Monday, September 30, 2013

May the Best Con Win

by Kelly L. Miller

GRIFTER: One who lives by her wits instead of by force. Also known as a con artist.

A Little Con Inspiration

Carla Ching
Playwright Carla Ching loves the classic con genre. For inspiration, heading into rehearsals for Fast Company, she re-watched four of her favorite films/TV shows.

The Grifters (1990) - Roy left home at 17 to get away from his scheming, grifter mother. When she shows up seven years later, there is nothing but trouble when she finds out he is also on the grift and has two paintings full of money.

Ocean's Eleven (2001) - The Stephen Soderberg-directed remake of the Rat Pack caper film when Daniel Ocean plans the biggest heist Vegas has ever seen to steal back his wife from a millionaire casino owner.

The Italian Job (2003) – This con movie features Charlize Theron and Donald Sutherland as father-and-daughter safe crackers. When he is murdered, she teams up with his whole crew to reclaim $35 million in stolen gold from his murderer.

Hustle (2004) – A BBC television show about a team of con men who become something like family.
You’ve never met a family quite like the Kwans. Grifters by nature. Con artists by choice. They’re a family of hustlers, united only by their common love of executing a good con.

That is, until daughter Blue tries to pull off the job of a lifetime: to steal the world’s most valuable comic, then sell a copy to an unwitting investor for millions.

Everything is set. But when Blue is ready to make the sale, she’s betrayed by her own brother, Henry (or H), and forced to call in the only people she still trusts to get the comic back—her brother, Francis, and her mother, Mable, the greatest grifter of them all.

Grifters never “break code”—or betray their own crew during a job. And being grifted by your brother is even worse. But H was desperate to repay a gambling debt—and now Blue will do anything to find him, and to restore her reputation. Even crew up with her dysfunctional family.

“Carla Ching’s Fast Company is a hustler/grifter tale with so many twists and turns that it keeps you guessing all the way to the end,” says South Coast Repertory Artistic Director Marc Masterson. “Carla is a rising young talent in the American theatre and we are excited to be producing her world premiere.”

Her step-brother, Francis, is an illusionist, who performs grand-scale magic for the masses, like David Blaine. He is a natural-born “roper,” who comes out of retirement to help Blue.

And then there’s Mable, the greatest “Inside Man” who ever lived—a versatile player, able to run any position in a con. But she’s also a tyrannical matriarch, who’s always been the hardest on Blue, refusing to teach her the family trade she desperately wanted to learn.

Blue has had to work her way up, running small cons in B-market towns, learning the rules of the game on her own. She has the best cover of them all: a college student at an Ivy-league school.

To find H and to get the comic book back, they’ll have to use a combination of classic cons, psychological persuasion and Blue’s new secret weapon—Game Theory. Blue is a math major at Brown, where she’s working to invent a whole new kind of con.

Carla Ching’s Fast Company is a fun, fierce new comedy about the nature of loyalty, the dysfunction of family, and the art of learning who to trust when everyone’s on the make. It’s also a suspenseful con caper, full of twists and turns, manipulation and magic.

Ching cites multiple sources, when asked about her inspiration for Fast Company, including the original Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Foundation commission that funded the play. But ultimately, she returns to family: “I was interested in what parents think they are teaching their children versus what children actually learn from their parents.”

She says: “I wanted to explore the idea of a family of kids who were raised to have a unique skill set by their grifter mother—to be criminals, essentially. I wanted to see if those gifts could be re-appropriated and used in different ways. I feel like so many of us have gifts that could be used for ill and that we choose how to use them. I wanted to explore that question—if you had a gift where you could make a lot of money or get people to bend completely to your will, would you use it for self-gain or for greater good?”

