Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Cards They've Been Dealt

By John Glore

The first three words in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog are “Watch me close.” You’ll hear those same three words repeated frequently over the course of the play. They’re a recurring motif in the three-card monte chatter that both of the play’s characters rehearse—one of them delivering its cadences with an expertise born of years of successful hustling, the other stumbling awkwardly through the routine in an effort to pick up its moves and its lingo.

“Watch me close” means “I’m going to do everything I can to trick you, to hustle you, to take what’s yours, to gain the upper hand.” The two men in Topdog/Underdog—African-American brothers named Lincoln and Booth—need to be watched closely because they have dedicated their lives to various forms of hustling. They had no choice. Abandoned at an early age by both parents, they’ve had to fend for themselves and do whatever was necessary to survive in a world where the establishment cards were stacked against them. So they’ve played their own games by their own rules and they’ve learned never to show their cards or their true colors.

Soojin Lee's costume rending for Booth.
The problem for Lincoln and Booth is that they’re equally capable of conning each other—and themselves. They’ve been playing the game for so long they don’t know how to be real with one another, whatever that means. They have lived together since Lincoln’s marriage fell apart, and their shared life is marked by true brotherly love. But the need to be a topdog—so as not to feel like an underdog—doesn’t go away when they deal with one another.

Lincoln is the older brother and has looked after Booth ever since they were left on their own. Linc took up “throwing the cards” to put food on the table—and then became so good at it that his bankroll grew exponentially. He might still be hustling people on the street corner, but the murder of his closest friend and confederate some years back convinced him it was time to get out of the game. Since then he’s taken a legit job impersonating Abraham Lincoln—in beard, topcoat, stovepipe hat and whiteface—at an arcade where people pay to play the role of John Wilkes Booth in a reenactment of the Ford’s Theatre assassination. The compensation is a pittance compared to what Linc made throwing the cards, but it pays the rent and leaves the two brothers with just enough money for food and liquor.

Booth has no job. He relies on Lincoln to cover his needs, and shoplifts to satisfy his desire for nice clothes and other nonessentials. The two men have settled into a comfortable routine, but Booth isn’t content with their impoverished life. He wants the kind of money he used to see Lincoln throwing around. He wants the respect that kind of money can buy. And he wants a woman—a particular woman by the name of Grace. His pursuit of those desires—and an unexpected turn of events that threatens to rob Lincoln of what’s left of his dignity—leads to a climactic reckoning between the two brothers.

Soojin Lee's costume rendering for Lincoln.
Topdog/Underdog has many of the trappings of gritty, hyper-real urban drama (mixed with ample amounts of humor), but watch and listen closely and you’ll come to appreciate its poetic dimension and heightened theatricality. Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Topdog, is a true poet of the theatre. She wields language with a dazzling combination of artistic precision and apparent spontaneity that would make a jazz master envious. Her sense of myth and metaphor and her bold use of a dramatic form with roots in ancient Greek tragedy allow Topdog to transcend its squalid surface reality and acquire a deeper resonance and universality. 

Sibling rivalry, after all, is as old as Cain and Abel, and the struggle between one person (or one group of people) for domination over another has driven world history ever since. America’s Civil War was a battle of brother against brother whose final chapter was written in that fateful confrontation in Ford’s Theatre that Linc now re-enacts day after day. While John Wilkes Booth claimed the Confederacy as his cause and his motive for assassination, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, deep down, he was simply an underdog trying to find some way to become a topdog.

So much history and myth runs through Lincoln and Booth’s veins as they circle one another in the small, ramshackle apartment that is their home and the stage for the struggle between topdog and underdog. Who will come out on top this time? What part will destiny play in the outcome of their game of chance?

Watch them close and see what happens.

A House Divided

When set designer Shaun Motley (Fences, SCR 2010) began looking for an approach to the scenic design for Topdog/Underdog, he wanted to find a visual equivalent for the psychic fissures that split the world of the play, and for the layers of history that underlie the decaying surface of that world.  That brought to his mind the work of Gordon Matta-Clark.

Shaun Motley's set rendering for Topdog/Underdog.
An artist trained as an architect, Matta-Clark used abandoned houses, buildings and warehouses as the canvas for his best known work in the 1970s. He would take a chainsaw to the walls, floors and ceilings, sometimes literally splitting a building down the middle or cutting gaping holes into its sides. The result, according to an article in The New York Times, “offered potent commentary on both the decay of the American city and the growing sense that the American dream was evaporating.” Yet despite the destructive and deconstructive impulse behind his work, the article observes, Matta-Clark showed an exceptional ability “to extract raw beauty from the dark, decrepit corners of a crumbling city.”

Shaun Motley's set rendering for Topdog/Underdog.
Motley shared Matta-Clark’s work with director Seret Scott, who agreed that it evoked some of the more important metaphorical currents in Suzan-Lori Parks’ play—whose very title is split down the middle by a slash—while also suggesting a deceptively realistic framework for the play’s sly poetic realism. Matta-Clark’s vision seemed a perfect complement to a play that finds raw beauty in something as simple and mercenary as a game of three-card monte—and which uses as its epigraph Ralph Waldo Emerson’s celebration of the divine nature of a weed growing beside a wall.

Matta-Clark’s influence on the set design for SCR’s production will be apparent on the Julianne Argyros Stage, as Lincoln and Booth play out their brotherly cage-match amid Motley’s peeling, cracked walls. Their run-down apartment may look as real as any urban blight, but when the light shines through its fissures, it illuminates the metaphor of a split household, a broken home, a decaying dream.

To learn more about the work of Gordon Matta-Clark:

The New York Times article about a Matta-Clark retrospective
Images of Matta-Clark’s work


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SCR Gala Gets Going (Early)

Gala Chair Beth Phelps.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when most people were in holiday mode, SCR’s 2012 Gala Ball Chair Beth Phelps was on the job.

On Thursday, December 29, she spent the afternoon in meetings with Director of Development Susan Reeder and Special Events Manager Lauren Hovey, pausing only for a quick photo op.

According to Beth, it’s never too early to start planning the Gala Ball, which opens the theatrical and social seasons in Orange County and donates the first and one of the largest gifts to SCR’s Annual Fund.  “We already have a date and a venue, and now we begin choosing a theme and a name for our event.  I don’t want to miss a moment of that!”

Beth and her husband Tom, now in his second term as President of SCR’s Board of Trustees, are First Nights subscribers to both stages, members of the Platinum Circle of donors and two-time members of the Playwright’s Circle, which this season will underwrite the world premiere of Cloudlands.

The Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa on Saturday, September 8, 2012.  For more information (including theme and name!) or to find out how to join the fun, call Susan Reeder at (714) 708-5518.

First day on the job!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Is That a Mariachi Band by the Manger?

When you come to South Coast Repertory to see A Christmas Carol this month, take a few extra moments to check out the nacimiento, or nativity scene, in the lobby. The six-foot homage to holiday cheer is the work of Amigas de la Cultura, a trio of current and retired school teachers dedicated to educating the community about Hispanic cultures and peoples. The ladies have been putting together displays in SCR's lobby every Christmas for more than 15 years.

Traditionally, a Mexican family sets out their nacimiento on December 16, the first day of Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration of the birth of Christ. Though each display is centered around a classic nativity scene, individual families may contribute personal touches, the way many American families collect Christmas ornaments for their tree. As collections grow, nacimientos can take over entire rooms! The size and scale of the objects is irrelevant, adding a lighthearted touch to the scene.

 These seemingly incongruous add-ins often have symbolic meaning. In SCR's nacimiento look for devils, who represent pranksters trying to prevent pilgrims from getting to Bethlehem, and a hermit, standing alone in his cave, whose job it is to thwart the pranksters' efforts. Cartoon characters such as Snow White, Elmo and Daffy Duck are placed in the scene to capture little ones' attention, while diverse characters such as a tortilla maker, a mariachi band and citizens in an Alpine village show that all are welcome at the birth of Jesus.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

‘Studio SCR’ Showcases Small, Innovative SoCal Arts Companies

South Coast Repertory is partnering with some of SoCal’s most intriguing artists to present a series of eclectic, contemporary theatre in its intimate Nicholas Studio.

Studio SCR (formerly the Studio Series) will feature an array of adventurous artists, including:

Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews
Four Clowns
Poor Dog Group
Monkey Wrench Collective
Theatre Movement Bazaar
Robert Cucuzza and Transit Authority

The line-up will also include SCRamble, a late-night cabaret featuring short pieces by eight or nine local acts.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with such a talented group of artists,” said SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson. “These sorts of collaborations provide exciting opportunities. They give us the chance to forge new artistic relationships, and give audiences a chance to enjoy the incredible diversity of Southern California’s performing arts scene—all under one roof.”

Leading the project is Oanh Nguyen, SCR’s producing associate and the artistic director of the Chance Theater, whose production of Jesus Hates Me in the Nicholas Studio two years ago kicked off the pilot program that has evolved into Studio SCR.

“It's an exciting mix of genre-smashing work from local artists,” Nguyen said.  “We have everything from hip-hop theatre to physical theatre, from irreverent clowns to ensemble-driven modern adaptations of classic works.”

Ticket prices vary by production, and range from $15 to $35. You can buy tickets and read more about the artists at www.scr.org/studioseries. Meanwhile, here’s a closer look at the line-up:

The Word Begins
Written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews
Directed and developed by Robert Egan
8 p.m. Jan. 19-21

Nominated for three Helen Hayes Awards and named L.A. Weekly and Backstage West Critic’s Picks, The Word Begins follows the hilarious and provocative journey of two men discovering the power of words to define love, faith, race and humanity in America. Mashing up theater, spoken word, comedy and hip-hop, Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews deliver a high-energy performance in this fresh new satire that examines the current cultural landscape.

The Word Begins is presented in association with the Off Center Festival of Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Four Clowns
Jeremy Aluma
8 p.m. Feb. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 18, 2 p.m. Feb. 19

Four Clowns is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be human. The four clowns—Sad, Mischievous, Angry and Nervous—reminisce about their pasts in a show fueled by audience interaction. As the old adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine,” so come witness how the most tragic moments in one's life can give rise to the biggest laughs. As the clowns tell their tales of woe and elation from childhood to adulthood, we discover that they are all the same...and so are we.

SCRamble
Various artists
10 p.m. Feb. 18

Grab a drink and settle in for a bold new blend of alternative theatre, comedy, dance, music and interdisciplinary collaborations as some of SoCal’s most interesting artists serve up  unforgettable theatrical delights in 10-minute increments.

The Internationalists
Poor Dog Group
8 p.m. March 2, 2 and 8 p.m. March 3, 2 p.m. March 4

Unaware of the mounting threat of Sputnik, the first Russian satellite to orbit the Earth, America finds its global dominance in question. Vintage newsreels, NASA’s flight records and modern, user-generated information delivery systems all collide to give a glimpse into our cyber-reality. The Internationalists investigates the race to outer space through the lens of a youthful generation brought up in the Technology Age.

pool (no water)
Monkey Wrench Collective
8 p.m. May 4, 2 and 8 p.m. May 5, 2 p.m. May 6

A famous artist invites several old friends to her luxurious new home and, for one night only, the group of artists is back together. Celebrations come to an abrupt end when the host suffers a horrific accident and an almost unthinkable plan starts to take shape: Could her suffering be their next art project? This is Monkey Wrench Collective’s revival of its critically-acclaimed 2010 U.S. premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s play.

Anton’s Uncles
Theatre Movement Bazaar
8 p.m. June 8, 2 and 8 p.m. June 9, 2 p.m. June 10

A fresh, funny, and physical look at Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. In this original work—winner of an Outstanding Theatre Award at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival—only the men remain, wrestling with their desires and pressed to examine a life unlived. Los Angeles-based Theatre Movement Bazaar explodes this classic play, merging the original text with new writing, movement, dancing and singing to emphasize the unspoken, unseen and unexpressed.

Cattywampus
Robert Cucuzza and Transit Authority
8 p.m. June 22, 2 and 8 p.m. June 23, 2 p.m. June 24

In this darkly comic reinvention of Strindberg’s Miss Julie, writer/director Robert Cucuzza distills an essential tale of class and sexual power dynamics and transports it to modern-day Pittsburgh. Cattywampus traces the story of Julie as she tries to escape the clutches of her disinterested husband. She seduces an unsophisticated co-worker, Donnie, determined that he’s her escape out of married misery, gambling it all on his cracked plan to relocate to Florida. But in a world that is so economically out-of-whack, she finds that her dreams of flight are no match for fate.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Was Ever A Scarf So Red?"

Ebenezer Scrooge's whimsical red scarf has become a symbol of A Christmas Carol here at South Coast Repertory, but you won't find any mention of Fred's cozy gift to his uncle in Charles Dickens' original version. Adapter Jerry Patch added the bright element to the script to offer a visual, tangible symbol of Scrooge's transformation following his visit from the spirits. "Scrooge leaves the gift in the box in his office, but it shows up later in his bed," says Patch. "He wants to explain it away, but he can't. It's a mini-miracle."

