Malibu Stage Co. pronounces, ‘Our act is together’

After a five-month dispute that resulted in a suspended City Council grant and a suspended inaugural season, The Malibu Stage Co. says it is back in business. The 10-year-old theater company is planning a logo contest, thank-you party for $1,000 contributors, and a fund-raiser within the next month. If the fund-raiser goes well, a full-scale production should be performed in April.

The rift occurred in September at a City Council meeting. Artistic Director and company Co-Founder Charles Marowitz asked the council to change existing policy and advance $25,000 of the $75,000 matching grant the city had awarded in July; however, Board Chairman Richard Carrigan told the council he had resigned earlier that month because he felt the presence of Marowitz and his wife, Jane Windsor, on the board created a conflict of interest. Board member David Weintraub told the council the board had voted to suspend theater operations until a replacement for Carrigan had been found and was withdrawing its request for an advance. The council agreed to freeze the funds, pending a review of the company’s business practices.

The very public rift continued through December, as letters from Marowitz and company Co-Founder Jackie Bridgeman, and their supporters, were published in the press.

Carrigan, who again is board chairman, told The Malibu Times last week he came back to bring stability to the organization. “The board did not abandon the company,” he said. “It stayed on to fight for the theater and the community.”

Although the board stayed on, it was restructured when Carrigan brought in the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which is working pro bono. Marowitz and Windsor are no longer on the board.

An artistic committee of four board members plus Marowitz will deal with the dual nature of the company’s artistic mission, “professional” and “community outreach,” by suggesting productions the 12-member board will vote on.

Carrigan and Bridgeman said they would like to see the theater used most days of the year, if not with the company’s productions, then for rentals, such as the Dick Van Dyke production of James McClure’s “59 Pink Thunderbird” in July, or as a community center for the arts. “We are more concerned with visibility than with profit,” said Carrigan.

“Our dream is that the theater will become a cultural center, a platform for the arts. We have to prove that we have our act together and move on,” Carrigan said.

A staged reading of Robert Brustein’s “Nobody Dies on Friday” is planned for next month as a fund-raiser. Ed Asner will portray legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg in the fictional account of the Strasberg family’s exploitation of Marilyn Monroe, Marowitz said.

Mayor Pro Tem Harry Barovsky said, “The Stage Company has the potential to be the cultural arts center of Malibu, and it could be a vehicle for bringing classic drama and the latest contemporary works to Malibu. My wife introduced Charles Marowitz to Jackie as a creative director, not as an administrator, CEO or accountant. I am sure with the reorganization, Charles’ talents will be utilized appropriately.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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