Meet the cast or dig deeper on the website

THE COMPANY (l. to r.): Playwright Carla Ching, Emily Kuroda, Lawrence Kao, director Bart DeLorenzo, Jackie Chung and Nelson Lee.
CRAFTING THE CON: A Playwright and Director at Work

Playwright Carla Ching and director Bart DeLorenzo have been hard at work since this summer, collaborating on the world premiere production of Fast Company. Since the play’s reading in the 2013 Pacific Playwrights Festival, Ching has continued to develop the script in workshops—and she and DeLorenzo have engaged in an ongoing conversation about the nature of the con and the fast, sleek physical design of the play.

As they headed into the final week of rehearsal, dramaturg Kelly Miller asked them to reflect on the inspiration for the play and the process of making it happen.

Playwright Carla Ching—On her inspiration and the evolution of Fast Company:

I wrote this play because I have known a lot of people who are always working angles. I think because I am honest, they like me. They can relax and stop working so hard, because I'm not working them back. Anyway, I wondered, "Are they always working? Even with family?" I also wondered about the good and bad habits we learn growing up in our specific family. “Can they be used for good? Even the bad habits?”

Carla on Comedy

“I have always considered myself a dramatic writer. But this play requires comedy, because these are characters who live by their wits and use humor as weapons or armor. So, I have been learning to understand my own brand of humor, which often lies in the answer to the question, "What is the most messed up thing this character would say or do right now?"
I spent a long time building each of these characters—and learning to love them. I think the one thing I love about them most is that they're all dreamers, trying to make the big time. I come from a long line of people who had to work their way up the hard way, from nothing. And the dream of something better kept them going.

I recently saw SCR's Death of a Salesman and NAATCO's [National Asian American Theatre Company] Awake and Sing. One of the plays that made me want to be a writer is Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day's Journey Into Night. The common strand in all of these, to me, is parents who ruined their children. This has been a pervading notion in American theatre: We're messed up because of our parents. I wanted to examine the notion that the things that could ruin you can be mined and turned into strengths. The very things that make you special.

Watch our video with Carla.

Director Bart DeLorenzo—On what excites him most about Fast Company—and how his favorite grifter stories have influenced the set:

I thought the play was so fresh, like nothing I had read before. I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, without a lot of access to theater, so my first real taste of drama came from old movies. Our local TV station would show classic Hollywood films every afternoon at four o’clock and I think my first education in art—and life—came in fast-talking black-and-white from Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, and especially, Alfred Hitchcock.

Carla’s play is very now, but her characters speak with a crackling unsentimental wit. And her plot, too, definitely tips its hat to the classic Hollywood stories of cons and double-crosses. The play’s a blast! And within this hard-boiled caper genre, Carla somehow also manages to tell the moving story of a contemporary family, barely hanging together but desperate for connection. I have to admit: I love a play that can make you both laugh and cry. So, as I said, this is a unique concoction and it’s been a thrill to work on.

I love stories and movies about grifters and my favorite is probably The Grifters with Anjelica Huston; but Carla’s play isn’t quite that dark. I think for this production, we’ve been inspired by the style of the more caffeinated recent swindle stories like Ocean’s Eleven and Catch Me If You Can. And visually, we’ve been particularly drawn to the great credits sequences that Saul Bass designed in the 50s and 60s. The opening of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest is a favorite of mine. The designers and I are trying to capture the cool spare style of these influences, along with their speed and energy. We’ll be using a lot of moving scenery and projections which we hope will make for a very dynamic presentation and a production as original and fresh as Carla’s play.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Love for Theatre Fuels a Lifetime

Seated on the terrace at South Coast Repertory, Leonard and Fran Rich are brimming with anticipation. As they wait for the Tuesday evening chimes to sound the five-minute call to be seated in the theatre, they are passionate and animated about their love for theatre—the art in general and SCR in particular.  They’ve been audience members at SCR for more than 30 years.  For both, theatre is an avocation they “truly and deeply love.” One home to them is SCR. Leonard writes:

“I was fortunate to have been raised by parents who enjoyed the theater. Although St. Louis, Missouri lacked the quantity and variety of theaters found in New York or (now) in Los Angeles, we did have the renowned St. Louis Municipal Opera during the summers and the American Theater, a venue for travelling troupes during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

The Municipal Opera, recognized as the MUNY, allowed us to see the best of musical operetta under the stars. Recognized lead performers were cast for each show and supported by an annual repertory cast for singing, dancing and other supporting roles. An orchestra, largely populated by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during their off season, provided a classy musical background.

