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Meet Doug Haverty of The Group Rep

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The NoHo Arts District motto is “NoHo is only as great as its people.”

Did you know that NoHo has the highest concentration of theatres outside of New York City? Our theatres are why everyone calls our neighborhood an arts district. We are grateful for all of the people who work so hard to #KeepNoHoArtsy.

Meet Doug Haverty, a huge contributor to so much theatre in L.A. and especially our one-square-mile, 20+ theatre haven. He will take the helm as artistic director of The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.

Doug Haverty, artistic director at The Group Rep via www.nohoartsdistrict.com
Doug Haverty, artistic director at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre

You have a long history in theatre.

I studied Theatre, Journalism, Music and Graphic Design at University of the Pacific. Did Summer Stock in Columbia (CA), Eugene (OR), and Houghton Lake (MI). Locally, I’ve done theater here in Southern California (as actor/and or writer) at: Group Rep, Theatre West, Laguna Playhouse, Falcon (now Garry Marshall), Evergreen (now Fountain), Callboard, Cast-as-the Circle, The Hudson, Access Theatre, NASA, NoHo Arts Center, The Lyric (on LaBrea), The Lyric (on Hyperion), The Grove Theatre Center, Advent Theatre, Mammoth Lakes Repertory, Theatre 40, just to name a few.

Can you tell us your greatest achievements in producing theatre all over the country?

I have produced plays at: The Callboard, The Colony, The Cast-at-the-Circle, The Evergreen (now Fountain), Theatre West, The Grove Theatre Center/Burbank and, of course, Group Rep. Greatest achievements at Group Rep include co-producing THAT LOVIN’ FEELIN’ (Musical Biography about the Righteous Brothers) and LOST IN YONKERS. The musical on the Righteous Brothers was tremendously successful and YONKERS was critically praised and emotionally satisfying.

I haven’t really produced around the country, but I have had plays and musicals produced around the country: The Long Island Stage (NY), The Cherry Lane (NY), Charlotte Repertory, Florida Studio Theatre, Dallas Theatre (TX), Theatre in the Square (GA), Phoenix Theatre (AZ) and Alaska Rep, just to name a few. I’ve also had plays produced overseas in Zurich, Melbourne, Tokyo, Istanbul, Ottawa and most recently in Belgrade, where our musical, INSIDE OUT, is now in its second year there.

What made you accept the invitation to become the Artistic Director for The Group Repertory?

It seemed like a natural progression. I have been on the Artistic Council (helping the Artistic Directors select plays for the seasons) for several years now. A year or two ago, Larry Eisenberg told me he thought I’d make a good Artistic Director. I had not really even considered that, but it was a seed planted and then it just seemed to make sense. For the past 20 years, I’ve been co-moderator of the writers workshop at Theatre West, guiding playwrights with their full-length plays and short plays. I plan to reinstate Group Rep’s Playwrights Unit (originally founded by Lonny Chapman) and we will develop new plays and musicals. We’ve already started and it’s going to be very exciting.

Tell us about your 2020 season – why these particular shows?

I am so excited about our new season. I appointed a five-person Artistic Council and we looked at a lot of plays and musicals. This year, 2020, is an election year and there will be lots mud-slinging and speechifying and political craziness. So, we set out to find plays that would offer great escapism, so that our audiences could get away from Breaking News and all things political. We wanted to find plays that we could do well, that audiences would like to see (that haven’t been overdone) and plays that have some kind of feel-good, which will — we hope — engender good word-of-mouth.

We start out with a play that is near and dear to me. It’s a play I wrote and it was the first full-length play presented in our current facility. It’s called IN MY MIND’S EYE and it was the play I initially submitted to Lonny Chapman, and he developed it through his play development process. This play is a love story/memory play based on true events. A teacher of mine inspires it. My first day of junior high, was her first day of teaching and was legally blind. Even then, I recognized that this was a brave woman. She fell in love with the English teacher next door. The play also deals with the blind teacher’s mother who has grown dependent on her special needs offspring.

Then we return to the world of Neil Simon. Mr. Simon inspired me as a young playwright and I even got to meet him when he was a guest speaker at his brother’s (Danny) writing class where I was a student. We are doing his LONDON SUITE, which is similar in structure to PLAZA SUITE and CALIFORNIA SUITE. It’s four unique plays that just happen to take place in the same suite in London. We also get to re-visit Sydney and Diana (whom we met in CALFIORNIA SUITE). Many people have not even heard of this play, so we are hoping people will enjoy discovering rather unfamiliar Simon wonderfulness. They are reviving PLAZA SUITE on Broadway with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. When they announced the production, Broderick said, “We all need a little Neil Simon now.” And we’re hoping that is true.

