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Wadsworth goes legit

Stage has been mostly unused since 1998

NEW YORK — Martin Markinson, owner of Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater, has secured a five-year lease to operate the Wadsworth Theater in Brentwood.

UCLA previously held the lease to the Spanish-motif theater, built in 1939 and owned by the West Los Angeles Veterna’s Administration Hospital. “Stomp” and “Tap Dogs” have played the Wadsworth, but most of its engagements were presented by UCLA Perfoming Arts and other university orgs. It has sat largely unused since the on-campus Royce Hall reopened in May 1998.

Markinson has his eye on more commercial fare and thinks the Wadsworth can make the transition.

“The Brentwood location is the best in Los Angeles,” he said. “With Bel Air and Beverly Hills nearby, you’re in the middle of the most affluent parts of town. There’s also plenty of parking and many top-notch restaurants.”

With its 1,400 seats, the Wadsworth will now be in competition for bookings with Century City’s Shubert Theater and the Performing Arts Center of Los An-geles County’s Ahmanson Theater, which is located in downtown L.A. and has a subscription-based audience. “People who live on the Westside don’t always want to drive that far,” Markinson said of the Ahmanson.

The Shubert housed the pre-Broadway engagements of “Sunset Boulevard” and “Ragtime,” neither of which turned into long runs at the usually dark theater. “I don’t think L.A. can house a show for a long period of time,” he said.

Organizing a ‘Gathering’

Markinson is putting his own production of Arje Shaw’s play “The Gathering,” starring Hal Linden, into the Wadsworth in February — but for one month only. The production will come to Brentwood from Wilmington, Del., and then travel to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Fla. The producer hopes eventually to open “The Gathering” in Gotham.

Markinson is now at work on booking other shows for the Wadsworth. “No road presenters have heard of the theater,” he said. He calls his pricing competitive — $8,000 a week rent plus 5% of the gross, “which includes lots of stuff,” he said.

Among other shows, Markinson was a producer of “Torch Song Trilogy” and “Getting and Spending,” both of which played the Helen Hayes Theater, which he purchased in 1979.

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