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Sunday, 21 May 2017 16:39

Meet Two NoHo Actors

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NoHo Actors Spotlight: The Group Rep's Janet Wood and Chris Winfield

The NoHo Arts District motto should be:

"NoHo is only as great as its people."

The www.nohoartsdistrict.com team likes to spotlight local folks who make our neighborhood the arts district that it still is. Meet Janet Wood and Chris Winfield, members of the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, one of the first theatres to make NoHo their home.

Janet Wood

How long have you been with GRT?

I am one of the founding members. The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre began May 1973 with a rag-tag group of 12 actors performing scenes for audiences in a laundromat-turned 36 seat theatre on Van Ness Boulevard. When Lonny Chapman first entered that theatre, the magic began. Here was an Artistic Director in search of a theatre and a theatre company in search of an Artistic Director. The match was perfect and the Group Repertory Theatre was born with Lonny Chapman at the helm. This partnership continued until his passing in 2007.

Why did you choose GRT?

As you can see from the previous question, it chose me. The theater grew rapidly. The first show, "Round Dance," an adaptation of Schnitzler's "La Ronde," was an immediate hit and the GRT was on its way. By 1974, with the growth in the number of productions and additional company members, Lonny Chapman suggested that a bigger space was needed. A new 58-seat venue was rented on Magnolia which began playing to sold out houses. GRT's growth and success required yet a larger venue. In 1980, Lonny secured our current Burbank and Vineland location, which was renovated into its present configuration. It is a beautiful theater and we are very proud of it.

What are some of the things you are most proud about GRT?

The thing I am most proud of in my theater is the actors' ability to create their own project without having to wait to be cast in a show. Anyone can initiate a project for a Monday night which can then go on to a two nighter and, in some cases, a main stage production. Another proud moment was when I, along with Chris Winfield and others, was involved in creating the space upstairs and making a additional wonderful little theater called Upstairs at the Group Rep. We use this space to do smaller shows. One of these shows. A SLIGHT ACHE, went on to win the NoHo Fringe Festival 2016 Best Costume Award.

Upcoming productions, events, etc. you'll participate in?

I am performing in the next production, A DULL PAIN TURNED SHARP. I play an old Hungarian woman, so that will be a new character part for me! After this main stage production, we have DIAL M FOR MURDER followed by LOST IN YONKERS and ending the season and 2017 - - Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM for the holiday season. Overall, we have a varied and entertaining season planned. In addition, July 9th we have a fun bingo fundraiser taking place at Hamburger Mary's Restaurant in WeHo, and on August 19 a fundraiser with actor/ventriloquist Jay Johnson ("Soap") on the Main Stage of the Lonny Chapman Theatre.

Is there anything you'd like to highlight?

In addition to professional stage productions, Group Rep gives back to the community with its Annual Foster Children’s Holiday Party. Irene Chapman and I have been in charge of that for over 18 of the 35 years that it's been in existence. Liza Standish and Stephanie Colet help immeasurably. We invite 100 foster kids in and with a volunteer crew of GRT members and friends, we give the kids a terrific party full of entertainment, games, food, gifts and a play written just for them.

I would also like to say that our Co-Artistic Directors, Larry Eisenberg and Chris Winfield, are extraordinary people. We are so lucky to have them at the helm. And our president of the board these past few years, Bert Emmett, is fantastic. We have so many amazing people that help to keep the theater running and I am very thankful for them all. I consider it an honor to be part of this theater family.

Chris Winfield from the Group Rep at Lonny Chapman Theatre via www.nohoartsdistrict.com

Chris Winfield

Chris Winfield has been a member of the Group Repertory Theatre for more than 30 years. A theatre arts major at Glendale College and U.C.L.A. After college, in the late 1960s, he spent two years in England as assistant stage manager and actor at the Thorndike Theatre in Surrey. Board member and actor at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica in the mid 1970's. Joined the Group Rep in 1986. Chris has appeared in over 35 productions at the GRT. Most recently as the prosecutor in "Witness For The Prosecution." He designs and builds many of the sets. He is Co-Artistic Director of the company.

How long have you been with GRT?

I have been with the GRT since 1986, 31 years. During that time I have appeared in over 35 mainstage productions. I have designed and built most of the sets over the last 10 years.

Why did you choose GRT?

I chose the GRT mainly because I had moved with my family from the Westside over to the valley, and was looking for a professional company with a good reputation. An actor friend of mine was already a member, and he got me in touch with Lonny Chapman. I was working for Warner Bros. Television, in Burbank, at the time. Everything just seemed to fit right into place. The rest is history, and there's still more history to be made!

What are some of the things you are most proud about GRT?

Apart from some very enjoyable and satisfying roles that I have played, I think my contribution to the GRT as a builder (not just sets) has been very rewarding. I converted the upstairs rehearsal room into a 36 seat theatre, and the GRT has been able to derive extra, and much needed, income from that project. As co-Artistic Director, with Larry Eisenberg, I am very proud of the eclectic and high quality work we have been able to turn out over these past 5 years. On shoestring budgets we have managed to present to our audiences productions that are visual, stimulating and engaging. I think the fact that we have managed to keep our doors open for 44 years is something to be extremely proud of.

Upcoming productions, events, etc. you'll participate in?

As Co-Artistic Director I shall be participating in all aspects of the upcoming seasons. As an actor I shall audition for "Dial M For Murder", which opens June 30th. There are also many upkeep and maintenance projects that constantly need attention at the theatre, so there's never a dull moment.

Is there anything you'd like to highlight?

I would especially like to highlight the rapport that I have with my fellow co-AD Larry Eisenberg. We are both deeply committed the theatre, and to the GRT in particular. Although we contribute to the theatre as actors, we also manage to share all of the other responsibilities without getting in each other's way. We are also both avid golfers, so at least once a week we can relax and enjoy each other's company away from the GRT. (That is if you can call golf enjoyable and relaxing!)

Check out the Group Rep!

**** For information on Los Angeles theatre, tickets to theatre in North Hollywood's NoHo Arts District, theatre reviews, the NoHo Event Calendar, restaurants, news and local businesses in NoHo, or anything and everything about the NoHo Arts Community, bookmark nohoartsdistrict.com. Follow us on Twitter @OfficialNoHo. On Instagram @NoHoArtsDistrict and Facebook @NoHoArtsDistrict.

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Read 779 times Last modified on Sunday, 21 May 2017 17:11

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Janet Wood Wednesday, 24 May 2017 14:23 posted by Janet Wood

    Dear Lisa,

    Thank you so much for the lovely article on Chris Winfield and me. It's wonderful that you choose theaters in NoHo to highlight and I'm proud to be a part of it.

    I hope you'll have time to see A Dull Pain Turned Sharp June 2, 3 or matinee on the 4th, closing weekend, when the original cast members perform together again.

    Warm regards,

    Janet Wood

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