The scarf Hal Landon Jr. wraps around his neck in the play has been in use for 20 years, and is an astonishing 12 feet long. You can purchase a similar one in SCR's gift shop, or make your own with a pair of knitting needles, a ball of yarn and your own two hands. All you need to know is a simple garter stitch, demonstrated in our slide show, and you are on your way! Beginning knitters should try an acrylic-blend yarn that isn't too slippery or too "hairy" to the touch.

For more detailed instructions, illustrations for left-handed knitters, and free knitting patterns to personalize your scarf, visit learntoknit.lionbrand.com.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Nighter's Take "The Trip to Bountiful"

Powerful performances by the cast of The Trip to Bountiful propelled the First Night audience onto its feet for a much-deserved standing ovation.

The congratulations continued at the cast party at The Center Club, where partygoers sipped bottles of Coca-Cola and mingled with actors Lynn Milgrim, Dan Reichert, Jennifer Lyon and the rest of the cast. Also on hand were the play’s director, SCR Co-Founder Martin Benson, and his longtime friend and the show's Honorary Producer, Mary Beth Adderley. Joining Mary Beth in her support of The Trip to Bountiful was Corporate Honorary Producer Haskell and White, LLP, represented at the party by Rick and Cheri Smetanka.

Guests declared themselves moved by Horton Foote’s poignant tale of an aging widow desperate to see her old homeplace one last time, and critics agreed: The Los Angeles Times called it “a sure-fire crowd pleaser” and the O.C. Register described it as “a quiet but moving masterwork.”



Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Playwright Allison Gregory on Junie B.

JUNIE B. is BACK… with Jingle Bells On!

The holidays are just around the corner—and Santa is watching first-grader Junie B. Jones like a hawk. It doesn’t help that her classroom nemesis May can’t stop tattling and is threatening to ruin her holiday glee.

Junie B. is thrilled when her class is chosen to lead the first grade holiday sing-along by singing “Jingle Bells,” wearing green elf costumes and jingle hats. But Junie B. and May just can’t get along—and their teacher Mr. Scary threatens to cancel the sing-along for everyone if they get into one more fight.

To make matters worse, Junie B. draws May’s name for their Secret Santa gift exchange—and struggles to decide (with the help of her trusty stuffed elephant Philip Johnny Bob) if May deserves more than a lump of coal. You see, Junie B. really, really wants to buy a Squeeze-a-Burp—the most awesome toy in their holiday gift shop—for herself. But if she does, she’ll have no money left to buy a gift for May.

When Junie B. makes her last-minute gift decision, will she find it in her heart to be a “giver?”  Or will she prove to be a “shellfish” (as May says)? Will Junie B. find a way to share peace and goodwill? Or will May get exactly what she deserves?

Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! is a funny, fast-paced holiday comedy inspired by Barbara Park’s popular Junie B. Jones children’s book series. Park has written more than 25 titles since 1992 featuring the antics of Junie B. and her pint-sized entourage.  The books have become favorites of girls and boys, moms and dads, teachers and librarians alike.

Playwright Allison Gregory was commissioned to adapt Park’s book Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May.) for the stage by Arizona theatre company Childsplay, Inc., which premiered the play in 2009. Allison worked closely with author Barbara Park on the adaptation, and drew from two other books in the Junie B., First Grader series: Shipwrecked and Dumb Bunny.


Award-winning director Casey Stangl returns to SCR to direct her second Junie B. production for our Theatre for Young Audiences series. Casey directed the popular musical adaptation of Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business during our 2009-10 season. Stangl has worked in renowned theaters throughout Southern California and the country, including the Pasadena Playhouse, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company and Woolly Mammoth. Her production of Noel Coward’s Peace in Our Time—a collaboration with The Antaeus Company in Los Angeles—runs through December 13.

South Coast Repertory is thrilled to welcome Junie B. Jones back to our stage—alongside playwright Allison Gregory and director Casey Stangl. We hope you’ll join us for this fun, frolicking story of holiday cheer, goodwill and the power of giving—Junie B.-style.

More Info/Tickets
WELCOME HOME
A Writer Returns to Where It All Began

Playwright Allison Gregory’s adaptation of Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! has been seen all over the country, but South Coast Repertory’s production is extra special for her: The Orange County native took her first playwriting class right here at SCR. We asked Allison a few questions about her art and adventures, growing up as an actor and playwright in the OC.

Q:  I know you were born and raised in Orange County. Where did you grow up, and how often do you come home?
A: I was born in Anaheim, and moved to Orange Park Acres when I was 8. Back then it was "country," and everyone had horses and chickens and goats and—well, you can imagine the smell. My sisters and I were in 4-H; in sixth grade my pig won grand champion of the Orange County Fair! His name was Pink Floyd.

Most of my family still lives in OC (there was no "the" when I lived there), and I try to come home at least once a year.

Q: Do you remember the first play you ever saw at South Coast Repertory?
A: The first play I saw at SCR was Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge, because a friend of mine was playing Christy. This would have been in the early ́80s when I was...an infant. It was a lovely, exciting production, and it put SCR on my map.

Q: Do you think growing up here influenced your work or artistic sensibility?
A: I think you bring your past to everything you do, intentionally or not. My first play was blatantly based on my own family. They have since forgiven me and have been very supportive. I find myself now, 10 or 12 plays later, writing a new play with the lead character a thinly veiled version of another family member. (I won't say who; they'll just have to come see the play to find out.) My sense of humor, my fears, my interests, my voice—certainly all of it was shaped by growing up here. You don't escape it, for better or for worse, no matter how much you forget. You pull from it and, ideally, put it to work. That, to me, is a useful life.

Q:  When did you first fall in love with the theatre? And start acting?
A: I saw my first full-blown musical, Brigadoon, when I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was a college production at Stanford. I don't know that I fell in love with theatre so much as with the actor playing Charlie Dalrymple, but it left a lasting impression. Flash forward many years: I'm a ballet dancer just out of school and looking for work, and I get cast at a summer theatre in central California (Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts/PCPA) in, you got it, Brigadoon. I play Jeanie, who's getting married to...Charlie Dalrymple! After that I stayed on to do parts in straight plays, and got onstage training from some of the best actors in the country: Mark Harelik, Dakin Matthews, Byron Jennings, Deborah May. It was a thrilling place to be.

Q:  When did you discover that you wanted to write plays?
A: I thought most playwrights were dead until I started performing new plays at the Denver Center Theatre. This was my first clue that people were still writing these things.

