Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Making Friends with "Ivy + Bean"

Meet the Playwright

Scott Elmegreen
Scott Elmegreen is a playwright, composer, lyricist, sound designer and novelist whose work has premiered on Broadway, television and in film, as well as off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. His other musical work for young audiences includes The Magic School Bus, Live! The Climate Challenge (music and lyrics; national tour, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Oregon Children’s Theatre) and Awesome Allie: First Kid Astronaut (book; Vital Theatre). Other notable projects include the Emmy Award-nominated Colin Quinn Long Story Short, directed by Jerry Seinfield (original compositions; Broadway, national tour, HBO special); COLLEGE The Musical (New York Theatre Musical Theatre Festival Award for Excellence, Richard Rodgers Award Finalist); and Vote For Me: A Musical Debate (NYMFal). Scott is also a published author of young adult fiction and a graduate of Princeton University.

Learn more about Elmegreen and his work at
Best friends can come from the most unlikely places.  Ivy and Bean are neighbors on Pancake Court, a cool cul de sac where big kids and little kids play together.  But they couldn’t be more different. Bean is brash and bold and she always gets into trouble.  Ivy is nice and quiet and she likes to read.

Even though Ivy and Bean think they have nothing in common, the two girls come together to play a trick on Bean’s big sister, Nancy, when their parents let her babysit for the first time. Bossy Nancy is the perfect target for Ivy—who is a witch-in-training—to practice her new spell.

Ivy and Bean join forces—and become best friends along the way. They learn invaluable lessons about the importance of friendship and family—and even try to break a world record!
For this zany new musical adaptation of Annie Barrows’ beloved Ivy + Bean book series, playwright Scott Elmegreen adapted stories from the first few books in the series.  Find out more about the Ivy + Bean books.

Director Marya Mazor has created a fun, exciting mix of stage magic to bring the story of Ivy and Bean to life at South Coast Repertory.

Ivy + Bean set design model by Set Designer Anne Sheffield
Mazor has assembled a wonderful cast of actors/singers for Ivy + Bean including Melody Butiu, Dylan DoVale, Emily Eiden, William Martinez, Elia Saldana and Sammi Smith.  Her stellar artistic/design team includes Alby Potts, musical director; Anne Sheffield, sets; Angela Calin, costumes; Brian Gale, lights; Jeff Polunas, sound.

South Coast Repertory is thrilled to share the magic and music of Ivy + Bean with our audiences, Nov. 8-24.  We hope you’ll join us for this fun, frolicking story of friendship—Ivy and Bean-style.

Meet the cast or dig deeper on the website

Meet the Author Annie Barrows

Ivy + Bean author Annie Barrows started writing books when she was nine. After studying medieval history at UC Berkeley, she became an editor, and then she went back to school to study writing.

After writing a number of books for adults, Barrows wrote “Ivy + Bean,” her first book for kids in 2006. There are now 10 books in the series. “Ivy + Bean” garnered numerous awards, including Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, and a People magazine’s “Summer’s Hottest Reads” selection. Born in San Diego, Barrows now lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters, Clio and Esme. One of her daughters is like Ivy and the other is like Bean. They both make a lot of potions. Find out more about Barrows at

Barrows Talking About Ivy + Bean
The first book in the "Ivy + Bean" series

“One of the big problems of being a kid is that your parents often try to make you play with people you don’t really like. My parents were forever trying to get me to like the kids of their friends. These kids were often weird. I didn’t want to play with them. It was a problem.

I remembered that when I was writing the first “Ivy + Bean.” Ivy and Bean are very different. Bean is loud and wild and goofy. She loves to be involved in games and poke her nose in other people’s business. Ivy is quiet and full of ideas. She spends most of her time learning how to be a witch. Each girl thinks the other one is weird. Each girl thinks she could never be friends with the other. Especially because their parents keep nagging them about it.

