Monday, December 20, 2010

Introducing…SCR’s Rewards Card

What’s better than live theatre?  A free ticket to see more live theatre!  With the new SCR Rewards card, any patron who buys five South Coast Repertory tickets before June 17, 2012, will receive a sixth ticket free.

On your next visit to SCR, be sure to stop by the box office and request your own SCR Rewards card.  Each time you purchase a ticket valued at $20 or more, your ticket services representative will stamp your card.  For each ticket you buy, you’ll receive one stamp.  Once it has been stamped five times, bring the card to the box office and collect your free ticket.

There are some restrictions.  Subscription purchases don’t qualify, but subscribers can collect stamps when they purchase additional single tickets.  Also, tickets for the Theatre for Young Audiences season, as well as any special events—like the upcoming engagement of the Martha Graham Dance Company—do not qualify.  Visit the SCR Rewards Card FAQs page for complete guidelines and limitations.

And if you’re interested in bigger rewards—in the form of larger discounts and exclusive benefits—check out the SCR Subscriptions web page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Acting for the Camera: A Former Casting Director’s Approach

Jill Newton teaching a class.
SCR Acting for the Camera instructor Jill Newton has 16 years experience—in casting.  That’s not the usual credential for an acting teacher, but having spent five days a week, eight hours a day choosing actors for roles on daytime television, Jill bring a unique point of view to her class.

“I like to take the ‘scary’ out of the casting process by placing the students in a postion of casting a part themselves,” Jill said.  “Through this process, they can observe how each actor sees the role differently and why some stand out from the others.”

The main focus of Jill’s class is to put the students on camera in various circumstances so they can see how their nerves and reactions are projected on screen. “Even though my class takes place in a fun and safe environment, no one is entirely comfortable the first time the camera rolls, but by the end of the class, they can’t wait for their turn to shine.”

So that students come away with a better understanding of the business of acting, Jill’s first class is dedicated to the basics—resumes, pictures, agents, unions, building the experience.  The final classes are devoted to actually shooting scenes, which gives the students a sense of what is expected on the film or television set.

And it’s that set that is so different from the stage: “The camera is an intruder in your intimate world of conversation and especially your thoughts,” Jill said.  “The stage requires you to project your performance to the audience.”

And then there is rehearsal.  “Stage performances are a culmination of many hours perfecting roles.  In film and television, there’s much less rehearsal time, and in daytime TV, there is literally none—that’s right, none, except for a rushed camera blocking!”

In television and film, the actor needs to make choices and bring 100 percent to the first performance.  So Jill throws her students into the fire!  “But, again, we’re in a friendly and safe environment—a good place to prepare students for situations they may eventually face on real sets.”

Jill enjoys sharing her experiences with the students, helping them understand the process and getting them on the road to their passion.  “Whatever their degree of experience when they walk into class, we support each student at his or her personal level.”

At the end of nine weeks, they leave the class with a sense of accomplishment—and a copy of their on-camera scenes, edited by Jill and set to music.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

‘Turkey Boy’ Grows Up

At age 11, Jordan Bellow thought he knew everything about acting.  After all, he had taken acting classes. He was good at memorizing.  And he’d learned how to block scenes.  So when Jordan entered SCR’s Summer Acting Workshop it was with a single goal:

Jordan Bellow in The Beloved Dearly (2004).
“I wanted to be famous.”

One day he and his classmates performed a seemingly simple exercise called sound/movement circle.  He never had done anything like it and began to think maybe there was more to acting than just reciting lines and standing in the right place.  So he joined the year-round program for kids and teens.

Every day he learned something new, and it stuck with him, especially another exercise that didn’t seem to have anything to do with acting—looking at a picture and imagining the story behind it.  Jordan and the others in his group began to bounce ideas off each other about what had happened to the people in the picture and what might happen next, surprising themselves as they came up with fascinating possibilities.

“It was more fun than anything I’d ever done in an acting class, and I finally realized I’d been excited for the right reason—it was all about story.  In the past, it had been about performing onstage with people watching.  At SCR I threw away that other actor guy and started fresh.”

He also thought directors just told you what to do and you did it.  “I didn’t know you could have conversations with them.  In my first Players show, Scouting Reality, I was part of an ensemble with the director (Hisa Takakuwa) and the cast.  It was a real collaboration, and I loved it!”

And it was a lead role.  Not so the Players production of Snow Angel.  “I almost never spoke … well, at least not in the show,” added the admittedly talkative Jordan.  “When I started studying the person I played and the reasons why he didn’t talk much, he became really interesting to me.  It was all about understanding character.”

Hal Landon Jr and Jordan Bellow
in  A Christmas Carol.
Photo by Henry DiRocco.

When he moved out of his comfort zone as the sidekick-comic-guy, other roles, big and small, followed until—the summer after his freshman year of college—Jordan was accepted into SCR’s Professional Acting Program.  At first, he was skeptical.

“In Players, there was an environment that I can only describe as magical.  I still don’t know how they created it, but I could be my complete self all the time—with the director and all the other actors, who are still the closest friends I have.  I was sure they couldn’t create that environment in the professional program, in just eight weeks.  But by the second week, everyone was making the same comments I used to get in Players as a kid—we all just loved being at SCR and being ourselves.”

Now a sophomore in the BFA theatre performance program at Chapman University, Jordan recently appeared in If All the Sky Were Paper, and last year, he played Lövborg in Hedda Gabler—the only freshman in the cast.

“I owe that one to Hisa and our monologue classwork.  I’d chosen a speech from The Seagull and had worked on it since high school.  So I just put that in my back pocket and pulled it out for the Hedda audition!”

Now he is onstage with one of his favorite Professional Acting Program teachers—Hal Landon Jr.—playing Thomas Shelley in A Christmas Carol.  “It’s a long way from my 13-year-old ‘Turkey Boy’ role, but I’m just as excited as I was then because I’ll be onstage at SCR, where I learned what acting was all about.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A tradition of classes and A Christmas Carol

Henry Ficcadenti’s family has had a long history with South Coast Repertory’s acting classes: “My older brothers and sister all took acting classes, so when my 14-year-old brother signed up, I just followed. Seeing them all take classes made me interested in it.”

