The difference between activity levels at the Santa Monica Playhouse and Santa Claus’s Workshop is that the Playhouse keeps it up all year long.
The Playhouse offers over 100 separate programs throughout the course of a year, including, but not limited to, live theatrical productions, family theater musicals, tea parties, workshops, educational programming, create-a-play classes, Mommy and Me events, cultural exchange programs, international touring, community outreach, seminars, solo shows, concerts, recitals, lectures, and so much more stuff that, to include it, would make this paragraph way too long.
The next couple of weeks are indicative of the range of theater-going activities offered at the Playhouse.
On Friday, December 26th and Saturday, the 27th, the Playhouse rocks with the guest production, Made Me Nuclear, starring cancer survivor and partial prosthetic-mouth-wearing Charlie Lustman, who also writes and produces. This one-man theatrical concert has been running since October and was just extended through January because of the show’s popularity.
On Sunday, December 28th, the Actors’ Repertory Theatre, the professional company housed at the playhouse, performs The Annual One-Time-Only Musical Revue (showing every Sunday through February 15th.) The show is a light-hearted musical revue celebrating the calendar year in story and song. The revue is meant to be a theater party, with bookings for 20 or more and dinner included with the $27.50 admission.
On New Year’s Eve, the Actors’ Repertory Theatre puts on two performances of the 36th annual A Playhouse New Year’s! Co-director, Serena Dolinksy, describes the show as, “a cabaret of a whole bunch of past numbers, part of an ensemble.”
Dolinsky, who first took Playhouse classes at age eight, says her favorite number in the show is called “Underneath It All.” The number reminds the audience “that even though times are tough, there’s still a heart racing with hopes and dreams inside.”
As the educational coordinator of the Playhouse, Dolinsky also oversees the Winter Break Workshops, which are offered as separate courses the weeks of December 26th and January 5th. The workshop, for kids six to 14, allows aspiring thespians to participate in every aspect of producing an original piece of theater. “We produce a sort of mini-play to give the kids an idea of what it’s like to put on a theatrical production,” says Dolinsky.
With workshops and classes offered all year long, education is a big part of what the Playhouse does. More than 25,000 students, including actresses Kate Hudson and Zooey Deschanel, have participated on site since the not-for-profit educational corporation was founded in 1960.
Co-artistic director Evelyn Rudie says the basic goal for the general student population, “is theater appreciation, not necessarily becoming stars, and appreciating one’s own voice. We use theater as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Theater teaches self-esteem, research and advance study skills, and it gives everyone a means to express themselves.”
Rudie, who as a child actor was nominated for an Emmy in her role as Eloise in the television show Playhouse 90, believes self-expression “is the only way for our society to survive, for people to be in touch with what they want, what they’re feeling, and not being afraid to express it. Theater has always been one of the only outlets that people have for that.”
In 1966, when Rudie’s parents made her quit television to get an education, she started taking classes at UCLA. She joined the Santa Monica Playhouse on the same day. It was there she met her co-artistic director, Chris DeCarlo.
Rudie shares more than an office with DeCarlo. As his wife, she also shares his world view.
“It was my husband’s goal to make a difference on a human scale, we both share the same goal, we want to affect the world for good, but we want to do it one human at a time.”
DeCarlo’s desire to make that difference came after he returned from serving in Vietnam.
“Coming back from the ravages of that experience, I realized that we allow ourselves to forget our humanity,” says DeCarlo.
His work at the Playhouse is an active response to battling that possibility.
“It creates a place which allows us to not do anything but experience that humanity,” he says. “Oftentimes it takes us beyond, it gives us a model, it validates our own feelings, it stimulates our imaginations of possibility, and it prolongs the conversation.”
Fortunately, the Santa Monica Playhouse has a lot to say.
Information, (310) 394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com/