Starting at age 4, I was introduced to Rudolf Friml, George Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, Victor Herbert, Moss Hart, Sigmund Romberg, Cole Porter and many other fabulous composers and of the era via the MUNY. My grandfather was usually given tickets in exchange for his articles in the newspaper that he edited.

In 1943, my father’s wartime job led to my first visit to New York—at age 11—and the opportunity to see the original cast production of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, at the time of my attendance, Curley was played by an understudy, not Alfred Drake. Another memorable experience was the opportunity to see a special performance for the sale of war bonds, which included the number “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” by the legendary Irving Berlin.

The theatrical exposure continued as I grew up in St. Louis, attending performances at both venues with my parents.

During a short military career, a brief trip to New York provided me with the opportunity to see the New Faces of 1953, with its fabulous cast of future stars of stage and screen. While in that same army career, largely stationed in Detroit, I had the opportunity to see a traveling performance of Kismet.

Fran and I married in 1956. She quickly became a kindred aficionado of the theater. In 1964, at the urging of my parents we visited New York and had the thrill of seeing The Sound of Music with Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. Mary Martin was a magical performer! The room was electrified with the energy of a truly charismatic personality.

With the progression of time, additional theatrical venues appeared in St. Louis. These included the Loretto Hilton Theater at Webster College, the Edison Theater at Washington University and the Westport Playhouse, all of which provided quality theatrical entertainment.

In 1982, we moved to California and were immediately attracted to SCR. We were immediately impressed and delighted by the post performance discussions on Tuesday nights, now the “talk backs” We were further impressed by the current play dissertations in the “Subscriber” and the performance program. Add to that, the brilliant commentary from Jerry Patch and John Glore. Each provided a delightful and challenging perspective which often made a complex play theme understandable.

For more than 30 years, we have been subscribers to and attended performances at South Coast Repertory.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the members of the repertory company present when we first became attendees. Now, as we enjoy current performances by Richard Doyle and Hal Landon, Jr., We also appreciatively remember the work of Martha McFarland, John David Keller, Art Koustic and many others.

Fran became an active and enthusiastic member of the Theater Guild. The 1980s and early 1990s were an era of engagement and involvement, which is fondly remembered. In those earlier days, personal participation by leading guided tours of the theater and speaking about the theater to a variety of community organizations was extremely satisfying.

As subscribers to the two SCR Stages, and attendees to many NewSCRipt stagings, many of the new StudioSCR series, we have consistently been aware of the professionalism of the performers, the quality of the staging, the uniqueness of the sponsorship of new works and many other aspects. We particularly enjoy and appreciate the willingness to present controversial and avant guarde topics and ideas which are not always as expected in conservative Orange County.  The spontaneous action of Orson Bean to cover a stagecraft malfunction in Smokefall was unique.

As consistent theater buffs, we have also been season subscribers to such other venues as Pasadena Playhouse, the Ahmanson Theater, Chance Theater, California State University Fullerton Theater Arts and frequent attendees at productions at the Geffen Theater, the Laguna Playhouse, the Kirk Douglas Theater, etc. with SCR as the hub.  We appreciate and enjoy the vast body of theatrical talent that is found in metropolitan Los Angeles and is just waiting to be discovered.

We would estimate seeing nearly 100 live performances annually. Perhaps we were born to be the ‘4th Wall’ It is an avocation which we deeply and truly enjoy.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Folino Theatre Center to be Renamed in Honor of David Emmes, Martin Benson

Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes, left, and Martin Benson, right, with Paul Folino.
Thank You, Julianne and George!

