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Cherashore Funds Performers' Mid-Career Efforts

On stage at the Music Box Theatre, Lola Pashalinski plays a flinty servant in "Fortune's Fool," her small role a source of steady mirth. Her ability to fashion such a distinctive character is partly the result of the 13 years she spent with the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Now, as one of four actors receiving a $2,000 grant from the Spencer Cherashore Fund, she'll finish "Gold Goes With Everything," a play based on her time with that troupe.

Now in its fourth year of underwriting artistic projects by noted theatre professionals, the Spencer Cherashore Fund announced its newest slate of recipients on Fri., April 26. The other three grantees are: Irma Player Hall of Chicago, Ill.; Luis Saguar, of Daly City, Cal.; and Marilyn Tokuda, of Glendale, Cal. Each will also receive $2,000. The fund was created in 1998 to honor the late actor Spencer Cherashore, and is one of few honors that monetarily supports the projects of "mid-career" performers.

This year, the fund inaugurated The Lifetime Dedication to Not-for-Profit Theatre Award, selecting two recipients whose names connote craft and accomplishment: Mabou Mines Founding Artistic Director Ruth Maleczech, and actor John Seitz, currently in The Foundry Theatre's production of "Talk." According to Anna Becker, the fund's program director, the honor goes to "later career" actors who "have shown extraordinary dedication to the not-for-profit theatre over their lifetime." Maleczech and Seitz each receive $500.

Meanwhile, Pashalinski and her fellow grantees will now get down to business. Hall, for example, will continue development on "I Leave You Love," a play based on the life of Mary McLeod Bethune. Saguar, a mainstay of the Bay Area theatre scene, will continue "creative development" of his role in Naomi Iizuka's new play, "17 Reasons (Why)." And Tokuda, who co-founded COLD TOFU, an L.A.-based Asian-American comedy improvisation group, will begin researching a play based on interviews with Japanese-American women interned in camps during World War II.

Grantees were selected by a panel of independent theatre professionals, including actress Kate Burton; Jon Nakagawa, producer of contemporary programming at Lincoln Center Theater; Lawrence Sacharow, artistic director of River Arts Repertory and chairman of Fordham University's theater department; and actress/playwright Charlayne Woodard.

"As we looked at each application we saw some real opportunities," said Sacharow. "We were able to delve into the sense of impulse and mission attached to someone's work." He further disclosed that the panel found each project "had scope and vision?all reached out into the community, and all are special in terms of how they look at our culture and hold it up to a lens that no one else is looking through."

"There's nothing like being able to give money to people who need it for artistic projects that have merit," added Burton. "And there's nothing more thrilling than when something comes to fruition and moves a lot of people. To me, this was a very good group of candidates. Each of them and each project?and I'm not just being diplomatic?had something extremely special that made them different."

To be considered for a grant, performers must be vetted by one of 11 nationwide nominators. This year's group included Minneapolis-based playwright Carlyle Brown, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, artistic associate of The Goodman Theatre; New York-based actress Nora Cole; Tim Dang, artistic director of the East-West Players; Michael Garces, artistic associate at INTAR; San Francisco-based playwright Philip Gotanda; Philip Himberg, artistic director of the Sundance Theatre Program; Martha Lavey, artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Marc Masterson, artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville; Jennifer Nelson, artistic director of the African Continuum Theatre; and Mario Ernest Sanchez, artistic director of Teatro Avante.

For more information about the Spencer Cherashore Fund, write to P.O. Box 237062, New York, NY 10023.

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