Now in his fourth year of acting classes, Henry is part of the Junior Players and will be performing in a full-length show in April

“I like these classes because I’m not being set aside from anyone else,” he said. “We work together in a group and function as an ensemble.”

At age 12, Henry is the sixth Ficcadenti sibling to take classes in SCR’s Kids and Teen Conservatory. Will his youngest sister Violetta sign up, too?

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see if it’s something she’s interested in.”

The Ficcadenti family has more than one SCR tradition: “We always go see A Christmas Carol together on Christmas Eve.”

But it’s not just about watching the show—it’s about performing in it. Four of Henry’s siblings have performed in A Christmas Carol, so naturally he auditioned as well.

“It looked like it was a cool thing to be in. And for the same reason I joined SCR as a whole, it just looked like a lot of fun.”

The acting classes must have helped, because after auditioning three times he finally landed the role of Young Ebenezer Scrooge, the same role his brothers Connor and Alex once played. “My dad has seen everyone else do it multiple times, so they’re really happy to see me do it, too.”

Your kids can follow Henry and his siblings’ example by enrolling in classes in January, or catch his début performance as Young Eb in A Christmas Carol, playing now through Dec. 26.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Christmas Carol' Memories

South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol is 31 this year—the same age as Charles Dickens when he wrote the beloved novel. After so many years, the actors and artists associated with the production have collected many memories. Here are a few:

Jerry Patch (Adaptor): I remember getting up at 4:30 a.m. in Huntington Beach during the summer of 1980 to write the adaptation SCR first presented that Christmas.  The sun was up early, blazing across my desk, while I tried to put myself in London in December.  It wasn’t that hard—Dickens overpowered life at the beach almost every morning.

John-David Keller and Martha McFarland.
John-David Keller (Director and Actor): Many of my favorite memories revolve around the children in the cast. I always insist that they not have their own dressing room but share with the adults, so they can really experience what it is like to be part of a production. Of course, the children are given instruction in rules of behavior that the adults are not. I remember one time asking a father about how his child was enjoying being a part of the show, and the father replied, “He’s having the time of his life, and his vocabulary has become quite colorful.”

Howard Shangraw and Hisa Takakuwa.
Speaking of which…

Hisa Takakuwa (Assistant Director, Former Actress: Sally/Toy Lady/Scavenger): One year the actress who played Mrs. Cratchit (who shall remain nameless) missed her first entrance with the Cratchit children. I was sitting next to her in the dressing room when she heard the entrance music and the voices of the Cratchit kids and realized she’d missed her entrance.

Let’s say she spouted some very colorful and un-Mrs. Cratchit like phrases and ran to get on stage.  The kids had to start the scene alone by improvising and did a fine and very professional job.  I doubt anyone in the audience even knew.  Later, the girl playing Belinda said, “No problem.  I loved saving the scene!”

Daniel Blinkoff, the Cratchit children and (far right) Jennifer Parsons and
Hal Landon Jr.
Daniel Blinkoff (Actor, Bob Cratchit): A few years ago, on Christmas Eve—our last show for that year—I’m waiting backstage for the scene where we glimpse into Tiny Tim’s future. I feel a tug on my sleeve, and it’s Tiny Tim. He says, “Don’t go on.” I ask him why, and he says, “If you go on, that means it will all be over soon.”

This was a kid with a lot of initial anxiety, but through the course of the production he really fell in love with the show and became a real actor. I went out on stage with the kids and we were all in tears. It was one of the most magical moments I’d ever felt as an actor, with these kids who just gave their heart and souls to this scene. The moment was amazing, with a sense of the fleeting, but what makes the job of an actor so special.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Degree of Separation

Octavio Solis and Adam Gwon.
  • Octavio Solis and South Coast Repertory met in 1989 when Octavio’s play Man of the Flesh was read during the Hispanic Playwrights Project.  The following year, Man of the Flesh was produced on SCR’s Second Stage.
  • Octavio and Adam Gwon met in 2005, at the New Dramatists’ Composer/Lyricist Studio in New York, where they wrote a song together.  Octavio suggested they collaborate on a musical someday.  He promised to call.
  • SCR commissioned Octavio for a new play in 2008.  He told Artistic Director John Glore he had a song that could be the basis for a play.  John asked if it might be a musical.  Octavio called Adam!
  • Once the possibility of commissioning a musical became real, John had coffee with Adam in New York to talk about it.  Before he left, Adam gave John a CD of another musical he was working on at Roundabout Theatre Company, called Ordinary Days.
  • John took the CD back to Costa Mesa. Ordinary Days had its West Coast Premiere last season on the Argyros Stage.
  • And now, Octavio and Adam are here at SCR, working on their commissioned musical, Cloud Lands, which will be presented during an in-house workshop for the artistic staff on December 10.
  • Will SCR audiences get to see this work someday? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From Mind to Mainstage

When designer Dan Ostling started working on the set for Becky Shaw’s first scene, he had exactly one sentence to guide him: “Act 1 Scene 1. A room at a mid-range hotel in New York City.”

So how did he get from that sentence to the picture below?

Brian Avers, Tessa Auberjonois and Barbara Tarbuck in Becky Shaw.

“I’m not thinking about it as a set first,” he explained, “but asking myself why the playwright chose this location and what does it say about the characters?”

For example, the script tells us that Max is well off but has chosen a three-star hotel (which one character calls a two-star hotel) for his adoptive mother and sister, suggesting he might be a little cheap when he’s paying for someone else.

“This is where I start to understand the playwright’s intention,” Dan said.

Next comes the research phase. That means finding photos of rooms in three-star New York-area hotels, like these:

Dan’s paying attention to the composition of the room—its size and shape and how the objects in it are arranged. A chair placed closed to a bed, for instance, suggests a small room.

He’s also paying attention to specifics such as air vents, door handles and coat racks—the details that make a set feel authentic.

Once Dan feels he has gathered enough research, he starts sketching: “Sketching is a quick way to get ideas out of your head.”