At SCR’s “Theatrical Gold” Gala Ball, Julianne Argyros announced a surprise $2 million gift from the Argyros Family Foundation to South Coast Repertory. We are speechless beyond an inadequate and heartfelt “Thank You”!

Julianne and George Argyros with Taittinger Champagne aerialists.
At South Coast Repertory’s landmark 50th Season Gala Ball, Orange County arts supporter Paul Folino announced the re-naming of SCR’s Folino Theatre Center to honor the company’s founders. Its new name will be the David Emmes and Martin Benson Theatre Center.

In 2000, Folino was SCR’s board president who made public “SCR: The “Next Stage,” the company’s historic campaign to greatly expand the theatre complex and support educational and artistic programs as well as SCR’s endowment.  In 2002—with his donation of $10 million, at that time the largest individual gift to a regional theatre—the complex was named the Folino Theatre Center.

“I wanted to thank David and Martin by renaming this theatre center so that people will remember not only their amazing accomplishments over the last 50 years at SCR,  but the legacy  they have created that will  serve this community for decades to come,” said Folino, who is the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Emulex Corporation. “These two men truly are legends in repertory theatre history.”

Damien M. Jordan, president of SCR’s Board of Trustees, also noted the regional and national impact of Emmes and Benson.

“This is an incredible gesture that recognizes the role that David and Martin have played, not only in the arts in Orange County but in American theatre,” said Jordan. “On behalf of SCR’s Board of Trustees, Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Managing Director Paula Tomei, I convey our deepest gratitude and appreciation to Paul for this tremendous way of acknowledging our founders.”

Folino made the announcement before an audience of 420 supporters, who reacted with a standing ovation.

“We are certainly overwhelmed—and humbled—by Paul’s extraordinary generosity tonight,” said Benson.

“Paul’s gesture speaks profoundly to his deep belief in our vision for SCR,” added Emmes. “His support of SCR, along with that of countless other donors through our 50 years, has helped make SCR a creative force in our community.”

Founding Artistic Directors Emmes and Benson were fresh out of San Francisco State College in the early 1960s when they founded a fledgling theatre company that would become South Coast Repertory. They are the recipients of numerous awards, including LADCC Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Margo Jones Award for Lifetime Achievement. SCR has received accolades for artistic excellence, including a Tony Award, 87 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, and two SCR-developed works have won Pulitzer Prizes, while another eight were named Pulitzer finalists.

SCR’s historic “Theatrical Gold” Gala, held onsite for the first time, included dining and dancing al fresco on Ela’s Terrace, a surprise performance from Chicago’s famed Second City and Club Argyros—the Julianne Argyros Stage, transformed for one night only.

“Theatrical Gold” raised a record $1 million to support the artistic work of the 50th Season, as well as SCR’s award-winning education programs, which this year will serve more than 40,000 members of the local community. A portion of the proceeds also will go to the Emmes/Benson Founders Endowment, a special fund dedicated to continuing—in perpetuity—the founding directors’ legacy of artistic excellence.

The theatre center complex houses three stages—Segerstrom, Julianne Argyros and the Nicholas Studio—as well as conservatory classrooms, rehearsal spaces, scenic, props and costume shops, and administrative offices.

The theatre center complex houses three stages—Segerstrom, Julianne Argyros and the Nicholas Studio—as well as conservatory classrooms, rehearsal spaces, scenic, props and costume shops, and administrative offices.

The Beauty of Theatrical Gold

Gala co-chairs Yvonne Jordan, Sophie Cripe, Julianne Argyros, and Bette Aitken enjoy watching the aerialist pour George Argyros a glass of champagne.
SCR’s Gala Ball, “Theatrical Gold,” began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on a dramatically altered Ela’s Terrace.  Partygoers strolled to the party along a gold carpet, where they were greeted by Julianne and George Argyros, Board President Damien Jordan, Artistic Director Marc Masterson, Managing Director Paula Tomei and the three Vice Chairs Bette Aitken, Sophie Cripe and Yvonne Jordan. This hard-working trio, whose months of planning led to the glorious evening, happily shared their excitement with SCR supporters.

