella Adler on her father's side of the family.
"I actually never met her," said Adler. She said she had the opportunity to meet the actress while studying at the North Carolina School for the Arts but was too shy to actually introduce herself.
"I did name my dog after her, though," said Adler.
-- David Ng
Photo: a lobby view of Pacific Stages in El Segundo. Credit: Pacific Stages