As different bits of research meld with his concepts, it gets hard to separate which parts came from photos and which came from his own ideas. “Some research you just love and you just keep it in your head and you sketch and you model, but when you see the research again, it is different from what you remember.”

In addition to the sketch, he also creates a ground plan from a bird’s-eye view. And from these two pieces, he creates a model made from all sort of supplies, including art board, paint, printed pieces, wood and wire. He buys some of the furniture and hand-makes others.

Still, he’s not done. He continues to make changes to the model and the sketch all the way up to the time the set is actually built.

“You go back and forth, revising as you go along, which raises the quality as everything becomes a little more detailed.”

In this case, the final details included not just the air vent and door handles, but an old-fashioned sprinkler head, a smoke alarm and a “Do Not Disturb” hanger.

The result, Dan has decided, “is sort of fantastic.”

Check out the final performances of Becky Shaw, playing until Nov. 21, to see this and the other six sets Dan designed for the show in real life.

Some photos from and

Thursday, November 4, 2010

First Nighters Cheer "Becky Shaw"

Angela Goethals and Brian Avers in Becky Shaw
Becky Shaw Playwright Gina Gionfriddo also writes smart crime drama for television, like “Law and Order,” so it’s no surprise to find an element of mystery—as well as an unscheduled visit to the police station—in her new hit play.  The comedy about a blind date gone wrong had the audience buzzing on First Night, Friday, October 29.

And then had critics buzzing Monday morning:
  • “Briskly entertaining comedy…A scream come true.” – LA Times
  • “Causes the audence’s breath to volley between being held in anticipation and bursting forth in laughter. – OC Reader
  • “Will make you laugh.” – OC Register   
For more enthusiastic reaction to Becky Shaw—and a few First Nighter blind dates stories, read all about the Cast Party, complete with photos, here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Pearl of a Gala Wrap Party

Mikimoto at South Coast Plaza (inset: Gala Chair Sophie Cripe)
On Wednesday, October 28, the ultra-elegant Mikimoto store at South Coast Plaza was the site for the final meeting of SCR’s 2010 “The Play’s the Thing” Gala Ball Committee.  What a pearl of a party it was.  In fact—what PEARLS!

Have a look at the pearls and the party here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Becky Shaw Blind Date Contest Winners

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Becky Shaw Blind Date Contest. We had numerous great submissions that were entertaining and touching. We’re happy to announce the winners of the contest are Barbara Maxson Proud and Kathy Miller. They will receive two complimentary tickets to the show as well as a $50 gift certificate to Scott’s Seafood Grill and Bar or Morton’s The Steakhouse. You can find their winning entries below:

Our four other finalists were:

Romantic Evening in Sequoia by Claudia Eads
Was I That Hard Up for a Date by Rochelle Liss
Blinded by Nature by Judy Luttrell
My Blind Date Disappeared After Seeing Me Wearing Braces by Alice Setiawan

Here are our winning entries:

Cocktails with a Twist by Barbara Maxson Proud

I knew he’d be handsome and smart – I trusted implicitly this matchmaker friend – and I was told he was “uniquely interesting,” but I had no idea to what degree that would be true… “Kurt” pulled into my parents’ driveway right on time. We shared our first hellos and cautious hugs at the front door, he paid a well-bred acknowledgement to my folks, and off we went – in a limousine! A bit over the top, I thought, but I was game. He said we’d make a special first stop where we’d meet another couple and have some cocktails before going to dinner. Score! – a well-planned evening! My thoughts began to reel with possibilities for our future together; not only was he organized, smart, good looking, and a great conversationalist, but… wait, what the…? The limo pulled into the mortuary parking lot, and it hit me – he was also an undertaker! Minutes later, and under the influence of aftershave and formaldehyde, I met Kurt’s effervescent companions, snatched a sizeable helping of cheddared crackers, and began drinking fervently from my glass of wine as my hosts guided me through the premises. The tour included not only the viewing room where “Mr. Smith” lay prone in his casket, beautifully prepared (it was noted) for the following day’s ceremony, but also the autopsy room, complete with a draped and toe-tagged cadaver. The rest of the date is honesty stricken from my memory, even the end-of-the-evening kiss – must’ve been lifeless!

Surprise by Kathy Miller

When in high school, a girlfriend called and said her brother wanted to go out with me and would I be interested. He was on the football team so I was excited and said yes. When he got to the door to pick me up, he looked a little surprised but didn’t say anything at that time. We went on a double date that night and continued dating. The surprise was, he had asked his sister to get him a date with my girl friend and she thought it was me he wanted to date, not the other girl. We have been married for 54 years now, so you never know what is in store for you when you agree to a blind, date do you!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Be sure to keep an eye out for more contests in the future.

You can find more information for Becky Shaw here!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

‘Pookie Goes Grenading,’ Really

The first NewSCRipts reading of SCR’s 2010-11 season will be JC Lee’s Pookie Goes Grenading, an irreverent comedy about a teenager who causes all sorts of trouble when she’s denied the opportunity to create her greatest work of art.

The reading will take place Monday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. (Please note that the date has changed since the series was first announced.) Tickets are $12.

SCR’s NewSCRipts series gives playwrights a chance to hear their work read aloud by professional actors—and gives audiences a chance to be among the first to hear a new play and offer feedback on it. In the program’s 25-year history, NewSCRipts has featured six plays that went on to receive Pulitzer Prize nominations, including Wit, which won in 1999.

At the heart of this play is Pookie Doublet, fierce, ambitious and 14.  Pookie’s chaotic quest to create a theatrical masterpiece lets loose all sorts of hell in Camden, N.J.—and before it’s over she finds herself accused of terrorism, betrayal and terrible taste. 

Lee is a playwright and blogger whom the Huffington Post recently called “a talent to watch.” Currently a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at The Juilliard School, he’s a bi-coastal native New Yorker and San Franciscan whose work has been seen throughout the country. His trilogy about the apocalypse, This World and After, is currently in production at Sleepwalkers Theatre in San Francisco.

You can find more information and tickets here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have You Met the Cast of ‘Becky Shaw’?