But sometimes opposites can become the best of friends because they’re opposites. For example, people who like to talk need people who like to listen. And people with great ideas need people who can put those ideas into action. For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately. It also means that, together, they do more wacky things than any one kid could ever dream up. The Ivy and Bean books are about the adventures—and disasters—created by this unlikely team. And since their motto seems to be ‘Why not?’ there’s every reason to believe that their capers and catastrophes will continue for quite a while.”

Buy Tickets to Ivy + Bean

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ivy+Bean: Cast Brings the Book Series to Life

Even though Ivy and Bean think that they have nothing in common, the two girls join forces on a project and, along the way, become best friends, and learn the importance of friendship and family. The actors in the cast have lots of things in common: active careers in theatre, television and film, a love of music and dance and more. Meet the cast of Ivy+Bean.

Melody Butiu (Mom, Soccer Kid) The last time she was on SCR’s Julianne Argyros Stage, she played Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells. Butiu studied theatre in college and graduate school at the University of, San Diego. She spent the first half of this year singing and dancing in what she describes as a “crazy fun disco” musical by David Byrne, Here Lies Love, at The Public Theater in New York City. Her other SCR productions include Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told by Himself) and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow. On television, she has appeared in “Raising Hope,” “NCIS,” “Modern Family,” “Rules of Engagement” and “Melissa & Joey.”

Dylan DoVale (Leo) Growing up, Dylan DoVale loved sports—soccer, baseball, basketball, even chess. Later cross-country and track seemed to be his thing. Today, his favorite sports team is New York Yankees. When he’s not busy being physical or practicing fire bending (Did I just say firebending !? Yes I did!) or hanging out with friends, he reads. Some of his favorite books include: Sword in the Stone, The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and, of course, Tintin.

Emily Eiden  (Nancy, Zuzu) Previously, Eiden appeared in SCR’s Anastasia Krupnik, Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, A Year with Frog and Toad and Taking Steps. Acting is a family affair for Eiden: her parents met in a play directed by her grandfather; she and her brother grew up acting in plays directed by their parents, and she met her husband in acting class. In addition to stage work, she is an audio book story teller, including the “Whatever After” series, “A Dog’s Way Homeand “Paranormalcy” or the scholastic animated films Children Make Terrible Pets and Exclamation Mark.  As a voiceover artist, she is featured in the Cartoon Network show, “Clarence” and in the planetarium shows at Griffith Observatory.

William Martinez is making his SCR debut. He grew up in a deaf household and only was exposed  to the entertainment industry when a theatre troupe came to his school and performed a show that changed his life.  He instantly knew that he wanted to sing and act. Martinez  pursued his college degree in musical theatre from the University of Northern Colorado and then moved to Los Angeles.  He has performed shows at the Mark Taper Forum (Big River), Laguna Playhouse (Plaid Tidings), Alex Theatre, TO Arts Plaza, Carpenter Center and many other theatres.  He also gives back to the school community by performing in four different kids shows:  Page to Stage and The History of Musical Theatre for Musical Theatre Guild; Orchestra Intro with the New West Symphony; and We Tell Their Story with Musical Theatre West.  He hopes that bringing musical theatre to underprivileged schools will inspire others to follow their dream, too. He is a member of Musical Theatre Guild and Actors Equity.

Elia Saldana (Bean) Her acting career began with dance she started out doing dance recitals dressed as a bear and singing Christmas carols for sher dad’s camcorder. Then she got schooled at a place called UCSD (the University of California, San Diego) and went on to have many acting adventures. You might have seen her as Kayla in Jane of the Jungle or Elisa in Anastasia Krupnik here at SCR! She also was married to a rock and roll star in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and toured all over the place. She got to dance a lot in West Side Story and played a sassy girl in Family Planning, and even got nominated for a cool award called the Ovation. Recently she fulfilled her dream of voicing a cartoon character by playing Cecilia on Fox’s "The Cleveland Show." She wants to thank her family, friends, and Burl for their love and support. Never stop learning new things and follow your dreams!