At some point I signed up for an acting class at SCR with the delightful Karen Hensel, but it was full, so, since I was here anyway, I joined the playwriting class taught by the wonderful John Glore, SCR's Associate Artistic Director. I had no intention of writing a play; I was just waiting for someone in the acting class to bail. Several hard-fought months later I found myself with my first play—which went on to win an honorable mention in SCR's Pacific Playwrights competition, and which earned me my first commission, from SCR. So, there were many firsts here, all of which makes this current production so meaningful to me. As John Glore recently said, the circle is complete.

Q:  You've written so many great plays for young audiences, including adaptations of Go, Dog. Go!, Peter and the Wolf and Junie B.  What inspired you to start writing for kids?
A: My husband (playwright Steven Dietz) dared me. I love the different writing muscle it takes. Kids are so quick and smart—they get what you're saying right off. You can't belabor things with that meaningful monologue or clever but repetitive scene; kids are story taskmasters; they will let you know (painfully) when you've gone off task. Good children's theatre is honest writing.

Q: What inspired you to adapt this particular Junie B. story?
A: I used to read the Junie B. series over and over to my daughter Ruby. No other books could make her laugh as hard. We all walked around the house reciting quotes, like Junie B. clones, cracking each other up. She really got that the language was incorrect, but it had a kind of accuracy when it came to describing Junie B.'s thoughts and feelings. I got to work really closely with the series author, Barbara Park, on this play, which was a big thrill. It was like meeting Junie B. herself!

Q: Junie B. is such a great character—a quirky, funny troublemaker. Did you get into trouble when you were a kid?
A:  Talk to my mom. On second thought, don't talk to my mom. I was a perfect a child, I never did anything wrong. Really.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Director Martin Benson Leads 'The Trip to Bountiful'

Horton Foote: His Legacy


“I believe very deeply in the human spirit, and I have a sense of awe about it. I look around and ask, ‘What makes the difference? What is it?’ I’ve known people the world has thrown everything at to discourage them, to kill them, to break their spirit. And yet something about them retains a dignity.”
–Horton Foote

Horton Foote was born in 1916 in the small Texas gulf town of Wharton. Foote made his Broadway debut in 1944 with his play Only the Heart. He continued to write for the stage as he expanded his pen into Hollywood, writing teleplays and films. Foote won the 1962 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Foote wrote more than 60 plays and films, most set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas.

A few of Horton Foote’s many other plays include:
Wharton Dance (1940)
Texas Town (1941)
The Trip to Bountiful (1962, based on his 1953 screenplay)
Roots in a Parched Ground (1962)
Tomorrow (1968)
Night Seasons (1977)
Courtship (1987)
In a Coffin in Egypt (1980)
Cousins (1983)
One Armed Man (1985)
The Widow Claire (1986)
Lily Dale (1986)
Dividing the Estate (1989)
The Young Man From Atlanta (1995)
The Day Emily Married (1996)
Vernon Early (1998)
The Death of Papa (1999)
The Carpetbagger's Children (2001)

For more information about Horton Foote’s life, read his New York Times obituary.

The Trip to Bountiful, by the late Horton Foote, is a play that resonates for director Martin Benson: “As the season was shaping up, and I was looking for a project,” he said, “I was drawn to this play with its enduring themes. As life nears its end, the desire to return home is strong. It’s a universal story that could be happening in any country in the world."

He talked about the importance of home, and the pull that landscape has: “That’s why people struggle so hard against being put in nursing homes—they don’t want to give up their home.”

The play is set in 1953 and follows Carrie Watts, who has been living with her son, Ludie, and his wife, Jessie Mae, in Houston for the last 20 years. They’re in a cramped two-room apartment, and Ludie has only recently recovered from a lengthy illness and returned to work. Jessie Mae is more interested in movie magazines and trips to the drugstore soda fountain than she is in spending time with Mother Watts. There’s no love lost on Mother Watts’ side, either: She is constantly longing to return to the small Gulf Coast town where she grew up—Bountiful, Texas—but Jessie Mae won’t hear of it.

Carrie has made attempts to escape before, but Ludie and Jessie Mae have always managed to find her and stop her before she got very far. Her longing to get out of the pressure-cooker of the city and her living situation is palpable, if unspoken.

Horton and Benson on the set of
Getting Frankie Married—and Afterwards

Benson described Carrie as “immensely appealing. She’s had a hard life—not marrying the man she truly loved, but still seeing him every day; her babies that didn’t survive; and now she’s stuck in a tiny apartment in Houston with her son and daughter-in-law. All she wants is to see Bountiful one more time, so she can make her peace and accept her life.”

The Trip to Bountiful is adapted from a 1953 script that Foote wrote for television. Over the years, the play has been produced countless times. In 1985, it was revived as a film; Geraldine Page won the Academy Award for best actress, and Foote was nominated for the screenplay (see box for more about Foote’s work).

Benson noted, “Horton rewrote The Trip to Bountiful for the 2005 production at Signature Theatre. He cut about 15 pages from the script, so now the play is considerably condensed. It was originally a three-act play, but having two intermissions just isn’t palatable any longer to a modern audience.”

Benson has a long history with Foote, having directed the world premiere of Getting Frankie Married—and Afterwards and the West Coast premiere of The Carpetbagger’s Children at SCR.

Foote once said in an interview, “The people in my plays are always people I know, but they don’t end up in the play as I knew them. It’s like a collage. You take a little bit from here and a little bit from there. You start out, at least I do, with a very definite impression and a feeling [about the people]. As you work on it, the play finds its life.”

Horton's Home in Wharton
Before starting work on Getting Frankie Married, Benson visited Foote at his Texas home for a few days. Benson speaks fondly of the trip, describing his excitement at being able to meet the people from whom Foote drew his characters. Benson and Foote traveled to many of the small towns in the Gulf region of Texas that figure so prominently in Foote’s work, including Foote’s hometown of Wharton.

The production of The Trip to Bountiful sets up some unique challenges for a designer. The set must transform completely from the apartment in Houston to a bus station and more, and Benson worked with set designer Tom Buderwitz to make all locations shift seamlessly in front of the audience.

Benson said, “The Segerstrom is a big, wide stage, and we were challenged to make it feel small and intimate.”

