Manhattan Beach's Jack Messenger and Lois Bourgon have been fixtures in South Bay theater for decades.
And now, with their new company, New Stuff Productions, they are bringing provocative productions to area theatergoers.
With “Seminar,” which first hit Broadway in 2011, the duo found their first edgy production. It opens at the 2nd Story Theatre in Hermosa Beach Friday, June 14.
“The challenge is to get people interested in a new play that they're unfamiliar with... there's a risk because we don't have any subscribers,” Messenger said.
While the Surf City Theatre Company in Hermosa Beach, the Torrance Theatre Company, the Manhattan Beach Community Church and Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro is drawing crowds, Messenger said they hope to draw a younger demographic to live theater in the South Bay.
“The 45-plusers are coming anyways,” Messenger said.
In “Seminar,” four aspiring writers (played by Kirsta Peterson, Stephen Borrello, Garland Scott and Whitney Anderson) looking for fame and fortune hire a renown literary figure for $5,000 each. But, Leonard's teaching technique wrecks havoc on their lives while they contemplate their futures in a Upper West Side apartment.
Messenger calls Leonard, played by Tom Killam, a “Rasputin” type of character that causes a “reign of terror” with the young writers.
“The kids think, 'What the hell did we get ourselves involved in,'” Messenger said. “It is funny, it kind of shakes you up a little bit and the dialogue is crisp.”
Bourgon said auditions attracted actors from all over Los Angeles.
“The play was really well received when we put out an audition notice, people came out for this... there were a lot of actors who knew the play and were really into being a part of it, so we got some really great people,” Bourgon said.
The role of Leonard
Alan Rickman originated the role of Leonard on Broadway, which ran for nearly a year at the John Golden Theatre. Then Jeff Goldblum brought the role to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in the fall of 2012.
“He's not a nice guy, he's dirty, he's got a past, he's brutal, but honest,” said Killam. “He's got an agenda and I think he's manipulative.”
Killam is also an acting coach.
“I'm not as wounded or bitter as Leonard, nor as brutal, but I am always honest,” Killam said. “When I'm talking about acting, I think actors are born, I don't think you can teach anybody to act. So for some students I have I say, 'I think you should be a producer. I think you get it but you just can't take adjustments, it's just not in you. It's not a knock on you.'”
Killam reluctantly became involved in local theater more than 30 years ago with a Manhattan Beach Community Church production of “No Time for Sergeants.” He had moved in and out of acting and dabbled as a musician when he got married in his late 20s. He had started his own contracting business when he was convinced to audition for “No Time for Sergeants.”
“I just had a vasectomy... we were about to have our fifth child,” recalled Killam. “I kind of got ambushed by her (wife) and a bunch of people from the church and the theater. We’re doing this play and there's tons of guys in it and we don't have enough guys. I got ice on my crotch and I’m trying to get out gracefully... maybe I can do a lot of the smaller roles for you and that would be fun for me to do that. So auditions came around and of course I read the Will Stockdale part and at some point that was that.”
Killam, whose son Taran made a name for himself on “Saturday Night Live” and most recently the sitcom “Single Parents” on ABC, said his family “broke up” and he returned to the stage in Hollywood and television roles.
“Seminar” is his return to a South Bay stage in a number of years.
“I hope they (audience) see three dimensional characters, because you have to like even the bad guy, there has to be something that makes you compelled to watch,” Killam said.
Messenger said they have already produced edgy plays including “Distracted,” which tackled living with ADHD, and “Thoughts and Prayers,” Messenger's call to arms against gun violence. Both productions in the beach cities, not under the banner of New Stuff Productions, benefited charities.
“Thoughts and Prayers” was performed as a staged reading in Hermosa Beach last August and later in the year was a workshop in Hollywood.
Messenger hopes to bring an “activist audience” to the theater next year before the election with a full-scale production of “Thoughts and Prayers” as well as a production of “Church and State,” which was first produced in Los Angeles in 2016.
The 2nd Story Theatre is located at 710 Pier Ave.
Performances run through Sunday, June 30. Tickets are $30, but $20 discount seats are available on a limited basis.
For more information, http://www.newstuffproductions.com/on-stage.html.