Sammi Smith (Ivy) I am so excited to be playing Ivy! I grew up right down the road from South Coast Repertory in Irvine, where I went to Eastshore Elementary School. I decided she wanted to be an actor as a little girl when my Grandma Maxine took me to see plays at Downey Civic Light Opera. Last spring, I got to play many different characters in The Phantom Tollbooth at Mainstreet Theatre Company, including the roles of the Princess of Pure Reason and the Demon of Insincerity. My husband, Jeremy, and I run a theatre company in Los Angeles called Coeurage Theatre Company. We’re currently performing Shakespeare's Love’s Labour’s Lost. Besides acting and singing, I love hiking, listening to audio books and spending time with my cat, Dot.

Buy tickets now

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"4000 Miles:" Actors Feel Connected to Characters

Jenny O'Hara and Matt Caplan in 4000 Miles.
Playwright Amy Herzog’s warm storytelling drew actors Jenny O’Hara and Matt Caplan to the play 4000 Miles. In South Coast Repertory’s production, O’Hara portrays 91-year-old Vera and Caplan is 21-year-old Leo.

“The subjects and the subtleties in the writing drew me to the play,” says Jenny O’Hara.

Caplan agrees, “There is an unparalleled energy in live storytelling, and if you are lucky enough to experience art that really does ‘hold as ’twere, the mirror up to nature,’ you can feel it.”

For Caplan, it was love at first read with 4000 Miles, as he prepared for his audition. 

“On my website I write about how I exclaimed aloud to my cats just how much I was enjoying the read, so they can personally attest to this fact [laughs]. Amy Herzog's language is so naturally sublime that you lose yourself in the authenticity and humanity of it, and after a while, you feel like an exhilarated little fly on the wall of a West Village apartment. I immediately and passionately sympathized with Leo, which is such an important and exciting feeling as an actor. “

In talking with both actors, we explored their approach to both characters and the play itself.

How are you similar to your character?

O’Hara: Vera and I do have similarities; we both are tough, principled, direct and soft-hearted. We both believe in the greater good. She reminds me of my 96-year-old mother, who still runs her off-off Broadway theatre in New York City. She is in her lobby every day, doing business. She was raised on a stump farm in Idaho, came to New York at age 50 to be a producer and has been doing it successfully for 46 years.

Caplan:  When Leo arrives at his grandmother's door, he is in a foreign city, and he is filled with a paradoxical mix of triumph and loss. He is struggling to remain a positive ideologue in the midst of unprecedented adversity. He's a fitness enthusiast. He's a liberal. He's a hopeless romantic. In short, yeah, I know a guy of who reminds me of Leo. Jenny breathes such life in Vera and nuance into this wonderfully wrought character that I truly feel like I’ve found a long-lost grandmother and friend. There is a subtle and unique kind of familiarity and discovery in relationships like Leo and Vera's, and Jenny has made this part of the process easy by being so believable and available.

How have your characters developed through the rehearsal process?

O’Hara: Vera has evolved in the rehearsal process in two directions…she has become both tougher and softer, more nurturing, and an advocate for all of her family members, especially her grandson Leo. Matt is a wonderful young actor and has made being Leo's advocate very, very easy.

Caplan:  Leo certainly evolves on the page, so my chief concern is honoring the text and making sense of his journey. I rely heavily on David and my fellow actors to help me shape and refine Leo's evolution. He can be brilliant, bratty, and vulnerable, all at once. I just want him to be understood.

Why are you drawn to SCR?

O’Hara: The theatre is remarkable. It is an ancient art form, a family, a celebration and a gift to the artists and the audience. SCR does extraordinary work with extraordinary playwrights, actors and directors. They have daring taste in material and terrific supporters. It offers its artists everything they need to bring the work to life. 

Caplan: South Coast Repertory fosters a level of professionalism and artistic bravery that I know to be quite rare. I think that the ease with which our company communicates and explores during rehearsal is continually surprising, at least to me. I must say this organization and this cast continue to astound me on a daily basis. It is a joy to create with them.

