The Zephyr Theatre has been a mainstay on Melrose for thirty years, and for all these years, the theatre has been run by building owner and producer Lee Sankowich. Recently, however, Sankowich, has changed his focus to theatrical directing and he’s brought on industry veteran Racquel Lehrman to run the space.
“I own two venues in Hollywood; the 50-seat-each Lounge Theaters on Santa Monica at El Centro,” Lehrman explains. “I also produce a lot around town. Taking over the Zephyr from Lee was a natural next step. “
The Zephyr offers 74 seats in a black box theater setting.
“Every theater is different and has its own energy,” Lehrman asserts. “I was so excited to take over the Zephyr because I love the location on Melrose. I can’t buy that kind of visibility, no matter what I do, so that location is amazing,” she laughs. Along with the location, Lehrman is enthusiastic about the theater itself. “The stage is a three-quarter thrust which is different than a true proscenium. It’s fun seeing the different sets and options. The theater design makes for interesting staging and scheduling diversity.”
With Lehrman in charge, the Zephyr has added more classes to the mix of theatrical offerings. “It’s a very multi-functional space,” she reports. “We have a Chabad there on Saturdays with a young rabbi. We’ve added in a few more classes, too.”
Most importantly, Lehrman says, “We are getting much more fully realized productions in terms of sets, and scheduling bigger weekend shows.”
The theater is also continuing a lot of their original programming, such as “Live Read LA” and “The Playground,” which performs fully staged workshops on Monday nights. “We are incorporating what Lee had and new things I wanted to add,” Lehrman notes.
“The Last Vig” is currently playing now through February 19th. This Burt Young comedy saga came to be through a number of interconnected circumstances.
“‘The Last Vig’ playwrite and director, Dave Variel, hired me to produce the show, and right out of the gate we knew Burt Young would be perfect to play the lead, Joe. We reached out to him, he said the script resonated with him, and he came out from the east coast before the rehearsals started. Then we put the rest of the team together,” Lehrman says. “This role is made for Burt. We are lucky to have him, and I think he feels the same way about us,” Lehrman states.
Lehrman describes the play as being about an aging mob boss, explaining it’s “definite dark comedy, even though when you’re dealing with the topic of mob bosses, you don’t necessarily think the topic is funny.”
The play will be performed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights.
“We decided to do something a little differently because a lot of actors want to come see the shows, but can’t when they are performing themselves. So performing the play the Monday night has been a fun alternative and a nice option to get it out there,” she says.
She terms the theater itself, “An intimate space that can accommodate a variety of different shows. It allows us to have someone as big as Burt Young, yet give audiences an up-close experience as if you are watching him in your living room.
After “The Last Vig,” the Zephyr will present a light comedy. Lehrman says the Lower Depth Theater ensemble is looking at a fall show, and building owner Sankowich is interested in taking over several weeks in April for a reading.
“We will have three other shows this year that would be big production, full weekend shows with complete sets, too. There will be a nice variety for 2017,” Lehrman asserts.
“I think our Melrose location enhances our theater experience. For one thing, people love that they can park once, go get dinner, and then go see the play, or go out after the show. There’s no need to drive elsewhere and find parking.”
7456 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046