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Meet Evelyn Rudie of Santa Monica Playhouse in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Evelyn Rudie.

Evelyn, “who may well be the most talented and prolific producer-director-lyricist-composer-musician-actress in theatre” (L.A. Times), can truly be called one of Hollywood’s success stories —a child star who didn’t go bad. Evelyn can look back upon a colorful and dynamic career in theatre, motion pictures, television and arts-in-education. For her performance as “Eloise” on TV’S Playhouse 90, she received an Emmy nomination at age six — the first time a child actress was so honored. She then, guest-starred for years on almost every TV show of importance, including The Red Skelton Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, 77 Sunset Strip, Lawman, The Tonight Show with Jack Paar (7 appearances), G.E. Theatre (with Ronald Reagan), and The Groucho Marx Show.

Her film debut in The Gift of Love at 20th Century-Fox with Robert Stack and Lauren Bacall earned her such notices as “reminiscent of Louise Rainer’s playing Anna Held” from N.Y. Times’ Bosley Crowther and ”A film phenomenon!” London Daily Express. and Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times hailed her as “a sensationally interesting child star!…a real wonder child, both as a personality and in her acting.”

The proud owner of a gold star in Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame (at the corner of Hollywood and Highland), Evelyn graduated from Hollywood High with highest honors and then went on to study film production at UCLA, meanwhile always maintaining her uninterrupted studies as actress, dancer, singer and musician.

In 1973, Evelyn and her partner/husband, actor-director-writer Chris DeCarlo, became Artistic Directors of Santa Monica Playhouse, where they have, as a team, created over 600 productions, and have appeared live on stage for over 10,000 performances each. Dedicated to furthering public awareness of the importance of live theatre for the health and well-being of our local and global communities, Evelyn and Chris are the co-founders of Actors’ Repertory Theatre, the Young Professional’s Company, the Mobile Touring Project, the Schools Theatre Excursion Project and the American Cultural Youth Ambassadors. Under their aegis, the Playhouse has received more than 250 awards and commendations and has directly touched the lives of more than 5 million people.

Evelyn’s tireless efforts have made Actors’ Repertory Theatre and the Young Professionals’ Company one of the finest state-of-the-art professional theatre companies in the world, with more than 50 international tours to England, Ireland, Japan, The Netherlands and New York. Japan’s Senator Kyoko Ono says Rudie’s company “… blazes a trail of peace and friendship between our two nations, a trail which will change the face of our world in the 21st century.”

In 1977, together with composer Ben Weisman (57 gold records), Rudie & DeCarlo began a major work, the Sholom Aleichem Quintilogy. The first play in this series of five productions was the award-winning “Author! Author! – an evening with Sholom Aleichem”, the musical that played Los Angeles for an unprecedented 4½ years, breaking all box office records and has since toured Southern California and returned to the Playhouse for several encore engagements as the single most-requested of all Santa Monica Playhouse productions. Next came “The Clown Prince” and “The Great Fair – Sholom Aleichem on Tour”, both of which were critically acclaimed and played for 3½ years each. The fifth and final production, Aleichem Sholom, will debut at the Playhouse in May of this year.

Evelyn’s song-writing talents credits include the score for the highly-acclaimed Los Angeles premiere stage adaptation of Israel Zangwill’s “King of the Schnorrers”, the musical version of Sholom Aleichem’s “Gymnasium,” Moliere’s “The Fools,” Ben Jonson’s “The Alchemist”, and the highly successful (and controversial) “Clemensy for Mark Twain,” to name just a few. She is also the author of the popular FAMILY THEATRE SERIES of musical fairy tales for kids between 2 102, a series of plays that has grown into a repertoire of more than 20 productions, performed both in-house and internationally.

In addition to writing, directing and teaching, Evelyn has never let her performing go by the wayside. She maintains that it is the constant challenge of live performance that renews her creative energies and inspires her pen each season. As one of L.A.’s most versatile performers, she has created an incredible range of characters and personas, from Tom Sawyer to Queen Elizabeth (the first), and from Cinderella to the bizarre Mrs. Smith in Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” (a performance which the famed playwright himself saw and called “Une excellente representation!”).