What do you hope audiences will come away with after seeing 4000 Miles?

O’Hara: I hope they come with any fixed ideas about the facts of youth and age broken and with love and respect for both states and for these two singular people.

Caplan:  I hope that audiences feel like they are experiencing a story that is both subtle and unforgettable. And most importantly, human.

Buy tickets now.

South Coast Plaza Throws Cast Party for "Fast Company"

South Coast Repertory’s 50th Season on the Julianne Argyros Stage opened with the world premiere of Carla Ching’s Fast Company—to a packed house. Notable audience members included SCR supporters Julianne and George Argyros, First Nighters and their guests, and special artists long associated with the theatre.

After enjoying the fast-paced show about a family of grifters (and adding new words to their vocabularies, like “roper,” “fixer” and “the mark”) everyone continued the celebratory evening at the Cast Party, hosted by South Coast Plaza, which also is the 50th Season’s Golden Elite Sponsor.

The already splendid Jewel Court was the scene of a dazzling SCR installation that included cut-out characters from memorable SCR productions, color panels telling the theatre’s history through photos and text and a historical video with stunning images of past productions and the donors who made it all possible.

There, First Nighters sipped special cocktails and sampled cuisine with an Asian flare by Crème de la Crème as they strolled through the display area or relaxed on sumptuous lounge furniture, chatting with the artists and guests at what will be remembered as one of the 50th Season’s grandest First Nights.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Long Ride Home

by Kimberly Colburn

THE CAST:  Rebecca Mozo, Matt Caplan, Klarissa Mesee and Jenny O'Hara.
It’s the middle of the night, and 91-year-old Vera has been woken up by an insistent buzzing at the door; her hearing isn’t what it used to be. She’s not expecting anyone, and she certainly isn’t expecting who it turns out to be: her grandson, Leo, who’s been incommunicado for the past few months, riding his bicycle across the country sans cell phone.

Leo doesn’t quite explain what brought him to Vera’s door, but it’s clear that he’s still a little lost in his life. He’s not ready to talk to his mother yet and he’s already been booted from his girlfriend’s house—she’s still mad at him for not calling all summer. Vera persuades him that he can lay low and get his bearings at her apartment in Greenwich Village—she’s an old political Leftie and perhaps senses a kindred spirit in her staunch environmentalist grandson.

This is the moment that opens Amy Herzog’s play 4000 Miles. We meet the central characters right when their relationship begins to change. Of course, Vera has known Leo since he was born; but when they find themselves sharing space, they get to know each other in a whole new way.

Herzog based the character of Vera on her own grandmother, Leepee Joseph, with whom she shared a strong bond. Her grandmother passed away since the play was produced at Lincoln Center in New York last year.

[Read a a New York Times profile of Herzog and her grandmother.]

In 4000 Miles, we see the bond between Vera and Leo grow and develop as we learn more about their lives and the tragedy that Leo is struggling to move past. Herzog’s work unfolds with exacting, well-observed characters that highlight the inter-generational relationship as Leo finally begins to face adulthood. Even as Leo makes the mistakes of youth, Vera naturally makes room in her life and thrives on the unexpected attention of her grandson, helping to instill our sympathy for the troubled young man. Sometimes, the only way to grow up is to confront the past, and relying on his grandmother gives Leo the space to find his way.

The humanity in the piece is what drew director David Emmes. He explains that it “is an intimate and insightful play about the nature of compassion and healing, as reflected in the relationship between a 91-year-old Leftist and her rebellious grandson.” He’s put together a standout cast, including Jenny O’Hara as Vera and Matt Caplan as Leo (meet the cast here), and a fantastic team of designers familiar to SCR audiences. Ralph Funicello (Elemeno Pea, Misalliance), one of America’s leading scenic designers, will be designing the set, with Sara Ryung Clement (How the World Began, Completeness) on costumes, Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz (Ordinary Days, La Posada Mágica) on lights, and Cricket S. Myers (The Parisian Woman, Sight Unseen) designing sound.