Benson and Buderwitz have tackled many productions together, and the creative team includes other longtime SCR collaborators, including Angela Balogh Calin, who has designed costumes for more than a dozen shows at SCR, and Tom and Donna Ruzika, who have designed lights at SCR for more than 35 years. They’re joined by relative newcomer Cricket S. Myers, who designed sound for Lucky Duck and Three Days of Rain last season.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Arts OC Reception

On Thursday, Oct. 6, Arts Orange County held a reception on Ela’s Terrace at SCR to welcome new Artistic Director Marc Masterson. Representatives of arts groups and university programs from across the county came out for an enjoyable evening of cocktails and conversation.



Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Open House

On Monday, Oct. 3, we threw open our doors for an Open House to welcome new Artistic Director Marc Masterson. More than 250 folks turned out for a fun evening that included backstage tours, an insider’s look at the 2011-2012 season, and a chance to mingle with the artistic staff and other theatre lovers.  One lucky couple—Joanne and Terence O’Heany of Corona del Mar—won lunch with Marc and our Managing Director, Paula Tomei.

Looking for more opportunities to go behind the scenes? Try our free SCR Seminars, which take place on certain Thursday evenings, or our Saturday morning Inside the Season discussions.  Go to www.scr.org for more information on these exciting and informative events.



Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Topical World Premiere Opens Argyros Stage Season

First Night of How the World Began was something to talk about—and talk playgoers did, as they gathered on Ela’s Terrace for the Cast Party to thank the underwriters (SCR stalwarts Bette and Wylie Aitken) and congratulate the cast (Sarah Rafferty, Jarrett Sleeper and Time Winters), playwright (Catherine Trieschmann) and director (Daniella Topol).

An always timely subject—the clash between evolutionist and creationist beliefs—was at the center of the play’s gripping onstage debate, brilliantly brought to life, according to StageScene LA, “by three of the richest performances you’re likely to see anytime soon.”'

Set in a makeshift schoolroom in a tornado-ravaged Kansas town, the production  held everyone’s attention through the final moments, which the Orange County Register called “as tense and dangerous as a stiletto’s edge.”

Then the conversation—far less dramatic, but equally engaging—continued during the party, even as playgoers and artists relaxed around cocktail tables decorated with schoolhouse-themed floral arrangements and enjoyed delicacies from Mark’s Catering, sweets donated by C. Salt Gourmet and the evening’s theme drink, Kansas Sunset.




Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Plains Playwright

Catherine Trieschmann is one of the only professional playwrights we know who is living—and writing—full-time in Kansas. The author of How the World Began—now enjoying its world premiere—is not only a full-time writer, but also a mother of two.  After living in New York and Washington, D.C., Catherine left for Hays, Kansas, in 2006, after her husband got a position teaching philosophy at the local university. We asked Catherine to chronicle a typical day in her life in Kansas—writing, children and all.

Baby on the Plains.  Martha, age 1.
8 a.m.
Wake up in an attic bedroom in our 1910 cottage in need of much renovation. Stumble down the stairs and get Sophie (age 4) and Martha (age 1) fed and dressed.

9 a.m.
Ignore the kids while I check e-mail and slurp down coffee while sitting at my grandmother's old dining table.

9:30 a.m.
Return any urgent phone calls from my agent, directors and producers.

Sophie, age 4, on the jungle gym
under the prairie sky.
10 a.m.
Out the door with the girls to the library, museum, park or somewhere similar, hopefully to meet up with other Moms so I don't feel so alone in the world. They think I'm a little strange, what with this playwriting career and all, but they tolerate my eccentricities well enough.

11 a.m.
Feed everyone lunch—usually out of a box.

12 p.m.
Drop Sophie off at O'Loughlin Elementary School for pre-school. Put Martha down for a nap in her crib.

12-2:45 p.m.
Ignore the dirty dishes, pile of laundry, unanswered e-mails and WRITE.

3 p.m.
Pick up Sophie from pre-school.

The first old house we renovated in Hays.
3:30 p.m.
Drop the girls off at the daycare at my gym and swim laps.

or
Weed the garden.
or
Return phone calls.

5 p.m.
Make dinner, preferably un-boxed, preferably with vegetables from our big garden, while the girls entertain themselves by dancing, drawing, climbing on things and pulling out all of the pots and pans from the kitchen shelves.

6 p.m.
Eat dinner with the whole family.

Winter on the Plains.  Catherine and Sophie
bundled up in the snow.

6:30 p.m.

Wash the dishes, while my husband and the girls pick up the house. (This is great thinking time.)

7 p.m.
Take everyone to the park across the street, where we swing on the swing set under the big sky. If it's too cold, we'll build a fire and horse around the living room.

8 p.m.
Put Martha to bed. Read to Sophie—Victorian poetry and Pippi Longstocking at the moment.

9 p.m.
While my husband puts Sophie to bed, meet a director for a phone date.

10 p.m.
Answer some of those unanswered emails.

10:30 p.m.
Read scripts and/or research until I fall asleep.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Pride and Prejudice" Opens the Season to Cheering Throngs

First Night of South Coast Repertory’s 2011-12 Season was something to cheer about, beginning with the curtain speeches for Pride and Prejudice on the Segerstrom Stage and continuing until the Cast Party closed down around midnight on Ela’s Terrace.

Among those who elicited cheers: SCR Board President Tom Phelps, Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson, SCR’s new Artistic Director Marc Masterson and his co-CEO, Managing Director Paula Tomei.

The cheering continued for two couples who have vigorously supported the theatre through many seasons, Honorary Producers Jean and Tim Weiss and Tom and Marilyn Suttton; another staunch supporter, U.S. Bank, represented by Bill and Christy Cave; Segerstrom Stage season media partner PBS SoCal, represented by Mel and Marcia Rogers, and Pride and Prejudice media partner 89.3 KPCC.

And that was all before the play began. Then the 21-member cast brought theatre-goers to their feet with a stunning production of the Jane Austen classic, followed by a rocking Cast Party.



Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Magical Night for SCR

September 10, 2011.  It was a night of brief nostalgia and endless opportunity.

At “Theatre Magic: The Black & White Ball,” South Coast Repertory supporters looked back with pride on what they had helped achieve over 47 seasons and celebrated their founders who had brought SCR to the top ranks of theatre in America.

Then they looked forward to a new generation of leaders and the endless opportunities that lie ahead.

The two men whose artistic vision started it all (Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson) joined the new generation of leaders (Artistic Director Marc Masterson and his co-CEO Managing Director Paula Tomei) and the two amazing Gala Chairs, Elaine Weinberg and her daughter Nancy Dahan, to welcome guests to the celebration.

Elaine and Nancy and their creative and hard-working 46-member Committee were responsible for making sure that the evening was celebratory—and fun.  They succeeded!



Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Play about Faith, Connection and Prejudice

A Few Questions for Catherine Trieschmann

Playwright Catherine Trieschmann is no stranger to SCR’s artistic staff. We’ve been following her work for years—and commissioned her in 2007—and we’re thrilled to be co-producing the world premiere of her latest play, How the World Began. With rehearsals underway, we asked Catherine to reflect on her inspiration for writing the play—and the intersection of life, religion and weather in her town of Hays, Kansas.

Playwright Catherine Trieschmann

What was the genesis for writing How the World Began?
I was lucky enough to receive a Sloan commission from Manhattan Theatre Club, which is a commission designed to get playwrights writing about science and scientists. Since moving to Kansas five years ago, I've been struck by the heated debates concerning creationism and evolution that are periodically held in my small town of 20,000. How the World Began is my attempt to make sense of why people are so passionate about this issue.

Could you tell us more about the importance of the play’s location to you?
My first year in Kansas, the small town of Greensburg (located about an hour south of me) was decimated by a tornado, and the images from that natural disaster have haunted me ever since.

One of the most striking things about living in Western Kansas is the powerful effect of weather on the community. It, of course, affects the farming community profoundly, but even we townspeople have to beware of heavy hail, thunderstorms and tornados—not to mention extreme heat and cold. The sky is ever-changing on the plains, and it is simultaneously majestic and scary and beautiful.

The play’s characters seem to represent three very different perspectives on the continuum of religious and scientific beliefs. In crafting these characters—and their conflicts—how important was it to you to represent all sides of the ever-changing battle over evolution and creationism?
In writing the play, I don't know that I was so intent upon representing all sides of the evolution vs. creationism debate as much as I was intent upon creating characters that were extreme in their beliefs but sympathetic in their portrayal. There are no moderate views in the play, perhaps because moderation is not the most dramatic of choices, but also because it was the extreme passion and commitment I saw expressed by the people of my town which drew me to the material in the first place. I personally have no problem reconciling evolution and the existence of God, but I was intrigued by people who do.

NEXT WEEK:  Catherine Trieschmann presents “A Day in the Life of a Plains Playwright.”


Playwright Catherine Trieschmann has been living and writing in Hays, Kansas, for the last five years. But her newest play, How the World Began, which will premiere on SCR’s Julianne Argyros Stage on Sept. 25, is her first play about Kansas.

In it, she tells the story of Susan Pierce, a new biology teacher from New York who moves to the small town of Plainview to teach in the wake of a devastating tornado. Susan says, “Haven’t you ever looked at photographs after a tsunami or an earthquake half-way across the world and thought, if only I could do something? Wouldn’t it be great to go to bed at the end of the day, tired and used up, knowing you actually helped people?”

Greensburg, Kansas following a F-5 Tornado in 2007.

 

Susan moved to Plainview to lend a hand—and to start a new life.  But she is an outsider in this small, farming town, and unprepared for the firestorm that will erupt after she makes a careless comment while teaching the origins of life.

When student Micah Staab, a devout Christian, takes offense and confronts Susan, she at first denies having made the comment, then tries to explain that she was talking about early non-scientific beliefs that had nothing to do with God. But Micah feels disrespected, and when Susan refuses to apologize, his guardian Gene gets involved. Gene Hinkle is the town’s garrulous ex-postmaster, and soon everyone in town believes that Susan is an evolutionary zealot.  The town gossip leads to building pressure that threatens to dismantle Susan’s new life and vocation.

Trieschmann’s drama subtly explores the hot-button topics of creationism and evolution—as they’re taught (or not taught) in modern classrooms today—through the prism of three character’s strongly held personal beliefs. It’s a character-driven play about faith, connection and the innate prejudices people sometimes have toward beliefs different from their own.

Jarrett Sleeper, Kirsten Potter and Joe Spano in rehearsal for the 2011
Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of How the World Began.

 

How the World Began was presented in a reading during SCR’s 2011 Pacific Playwrights Festival and is being produced in association with Women’s Project Theater in New York. Daniella Topol is directing both the SCR production and the one at Women’s Project, which will produce the play in January 2012. How the World Began will have its European premiere at Out of Joint Theatre in London this fall.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SCR Honors Founders with Endowment Fund

Patricia Melvin and Marc Masterson.
When South Coast Repertory Artistic Director Marc Masterson stepped forward to greet guests at the 2011 Gala, a new era began.

Of course, the moment was filled with nostalgia, as supporters of SCR recalled so many wonderful moments over the 47 years since Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson envisioned a new theatre for our community—first touring from the back of a Studebaker station wagon, later in a converted warehouse and then a converted dime store!  Now, home is our dynamic theatre center—one of the country’s finest—in the heart of Orange County.

The memories are sweet.  But David and Martin aren’t dwelling on them.  They’re looking toward the future and the new generation of leaders in whom they have put their trust.

David Emmes and Martin Benson.
To ensure that future, the SCR Board of Trustees has announced The Emmes/Benson Endowment Fund, which will provide the income to fund future exceptional creative opportunities—the unique visionary needs that go beyond original budget plans—in perpetuity.  These are the resources that will allow SCR not only to achieve greatness but to sustain greatness.

We invite everyone to join us in honoring David and Martin through the Emmes/Benson Endowment Fund.  Find out about the numerous opportunities—including making a gift to the Take-Your-Seat Campaign to permanently name a seat in one of SCR’s three theatres.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We’re Opening Our House

From left: Marc Masterson, David Emmes, Martin Benson
and Paula Tomei, photo by Doug Gifford.
Join us Monday, Oct. 3, for backstage tours, an insider’s season preview and a reception at the Open House to celebrate the arrival of new Artistic Director Marc Masterson.

You’ll have a chance to meet Marc and his counterpart, Managing Director Paula Tomei, along with Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson. You’ll get a sneak peek inside the scene, prop and wardrobe shops. And you’ll get to mingle with other theatre lovers as you enjoy refreshments.

It’s all free!

Here’s the schedule:
    •    5-6:30 p.m.: Reception and Backstage Tours
    •    6:30-7:15 p.m.: Season Preview
    •    7:15-9 p.m.: Reception and Backstage Tours

Tour space is limited, so reservations are recommended. Reserve online at www.scr.org/openhouse or by calling 714-708-5555.

‘How the World Began’ Cast: Old Pros at New Works

Portraying a character in a play that’s never before been performed is a special challenge. But the actors in the world premiere of How the World Began are already experts at creating roles.