For the party, the beautifully converted terrace was curtained with billowing sheer white effervescent drapes which created an intimate space for the reception.  A sense of whimsy also prevailed as aerialists twirled above the guests, pouring Taittinger Champagne into gold-trimmed flutes.  The evening’s signature drink was Bluewater Grill’s “Golden Fiftini,” a 50th Season martini, complete with floating gold dust.

Following the cocktail hour, guests were ushered into the Segerstrom Stage for formal greetings and thank-yous to everyone who helped make the evening possible, including 50th Season Golden Elite Sponsor South Coast Plaza and Gala Corporate Sponsor Mikimoto. This was followed by a surprise show, “The Second City’s Salute to South Coast Repertory,” a specially commissioned comedy in which actors from Chicago’s famed Second City jumped in and out of vignettes and musical moments inspired by SCR’s long and celebrated history.

Dinner and dancing followed on tiered platforms specially constructed for the evening and carpeted in gold.  Tables were draped in ivory cloths with gold embroidered whirls and topped with elegant orchid centerpieces in low, mirrored vases.

During the evening, a video created for the 50th Season played on two large screens.  Through stunning images, the video told the story of South Coast Repertory through the years, highlighting productions and donors who made it all possible.

Finally, the 50th Season Gala saw the Julianne Argyros Stage transformed for the evening into Club Argyros, a swinging after-hours cabaret, where they continued the best party ever in celebration of SCR.

A Community Makes Theatre, One Step at a Time

Playwright José Cruz González with a Dialogue/Diálogos participant.
Earlier this year, more than 400 Latino residents of Santa Ana gathered to share stories—stories about their life, life in Santa Ana, their dreams for the community—as part of the play-development project called Dialogue/Diálagos. The hundreds of stories they told in those meetings—about themselves and about their community—are being shaped by playwright José Cruz González González into a community-based play.

“I have memories of those powerful moments when joy or sadness overcame an entire room,” says Gonzalez. “The people of Santa Ana trusted us with their stories and they revealed their hearts to their neighbors.”

Dialogue/Diálogos Introduction to Illusion of Fighting on Stage Workshop. (from left: teaching artists Daniel Chacón and Richard Soto with Diálogos volunteer Angela Apodaca).
The next step will be staging the play. But before that happens, Santa Ana residents will learn about how to make theatre, everything from acting to directing to sets and more.

The 400 people who shared their stories—and others who are interested in theatre—are invited to take part in a series of 10 workshops that cover everything from an introduction to acting to developing a stage voice and stage presence to puppetry, and all elements of theatre-making. The workshops, taught in both English and Spanish by South Coast Repertory teaching artists, are scheduled Sept. 27-Oct. 22.

“By spending time with us to play and explore theatre, we hope participants will potentially see themselves in the new play we’re crafting, and learn from us as much as we’ve learned from them at the storytelling events,” says Sara Guerrero, Dialogue/Diálagos engagement director.

Connie, a Santa Ana resident, is looking forward to the workshops. She shared her stories last spring, responding to a Dialogue Days flyer that a volunteer for the project left on her doorstep. 

Dialogue/Diálogos Introduction to Puppetry. (from left: Sylvia Blush, Mercy Vazquez, Daniel Chacón)
“I'm so happy I took part in the beautiful ritual of story-sharing with my Santa Ana community,” says Connie.  Now she looks forward to taking the first theatre-making workshop on Sept. 27, in the hopes that “Santa Ana continues benefitting from more community-focused theatre in years to come.”

