As the long-suffering, long-affianced but never married Miss Adelaide in Arena Stage's delicious "Guys and Dolls," Alexandra Foucard flounces and flirts in clothes fit for a chic 1950s nightclub chanteuse. Her accent is borrowed from her Bronx-bred dresser in the Broadway production of "Les Miserables" (where she's on leave from understudying and often performing as Eponine or Fantine). "She tawks like this," Foucard demonstrated.
"I was a little fearful of the role because I'm not funny. In life, I'm not funny," she said last week on the phone, nursing a real cold, not the psychosomatic one poor Adelaide has had for 14 years, waiting for gambler Nathan Detroit to marry her. "I think the humor comes out of the fact that she's so serious. Everything is life or death for her. There's no middle ground." Working with Maurice Hines hasn't hurt, either; she said he's been generous in giving her the time to land her punch lines just right. "Maurice's timing is impeccable and working with him has taught me so much," she said.
When Foucard auditioned, she thought she'd get a job in the chorus and perhaps understudying Adelaide. The New York-based, 1990 graduate of Howard University's drama program was determined to get in the show so she could spend the holidays here with her 6-year-old, who lives with his father.
Born in Haiti and raised in Miami, where her mother still lives, Foucard speaks French and Creole and described herself as "a bit of a mutt--part Dominican, part French, part Haitian." As early as kindergarten, Foucard had fallen in love with old-fashioned American musicals like "Guys and Dolls," which had no parts written for someone of her "hue," as she put it.
"The roles I normally go for are usually quote-unquote 'white roles,' " she said, mentioning Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" as another of her credits. "I'm a real musical-theater doll. I love musical theater." She also owned a music video production company in Miami for a while, has written a musical and hopes to record her own songs one day.
Sometimes, she said, she has lost parts because casting directors didn't see past her color. That's why director Charles Randolph-Wright delighted her. "The wonderful thing that he said was he wasn't looking for a black Adelaide or a white Adelaide. He was looking for a person who could play the role," she recalled.
Audience members may assume the "Guys and Dolls" script has been updated to suit Y2K or its nontraditional cast, but it hasn't. What's different, at least for Foucard, is the back-story she's made up for her Adelaide: "Her idols are Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker . . . [her] moves are Josephine Baker."
A Tussle Over TicketsThere's high drama in a dispute between Ticketplace and the Stanislavsky Theater Studio, with accusations of mismanagement and unethical behavior on both sides.
The spat stems from the sale by Ticketplace of half-price advance tickets for the final week of the theater's critically acclaimed production of "The Idiot," which closed Jan. 2. The theater refused to honor the tickets when the 30 Ticketplace customers showed up at the Church Street lobby, although Ticketplace officials say the tickets were allotted to them by an agreement with the Stanislavsky. But theater officials told Backstage that Ticketplace ignored their request to stop selling half-price tickets for "The Idiot" during that final week, when they already had a waiting list for full-price seats.
Not in dispute is that the Stanislavsky in some cases refunded the $10 half-price charge plus Ticketplace's $2 service charge, then sold the same tickets at full price to patrons on the waiting list. In other cases, the half-price ticket-holders paid the difference and went in at full price.
"It's just unethical," said Ticketplace's Jose Carrasquillo, who's heard from a few irate customers. "My decision, and I know the board will support me and the League of [Washington] Theatres will support me--I don't want to sell any of their tickets anymore," he said.
The struggling young theater's co-artistic director, Andrei Malaev-Babel, and administrative manager Mario Quesada don't see it that way. "I don't know why they're reacting like this," said Quesada on Friday. The theater didn't honor the Ticketplace tickets, he said, because "the house was already booked and we had accumulated a waiting list of 30 people for each performance." Malaev-Babel said the fault was Ticketplace's: "They did not notify us in advance. . . . We are tired of dealing with their mistakes."
Carrasquillo, however, said he gave Quesada the necessary information as soon as he requested that no more half-price tickets be sold. "I told him the numbers that I sold for the performances," he said, and "each day thereafter, I actually called him to remind him that those tickets had been sold. If you stop a sale before the day of performance, we give you the numbers right on the spot, so you'll know how many seats we have sold," he said. Malaev-Babel and Quesada told Backstage they should have been notified earlier so they could have avoided overbooking, and cited other Ticketplace errors. Carrasquillo said that in an unrelated instance, Ticketplace mistakenly oversold two performances in November.
Carrasquillo remained convinced that the Stanislavsky simply saw a chance to do better at the box office, only claiming after the fact that the shows had been sold out, and that it had no choice. "The truth of the matter is that I called them every day that week, and I told them what I sold," he said. "They made a decision to sell those tickets. They can say they sold them in advance, but my customers saw them at the door, selling the tickets at full price. It can be labeled a misunderstanding; not to me. This is the only theater we've had a problem with."
Quesada and Malaev-Babel said Ticketplace had made mistakes with their tickets in the past, and that the theater's relationship with its parent, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, wasn't worth the dues they paid. "We are thinking of leaving the Cultural Alliance and not using the services of Ticketplace," Malaev-Babel said.
Fine with Carrasquillo. "I'm not going to sell tickets for them any more," he said, "because they really in my opinion have jeopardized the integrity of Ticketplace."
* A friendly fax from actor-singer Steven Cupo gave Backstage the heads-up that Washington Jewish Theatre in Rockville will not present "The Threepenny Opera" Feb. 5-27 as scheduled. (The crestfallen Cupo was to have played the Narrator.) The administrative staff at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington plans a strategic evaluation of the 12-year-old professional company, its audiences, artistic goals and financial structure. More next week, after theater subscribers are formally notified of the change.
* Kids under 17 can attend plays for free with a paying adult during February and March at some 30 area theaters as part of the second annual Stages for All Ages program. Some theaters are offering the special tickets all this month, too, and will continue to do so into May. The League of Washington Theatres and The Washington Post are the principal sponsors of the program. Call 202-334-5885 for details, or check the league's Web site at www.lowt.org.
* Kids ages 5 to 10 can learn about New Year's celebrations in Shakespeare's time at a special family program, "A Century Send Forth," presented by the Folger Shakespeare Library on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 202-544-7077.
* Signature Theatre playwright in residence Norman Allen will present two new plays at free staged readings this month. "Fallen From Proust," a romantic comedy, will be presented on Monday; "In the Garden," which Allen labels "not a romantic comedy," on Jan. 24; both programs are at 7:30 p.m.
CAPTION: Alexandra Foucard says her "Guys and Dolls" chorus girl Adelaide's idols are Eartha Kitt and Josephine Baker.
CAPTION: Strong sales for "The Idiot" provoked harsh words between the Stanislavsky Theater Studio and discount vendor Ticketplace.