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It takes a borough to raise a theater company

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April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire…

“The Waste Land”, by T.S. Eliot

It’s the last day of the winter that never was, April is coming, and I’m talking about my memories and desires, theater-wise, with Bob Combé and Annie Wolf of The Phoenix Players. We’re in my Douglaston law office, across the street from Strawberry’s Sports Grill, named after Mets and later Yankees star Daryl Strawberry, and baseball and spring are on the horizon, announcing the season of rebirth and hope.

The Outrageous Fortune Company, my theater company, for 17 years and 50 plays at Queens Theatre in the Park (it’s still in the park but now it’s just Queens Theatre), has been out of action for almost two years, searching for a new venue. Easier said than done. The economy and prices may be down, lots of places are for sale or rent, but I’m looking mainly in northeast Queens for a building that can be turned into a theater, where parking is sufficient and public transportation reasonably convenient.

Phoenix would join with Outrageous, perhaps along with one or two other groups, in a collaboration that would produce theater of all kinds year-round — contemporary plays, classics, musicals, children’s theater, original works and staged readings. There would be nothing like this in all of Queens, once it could morph from fantasy into reality. Money, dedication and hard work are required, but first we have to find a home.

Last year in Long Island City, at the Secret Theatre, three companies banded together to solve the space and expense problem. Gideon Productions, Boomerang Theatre Company and Flux Theatre Ensemble agreed on rental arrangements and the common use of sets, props, costumes and tech. It seems like a good idea — how it works out remains to be seen.

If you were as fortunate as I, you got to see the recently concluded tango show at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside. They ran it for eight weekends, and nearly every performance was sold out. This Saturday morning Thalia starts a children’s workshop in bilingual theater movement and dance, running for 12 sessions, and on April 28–29, they offer a couple of spring concerts. Give this unique professional group a call at (718) 729-3880 for more information.

For those of you who can’t get enough of “Annie,” The Gingerbread Players at Saint Luke’s Church in Forest Hills opens its production on April 21. This group has been around since 1971. With a cast of 45 children and adults, and a suggested donation of only $12, it seems like a good bet that the sun will come out tomorrow. Try them at (718) 268-7772 for details and the weather report.

The latest sojourn of my first wife and I took us to Manhattan, a stay at the Paramount Hotel in midtown, the musical “Once” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Clybourne Park.” Both shows were recently done Off Broadway, and “Once” was also a movie.

Both should be on your must-see list, since it’s all too rare these days to find quality Broadway productions that appeal to adults. Not like in 1927 — 85 years ago — when a record 268 attractions made it to the Great White Way, and most of them made money!

By this time most of you will know that April 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic. The 1997 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture is back in theaters, in 3-D no less, and Céline Dion will be emoting again with “My Heart Will Go On.” My cardiologist predicts that mine will go on too, but we both agree that when Old Rose drops that diamond overboard, we knew that a lot of the story was pure fiction.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbh24@columbia.edu.

Posted 6:20 pm, April 11, 2012
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