SCR teaching artists are looking forward to seeing many familiar faces at the workshops, which now seem like family gatherings to them.

“The story sharing sessions felt like we were in the middle of a planned get-together with the familia,” recalls Sylvia Blush, an SCR teaching artist. She saw four different families, representing multiple generations, sitting across from each other telling their shared stories of life in Santa Ana. Blush will be teaching a dance ensemble introduction workshop on Oct. 5.

Playwright, teaching artists and returning Dialogue/Diálogos participants and Santa Ana community members are welcome to take part in the workshops. No experience is necessary. Space, however, is limited. Advance registration for the free workshops is encouraged by registering here.

The Inside Scoop on the Free Dialogue/Diálogos Theatre-Making Workshops:

  • Community & Theatre: Bringing It Together
    Friday, Sept. 27, from 6:30–9 p.m.
    Latino Health Access

    450 W. 4th Street
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92701
    Participants will learn about the different elements that go into a staged play, including lighting, sound, design, directing and more.
    Open to all ages
  • Introduction to Acting taught by Armando Molina
    Tuesday, Oct. 1, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
    Latino Health Access

    450 W. 4th Street
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92701
    This workshop will introduce first-time community actors to fundamental acting concepts and basic preparatory theatre exercises.
    Adults and youth ages 14 and over
  • Introduction to Illusion of Fighting on Stage taught by Richard Soto
    Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

    1902 W. Chestnut Ave.
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92703
    This workshop will introduce first-time actors to the basic skills, trust, and emotion needed to safely perform the illusion of fighting on the stage.
    Adults and youth ages 18 and over
  • Introduction to Puppetry taught by Estela García
    Saturday, Oct. 5, from 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
    El Salvador Center

    1825 W. Civic Center Dr.
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92703
    This workshop will introduce participants to the art of puppetry. Participants will build and explore bringing them to life through puppetry and improvisation.    
    Adults and youth ages 10 and over
  • Introduction to Ensemble Dance taught by Sylvia Blush
    Tuesday, Oct. 8, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
    Latino Health Access

    450 W. 4th Street
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92701
    Get ready to move a story to life in this introductory dance workshop. Participants will learn proper warm-up techniques, unlock physical artistry and help create a short routine to popular music.
    Adults and youth ages 14 and over
  • Introduction to Voice & Presence on Stage and in Public taught by Cynthia DeCure
    Wednesday, Oct. 9, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
    1902 W. Chestnut Ave.
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92703
    This workshop will introduce first-time actors to vocal exercises that will help prepare their voices to speak with strength, freedom and focus both on stage and in public.
    Adults and youth ages 14 and over
  • Introduction to Shadow Puppetry & Story-Making by taught José Cruz González
    Saturday, Oct. 12, from 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
    Delhi Center

    505 E. Central Ave.
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92707
    This workshop will introduce participants to the ancient art of shadow puppetry by working with black poster board, scissors and imagination to explore stories.
    Adults and youth ages 16 and over
  • Introduction to Acting in Movement taught by Mercy Vasquez
    Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
    Latino Health Access

    450 W. 4th Street
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92701
    This workshop will introduce first-time actors to telling a story without words. The workshop also introduces the idea that stories are not bound by text or dialogue, but can be told through the magic of the imagination and physical expression as well.
    Adults and youth ages 10 and over
  • Introduction to Collective Storytelling and Poetry taught by Daniel Chacón
    Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

    1902 W. Chestnut Ave.
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92703
    This workshop will introduce first-time actors to telling stories collectively by creating human murals, rhythm and rhyme.
    Adults and youth ages 14 and over
  • Introduction to Singing by Diana Burbano
    Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
    Latino Health Access

    450 W. 4th Street
    Santa Ana, Calif. 92701
    This workshop will help first-time actors be comfortable singing on stage.
    Adults and youth ages 12 and over

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Merrily They Grift Along: Meet the Cast of "Fast Company"

THE CAST; Nelson Lee, Jackie Chung, Emily Kuroda and Lawrence Kao
They’ve been learning grifter lingo, sleight-of-hand and moving in the quick-paced genre of a caper story. It’s the cast of Carla Ching’s Fast Company—and we’re pleased to welcome three new actors and one returning SCR “alumna” for this production. While the characters they portray are essentially con artists, this quartet of actors looks forward to tapping into their wealth of creativity for this world premiere production.

