Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Six Dialects of "Mary Poppins"

Guy McEleney, Katherine Parrish and Liam McHugh.
When SCR’s Summer Players present Mary Poppins on the Argyros Stage (August 8-9 and 14-16) the principal actors will speak in six different dialects: Standard, Cockney and North Country English; as well as Scottish, Irish and German!

According to Director Hisa Takakuwa, using dialects in a Players show has been a long time coming. “I wanted to wait until I was sure that our principals could comfortably incorporate dialects into their characterizations. Now that I’ve worked with all of them, there’s no doubt that now is the time, and Mary Poppins is the perfect show.”

And the perfect dialect coach? The director herself, a classically trained actor, who was a resident artist at A Noise Within and has appeared in productions of the classics at Indiana Repertory, Grove Shakespeare Festival and others, including SCR.

For Guy McEleney, who doubles with Christopher Huntley in the dual roles of Bert, the carefree chimney sweep (Cockney) and the Bank Chairman (Standard English), his coach makes all the difference. “Hisa has such a sharp ear for dialects that it makes this process fun rather than daunting. I’ve been lucky to have learned about Standard English in Teen Players, and now that I’m having to add Cockney, I’m really grateful to have worked with Hisa one-on-one over the years. An added plus—learning a dialect is helping me find Bert as a person and better understand his life and his story.”

All the work is worth it, according to Katherine Parrish, who speaks Standard English as her character, Mrs. Winifred Banks—mother of the misbehaving children. “It’s definitely very different from the way we usually speak and takes a lot of practice and repetition to get the sounds into your bones, so that you don’t have to think about it when you’re on stage. But I think that in the end it will help, not only with our ability to learn and utilize different dialects but also clean up and clarify our regular way of speaking for the stage.”

Hisa has chosen Irish dialect for the policeman, played by Liam McHugh, for a good reason—his entire family is from (or still lives in) Ireland. “I’m the first one in my family not to be born there, so I’m surrounded by accents, especially when we visit Ireland. At first, I was worried I might incorrectly portray the accent because I’ve been overexposed to the sounds and don’t really hear them anymore. I decided to conduct some online research to help me hear the distinguishing features. Now I’m looking forward to honoring my heritage through my character in Mary Poppins.”

As rehearsals began, everyone was given access to audio and hard copy information that includes vowel and consonant changes, placement, resonance and characteristics of the dialect. Hisa also has provided a dialect packet containing practice materials. And, because this Summer Players cast is creative as well as extremely talented, Guy, Katherine and Liam have additional ways of working on their dialects. (We suspect the other cast members do, too.)

Katherine: “Lots of Harry Potter, "Downton Abbey" and Jane Austen movies are a fun way to practice.”
Guy: “I like to speak in front of a mirror to see how my mouth moves to each new sound I make.”
Liam: “After practicing, I ask my dad to give me feedback about doing the dialect correctly.”

Be there to see—and hear—the results when Mary Poppins opens on August 8!

Learn more and buy tickets.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Faces in Summer Players

South Coast Repertory’s production of Mary Poppins (on the Argyros Stage August 8-9 and 14-16) has a cast of 32. An even dozen are new to Summer Players. Daunting for the director? Not if she’s Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa.

“These new faces aren’t really new to me,” Hisa said. “All twelve of them have been in the Conservatory for at least a year. And while they aren’t necessarily seasoned performers, they’ve learned about the process of acting, which is so important to our program.”

And what about the actors themselves? We caught up with five of them during their first week of rehearsal, and here’s what they had to say.

Nicholas Kessler, age 17, has attended the Theatre Conservatory for four years, beginning with the Summer Acting Workshop, but never has been onstage at SCR.

“I thought Summer Players would be a good experience and help me grow as an actor. I was pretty nervous during my audition, but now I’m eager to get to work and be a part of the process.”

Eleven-year-old Aoife McEvoy also got her start in the Summer Acting Program and is in her third year. Last season, she played Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.

“I tried out for Summer Players because I wanted to be in a musical, meet new people, learn more about acting and have fun! When I got chosen I tried to play it cool but eventually started dancing around the kitchen.”

Twelve-year-old Zoe Hebbard has been in the Theatre Conservatory since fourth grade and last year played Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol.

“When I saw Peter Pan last year and realized how much my friends loved being in Summer Players, I decided to audition. On the car ride to the theatre for the first day of rehearsal, I was so excited!”

After four years in the Conservatory, Kat Lewis finally had enough free time to audition for Summer Players. This will be her first appearance onstage at SCR—but not her last. Look for her in Teen Players this fall.

“When I got the call that I was chosen, I started running and jumping around my house because I was so ecstatic! I can’t wait to work on this show and see it come together.”

JT Casey is going into the 7th grade and has performed in other plays but never has been in (or even seen) a show at SCR.

