Rise and fall of theater


The news that actress Jacalynne Flax is suing Malibu Stage for income withheld comes as no surprise to those of us familiar with the theatre’s cavalier accounting methods and endemic mismanagement. There have been several other disputes, which have been threatened and never brought because of the theatre’s insolvency. The present action is just another melancholy episode in its continual decline.

Abandoning play-production for staged readings is a woeful backward step in the theatre, which I founded, designed and to which I gave 12 unsalaried years of my life. Under my watch, artists such as Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Harry Hamlin, Rene Auberjonois, Kathleen Quinlan, Steve Allen, Shelley Berman, Lynn Redgrave and Harold Gould gave generously of their time to participate in the presentation of new and exciting work. These have been replaced by revivals of sentimental potboilers like “Shirley Valentine” and third-rate retreads of quality works like “Collected Stories,” which was given a first-class and incomparable production at the Geffen Playhouse only a few seasons back.

I feel an immense sense of guilt about the Malibu residents from whom I raised the initial funds to create a serious, professional theatre company, which was regularly reviewed by major press outlets and attracted national attention. Ms. Flax’s grievance is as nothing compared to those generous donors who, believing they were backing a first-class professional theatre with an ambitious artistic policy, have found instead an amateur, community roadhouse, open to all offers, and run by clueless dilettantes and would-be impresarios who can only attract third-raters like themselves. I write, believe me, more in sorrow than in anger.

Charles Marowitz

Founding Artistic Director, Malibu Stage Co