Goodbye to the ‘real thing’

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Last week I was saddened to read on your front page that Jacqueline Bridgeman had been “ousted,” as you courteously described her departure, from the Malibu Stage. The article brought to my mind earlier moments in Ms. Bridgeman’s struggle to create real theater in Malibu against, ultimately, overwhelming odds. I have had the opportunity to observe this struggle over the past four or five years as a fly on the wall and while filming a number of the Malibu Stage productions for promotional pieces on local television.

To begin with, anyone with even a modicum of grease paint on their fingers would, or should know, that the little stage at the end of Malibu’s 27 miles of traffic is not and could not be a money-making endeavor. Yet repeatedly, I watched folks, currently or lately of the entertainment world, who should have known better, approach Ms. Bridgeman with a favorite play they wanted to present -with the naive expectation of a Broadway style run. And, even worse, if and when their play was accepted, they would expect that it be cast, designed, set, lit, produced, directed and promoted as if a well-trained “team” and endless pockets were at their disposal. The reason for this misperception, it must be admitted, was the illusion inadvertently created by Ms. Bridgeman herself, who was generally the only “man behind the curtain,” dutifully taking on and performing all the jobs herself. She might ask for help, as I frequently observed, but she rarely got it.

Now, with the recent revolutionary takeover of the stage by Rick Johnson’s Young Turk Zuma Rep, such illusion as was afforded by Ms. Bridgeman’s determination and deft of hand will be struck in the name of egalitarian and universal opportunity. So after 18 years of yeoman effort to support and produce real theater-it’s goodbye to the graceful manipulation of smoke, mirrors and financial support of one who sincerely believed that the Malibu Stage could present a viable venue for the real thing.

Jim Burroughs