“I love plays and wanted to do something more professional with other serious acting students, but I was super nervous because so many were auditioning. We were at Souplantation when the call came, and everyone around me knew I had gotten something really big!”

Be there for “something really big”—a cast of 32 Summer Players, acting, singing and dancing in Mary Poppins, beginning August 8.

Buy tickets and learn more.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Creative Sparks For SCR’s “Encore!” Gala

On June 17, SCR’s always exuberant Gala Committee members got together as a group to riff on everyone’s favorite subject “Encore!”, the Season-opening Gala, planned for Saturday, September 12. According to Chair Socorro Vasquez, while much work on the event takes place at sub-committee meetings, when everyone gathers at the theatre to share plans and brainstorm new ideas, a special synergy ignites.

And there were lots of great sparks at the recent meeting. Leading off, Designer Tom Buderwitz showed his preliminary designs for the three spaces—the cocktail reception area in Plaza Park with colored elements overhead and the SCR building as a backdrop, the elegant ballroom for dining and dancing, and the vibrant rooftop pavilion and pool deck, dubbed “Club Encore,” where guests will enjoy an after-hours club.

Among the exciting news briefs, Socorro announced that South Coast Plaza’s David Yurman will be a Gala sponsor, hosting the traditional wrap luncheon in the fall, as well as a special in-store event in November. Hosted by Yvonne and Damien Jordan, a percentage of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Gala—just in time for holiday gifts!

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Meet Inmigrantes Teatro Artistic Director Raymundo Garduño

Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, Andrés Franco and Ariadnalí de La Peña in Kikiricaja. Photo by Alejandro Montalvo.
A year ago—at a theatre conference in San Diego—something incredible happened: attendees had the chance to cross the border into Tijuana, where they witnessed Inmigrantes Teatro’s work. SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Dialogue/Diálogos Community Project Director Sara Guerrero were there and came away captivated by the company’s remarkable physical comedy, which transcended language and culture; next came the decision to invite them to SCR. Now one year later, Inmigrante Teatro's Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos comes Studio SCR.

Kikiricaja Director Raymundo Garduño founded Inmigrantes Teatro in 2005 and serves as artistic director. The company made its debut with the play Naufragios (Shipwreck). Its other productions include the improv show, Los Improductivos (The Improductives), and Inmolación (Immolation). Inmolación was selected by Centro Cultural Tijuana as part of its Education Series Program and represented Baja California in the 2012 International Borders Theatre Festival and at the 2013 FESARES Baja California State Theatre Festival. Earlier this year, Inmigrantes Teatro presented Kikiricaja at La Jolla Playhouse.

We talked with Garduño to find out more about Inmigrantes Teatro and the show that comes to SCR's Nicholas Studio June 18-21:

Raymundo Garduño 
Why is your company called Inmigrantes Teatro?
Because, curiously, most of our founding members are immigrants. That is, none of us were born in Tijuana. The name also inspires a feeling of a traveler. We always wanted to tour our work as well. Hence, the name.

Why do shows for young audiences?
We always thought that a child’s first experience should be the best one. We aspire to create audiences by giving to children and youth good theatrical experiences that will always make them come back.

Was Inmigrantes Teatro the first to perform Kikiricaja
Kikiricaja is the result of a collaboration with Teatro Paraíso, one of the most important theatre companies for young audiences in Spain (and Europe). They already had produced the play in the ‘80s. I invited them to perform at a theatre festival for children that I produce every year. I became good friends with the company and, when we were looking for a script to produce, Teatro Paraíso’s director suggested Kikiricaja. Now we are the only company in the world with exclusive rights to produce it.

What lessons can be learned from Kikiricaja?
I always thought that Kikiricaja was a play about friendship, about the courage of having a friend. I don’t think that the  function of children's theatre isn't to teach or lecture, much less theatre for young audiences. To me, theatre should be a moving experience, a way to tell a story. What each person gains from that experience, or the way they reflect on it, may be the result of how well we tell a moving story. But I do think that Kikiricaja is a moving tale of friendship.

What makes you most proud about your theatre company? 
I think that our success in disseminating our work has made me proud—first in performing our work outside of our state and, then outside of our country. We also have a commitment to the audiences for whom our work is targeted: young people. It is not an easy job to work for children and youth, and I think we do it with lots of ethic and, most importantly respect, for them.

About Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos

Loosely translated as “Cock-a-doodle-doo Box: A History of Clowns,” Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos is a three-person play, performed entirely in Spanish, that tells the story of friends Bartolomeus and Comino, who live in beautiful wooden boxes where they dream, eat, play and invent worlds. Full of moments of happiness and sadness, fights and reconciliations, travel and adventure, this delightful piece shows how friendships can help us face the fears that make us feel small, as well as celebrate the hopes that make us feel like giants. A family-friendly show, Kikiricaja is recommended for ages 7 and above. This piece is performed entirely in Spanish. Fluency in Spanish is not required. Presented in association with La Jolla Playhouse.