Learn More/Buy Tickets

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The "Fast Company" Bond Between Playwright and Director

The cast of Fast Company:  Nelson Lee, Jackie Chung, Emily Kuroda and Lawrence Kao
Both Los Angeles-based, playwright Carla Ching and director Bart DeLorenzo wear many hats when bringing the world premiere of Fast Company together.

Playwright Carla Ching
“For me a world premiere is all about the relationship with the playwright and the working together to bring the vision to life,” says DeLorenzo.  Their collaboration comes with both challenges and excitement to create this fast-paced new play.

To become a great team, Ching says she prefers a director who is a smart-minded storyteller, good with actors and able to create a “family” feeling in the rehearsal room.

"You have to be a total collaborator when you’re making all sorts of decisions together, and the entire piece can change at a moment's notice so you have to be ready for anything," adds DeLorenzo. "I always feel a special responsibility because usually how a world premiere is received has a big impact on the future life of the play."

Before the creative and artistic team was chosen for her world premiere, Ching is hard at work to make the script the best it can be. 

"I have an inkling of an idea [for what the world of the play looks and feels like], and then read and watch as much as possible until some disparate strands start to braid together,” she says. “Then, I will probably discover who inhabits the world and just start writing scenes."

Director Bart DeLorenzo
By far the biggest challenge that a playwright faces, adds Ching, is getting the play produced.

"As an emerging writer, it’s hard to get someone to take a chance on you," she explains. "When we are unproven, [producing companies] just have to trust you, and take a leap of faith."

Smart risk-taking is another quality Ching looks for in the team that brings a world premiere to life. DeLorenzo says even during the very first play he ever directed—in 10th grade, Eugene O'Neill’s one-act play, In the Zone—he had absolutely no idea what he was doing but, because he took that risk, he fell in  love with the theatre-making process and has loved the art of directing ever since.

Ching agrees with DeLorenzo about being drawn to the art of theatre-making and for her, the life of a play is never over.

"It's never done,” she says. “I rewrote a play [a play of mine] that already had been produced and published.” Her life experience and growth as a writer all influence how she reviews and revises completed works and approaches new play ideas may that form.

Learn More/Buy Tickets

Monday, October 7, 2013

SCR's 50th Season Gala: A Golden Night, Filled with Surprises

“Theatrical Gold,” South Coast Repertory’s 50th Season Gala, held onsite for the first time in the event’s history, was an evening of dancing, dining, disco—and surprises.

Those surprises were five-fold, and each one brought the house down—or, up, for standing ovations.  Following the reception on SCR’s terrace (beautifully transformed  for the occasion, with gold-clad aerialists twirling above the guests) Gala Vice Chairs Bette Aitken, Sophie Cripe and Yvonne Jordan, along with the 420 party-goers, moved into the Segerstrom Stage, where they were welcomed by Board President Damien Jordan. 

Then the surprises began.  Honorary Chair Julianne Argyros announced two of them—first, declaring that the Gala had exceeded its goal, raising a history-making $1 million, and then stunning the audience with news that she and her husband, George, and the Argyros Family Foundation, were adding another $2 million gift.  Before the cheering was over, former Board President Paul Folino—whose $10 million gift eleven years earlier named the Folino Theatre Center—announced that he was re-naming it the David Emmes and Martin Benson Theatre Center, in honor of SCR’s Founding Artistic Directors.

The evening’s comedy surprise was “The Second City’s Salute to South Coast Repertory,” in which actors from Chicago’s famed troupe jumped in and out of vignettes and musical moments inspired by SCR’s long and celebrated history. 

During dinner on tiered platforms specially constructed for the evening and carpeted in gold, guests were treated to a video that played on two large screens with images highlighting productions and donors through the years.