In the past few years, Evelyn has taken several new performance pieces from initial idea, through play-building, staged readings, workshop performances and finally to Main Stage productions and international tours. “2004 – a telling of tomorrow,” a musical history of a potential future world, had its European premiere in Stratford-on-Avon and was the first theatrical production to be given permission by British Heritage to perform on a Heritage Site, the famed ruins of the Kenilworth Castle. Mezzanine,” a musical drama about suicide, teen pregnancy and resourcefulness of the human spirit, played to sold-out houses for five months, then toured England. The renowned dramedy, “Dear Gabby,” a theatre piece which deals with growing up, first love, drugs, rejection and the passion and pain of piano lessons, performed continuously for sixteen years, touring the United States, as well as England, Ireland, Canada and Japan. The Spanish-language version, Querida Gabby: las confesiones de una ambiciosa, translated by Playhouse alumna Margaret Boyle, will have its world premiere in 2019.

As a performer, Evelyn received critical acclaim in Diane Samuels’ KINDERTRANSPORT, a role which has garnered her such praise as “spell-binding” (Tolucan Times), “genuinely moving” (L.A. Weekly) and “a must see!” (L.A. Jewish Times, completed a fifteen month run in the critically acclaimed musical Funny, You Don’t Look Like A Grandmother, a one-year run of the world premiere musical Because of You: The Life and Loves of Sholom Aleichem and a nine-month run of the 30th-anniversary revival of Author! Author! – an evening with Sholom Aleichem.

Evelyn co-wrote and was featured in Love in Bloom (Critics’ Pick of the Year, American Radio Network), and is currently creating a world premiere musical, My Father’s Trunk, based on songs and material written by her father, the late composer-lyricist-playwright Emery Bernauer, between 1934 and 1937 for the Nelson Revues at the Tuschinsky Theatre, home of the underground pre-war Cabaret theatre in Amsterdam. On television, she was the co-host for City TV’s Santa Monica On Stage for the three seasons and directed Jerry Mayer’s romantic comedy 2 Across starring Andrea McArdle Off-Broadway.

“Through my more than fifty years of theatrical experience”, says Evelyn, “one thing has become ever more evident. The theatrical process is a necessity, not a luxury, in our lives. Theatre is the single most powerful tool for fostering social awareness, facilitating one-on-one interaction, nourishing ethnic identity and nurturing cultural exchange. It is the last bastion of hope for a society in which personal drama is relentlessly tempted into giving way to impersonal public pressures. It is our best hope for putting the human back in humanity.”

In March of 2002, Ms. Rudie completed fifty years – two thousand six hundred weeks – of uninterrupted participation in theatre, film, television and arts-in-education, for which she received commendations from the Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and the California State Senate and was awarded the Women In Theatre’s coveted Red Carpet Award for her support of and involvement in the performing arts in greater Los Angeles. Her record of continuous theatrical and educational commitment continues to this day.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s been much smoother than one might imagine. As a child star, I was so fortunate in having supportive parents, a public school education, great friends that are still friends to this day, wonderful co-stars (including Fred Astaire, Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall, Red Skelton, Jack Paar) who always treated me fairly and well, I never had any of the terrible experiences that so many of my young colleagues had to go through. I had a great education (go Bruins!), and was so lucky that being a woman did not keep me from doing what I love best – acting, directing, writing, composing, making costumes – in other words, everything that goes into the creative arts. I started at Santa Monica Playhouse as a student the same day I started at UCLA. I met my husband Chris DeCarlo there on the first night he came back from Vietnam. We started the Diversity-in-Education Conservatory there and when the founding director, Ted Roter, retired, we took over as co-artistic directors. We’ll celebrate our 48th anniversary in August of this year. Has it been a bumpy road, being at the helm of an intimate professional theatre? Definitely! We manage more than 100 programs annually, everything from youth education to adult play-building, new works, community outreach, school theatre field trips – there is always more demand than funding, and it’s a never-ending battle to legitimize intimate theatre in Los Angeles (that is to say, helping people to understand that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better). But to be honest, it is often the rockiest of roads that inspire the most fulfilling art.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Santa Monica Playhouse story. Tell us more about the business.
So, to continue – Santa Monica Playhouse, now celebrating its 58th year of theatrical and educational services to the community, is the oldest continuously producing theatre in Los Angeles (not one dark week in all those years). This is from our official documentation, but it says it all, I think, so why re-invent the wheel: ”

The magic of live theatre, as it educates, enlightens and entertains – that is what Santa Monica Playhouse is all about, says co-artistic director Evelyn Rudie when asked about the secret of the Playhouse’s longevity. Longevity is not a word often associated with theatres in Los Angeles but in the case of Santa Monica Playhouse, it is apt. Named one of the country’s most respected theatre companies by The Hollywood Reporter, the Playhouse is the only company of its kind in California to have produced non-stop for nearly sixty years.

Hailed as A total theatre experience by the LA TIMES and recognized as Best Children’s Theatre in Los Angeles by LA MAGAZINE, LA PARENT, LA TIMES MAGAZINE and VARIETY, the award-winning Playhouse theatre companies, Actors’ Repertory Theatre and the Young Professionals’ Company, provide exciting productions, Family Theatre musicals, workshops and educational programming, cultural exchange, international touring, scholarships and community outreach 52 weeks a year from their jewel of a theatre complex on 4th Street in downtown Santa Monica. The Playhouse has been honored with over 250 awards and commendations and has presented over 600 dynamic classics, contemporary and original productions. Occupying a unique niche in the theatrical community, an intimate theatre with global impact administering hands-on more than 100 separate programs and projects annually, the Playhouse is staffed by a troupe of professional artists who have made an enormous impact, touching the lives of 5 million people to date.

From three small performances spaces, the company brings to brilliant life a rich heritage of playwrights, from Moliere to Ionesco, from Shakespeare to Sholom Aleichem, and has hosted such renowned artists as Julie Harris, Robert Morse, Broadway’s Martin Charnin, and authors Michel Garneau, David Williamson and Robert B. Parker. And its concept of self- and community-awareness through drama has generated a powerful international exchange with eleven countries across the globe.” (end quote)

I think our company is most proud of our original works that reflect the broad diversity of our community, as they recognize, honor and celebrate LA’s diverse cultures, traditions and philosophies, giving participants of all ages, experience levels, locales, cultures, ethnicities, gender, and points of view a forum from which to share their artistic voice, both as play-makers and play-goers. Of course, we are proud of our “celebrity” alumni – Kate Hudson, Jason Ritter, Jason Segel, Teri Nunn, Maroon 5’s Mickey Madden, Cami Anderson (TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world) and countless others. But we are even more proud of the thousands of students of all ages who have participated with us in our programs and are now using the magic of live theatre to make a difference in their local, national and global communities.

We are also extremely proud of our BFF Binge Free Festival of Theatre, an annual two-week festival of more than 50 productions and community workshops involving over 125 artists, every single one of them free to the public, supported in part by a grant from the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Arts Commission. It is the first and only fringe festival in Santa Monica and the only completely free fringe festival in Los Angeles.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
As you probably know, Los Angeles has the largest, and most diverse, intimate theatre community in the world. And often that is the best-kept secret in town. When people think of “theatre” they think New York, or Chicago, or the West End. But as a theatre town, Los Angeles is coming into its own! Los Angeles intimate theatres and companies create an incredible number of original works each year, and while other towns and other communities present myriad revivals, LA artists develop new works by the hundreds. The breadth and depth of the works coming out of LA are amazing, and every year their impact becomes more and more pronounced. Los Angeles is the most diverse city in the world, and its theatre reflects that diversity, cultural equity and inclusion in a vital way, If there is a “shift,” we see it in the interest and commitment of LA’s audience members, who are discovering more and more the immense value of an intimate theatre experience.

Pricing:

  • Evening shows – $10 to $35
  • Family Theatre – $12 to $15
  • School Theatre Field Trips – $7.50 per person
  • Membership in Playhouse PALS, the Playhouse support group – $10 monthly contribution
  • Education Conservatory – $200 – $495 per session (financial assistance is available)

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
  • Website: http://SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com
  • Phone: 1-310-394-9779
  • Email: theatre@SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com
  • Instagram: @SantaMonicaPlayhouse
  • Facebook: @SantaMonicaPlayhouse
  • Twitter: @SMPlayhouse


Image Credit:

Cydne Moore

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