Watch our video to learn more about the show.

Learn more and buy tickets.

Conozca a Raymundo Garduño, el Director Artístico de Inmigrantes Teatro

Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, Andrés Franco y Ariadnalí de La Peña en Kikiricaja. Fotografía: Alejandro Montalvo.
Hace un año—en un congreso de teatro en San Diego—algo increíble ocurrió: los asistentes tuvieron la oportunidad de cruzar la frontera a Tijuana, donde presenciaron el trabajo de Inmigrantes Teatro. El director artístico de SCR, Marc Masterson, y la directora del proyecto comunitario Dialogue/Diálogos, Sara Guerrero, estuvieron ahí cautivados por la extraordinaria comedia física de la compañía, la cual trasciende lenguaje y cultura. Fue ahí donde decidieron invitarlos a SCR. Ahora, un año después, llega Inmigrantes Teatro con su producción de Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos a formar parte de la temporada de Studio SCR.

Fundada en 2005 por Raymundo Garduño, la compañía inició con la obra Naufragios. Otras producciones de su repertorio incluyen el show de improvisación, Los Improductivos, e Inmolación. Inmolación fue seleccionada por Centro Cultural Tijuana como parte de su Programa de Teatro Escolar y representó a Baja California en el Festival Internacional de Teatro en las Fronteras 2012 y en el Festival estatal de teatro de Baja California 2013.

Hablamos con Garduño para aprender un poco más sobre Inmigrantes Teatro y su producción Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos, que vendrá a SCR el 18-21 de junio.

Raymundo Garduño
¿Por qué se llama Inmigrantes Teatro la compañía? 
Porque cuando inició la Compañía—los que la iniciamos—curiosamente la mayoría éramos inmigrantes, es decir ninguno era nacido en Tijuana. También es un poco el sentido del viajero, siempre quisimos ser un grupo que viajara con su trabajo. Por eso decidimos llamarnos así.

¿Por qué realizan teatro para niños y jóvenes?
Siempre hemos pensado en que la primera experiencia de un niño en el teatro debe ser la mejor. Creo que la mejor manera de crear público es darles una buena experiencia teatral a los niños y jóvenes para que quieran volver siempre a las salas.

¿Fueron ustedes los primeros en presentar la obra Kikiricaja?
Kikiricaja es el resultado de la colaboración con la compañía española Teatro Paraíso, uno de los grupos de teatro para niños más importantes de España (y Europa). Ellos habían montado esa obra allá por los ‘80s. Yo los invité a venir a un festival de teatro para niños que hago cada año y nos hicimos muy amigos. Y buscando un texto para montar, el director de aquella compañía me propuso hacer Kikiricaja. Ahora somos la única compañía en el mundo que la puede montar. Tenemos los derechos en exclusividad.

¿Hay alguna lección que debemos aprender al ver Kikiricaja?
Siempre he pensado que Kikiricaja es una obra sobre la amistad, sobre el valor de tener un amigo. Creo que la función del teatro no es enseñar o aleccionar, sobre todo el teatro para niños. Para mí el teatro debe ser una experiencia conmovedora, una manera de contar una historia. Lo que cada quien se lleve de esa experiencia o la manera en que lo reflexione es lo que pueda resultar de nuestra capacidad de contar una historia que conmueva. Pero si creo que Kikiricaja conmueve desde el lado de la amistad.

¿Cuál es tu más grande orgullo del trabajo de Inmigrantes Teatro?
Creo que el lograr la difusión de nuestro trabajo—primero fuera de nuestro estado y después fuera de nuestro país—además del compromiso que tenemos con el público al que dirigimos nuestro trabajo. No es una labor sencilla trabajar para niños y jóvenes, y creo que lo hacemos con mucha ética y sobre todo respeto hacia ellos.

Kikiricaja: Una Historia de Payasos

Una obra de Teatro conformada por tres personas en donde se cuenta ingeniosamente la historia de Bartolomeus y Comino, quienes viven en unas cajas preciosas donde sueñan, comen, juegan y hasta inventan mundos. Una historia de amistad que está llena de grandes y pequeños momentos de alegría y tristeza, peleas y reconciliaciones, viajes y aventura. Este espectáculo nos mostrará como las relaciones de amistad pueden ayudarnos a enfrentar aquellos miedos que nos hacen sentir pequeños; así como también, celebrar las ilusiones que nos hacen sentir como gigantes. Esta función es apta para toda la familia, se recomienda para niños de 7 años en adelante. Kikiraja se presentará completamente en español.

Watch our video to learn more about the show.

Learn more and buy tickets.