January 24, 2002    



Garland Award “Local Heroes”



Director Jessica Kubzansky

Kubzansky is among the few true freelance theatre directors based in Los Angeles, and increasingly she's getting paying work out of town. We begrudge her no outside projects, but it would be a great loss to our local theatre scene if she traveled out of town too often. She has consistently mounted some of the most intelligently imagined, visceral but thoughtful productions in L.A. for the past decade, at theatres ranging from the Colony to Pacific Resident Theatre to the Odyssey. Last year alone she directed two full-length productions, Anatol and A Servant to Two Masters, and a short L.A. run of Moscow (a Garland winner in 1998), prior to its Edinburgh Festival Fringe appearance. For Buffalo Nights, she made Anatol, Schnitzler's episodic examination of bachelor sex and longing, resonate and sting with wit and bracing clarity; for International City Theatre, she turned a brilliant cast loose in the playground of A Servant to Two Masters, all the while keeping them on point with the frothy central story. Kubzansky's gifts are many-layered: With her loving but unflinching honesty about the vagaries of human behavior, she really cuts to the heart and brain of a play. She does this by casting great, versatile actors and challenging them, and by creating fully theatrical worlds, a step beyond or beneath mere naturalism. She marries design and impulse, the intellectual and the sensual, like few others stage directors we've seen. (Come to think of it, we'd love to see her take on a Stoppard play.) Next up is Lanford Wilson's Burn This at the Odyssey. We'll be there.

Rob Kendt



Costume designer Shon LeBlanc

The dapper and reserved LeBlanc is among the go-to costumers for productions at venues as far-ranging as the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities, Actor's Co-op in Hollywood, the Interact Theatre in North Hollywood, and the Colony Studio Theatre. He's also known to turn up in unexpected places, such as at the Greenway Court Theatre for the Greenway Arts Alliance production of They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Wherever theatregoers are lucky to see his meticulous work (one is tempted to call it seamless but for the suggestion of a pun), the LeBlanc name on a program is one mark of quality they can trust. And not just generic quality: LeBlanc's designs expertly reflect character, class, period, and directorial concept with an economy that neither rules out sumptuousness when appropriate nor becomes distracted by frills.


As the owner of Valentino's Costumes in Van Nuys, LeBlanc has a large collection of costumes. But, as he said in a recent conversation, he bristles at the notion that he's just a costume rental facility--or, worse yet, that when companies hire him for a specific costume design that his whole warehouse is theirs for the taking. LeBlanc is among that small, select group of paid professionals in Los Angeles theatre who are more than worth the money.

Rob Kendt


Sound designer John Zalewski

In a cluttered white house on a quiet block in Long Beach, sound designer John Zalewski sits among rickety musical instruments, stacks of reading material, half-finished paintings, and other accoutrements of a life filled with art and curiosity, and he collects and shapes weird sounds. It's not a knock to say you can recognize a Zalewski sound design almost immediately: There is the inventiveness and arcana, the obscure music loops, the odd effects, but above all there is the clarity and force of his soundscapes. They sound like sculpted noise, or more precisely, like noise being sculpted--no one does booming and grating like Zalewski. Last year he didn't just do his usual brilliant pre-recorded work on such Evidence Room shows as Don Carlos and Delirium Palace, and on Bottom's Dream's 3 Voices; in a welcome diversion, he appeared onstage as Luigi, a "gondolier," playing live sound effects along with the lazzi in International City Theatre's A Servant to Two Masters. Live or on tape, Zalewski makes us sit up and listen.

Rob Kendt