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Tamara Wilcox-Smith (1940-1998)

Tamara Wilcox-Smith, founder and former artistic director of the National Improvisational Theatre in New York City, died Jan. 30 of heart failure in Los Angeles, at the age of 57.

Wilcox-Smith originally studied improv with Dell Close and became a member of his legendary San Francisco company, the Committee. After moving to New York, she became a guest director at the Loft Theater and began teaching improv and developing her own company, Interplay, original cast members of which included Jerry Seinfeld and Allyce Beaseley.

In 1984, Wilcox-Smith founded N.I.T., whose graduates have included Rita Rudner, Griffin Dunne, and Rich Hall. She also taught workshops in L.A., where she instructed Jenna Elfman, Isaac Hayes, and Kelly Preston, among many other future stars. In addition, Wilcox-Smith was a produced playwright and a published author of children's books.

--Scott Proudfit

Back Stage Bistros Hail Cabaret

Elena Bennett, David Campbell, Judi Connelli, Jane Johnston, Jeanne MacDonald, and Anne Roberts were named the year's outstanding vocalists among Back Stage's 1998 Bistro Awards for achievement in New York cabaret, to be presented Mar. 9 at the Supper Club in Manhattan.

The ceremony will honor 32 artists, including Audrey Morris as outstanding singer/instrumentalist. Two musical revues are being honored: Fairy Tales, written by Eric Lane Barnes, with Rob Maitner singled out as outstanding performer in a revue, and Mark Cannistraro being recognized for outstanding direction; and Heartbeat It's a Lovebeat!, co-conceived by Jim Dowd and Bon Penola, performed, written, and choreographed by Penola under Dowd's direction. For outstanding musical comedy, the group Minimum Wage and performer Georga Osborne are receiving awards, and for outstanding comic performance, Jim David gets the nod. Tommy Femia as Judy Garland and Richard Skipper as Carol Channing receive top honors for impersonation.

In the category of outstanding theme show, the two honored shows include Mwah! The Dinah Shore Show, created and performed by Jeff Macauley, and The Season, created and performed by Kate Jetmore and Brady Schwind. For outstanding major engagement, the Bistro goes to Mary Cleere Haran for her show Pennies From Heaven.

For outstanding special material, songwriter Steven Lutvak is being honored for "The Dinner Party." Other recipients noted for outstanding achievement include Eric Hansen as songwriter, Jeff Waxman as musical director, and Joyce Breach and Christian Nova for their recordings, This Moment and Walking Happy, respectively.

Songwriter Carol Hall is receiving a special award for embracing the world of cabaret in her series of shows, and special awards also go to K.T. Sullivan for honoring the songs of Bart Howard, and to Howard himself for writing songs worth honoring.

As usual, the recipient of the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced at the ceremony, to be produced and hosted by Back Stage editor-in-chief Sherry Eaker and cabaret critics John Hoglund and Roy Sander. Comedian Jeffrey Ross will serve as master of ceremonies. For further information call (212) 536-5040.

Off the Wire

MIDWEST--The Playwrights' Center is currently accepting applications for its 15th annual Young Playwrights Summer Conference, a two-week intensive study of the craft of playwriting to be held July 12-25 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. Applicants must be in grades 8-12. The application postmark deadline is Apr. 20. In addition, the Playwrights' Center is accepting applications for Core or Associate Membership. Members develop their craft over two- or six-year terms, with the assistance of theatre professionals across the country. (612) 332-7481.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA-- The California Shakespeare Festival is accepting applications for acting apprentices and professional theatre interns for its 1998 season of four plays: Shakespeare's Othello, Richard III, and As You Like It, and Molire's Scapin, the Cheat!. The apprentice program runs May 11-Sept. 6. The application deadline for the apprenticeship program is Feb. 23, while the deadline is Apr. 13 for the internship program, which runs June 8-Aug. 25. (510) 548-3422, ext. 115.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA--Richard Dreyfuss and Julie Hagerty will star in the West Coast premiere reading of Shel Silverstein's The Lady or the Tiger at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 23, to benefit Playwrights' Kitchen Ensemble. The evening includes a post-performance reception. (310) 652-9955

The Beachwood Studio Playhouse, a renowned theatre in the 1930s and '40s, located in the Hollywood Hills, has been re-born. The new Beachwood Studio Playhouse will present its second production, Claptrap by Ken Friedman, opening Feb. 20. The former playhouse had a long list of Hollywood's elite involved with its productions, including Vladimir Sokoloff and Preston Sturges. (213) 962-2438

As part of the New Voices Writer's Gallery Series, AT&T and East West Players present Alice Tuan's Aiconana, a sequel to her play Ikebana, at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, on Feb. 19. Admission is free. Also, writers from the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute will read their own works-in-progress, ranging from family life to fantasy, at the Museum on Feb. 21. (213) 625-0414

The Writers Guild of America will celebrate its 50th annual awards ceremony, and its 65th anniversary, on Feb. 21 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Honorees will include James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, who together created The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. The guild will also honor Gregory Poirier, screenwriter of Rosewood, and former WGA president Melville Shavelson, a two-time Academy award nominee and the writer of more than 30 theatrical motion pictures including Houseboat and The Five Pennies

Happy Lot!, a "rediscovered" musical by composer Hugh Martin (Meet Me in St. Louis) and lyricist Marshall Barer (Once Upon a Mattress libretto), will be presented in a concert version at Theatre West in Hollywood, Feb. 21-Mar. 1. The musical was originally written as a Broadway vehicle for Jeannette McDonald and then-17-year-old Liza Minnelli. Tragically, McDonald died before the show went up, and the project was abandoned. (213) 851-7977

The 21st Annual Robby Awards for distinguished achievement in theatre will be presented at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Feb. 23. Awards are presented by theatre critic Rob Stevens, publisher and editor of the bi-weekly publication It's Showtime!. Nan Martin and Michael G. Hawkins will host. (213) 656-9407

Spoken Interludes will hold its monthly evening of dinner and new spoken works, Feb. 22 at Le Colonial in Beverly Hills. The program will include works by Diane Sherry Case, Boyd Gaines, Rosanna Gamson, Jim Krusoe, and DeLaunƒ Michel. (213) 957-4688

A special advance screening of The Leading Man, starring Jon Bongiovi, will be held on Feb. 23 at the Ince Theatre in Culver City, to benefit Theatre L.A. The film, directed by John Duigan (Flirting), concerns an English playwright who convinces a Hollywood action star to seduce his wife--all to free up more of his time for his mistress. (213) 614-0556

An evening of one-act play readings will be held at Borders in Westwood on Feb. 23, presented by Drama West productions and co-produced by Catherine Stanley and Hettie Lynne Hurtes. Admission is free.

--S.P./Jamie Painte

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