Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Leonard Nimoy Treks into Local Theater History

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Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 4:08 PM

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Leonard Nimoy (right) in a 1953 production of Sholom Aleichem's It's Hard to Be a Jew at Hollywood's Civic Theatre, then located on La Cienega Boulevard north of the Coronet Theatre. The director, Maurice Schwartz, appeared in the production's 1920 New York premiere for the Yiddish Art Theatre. Photo courtesy of Leonard Nimoy

On October 17, the Company of Angels is throwing a bash celebrating its 50th anniversary season. To mark the occasion, the company is honoring Culture Clash, Robert Ellenstein and Leonard Nimoy.  And what does the original Mr. Spock have to do with Company of Angels? Even Nimoy was a little surprised. "They must have dug my name out of the archives," he told me this morning at his Westwood office.

It turns out Nimoy, now 78, directed Company of Angels' first production in 1961, as well as working through the byzantine and impenetrable city bureaucracy in order to secure permits to operate what's now the city's oldest operating theater at its then location behind a restaurant on the corner of Waring and Vine. In order to employ as many of the company's large stable of actors as possible, the troupe staged Tennessee Williams' character-bountiful Camino Real.

"We cast it and we started rehearsing and rehearsing, and rehearsing --

for months," Nimoy explained.  Sally Kellerman was cast. Sally dropped

out because she went on tour with another play - 8 weeks later she came

back and we put her back in the production because we hadn't opened


Nimoy described how they rehearsed while hammers were pounding on

the set that was being built, they rehearsed while lights were being

hung, they rehearsed as city inspectors snooped around to see if they

could find anything illegal in order to prevent the show from opening.

The inspectors got what they wanted. Camino Real never opened at

Company of Angels, and Nimoy went on to be a Star Trek superstar. But

the theater itself eventually became functional.

Between 1949, when he first arrived in L.A. from Boston, and his

Trekking days, Nimoy was onstage throughout L.A., as well as the

country. Around 1950, he played the devil in Marlowe's The Tragical History of Dr.

Faustus at the city's first professional theater, The Orchard Gables

Repertory Theatre, a 28-seat venue situated in a home that a group of

actors all chipped in to rent. That was the antecedent of the

actor-driven company that's become a lynchpin of L.A. theater. More on

this to come.

The Anniversary bash is at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring Street, downtown. More info here

Check back here Monday afternoon for reviews of: Parade at the Mark Taper Forum; How Katrina Plays at Write-Act; Mom's the Word, at the El Portal Forum Theatre; Elections/Erections at UCLA/Redcat/Renberg theaters; Bobby Bendon Gets By at Studio/Stage; Richard III at A Noise Within; That Perfect Moment at the NoHo Arts Center; The Illusion at the Open Fist Theatre Company; Secrets of a Soccer Mom, at Stillspeaking Theatre in San Marino; To Kill a Mockingbird at Missing Piece Theatre in Burbank and the screening of the National Theatre of Great Britain's All's Well That Ends Well, at the Pantages


Amy Madigan, Peter Alsop, Ellen Geer, Melora Marshall and members of the Theatridum Botanicum Repertory Company present selections from the Theatricum's "Americana" series -- integrating poetry, dialogue, music and songs from various periods. A preview for the theaters's children's programmings. Sunday Oct. 4. More info here.


A benefit performance and silent auction for the Deaf + Hearing production of Hair. Sat., Oct. 3, at the Met Theatre, 1089 Oxford Ave., Starts at 5 p.m. Free. More information here


Karl Marx (Ed Asner) argues for communism; U.S. Grant (Dan Lauria) talks about the Civil War, Marie Antoinette (Meeghan Holaway) recalls the French Revolution and Sir Thomas More (Bruce Davidson) discusses religion and ethics. Moderated by Steve Allen (Gary Cole) The second in a series of staged readings Monday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood. Info here

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