From left to right, Tessa Auberjonois, Brian Avers, Barbara Tarbuck,
Angela Goethals and Graham Michael Hamilton.
Becky Shaw begins previews tomorrow night (Oct. 22), and SCR fans are in for a treat as some of their favorite actors return to the stage.  Tessa Auberjonois played the hilariously snooty Chick Boyle in Crimes of the Heart last May.  Also back from last season is Graham Michael Hamilton, who appeared in Saturn Returns as the young and adoring radiologist, Gustin.  In the title role of Becky Shaw is Angela Goethals, last seen in Nothing Sacred as the sought-after servant, Fenichka.  And Barbara Tarbuck is returning for her first full production here in 10 years.  Last time we saw her, she was playing a babysitter with a taste for liquor in The Beginning of August.  Making his SCR debut is Brian Avers, who some may recognize as Special Agent Mike Renko on the TV show “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let’s Toast SCR’s Hip New Playwrights Bar!

SCR's New Lobby Bar

Mark Twain once said, “Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough.” To which we say, “Bottoms up!”

During the off-season, SCR redesigned its lobby bar and expanded its selection. The new Playwrights Bar is now fully stocked with beer, white wine and such premium liquors as Grey Goose, Kettle One and Patron Silver. And if you’re strapped for cash, the bar now accepts credit cards. The bar opens one hour before the show and during intermission (and you can pre-order drinks before the show so that they’ll be waiting for you at intermission). 

Talented set designer Tom Buderwitz created the new look, which features classic back bar shelving, faux-marble countertops, LED lighting and a plasma TV screen. This aesthetically pleasing atmosphere also features portraits of some of SCR’s most famous playwrights, giving you the chance to drink alongside the likes of George Bernard Shaw.

Playwright Portraits in the Lobby Bar

Take a look at SCR’s $5 drink specials that go along with the themes of its current and upcoming shows…

In the Next Room

Electric Lemonade
  ¾ oz. Light Rum
  ¾ oz. Blue Curacao
  1 oz. Sweet and Sour
  Top with Sprite, serve over ice

The Victorian
  1 shot Amaretto
  1 shot Bailey’s Irish Cream
  1 shot Vodka
  Stir together and serve over ice
Becky Shaw

The Manipulator
  1 ½ oz. Gin
  ½ oz. Sweet Vermouth
  2 drops Grenadine
  Shake with cracked ice & strain

Wild Night Out
  3 measures White Tequila
  2 measures Cranberry Juice
  1 measure Lime Juice
  Add ice and top with Club Soda

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jean and Tim Weiss Step Up (for the 14th Time) to Underwrite 'In the Next Room or the vibrator play'

Matt, Tim, Rhea and Jean Weiss, Laurie and Steve Duncan
When Tim Weiss joined the SCR Board of Trustees, he and his wife, Jean, underwrote The Education of Randy Newman. That was 1999. They continued to underwrite a play every season during Tim’s nine-year tenure (two of those years as Board President). But they didn’t stop there.

On Friday October 1, they stepped into the Honorary Producer’s circle as underwriters of In the Next Room or the vibrator play—their 14th such venture. And, as usual, they picked a winner:

“Daringly inventive” – Los Angeles Times

“Insightful…makes the connections crackle like the direct current that powered Mr. Edison’s life-changing devices – Orange County Register

“Hands down one of the funniest new plays I’ve seen this year…surprisingly classy and sophisticated” – Broadway

Some other Weiss winners over the years? We’ll list them all on Party Play, along with snappy commentary and glittering photos from First Night of In the Next Room or the vibrator play.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Building Buzz-Worthy Props

Kathleen Early and Rebecca Mozo in SCR's In the Next Room or the vibrator play

So, Andrea Bullock and Jeff Rockey, what did you do at work last week?

Oh, you know, the usual: Built replicas of antique vibrators.

SCR’s version of the Carpenter.
You did what?

Yes, the halls of South Coast Repertory are buzzing these days as our artists prepare for the opening of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, a new comedy set in the 1880s about a just-invented electrical device designed to cure “female hysteria.”

Andrea and Jeff, our props artisans, had the task of creating two versions of the device from drawings of the real things.

Because these were real things: “Both of our vibrators are based on historical fixtures,” Jeff said, “the Carpenter vibrator, invented by a Dr. Carpenter, and the Chattanooga vibrator, manufactured by the Chattanooga Medical Company.”'

SCR’s version of the Chattanooga.
Described in the book The Technology of Orgasm as the “Cadillac of vibrators” because of its $200 price tag (in 1900), the Chattanooga was designed for, ahem… interior use. It consisted of a pole with a moveable arm. On that arm was a rod that could be made to vibrate.

“This instrument will be found to be an invaluable aid to the physician in the treatment of all nervous diseases and female trouble,” read its instruction manual.

Though it sounds silly and shocking today, doctors practiced genital massage on women from the time of the ancient Greeks through at least the 1920s. For them, this was a medical act, not a sexual one. They called the result a paroxysm rather than an orgasm.

Doctors believed this treatment relieved the symptoms of female hysteria, a diagnosis that also dates to the Greeks and covered everything from headaches to nervousness to loss of appetite to sleeplessness to general bad behavior—anything doctors couldn’t otherwise explain.

Problem was: Doctors didn’t really like doing it because it took a long time, time that could be spent earning money seeing other patients.

They needed a device that could do the job for them, which led to the invention of water-powered, steam-powered and finally—and most successfully—electric vibrators.

That’s where our story begins.

Andrea and Jeff used what they call “found parts” to create their vibrator replicas—bits of old lamps, an air hose, modern-day machine cranks, coat hooks.

19th Century drawing of the Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga model includes a tool handle, a pedal borrowed from a costume shop dress form, and oil filter wrenches. The legs on the Carpenter once supported a barstool.

“We did some research to find out what these antique vibrators looked like,” Andrea said, “and then sat around brainstorming ideas for how to make something that looked like that.”

She made the Chattanooga, and said the hardest part was creating an arm that could move up and down, back and forth.