Jackie Chung, as Blue, is making her SCR debut. Chung’s off-Broadway and regional credits include Macbeth 1969 (Long Wharf Theatre), microcrisis, The Children of Vonderly (Ma-Yi Theater Company), You For Me For You (Woolly Mammoth Theatre/Ma-Yi), Mother Courage and Her Children (The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival) and Trickle, Japanoir (Ensemble Studio Theatre). Her other New York credits include After. (Partial Comfort Productions), The Sporting Life (Studio 42) and The Director (The Flea Theater). Her film, television and web credits include Going Local, 4 Dates, Pretty Precious Unicorns, “Fortune Son” and the upcoming independent film Someone Else. Chung recently workshopped Jiehae Park’s Hannah and the Dread Gazebo at the Ojai Playwrights Conference. She volunteers with the 52nd Street Project.

Lawrence Kao, as Francis, is making his SCR debut. The Hacienda Heights, Calif.-native grew up as an only child, left to his imagination, which drew him to acting. Playing Lysander in a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, furthered his interest in pretending. While studying theatre at UCI, he began dancing with Kaba Modern, which led to his participation on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” He played Norman Lee in East West Player’s Krunk Fu Battle Battle. His television credits include “Franklin & Bash,” a recurring role as Tim on “The Walking Dead,” “Hawaii Five-0,” and non-union bootleg films he sells out of the back of his trunk.

Emily Kuroda, as Mable, is thrilled to be back at SCR, where she appeared in Our Town, Ballad of Yachiyo and the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Dogeaters. She has performed in more than 25 shows and workshops at East West Players. Other theatres include Kirk Douglas Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, The Public Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Singapore Rep, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Doolittle Theater, Huntington Theatre Company (Boston), Los Angeles Theatre Center, Zephyr Theatre, LA Women’s Shakespeare and The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. Her television credits include seven years as Mrs. Kim on “Gilmore Girls,” Suho in “Under One Roof” with Flavor Flav, “Drop Dead Diva,” “Medium,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Bloodline.” Her feature films include About Love (Emmy nominated), and the upcoming Justice Angel. She is the recipient of five Drama-Logue awards, a Garland Award for outstanding performance, an L.A. Ovation award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Play, Playwrights Arena Award, the East West Players Award for Outstanding Contribution to LA Theatre and the Entertainment Today Best Actress Award for Winter People.

Nelson Lee, “H”
, is making his SCR debut. Most recently, he reprised his role of Ryu in Maple and Vine at The City Theatre in Pittsburgh after having completed its West Coast premiere at A.C.T. in San Francisco. Lee’s off-Broadway credits include David in the world premiere of Zayd Dohrn’s Outside People, with Naked Angels at the Vineyard Theatre in New York; his other New York credits include 7 Stories and Hardly with Rocketship Theatre. His film and television credits include Virtuality, “Blade: The Series,” “Oz,” Traffic, “Covert Affairs,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Longmire,” “Bones,” “The Chicago Code,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and HBO’s Strip Search, directed by Sidney Lumet. Lee trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and earned his degree from the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Gold Standard of Parties

Every season at South Coast Repertory begins with two parties.  First, the Patron Party honors those who contribute significantly to the theatre’s second party, the Gala Ball.  Because 2013-14 is SCR’s 50th season, all the celebrations will be bigger and better than ever.

The Patron Party, hosted by Julianne and George Argyros, gloriously led the way, just before twilight on the evening of September 10, when the couple generously opened their grand Tuscan-style home to more than 87 guests.