Then we’re doing a big, Broadway musical. This musical won the Tony Award in 1970, so this is its 50th Anniversary. Based on “All About Eve,” this musical is APPLAUSE. It has a wonderful score (by Charles Strouse who wrote BYE BYE BIRDIE and ANNIE), full of musical comedy classics and a sharp, witty book (written by Comden & Green who wrote ON THE TOWN and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN). It’s a huge show and rarely done because it has so many mammoth production requirements. We’re going to do very theatrical presentation that still lets it live in all its glory.

TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE WE GO by Joanna McClelland Glass will follow that. I saw this play in the early 90s on Broadway with Eva LaGalliene and Kim Hunter. I loved it. When I was working with the Colony, Barbara Beckley asked me to recommend a great American family drama and I told her about this play. Her subscribers loved it and she thanked me profusely every time I saw her after that. It’s about Grandie who’s trying to cope with widowhood and retirement and suddenly all her middle-aged children have to move back home due to financial hardships. So, it’s about that and also claiming your life and following your bliss regardless of what age you start. I think it’s even more timely today than it was when it originally presented.

I love mysteries and thrillers. We tried to get THE DESPERATE HOURS last year and it wasn’t available, but this year it is! This is a classic thriller, really well written about an all-American family who is held hostage in their own home by bank-robbers on the run. Based on the best seller by Joseph Hayes, the Broadway version starred Paul Newman and the film version starred Frederick March. Father, mother, daughter and son are captive and try to prevail over a terrifying situation. And the conclusion is breathtaking.

We close the season with a wonderful holiday treat by Ken Ludwig (who wrote LEND ME A TENOR). It’s part murder mystery, part thriller, part farce and part Christmas play. It’s called THE GAME’S AFOOT (HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS) and it’s wonderfully theatrical and unpredictable. Ludwig is known for zany plays and this is no exception. We hope it will be the perfect holiday alternative confection for theatergoers.

That’s our mainstage season. We are also planning exciting things for Upstairs-At-The Group as well. We will start the season up there with TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Our current Artistic Director performed beautifully in this play last year at Sierra Madre Playhouse with direction by L. Flint Esquerra. So, we will be bringing this touching human story to North Hollywood.

We are continuing our series called NINE WINNING ONE-ACTS upstairs too. Writers from around the world submit ten-minute plays and we select nine. This has been a very successful endeavor and we hope it will continue to thrive.

When our building at 10900 Burbank opened in August 1984, our very first production was a program of one-acts called MOTEL 66. The plays were all written by our members (as opposed to Nine Winning One Acts which are outside submissions). The set is the exterior courtyard of a motel along Route 66, any city, any year.

Then we will close out the season upstairs with ORPHAN’S REVENGE, which is a good, olde-fashioned, musical melodrama complete with villain, hero, heroine and lively songs. This was done at Group Rep previously, written by one of our members and was tremendously successful. We’re hoping to repeat that rollicking success.

What advice would you give to a person wanting to produce their first show?

I would say that once your formulate a budget, just add 25% as a contingency, because you’ll probably need it. Don’t produce a play to make money. Produce it because you love it and you want to see it up on its feet. The first place people try to trim a budget is with marketing and publicity. Don’t cut these. If you are going to mount a glorious production, you want people to see it, right? Hire a good publicist and spend some marketing money. And start that process early.

Doug Haverty, artistic director at The Group Rep via www.nohoartsdistrict.com
Doug Haverty with the “Loose Knit” cast at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre

What makes you stay at Group Rep?

I guess I’d have to say that people and the process. Initially, I stayed because of Lonny Chapman. He was a little enigmatic, and often times his comments were cryptic. But once you started to understand that shorthand, it was very informative. He was delightfully fearless and liked to take chances.

I enjoy building tight relationships with creative types and working with the same people in different aspects on different shows, as you would at a rep company. I also enjoy our open door policy and welcoming new artists into our creative process. The other night I was at the Road Theatre Company seeing another one of their excellent productions. Two patrons came up to me and told me that they’d recently seen me in two productions at Group Rep that were playing in repertory: AGATHA CHRISTIE’S THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS and OTHERWISE ENGAGED by Simon Gray. They said they enjoyed both shows and that they travel down from Santa Cruz to see their grandchildren and go see theater while they’re here. They go down to Long Beach and out to Pasadena and everywhere in between. But they really like the plays at Group Rep. How cool is that? I do love discussions with our audiences and that’s why we have talkbacks for every production.

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This year it’s time to put more theatre in your life!  #KeepNoHoArtsy

**** 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.

lisa BIANCONI

Author: lisa BIANCONI

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