Jeff made a variation of the Carpenter, which unlike the Chattanooga was designed only for exterior use and featured a collection of attachments (which in his model came from a modern day massager).

But no, neither of these devices actually vibrates. Those noises you hear will be coming from…well, we must keep a few secrets. See if you can figure it out.

Andrea and Jeff weren’t fazed by their assignments. In fact, they weren’t even sure these were the weirdest things they’d ever been asked to make.

One of the weirdest, maybe, said Jeff.
“I don’t know,” said Andrea, “I’ve made ‘dead’ plush animals that bleed.”

Now What’s This Play About?
In the Next Room or the vibrator play takes place at the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of home electricity. With its arrival comes a new invention that Dr. Givings is applying to patients suffering from “female hysteria.” His wife, Catherine, can’t help but overhear the sounds that accompany her husband’s treatments, and so begins to investigate—with comical results. But what Catherine comes to realize is that it is not the device in the next room that she yearns for, but rather an intimacy that’s missing from her marriage.
Sept. 26 - Oct. 17 - More Info/Tickets

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Misalliance' Opens the Season to Raves at SCR

Honorary Producer Mary Beth Adderley and Director Martin Benson

In his breeziest comedy, Misalliance, George Bernard Shaw posed the question: what differentiates a good alliance from a bad alliance?  His play may or may not have offered a definative answer, but—according to Broadway World—“the journey to ponder the question comes bound in laughter and frivolity!”

That journey began on First Night of Misalliance, Friday, September 12, at South Coast Repertory, and the critics reached for even more metaphors, with the Orange County Register declaring that SCR’s 47th Seaon opened “with a bang!” and the Los Angles Times noting that the evening proceeded at “full gallop!”  First Nighters simply cheered—and gave the cast a standing ovation.

Read all about the season opening party, complete with photos, here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"The Play's the Thing" Surprises—and Raises Over $530,000

Could they be the surprise?

Just as everyone expected, on Saturday, September 11, South Coast Repertory’s 2010 Gala Ball, “The Play’s the Thing,” lived up to its name, raising over $530,000 for the theatre’s annual fund and throwing in a surprise for good measure.

The glittering party began as guests swept into the hotel and up the grand staircase where they were greeted — beneath a giant marquee — by Gala Chair Sophie Cripe, her husband, Larry, and SCR Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson.

Turning the corner, they continued along a red carpeted hallway adorned with posters of SCR productions and the playwrights whose classics, modern masterpieces and world premieres have been at the heart of the theatre’s 46 seasons. Along the way, they were regaled by costumed characters from past shows.

And that was just the beginning. Read all about the party and the surprise act that stopped the show.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Meet Dakin Matthews, Mr. Versatility

JD Cullum and Dakin Matthews in Misalliance.

Dakin Matthews is nothing if not versatile: He moves from Shakespeare to “General Hospital,” from Shaw to “Desperate Housewives,” and back again.

Pretty impressive for a man who never intended to be an actor.

Matthews started life studying to be a priest but decided to become a professor. He was teaching Shakespeare at Cal State East Bay near San Francisco when a friend suggested he audition for a part in a summer Shakespeare festival. He decided to give it a try, and won the coveted role of Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1.

“I thought, ‘Well, this will be interesting. I can teach year-round and then in summertime go do Shakespeare in festivals,’” he said. “And I did that for about four or five years, and then people started to offer me jobs during the day during the school year, and they were nice jobs, so I went to my chairman and said, ‘How about if I take all the 8 a.m. classes five days a weeks?’”

And for the next 20 years, that’s what he did—teaching all morning, and rehearsing and performing all afternoon and evening. Around age 50, he took early retirement and began working in film and television, eventually moving to Los Angeles.

Why the change? Partly for the money.

“One of the reasons I came to L.A. was because I had children who wanted to go to college, and I wanted to be able to afford that,” he said with a laugh.

“Another reason was that the regional theater movement by that time was about 25 years old, and that meant they had a lot of famous alumni. And those alumni were now coming back to the theaters that they left and playing all the lead roles. So that I, who’d put in my 20 years in the regions, was now being bumped out of roles that I wanted to play... I figured if I wanted to continue to progress in the theatre, into playing the roles that I wanted to play, I’m going to have to go down to L.A and get some TV and film cred.”

Northern California’s loss was Southern California’s gain.

Matthews has worked steadily in TV (besides “General Hospital” and “Desperate Housewives,” he has recently appeared in a couple of episodes of “True Blood”), film (he’ll be seen in the upcoming Coen Brothers remake of True Grit) and theatre. At South Coast Repertory alone, he has appeared in Major Barbara, Hamlet, Hitchcock Blonde and Shadowlands. Next he will appear in George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance, which starts previews at SCR on Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 10.

In a break between rehearsals, Matthews sat down to talk about his career, falling in love with beautiful women and just how damn funny Shaw really is.

Tell us about your character, John Tarleton.

Well, he is kind of a self-portrait of Shaw. Shaw was extremely proud of his vitality in his age, extremely proud of his smarts, his learning, his knowledge. But [Tarleton] is kind of a little parody of himself, a little judgment of himself as well. And Tarleton, of course, is a bit of an iconoclast. And Shaw was certainly that. He never met a statue he didn’t want to break.

We were talking about this in rehearsal: Shaw has two older men in the play—one tired of years of government service and non-judgmental and one [my character] boisterous and having an opinion on everything and not the least bit diplomatic, personally or intellectually. And Shaw puts the two sides up [against each other]. Even though Misalliance is a comment about family more than anything else, and a comment about the young versus the old, it’s also a comment about approaches to life.

Do you relate to your character?

Oh, I relate to all my characters. I don’t necessarily like all of them, but I can relate to all of them. I like to feel like I’m still pretty vital at my age. I like having to be energetic. I do like to discover new things and learn something. Tarleton always is on a high learning curve. And I do like young, beautiful women. [Laughs.] Tarleton seems to fall in love with whatever young woman walks into the room. I can relate to that.

Why should people come see Misalliance?

Talk, talk talk! Shaw is just a great talker, that’s all, and you don’t get that kind of conversation in modern plays sometimes. You don’t get that many ideas thrown around. But on top of that, he is just excruciatingly funny most of the time.