Wondering about the fifth surprise?  It happened later in the evening, at Club Argyros, when the Julianne Argyros Stage was dramatically changed into a vibrant disco.  There, guests partied on amidst dancing lights and hypnotic music at a fabulous bash that capped the most memorable Gala in SCR history.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

"4000 Miles" Cast Comprised of New and Returning Actors

Familiar and new faces, national and regional credits, one returning South Coast Repertory veteran and three newcomers to SCR. They all are coming together at South Coast Repertory for Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles. Meet the cast of the play.

Matt Caplan makes his SCR debut as Leo in 4000 Miles.  On Broadway, he appeared in Rent, South Pacific and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and regionally he appeared in American Idiot. His television and film appearances include “New Amsterdam” and “NCIS,” Ambivalence, Across the Universe and Painting Abby Long. He is from New York by way of Virginia, where he studied theater at the Governor’s School for the Arts. Caplan also is a songwriter.

Rebecca Mozo appeared at SCR last season in The Parisian Woman, and also in In the Next Room or the vibrator play, A Wrinkle in Time, Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight, The Heiress and Doubt, a parable. Her other theatre credits include We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia at The Matrix Theatre Company; The Savannah Disputation (Ovation Award nomination), Trying (Ovation Award nomination) at The Colony Theatre Company; The Cherry Orchard opposite Annette Bening and Alfred Molina at Center Theatre Group; and Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Peace in Our Time, King Lear, Cousin Bette, Pera Palas and The Dresser at The Antaeus Company, where she is a member. Her film and television credits include The Repatriate, Headless Horseman, The Waterhole, “Pizza Time,” “Cold Case,” “The Young and the Restless” and “Medium.” She recently wrapped the web series “Kittens in a Cage.” Mozo earned her BFA from Rutgers University and studied at The Globe Theatre in London.

Klarissa Mesee role as Amanda in 4000 Miles marks her SCR debut. She can be seen in Mickey and the Magical Map at the Disneyland Resort. Her other credits include McCoy/Rigby’s Miss Saigon (Ovation Award nomination) and Richard Shermans’ Pazzazz! She also originated the role of Scarlet Wong in English Only: A Fight For Words in America. Her film and television credits include “Lost Tapes” for Animal Planet and “Teenage Mountain Lion,” a forthcoming web series. She is a native of Southern California and earned her BA from The Ray Bolger Musical Theater program at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

Jenny O’Hara is featured as Vera in 4000 Miles. She previously appeared in SCR’s production of Richard Greenberg’s Our Mother’s Brief Affair. On Broadway, she appeared in The Odd Couple (female version), The Iceman Cometh, Promises Promises, The Kid, Fig Leaves Are Falling and Dylan (debut with Alec Guinness). Her off-Broadway credits include John Guare’s New York Actor, Peter Hedges’ Good as New, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Marathon ’93, Sedalia Run and The Fox. She also has appeared in numerous regional productions. O’Hara has been a series regular on “The King of Queens,” “Costello,” “Life’s Work,” “The Pastor’s Wife,” “My Sister Sam,” “The Facts of Life,” “Secrets of Midland Heights,” “Highcliff Manor” and has made guest appearances on “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Franklin and Bash,” “CSI,” “Grey’sAnatomy,” “Drop Dead Diva,” “Boston Legal,” “Philly,” “NYPD Blue,” “Family Law,” “The Practice,” “Roswell,” “Strong Medicine,” “ER,” “Chicago Hope,” “Party of Five,” “Drew Carey Show,” “Murphy Brown,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Law & Order,” “L.A. Law” and many more. Her movies of the week include If These Walls Could Talk II, The Color of Courage, My Name is Jane, An Unexpected Family, Robin Cook’s Terminal, A Mother’s Prayer, Happily Ever After, Winnie, V and Black Beauty. Her feature films include BFF, Sassy Pants, Devil, Heavy Lifting, The Hit List, Extract, Matchstick Men, Mystic River, Angie, Career Opportunities and Heartbeat. She is a founding member of Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA.