Santa Barbara author and former entertainment attorney Maria Lane Ross and veteran director, actor and playwright Ed Giron have joined forces to bring The Jaguar’s Nest to the Center Stage Theater in Paseo Nuevo. There will be two performances of the play, at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.
Synergy Entertainment Group announced the world premiere of the production, which Ross describes as “a little masterpiece play about a fictional story of an individual’s struggle against a society that neglects mental illness. It is funny, irreverent, dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking!”
A Q&A will follow each performance and a VIP reception will also be held for patrons and sponsors from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. that Sunday.
All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Peoples’ Self-Help Housing with the specific designated purpose of providing performance tickets for emotionally challenged, low-income local residents, so they can have complimentary access to the exquisite cultural events Santa Barbara has to offer.
The story is by Ross, who co-wrote the play with Giron. A Hollywood High alum, Giron also directed the plays The Exonerated and The Persians (an adaptation of the oldest known surviving play), as well as the nostalgic comedy Harvey and Inherit the Wind. He starred as Richard Nixon in the play Frost/Nixon.
“I have enjoyed doing historical plays since I was 15,” Giron said. “I also love Shakespeare and comedy. I love performing in a well-written comedy. I expect that I will be lauded for that someday and also soundly criticized.”
He went on to explain his involvement in The Jaguar’s Nest.
“Maria has attended many of the shows that I have directed or performed,” he told Noozhawk. “She approached me about directing this play, giving me her concepts — not a full script — to co-develop. It is a wonderful collaboration.
“The story is fictional and has 11 characters all played by Santa Barbara and Los Angeles talent. L.A. actress Rosee McLeen portrays an attorney who is also a friend of the main character, who becomes a crusader for improvements in the mental health system.”
Ross wrote the story, which is inspired by her life, in eight months. She was born in the upscale Catskills region of Upstate New York, and was one of a few African-American students who attended an exclusive all-Jewish private school in Blue Bell, Pa. Her father was a civil engineer and she has six half-brothers and sisters. It was a complicated family made even more complicated (and heart-breaking) when the woman who raised her and purported to be her mother was actually her aunt. The truth was revealed to Ross when she was a teenager.
For nearly 20 years, Ross had a career as a powerful entertainment attorney. As an executive at Walt Disney Co., she drafted and negotiated contracts for the movies Pretty Woman, Dick Tracy, The Little Mermaid and others for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures division.
“I got burned out driving to meet agents and lawyers all over the Los Angeles area,” Ross said. “I had become the ‘go-to girl’ in the entertainment industry. They were approaching me about all types of projects. I was able to make some good connections and I came to know many screenwriters and playwrights.”
Ross was the co-executive producer of Jason’s Lyric, a movie distributed by a division of Universal Studios and starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Forest Whitaker.
When asked about the title of the play, Ross said “jaguar” refers to the jaguar in her belly.
“The jaguar comes out and speaks when I see injustice,” she said. “It has to speak the truth. But it gets me in trouble, too. Every living thing needs a place to belong: a nest ... a roof over your head. The jaguar nests in my belly.”
The Jaguar’s Nest will be performed at 3 and 7 p.m. Feb, 19 at Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo. Tickets are $21.50 for either performance. Click here for tickets, patron or sponsorship opportunities, or call 805.962.6848.