I always find Shaw’s work to be a rewarding experience. It is like a banquet of ideas and words, and we are all sort of on a diet in this country, and sometimes it’s kind of nice to get just gorged…

It’s some of the greatest thinking, some of the greatest speaking and some of the greatest writing in the English language. He really is, after Shakespeare, the other truly great, great master of the English language in dramatic form.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Connecting the Dots with the 'Misalliance' Cast

South Coast Repertory kicks off the 2010-2011 season with George Bernard Shaw’s classic comedy Misalliance, a big show featuring a big cast. And with a cast as talented and hard working as this one, it is no surprise to learn that they’ve all crossed paths before.

JD Cullum
You might have seen JD Cullum in the movie Leatherheads getting into a little tiff with Renée Zellweger about his mother’s bosom. SCR regulars will also recognize him from performances in Pig Farm, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow and another Shaw classic, Major Barbara, in which he appeared alongside…

Dakin Matthews
Dakin Matthews, an award-winning actor of stage, film and television. "Desperate Housewives’" lovers will recognize him as Bree’s religious consultant, Reverend Sikes. "General Hospital" fans can also pick out Matthews as the no-nonsense judge handling Sonny’s trial. SCR regulars will be very familiar with Matthews, who appeared in Hamlet with…

Ricahrd Doyle
…SCR Founding Artist Richard Doyle. Eighties sitcom fans will remember him from "Cheers," in which he played Woody’s father-in-law. But Doyle has appeared in more than 100 productions at SCR, among them, The Importance of Being Earnest, in which he was the frisky Reverend Chasuble wooing Miss Prism, played by…

Ameila White
...Amelia White. This won’t be White’s first time under Martin Benson’s direction, having recently worked with him in SCR’s The Heiress. That time, the Broadway star played Elizabeth Almont, aunt of the lonely Catherine Sloper, performed by…

Kirsten Potter
Kirsten Potter. Crime show enthusiasts might have spotted Potter in an episode of "Bones" being arrested by David Boreanaz as a suspected murderer. She just finished an accomplished run of King Lear as Goneril at L.A.’s Antaeus Company with…

Daniel Bess
Daniel Bess who played the role of Edmund. Many will recognize him from his recurring role in the first season of "24" as Rick Allen, kidnapper of Jack Bauer’s daughter. This is Bess’ first time on an SCR stage, but he has performed in several shows at Antaeus, which is where…

Wyatt Fenner
Wyatt Fenner studied acting. Fenner guest-starred on "Bones" as a recovering leukemia patient who dies in a subway accident. This is Fenner’s first performance on the Segerstrom Stage, but you might have seen him in the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Happy Face, as the brother with the deformed face being attacked by actor…

Peter Katona
Peter Katona, who played an abusive boyfriend in that reading. Katona appeared in SCR's A Femine Ending, and his face may also be recognizable from his appearances on TV crime shows, including "Castle" and "Numb3rs." Two TV shows that have also featured fellow Misalliance cast member…

Melanie Lora
Melanie Lora, who returns to the Segerstrom Stage after working with director Martin Benson on Collected Stories in 2009. It is fate that she returns to SCR in the same season that we revive Sideways Stories from Wayside School, a show that she originally appeared in here in 2004.

More info/Tickets

Friday, August 27, 2010

A View of Things to Come …

Larry and Sophie Cripe, Mary Ann Brown and Rick Reiff

South Coast Repertory’s annual Gala Ball, “The Play’s the Thing,” is set for September 11, but the celebration began nearly a month earlier, on August 18, when SCR Trustee Mary Ann Brown and her husband Rick Reiff hosted the annual Patron Party to honor Gala donors.

The elegant event was held at their Laguna Beach home, its tropical feeling enhanced by orchids placed throughout the house and on the balcony, where guests gathered to enjoy the panoramic ocean view.  As dusk fell, Board President Tom Phelps, Gala Chair Sophie Cripe and Producing Artistic Director David Emmes thanked the hosts and talked about another party coming up—with another stunning ocean view.  The SCR Gala Ball will be held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, beginning with a terrace reception.

Read all about the Patron Party, check out photos of the fun-loving crowd (and find out more about the upcoming Gala) here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Write to the Top!

Recently, we told you about some of the achievements of our current and former Adult Conservatory acting students. This time we decided to track down some of our playwriting students to find out where their scribbles have led them.

It turns out that playwriting instructor Cecilia Fanon’s students are enjoying success all over the country, winning awards and earning staged readings and full productions of their work. In fact, it’s hard to find a successful playwright in Orange County who hasn’t taken a class with Cecilia at some point. Her students’ work has been seen in cities as nearby as Orange and Fullerton and as far away as Oregon, Ohio and New York.

Tom Swimm (2010) — Full length play production of The Hanging Of Mary Surratt at the Mysterium Theater in Orange. Also produced at The Chance Theater. Nominated for Best New Play by OC Weekly. Recently won the Morton Sarrett National Playwriting award for Bed, a full-length comedy that was produced at the Nevada Conservatory Theater in Las Vegas. Winner of The Fritz Blitz for Humphrey, Nevada, a one-act comedy produced at San Diego Repertory (2008).

Dale Andersen (2005, 2006, 2008) — One-act A Dog's Tale got honorable mention in the 2009 Lourdes College One-Act Competition and a staged reading in August 2010 at the Mountain Stage Company's Evening of Short Plays. One-act Missing was runner-up in Theatre In the Raw's 2009 Biennial Playwrighting Contest. One-Act Dead Angel was produced in Write-Act Repertory's 2009 Freeway Series Original One-Acts. Monologue Starman produced in ASOC Theatre’s 2010 New Works Festival. Full-Length Mohammed's Moon staged reading in Theatre O's 2010 Festival of New Plays. (You can read more about it in a June 2010 newspaper article here: In October, The Three Roses Players in Glendale will do staged readings of his award-winning one-act, A Team Player.

