Still Crazies After All These Years
|Photo by John Gilhooley|
|Cherie Kerr sits in one of the 78 seats in the theater inside Santa Ana's DePietro Performance Center, which is named after her parents.|
A former member of the Los Angeles Groundlings comedy troupe, Kerr conceived the idea of a sketch and improvisational comedy troupe that would perform in and for Orange County. Along with fellow Groundling alum Kathy Griffin, Kerr held auditions for about a dozen cast member slots and staged their first satirical review in January 1990.
Doremus was just 5 when he learned all the dialogue and lyrics to a Crazies' musicals and helped performers learn their lines. He was only 6 the first time he appeared onstage with the Crazies. At 8, he wrote his first play and by 10 had staged--that's wrote, produced and directed--three different original plays, all performed on his mother's stage.
"He learned a lot about improv," Kerr said recently at the Santa Ana office where she runs her own public-relations firm and a business that teaches communication skills to business people--using improvisation techniques.
The Santa Ana resident said that after one recent tiff, Doremus told her, "You were never my mother. You were my director!"
Kerr directed the consolidation of her companies and the Crazies in a brick building on Main Street in Santa Ana in 1993. She named it the DePietro Performance Center after her parents, Charlie and Margaret DePietro, who performed as a jazz bass player and singer respectively. A shrine to both is behind glass at the theater.
"It's amazing," she said of the Crazies. "It's been kind of a blur."
The first seven years of the troupe's existence, the Crazies mounted original sketch shows, with Kerr doing much of the writing. Think of the Groundlings, which Kerr joined at 24, or Toronto and Chicago's Second City, which produced most of the talent on the original Saturday Night Live.
Crazies' shows had titles such as Orangthello, Orange-lahoma, Orange Trek, 2001: An Orange Odyssey, Eternal Sunshine of the Orange-less Mind and Orange Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which poked fun at crazy ex-country treasurer Bob Citron, whose bad investments spurred what was then the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Glowing reviews followed.
"They are my favorite of everything we have done," Kerr said of the sketch shows. "We made fun of everything Orange County."