Sarah Rafferty originated the role of Helen Vaught in 2002’s Getting Frankie Married – and Afterwards at SCR. (Fans of the TV show “Suits” will recognize her as the main character’s long-time assistant, Donna.) Jarrett Sleeper created older brother Rodney in our 2010 world premiere of Doctor Cerberus. And Time Winters originated the role of Smythic in last year’s world premiere of The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder at The Theatre @ Boston Court. (SCR fans will remember him from 1999’s The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden.)


Friday, September 9, 2011

Congrats, You Got the Part: Now Cut Your Hair

In SCR’s version of Pride and Prejudice, actress Claire Kaplan plays “The Girl,” a modern-day character who is reading the novel for the first time.  Though she never speaks, she is the observer through whose eyes we view the story.  And taking on the role meant making a major change to her appearance.  We asked her to write about the experience of chopping off her long hair for her art:

My character in this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is a punky teen we call “The Girl” who uses her appearance as a sort of identity-establishing rebellion against her mom.

Pretty typical fare, but I never went through that phase.  I’ve always had long hair, and I’ve never permanently dyed it. The only time I’ve changed it is for shows. I cut it into a bob for one, and I dyed it a very non-permanent raspberry for another. But I knew at the audition for P&P that this would be a bigger kind of commitment. The casting director and director Kyle Donnelly made sure I realized that the role would require a major make-over. I agreed at once. South Coast Repertory is a major theatre, after all, and an aspiring actor does what she must, within the bounds of propriety.

I knew it would be challenging, but I started to panic when I saw the design for The Girl’s hair, which was much shorter than I expected—basically a pixie cut. I realized that my personal idea of femininity was pretty tied up in my hair. Part of me knew this was silly. But I had been going through some major life changes (graduating and moving home to be in this show, among others), and I didn’t feel like I could deal with my identity being shaken, too.

Before, during and after Claire's transformation.

After a few pep talks from our wonderful costume designer, Paloma Young, and asking myself “What Would Lizzy Bennet Do,” I figured that if I was prepared to chop off my locks I might as well commit to it and take the plunge. They put my hair in two ponytails (there was too much of it for the conventional one) and—snip!—it was gone. I would like it noted for posterity that I did not cry. I think I went into a sort of Zen state.

The fantastic Neve at Crew Salon did the cut entirely by instinct! She shaped it to my head, and I will happily admit it looks great. I love how easy it is to take care of, and it’s surprisingly versatile. The color is a bit extreme for my taste; I tend toward a more natural look. But this is fun! I get to try on a whole different person for a month and a half. And I certainly feel more in character for the show.

In the end, I’m glad I sacrificed some vanity for a job that I readily sacrifice much more important things for all the time. My personal ideas about what is feminine and sexy are starting to change, and I look more like a young Liza Minelli, which has always been a life goal.

One of the best parts is that I get to donate my almost two feet of hair to Locks of Love, an organization that collects hair from the recently shorn and makes it into wigs for those who have lost their hair to illness. The power of the arts!
Claire Kaplan

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Pride and Prejudice" in the Modern World

Biography of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, to Rev. George Austen and the former Cassandra Leigh in Steventon, Hampshire. Like the families in many of her novels, the Austens were a large family of respectable lineage but no fortune. She was one of eight children. 

Cassandra Austen's ''Portrait of Jane Austen'' (1810). Watercolor and pencil.
Although she never married, her letters to her sister, Cassandra, and other writings reveal several romantic entanglements, including a very brief engagement (which lasted only one evening). She moved several times around the English countryside, and biographical information about her work is somewhat sketchy.

She began to write as a teenager but kept her work hidden from all but her immediate family. Legend has it that while she was living with relatives after her father’s death in 1805, she asked that a squeaky hinge on the room’s swinging door not be oiled. This way, she would have enough time to hide her manuscripts before someone entered the room.

Her brother Henry helped her sell her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, to a publisher in 1811. Her father unsuccessfully tried to get a publisher to look at her novel First Impressions when she completed it in 1797.  Later renamed Pride and Prejudice, it was published in 1813 to highly favorable reviews. Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and Emma in 1816. The title page of each book referred to one or two of Austen’s earlier novels—capitalizing on her growing reputation—but did not provide her name.

In 1816, she began to suffer from ill health. At the time, it was thought to be consumption but is now thought to have been Addison's disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment and died there on July 18, 1817, at age 41.

Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published together posthumously in December 1817 with a “Biographical Notice” written by her brother Henry, in which Jane Austen was finally revealed as the author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma.

By Kimberly Colburn

Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are not uncommon (see The Ascension of Austen, below), but South Coast Repertory’s production promises to be anything but common. It starts with a fluid, highly theatrical adaptation by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan. Sullivan is a long-time director, and Hanreddy was the artistic director of Milwaukee Rep for more than 30 years; their understanding of dramatic structure onstage is extensive. It’s reflected in the way they’ve deftly captured Austen’s world and her beloved characters. Lovers of the novel will appreciate the extensive use of direct quotes from Austen’s text, but those who have never before heard of the Bennet girls will be able to discover this rich, detailed world and follow the story with ease.

Set rendering by Kate Edmunds
Directing an adaptation of this challenging scope—based on a beloved novel, 21 actors in the Regency period, multiple balls, characters travelling the English countryside—is a demanding prospect. SCR’s production is led by director Kyle Donnelly, who has been a professional director for the past 30 years, working in many of America’s top regional theatres. She directed SCR’s production of Tom Walker by John Strand in 2001. She also heads the acting program at UC San Diego, one of the finest in the country. Several of the cast members are her former students, including Corey Brill, who is playing Mr. Darcy.

Set rendering by Kate Edmunds
Donnelly said she wanted to illustrate the connections that this classic tale has for today's young people. Would a modern teenager fall in love with this story as generations past have? How does this story have relevance for contemporary society? Where and how does the story connect to our modern world? Her approach looks at how this tale might be filtered through the eyes of a modern young girl. If a young girl today picked up this book, how might she see it?

Set rendering by Kate Edmunds
Donnelly’s Pride and Prejudice is set in Regency England, but the production elements are very contemporary, utilizing multi-media, including extensive video projections, to maintain the fluidity of the story. Led by noted scenic designer Kate Edmunds and assisted by projection coordinator Adam Flemming, video allows the scenes to flow freely and quickly from one to the next, keeping the story moving at a brisk pace and giving a strong sense of place.  Oddly enough, the technology enables the production to be more faithful to the events of the period novel.

Composer Michael Roth was in rehearsal nearly every day, creating original music for the production. Costume designer Paloma Young’s period-inspired costumes are elegant and richly detailed. The production team also includes lighting designer Lap Chi Chu and choreographer Sylvia C. Turner.