CJ Ver Burg (2003-2010) — is one of the Conservatory program’s few writers of musicals. His Shoe was produced by Cypress Civic Theatre and is currently in rewrites (again!) at the Academy for New Musical Theatre in North Hollywood, where CJ has been a member since 2005.

Sue Parman (SCR 2000-2008) — Sue's short play The Red Tide was performed at STAGEStheatre, Fullerton, (2002). A full-length play, North of 63 Degrees, was given a staged reading at Newport Theatre Arts Center as part of its Discoveries program (2008). Her full-length play The House of Ravens had a staged reading at Gallimaufry Performing Arts New Play Festival in Laguna Beach (2008). Her monologue The Rose by Another Name was read at Theatre In The Grove in Forest Grove, Oregon (2010). Her ten-minute play Queen Victoria's Secret will be staged as part of Portland's Fertile Ground playwriting festival (2011). 

Johnna Adams (2002) — is currently pursing an MFA in Playwriting at Hunter College in Manhattan, studying with Tina Howe. Her play Hripsime is a finalist for the 2010 William Saroyan Prize, presented by the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance. Her play Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens was given a reading by Flux Theatre Ensemble (New York, NY) this spring. Flux also produced Johnna’s trilogy of full-length plays, The Angel Eaters Trilogy, in November of 2008.

Bianca Bagatourian (1998, 2001) — is president and co-founder of the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA). She completed the MFA playwriting program with lifetime Obie award-winning playwright Mac Wellman at Brooklyn College. Remnants of a Liquid World had a reading at Soho Think Tank's 6th Floor Reading Series at the Ohio Theatre, NYC, in 2008. The Scent of Jasmine had a staged reading at the Fountain Theatre, L.A., in 2006.

Paula Fell (2007 – 2010) — Her full-length play Acceptable Risk was a winner in the 2008 Long Beach Playhouse New Works Festival and the 2007 Ashland New Plays Festival, and was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest and the 2007 Trustus Playwrights’ Festival. Her full-length play The Hive was a winner in the 2008 Panndora's Box Festival of New Works.

Lorin Howard (2008 - 2010)—Her short play was a winner in the "Eat My Shorts Festival" in Seattle, 2010, and will be staged at Bumbershoot Theater.

Andrea Sloan Pink began her full-length play, Origami, in Fannon's Advanced Practicum in 2007.  Origami won the Panndora's Box New Play Festival in 2008 and received a staged reading at the Royal Theater aboard the Queen Mary.  In 2009, Sloan Pink's one-act Ode To Provence was part of the Discoveries series at STAGESTheater, and in December of 2009, her one-act Light received a full production as part of a three-weekend run of the “Holiday Stimulus Package” at STAGESTheater.  She is currently writing a new full-length, Cooking with Sartre

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Family Affair

The cast of Cinderella with Nicholas Huntley (second boy from left), Christopher Huntley (far right) and Mitchell Huntley (second from right sitting)
SCR’s Summer Acting Workshop is a two-week commitment during the dog days of August. Not a big deal for students or their parents. But what happens when it’s time to decide whether or not to continue acting classes year-round?  What if the answer is “yes”?  And then, a couple of years later, what happens when the students audition for one of the Players ensemble groups—and get accepted?  Family life changes!

Mike Huntley and Laura Forbes’ 12-year-old son Christopher Huntley attended the Summer Acting Workshop in 2007, the first of four brothers to do so. It all started for Analia Gehley’s 17-year-old daughter Valentina Gehley nine years ago. Christopher and Valentina recently appeared in the Summer Players production of Cinderella—his third show, her sixth. So how are their parents dealing?

Melody Stolpp, Luke Tagle and Valentina
Gehley get into character at rehearsal
for Time Again in Oz."
What prompted you to enroll your kids in the Summer Theatre Workshop?

Mike and Laura:  Ever since kindergarten, when he played the Witch in a classroom production of Hansel and Gretel, Christopher has seemed at home on the stage. By third grade, he was very eager to find an acting class, and a friend suggested SCR’s Summer Workshop.
Analia:  I originally sent Valentina to SCR for fun!  She was always an imaginative child and would sing and dance at home—and tell outrageous, very detailed stories.

After the first full year of acting classes, could you tell they were going to be involved for the long haul?

Christopher Huntley in
The Secret Garden
Mike and Laura:  After his first year-long class, Christopher auditioned for—and did not make—the Summer Players’ production of Peter Pan. When he bounced back quickly from that disappointment, and was looking forward to the second-year class, we knew he was interested in a more long-term commitment. Then, after being in A Christmas Carol, he was totally hooked! 
Analia:  We now knew to prepare for a much more serious commitment and wondered whether we could balance everything. Would she have to sacrifice her school grades?  On the contrary, her experiences at SCR helped her become a better student, more focused and studious. As her commitment intensified, so did ours.

What has family life been like since then?

Mike and Laura:  It has started to involve a lot of driving and hurried dinners, as the kids go to auditions and rehearsals at SCR and elsewhere. But it’s also so rewarding to hear them talk about their rehearsals and their mutual friends from the shows. Having this interest in common has caused them to argue (a little bit) less. And it was so much fun to see all three of them on stage together in Cinderella.
Analia:  Our life began to orbit around her school and theatre schedules. Separate school bags, double snacks, rearranging work schedules, running errands in the area...everything fell into place and quietly became routine, a normal part of our lives.

Akshay Sharma, Makenna Zur Schmiede
and Valentina Gehley in Cinderella.
What is it like to see them in a Players show?

Mike and Laura:  Christopher’s first show was The Secret Garden. In that moment when they wheeled him out on stage (his character, Colin, was in a wheelchair), we were terrified he’d forget his lines. Then, as the show progressed and we relaxed, it was truly amazing to watch our own son acting and singing. We both teared up when Colin pulled himself out of his wheelchair and walked (one of our all-time favorite moments of theater!), and we could not have been prouder.
Analia:  When we watched Valentina on stage as Grace in Cinderella, we were, as always, excited and surprised. She always amazes us. I still can’t believe how fearless she is and how very comfortable and at home she appears on the stage. She loves the entire process, starting with the first peek at the script, costume fittings, blocking, all of it. In some ways [her teachers] Hisa and Erin know her better than we do. They give her parts that we can’t imagine she can perform, but they are able to find it in Valentina and bring it out.