Partygoers enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and music on the spacious lawn, lit by a picture book sunset; welcoming speeches and entertainment in the grand foyer; and dinner at tables arranged throughout the house and on the lantern-lit lawn and dock.

They’ll come “home” for the next party.  On Saturday, September 21, SCR’s 50th Season Gala Ball, “Theatrical Gold,” will be held—for the first time ever—onsite, with dinner and dancing on a transformed terrace, atop raised platforms and beneath a billowing canopy, with a surprise comedy on the Segerstrom Stage, and an after-hours cabaret on the Julianne Argyros Stage.  Now, that’s “Theatrical Gold!”

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Audience Awed by ‘Death of a Salesman’

SCR’s 50th Season opened with the great American Classic Death of a Salesman, on an evening that began and ended with standing ovations.

The first ovation came during the curtain speeches, when Board President Damien Jordan, Managing Director Paula Tomei and Artistic Director Marc Masterson introduced the two men who started it all—Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson.

After almost two minutes of cheering the theatre’s founders, the audience grew quiet as Death of a Salesman unfolded in a stunning production, directed by Masterson.  The drama’s final moment was greeted by another standing ovation.

And they were still cheering at the Cast Party on Ela’s Terrace, this time for the play’s artists and its Honorary Producers Sophie and Larry Cripe and Olivia and Alan Slutzky; and Corporate Honorary Producer U.S. Bank.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Great Communicator: Amy Louise Sebelius Joins SCR’s Adult Acting Program

Amy Louise Sebelius is a not a new name in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory.  She has been an instructor in the Kid and Teen Acting Program for five years.  But this summer she branched out, adding an evening adult class—Basic Skills:  Act 2—to her schedule.

The response was overwhelming, with one student summing it up by saying, “Amy Louise is a great communicator, and there’s never a dull moment.”  The praise went a step further, with another student declaring, “Amy Louise is the best instructor I have had in my acting career.”

Why all the enthusiasm?  Maybe it’s because going from teaching young people to teaching adults is nothing new for Amy Louise.  She has taught adults and college students for seven years (previously at Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon Colleges, and presently at the Los Angeles Theatre Academy).

“It takes a different set of muscles,” she says, “and I enjoy working on material that’s a bit deeper, perhaps darker, which I tend to gravitate toward in my own work.  Also, teaching adults means dealing with all sorts of awesome literacies of life:  teachers, lawyers, chefs, grandmothers, artists at various stages of development.  It’s an honor to be of service to them in their journey.” 

The honor is mutual, as expressed in a plethora of student praise:
  • “She was so supportive—and so positive.”
  • “She taught us to understand the basics of acting and improve upon them each week.”
  • “She offered wonderful feedback.”
According to Amy Louise, “The goals of the class are laid out pretty clearly, and I think everyone appreciates that.  We do a monologue and we do a scene.  We start every class with warm-ups, and because I come from an improv and classical theatre background, my warm-ups are really high-energy.”

To say the least!

Almost all of her summer students talked about the energy level, not just of the warm-ups but of the whole class. Yet she also teaches lots of the basics of acting. According to Amy Louise, “These include accepting and valuing the input from your partner, listening and responding with the entire instrument—and realizing that it’s called a “play” for a reason. So don’t take yourself too seriously, but take the art seriously.  Who said that?  Stanislavski?  I know I didn’t just make that up—it’s too good!”

Obviously, a sense of humor also helps enliven Amy Louise’s class. “Fun” and “funny” were adjectives that peppered the remarks of students in her summer program.

Maybe all that fun is because, as Amy Louise says, “I LOVE working at SCR. I grew up in the area, and it was always my dream to work here, and I’ve never stopped feeling that way. I look forward to growing with this department for many years to come.”

Clearly, that’s good news for future students.

Find our about our Theatre Conservatory classes.