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Lane’s Play “The Caterer” to Feature Actor LeVar Burton

Published: April 15, 2009

Actor LeVar Burton—known for his work on the children’s program “Reading Rainbow” and immortalized as both Geordi LaForge in the “Star Trek” franchise and Kunta Kinte in “Roots”—will star in “The Caterer,” a play written by Film and Electronic Arts’ Brian Alan Lane that will run in Studio City’s Whitefire Theatre through Sunday, May 10.

“The Caterer” and the 99-seat theatre will offer audiences a unique opportunity to see Burton’s work up close and personal. Other renowned performers in the play are Cynthia Watros, Daytime Emmy winner and star of “Guiding Light” and “Lost;” James Hiroyuki Liao; Rachel Kanouse; Alejandra Jordan; Burnadean Jones; and Angelle Brooks.

“The Caterer” is a powerful and darkly funny tale about the one experience that all of humanity shares: death. The play, the passion of Lane, whose television and film work has included “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Remington Steele,” “Matlock,” “Hunter” and “MacGyver,” came about when Lane was 20 years old and his mother, brother, and best friend were killed in an auto accident from which he limped away. A year later, Lane wrote the original script about a man who sold people their “appropriate death.”

With the support and guidance of the renowned director/writer/film critic Francois Truffaut, that script was optioned for film and was the talk of the studios, according to Lane, but never found the right cast. “It was a story before its time, and a story written by a young writer who did not really have the courage to tell it,” he said.

After a bout with cancer last year, Lane came up with a new approach to the story. He believes the advent of Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Ebola Zaire and genetic testing has given the notion of “appropriate death” a real immediacy.

“I’d always had the death experience, but now I had the life experience and wisdom sufficient to justify courage, with courage sufficient to justify theme,” said Lane. “I finally had something to say rather than just a story to tell.”

Lane pitched the piece to Burton, who agreed to star in the leading role if he wrote this new version of “The Caterer” as an original premiere play.

“Whether you love ‘The Caterer’ or hate it, whether you think it too true or too ridiculous, whether you are afraid of it or embrace it, there is something chilling each of you will find: whatever this story is, it is all about you and no one else,” said Lane.

LeVar Burton

A tenured professor in the Department of Film and Electronic Arts at CSULB, Lane is using this production of “The Caterer” to create opportunities for his students and recent graduates. The play will be the inaugural project of Production Works, a new non-profit corporation-in-formation dedicated to providing the missing link between graduation and career in the entertainment business.

Founded by professors at CSULB, managed by alumni who are working entertainment professionals, and advised by the captains of the industry, Production Works is a halfway house for current students and recent graduates from film and media schools everywhere. By hiring students for industry jobs where they work with industry professionals, Production Works puts professional experience on students’ resumes and helps ensure a generation that can evolve the industry’s art rather than merely serve its minimum labor.

“The Caterer” will run Friday, May 10. Shows are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 3 and 8 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for all seats are $34.99. For more information, or to buy tickets, go to