Mike and Laura
Maxwell Weinberg and
Christopher Huntley in
All four Huntley boys have taken acting classes at SCR. Their parents share each boy’s experience.
  • When Nicholas (our future engineer) expressed interest in the Summer Workshop at age 13, we were floored. He loved the two-week workshop and couldn’t wait to take a year-long class. (During that year, he also auditioned for and landed a role in a community theater production, served as stage manager of a musical at his younger brothers’ school, and applied to Orange County High School of the Arts.)  Before his involvement at SCR, we never would have imagined Nicholas up on stage, much less that he would have such a passion for the arts.

  • It was no surprise when Mitchell (at age 8) got involved with the Summer Workshop and then the year-long class. He has always been enthusiastic and outgoing, and has been writing, producing and acting in plays on our fireplace hearth for many years! 

  • Mitchell’s twin brother, Blake, who is fairly shy, had no interest whatsoever in taking an acting class. We thought the experience would be good for him, so we signed him up along with Mitchell in the year-long class. Although he was very hesitant to go on the first day, he had so much fun that he eagerly completed the Fall and Winter sessions.
Being chosen for Players has given all the brothers a lot of confidence and maturity. They love being part of a team to bring a show to life, and have grown closer since they now are part of two “families.” Christopher wants to take his acting to another level, having recently signed with a major talent agency in L.A., and both Nicholas and Christopher are going to Orange County High School of the Arts this fall. All three hope to stay at SCR for many years to come.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Curtain Going Up!

In that moment just before the curtain rises on an SCR Players production, do the young actors have a word for how they feel? After the opening weekend of the sold-out run of Cinderella, three cast members shot back their quick responses.

Zach Yeates (Lionel, the Prince’s sidekick): “Positive.”
Kailyn Dunkleman (Cinderella): “Exhilarated.”
Jamie Ostmann (Mouse, one of Cinderella’s sidekicks): “Connected.”

If those answers evoke confidence, blame SCR Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa, who staged Cinderella with Music Director Erin McNally. In class and onstage, one of their goals is for the students to understand their endless possibilities.

To prove that they do—in more than one word—Lionel, Mouse and Cinderella talked about the Players experience.

Kailyn Dunkleman and Akshay
Sharma in Cinderella.
When the stage manager calls “places,” Hisa and Erin gather the cast for a quiet moment intended to clear minds and stay focused. How does this exercise help you prepare?

Kailyn: It gets rid of pre-show jitters. I believe it also unifies the cast and reminds us of our goals as actors and how we want to impact the audience.
Zach: It helps with any anxiety I may have before the show. Tech week tends to cause me a lot of stress which, in a way, causes my pre-show anxiety. So the exercise kills two birds with one stone!
Jamie: It helps me to escape distractions and concerns outside of the play and to find my focus.

Do you get “butterflies” before your first appearance?

Kailyn: A little bit, but more from anxiousness than nervousness. There was no need to get nervous before the show because I had been working very hard and was excited to share Cinderella’s story with the audience.
Zach: I only get butterflies right before the first performance of a show.
Jamie: No. As long as I have everyone else in the cast around me, I feel calm and loved and ready to work.

Whitney Brooks and Zach Yeates
What have you learned in class that helps your performance?

Kailyn: I’ve learned that there are multiple ways to interpret a character. It’s important to explore these different interpretations because you can find a more interesting way to present a character. Cinderella is not just a sweet and innocent ingénue; she is constantly dreaming and searching for a brighter future. She is very optimistic. My character stays true to herself despite her hardships, and she finds happiness in the simplest of things.
Zach: You have to trust yourself, and you must be willing to take risks. Part of developing our characters and building relationships with cast members comes from taking risks.
Jamie: I have learned that acting is not about pretending; it’s about becoming a character. I've learned that I perform better if I have an objective, or goal, for my character that I can focus on. I’ve also learned that I have to communicate—watch, listen, pay attention—with my fellow ensemble members in order to transport the audience to our world.

Kailyn and Zach: How is the classwork and production work distinctive from your other theater experiences?

Jamie Ostmann, Rachel Charny
and Kailyn
Kailyn: At South Coast Repertory my teachers and directors focus much more on the process. Whether I’m preparing a piece for class or rehearsing for a performance, they take the time to help me explore, develop and understand my characters. As a result, I believe I am growing as a performer. This is what I love the most about being a part of SCR.
Zach: The overall production quality was much higher than I’m used to. We made use of the professional fly system (something I have never had the opportunity of working with), and we had the help of professional lighting and set designers. I'm used to helping build the set pieces, and because I have no woodworking skills whatsoever, I was pleased to discover that the sets were to be made by professionals!

Jamie: How is working on the Argyros Stage for the first time different from being in the Nicholas?

Jamie: The big difference is the audience. It's much bigger, and there are a lot more eyes on you. I think I feel more comfortable in the Nicholas because it's cozier and more homey, and the Argyros is more formal.

Do you feel performing in Cinderella (and the classwork leading up to the show) has helped you as actors—and as people?

Kailyn: As an actor, it has reminded me to always be aware of my character’s background and motives. Sometimes when you’re in a show, you get so worried about the blocking and the lines that you forget what drives your character. Performing in Cinderella has helped me as a person because it finalized my future goals of becoming a performer; to be honest, I am happiest when I am onstage, and I cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life.
Zach: Cinderella was by far the most “professional” production I’ve had the opportunity to take part in. I feel that the show gave me at least an idea of what a professional production could be like. We learned some very important lessons working on Cinderella that easily transfer to the real world. What we all came to discover is that there is always going to be hope, there will always be people to help you deal with life, and most importantly, we learned to always believe in ourselves.
Jamie: I have been inspired by the song “There Is Music in You” the whole cast sings at the end of the show. To me this song means that I can be confident, I can do anything I want to do and there’s nothing I won’t try. I'm sure that will help me both as an actor and a person.

Photos by Henry DiRocco/SCR.