To meet the cast of Pride and Prejudice, click here.


Jane Austen
The Ascension of Austen
By Kimberly Colburn

Jane Austen didn’t intend to be famous. During her lifetime, she only published anonymously, as “A Lady.” Few people outside of her family knew that she wrote her novels. Despite the large part that romance and courting play in her books, she never married. When she died in 1817 at age 41, her gravestone only cited that she was the daughter of local Reverend George Austen. (In an essay about Austen, W. Somerset Maugham commented, “It just shows that you may make a great stir in the world and yet sadly fail to impress the members of your own family.”) It wasn’t until 1872 that Winchester Cathedral added the note to her memorial that she was “known to many by her writings.”

How did Austen’s work, particularly Pride and Prejudice, soar to the level of ubiquitous popularity it currently enjoys?

Her novels Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma grew in popularity and made a modest sum while Jane was still alive—around 600 pounds in six years, which is roughly equivalent to $60,000 today. At the time, novels were not considered great literature; they were seen more like pulp fiction. Poets were the real celebrities. For comparison, Byron’s book of poems, The Corsair, sold 10,000 copies on the day it was published in 1814. Emma was published the same year but took six months to sell 1,250 copies.

Austen’s modest reputation ebbed until about 50 years after her death, when her niece J.E. Austen-Leigh published A Memoir of Jane Austen. The memoir was wildly popular and renewed interest in Austen’s novels at a time when the genre of the novel had gained new levels of respectability and popularity. The term “Janeites” was coined in a preface to an 1894 edition of Pride and Prejudice to describe Austen admirers.

In the early twentieth century, references to Austen and her novels began cropping up in other texts. Mark Twain expressed distaste for Austen’s writing in 1897’s Following the Equator, insisting that an ideal library would not have her books in it. Given that Mark Twain aimed verbal slings at other classic authors, this may have merely signaled Austen’s transition to “serious literature.” In 1913, Virginia Woolf compared Jane Austen to Shakespeare. In 1926, Rudyard Kipling published a short story called “The Janeites,” about a soldier recalling how he was forced to join a secret society of devoted Austen fans. Through the 1930s and 40s, Austen’s books were increasingly included in classrooms and academia.

It may be the numerous dramatizations of her stories that solidified Austen’s superstar status. Starting in 1940 with Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, popular film culture began mining Austen for inspiration and churning out three to seven film versions of Austen novels per decade. Pride and Prejudice adaptations you might remember include Colin Firth’s turn as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC version and the recent 2005 movie with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth. Or did you catch the 2004 Bollywood version, Bride and Prejudice?

If you include the category of work “based on” or “inspired by” Pride and Prejudice, the list grows exponentially. In film, there’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the same love-hate relationship model as Elizabeth and Darcy. Bridget Jones’ Diary, both the novels and the films, pay homage to Pride and Prejudice—the initially surly fellow is named Mark Darcy. Author Stephanie Meyer admits the novel Twilight is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice—the dashing Edward Cullen is at first cold and rude to Bella, later citing their differences in lifestyle as the reason he tried to keep her at arm’s length. In 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and modern zombie fiction. He left large portions of Austen’s original text intact but modified the world of Regency England to include ninjas and zombies. There are also dozens of sequels to Pride and Prejudice, imagining the lives of the characters after the original ends.

This chronology merely traces how Austen and her works exploded in popularity in the more than 200 years since her death, but not why. As bestselling author and journalist Anna Quindlen wrote, “Serious literary discussions of Pride and Prejudice threaten to obscure the most important thing about it: it is a pure joy to read.”


Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet the Cast of "Pride and Prejudice"

The cast of Pride and Prejudice

Eva Barnes, Corey Brill, Cate Scott Campbell,
Jane Carr, Kandis Chappell, Scott Drummond,
Amy Ellenberger, Amalia Fite, Joel J. Gelman,
Dana Green, Brian Hostenske, Claire Kaplan,
Rebecca Lawrence, James Newcomb, Michael A.
Newcomber, 
Elizabeth Nolan, Randy Oglesby, Kalie Quiñones,
Justin Sorvillo, Daniel Sugimoto, Katie Willert

Just how big is our Pride and Prejudice cast? Big enough to form two baseball teams, with enough left over to serve as umpire, announcer and team mascot. But who would you cheer for? Team Lizzy or Team Darcy?

Lizzy, or should we say Elizabeth, will be played in this production by Dana Green, who last season won our hearts as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At her side is Corey Brill, who is making his SCR debut as the handsome Mr. Darcy.

Playing Elizabeth’s parents are two SCR veterans: Randy Oglesby (Riduculous Fraud) is the dry-witted Mr. Bennet, and Jane Carr (Habeus Corpus) is his boisterous wife. (A couple of fun facts about this acting duo: Randy has played seven different characters in four different “Star Trek” TV shows, and Jane’s voice should be well-known to fans of the cartoons “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.”)

Making her 21st appearance in an SCR show is Kandis Chappell, who originated the role of Ruth in Collected Stories and then reprised the role in 2009. Here she plays the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, aunt of Mr. Darcy.

Rounding out the list of actors who’ve appeared on SCR’s stages in the past are Michael A. Newcomer (The Heiress), who plays Mr. Wickham; Brian Hostenske (Noises Off), who plays Mr. Bingley; and two UC San Diego (UCSD) faculty members: acting teacher Eva Barnes (Aunt Dan and Lemon) as Lady Lucas/Mrs. Gardiner, and fight choreography teacher James Newcomb (The Taming of the Shrew) as Sir William Lucas/Mr. Gardiner.

UCSD is well-represented in the show: Nine of the cast members graduated from its MFA acting program, which is led by Pride and Prejudice’s director, Kyle Donnelly.  In addition to Corey Brill and Brian Hostenske, they are Cate Scott Campbell (Charlotte), Scott Drummond (Mr. Collins), Amy Ellenberger (Miss Caroline Bingley), Amalia Fite (Lydia Bennet), Joel J. Gelman (Fitzwilliam/Mr. Denny) and Rebecca Lawrence (Jane Bennet). Two others are UCSD undergraduates: Claire Kaplan (The Girl) and Katie Willert (Mary Bennet).

And finally, four cast members are graduates of SCR’s own Professional Actor Training program. They are: Liz Nolan (Catherine Bennet), Kalie Quiñones (Miss Anne de Bourgh/Georgiana Darcy), Justin Sorvillo (Captain Carter) and Daniel Sugimoto (Soldier/Servant).

You can find the complete cast bios by going here and clicking on “Cast/Creative Team.”