|CrossRoads playwright Mona Mansour taught a free improvisation and writing workshop for SCR's Conservatory and Orange County community members during her August residency.|
|SCR’s Dialogue/Diálogos Project Director Sara Guerrero and CrossRoads playwright Tanya Saracho meeting with Café Calacas owner Rudy Cardova during Saracho’s residency in Santa Ana.|
|CrossRoads playwright Carla Ching, meeting with UC Irvine professor Daphne Lei and community liaison Peter Kuo. Sitting in the Arts Plaza for UC Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts, designed by artist Maya Lin.|
Three years ago, Artistic Director Marc Masterson talked to the Time Warner Foundation about an innovative idea for its New Works/New Voices program: he wanted SCR to commission some of the best playwrights in the country to write plays inspired by Orange County. Masterson envisioned a program that would create dialogue between playwrights and communities through immersive residencies. A generous grant from the foundation has made Masterson’s idea a reality.
“We wanted to bring artists into our community—which is often simplistically identified as one of homogenous wealth—to experience Orange County’s incredible artistic, geographic and cultural diversity firsthand,” says Masterson.
The idea hit home with the foundation and, thanks to their generous support, South Coast Repertory launched its CrossRoads Commissioning Project, a community-based
initiative within the theatre’s renowned new work program. As a part of the program, SCR has commissioned eight playwrights, locally and nationally, to spend time in Orange County and to write plays inspired by the community.
"It's a fascinating and forward-thinking concept,” says Aditi Kapil, one of the CrossRoads playwrights. “Instead of talking about bringing diverse communities to your theatre, purposely immersing your theatre and your artists in those communities and allowing for the possibility of art to happen as a result.”
Since the summer of 2013, six playwrights have completed their residencies and have engaged with more than 34 local community groups across 15 of the county’s cities—and they have created lasting connections with local residents, community leaders and artists.
SCR Literary Director Kelly Miller, who is also the CrossRoads project director, recruited some of the country’s most exciting playwrights to participate in the project.
“Each of these writers has such a distinct style and voice,” says Miller. “I am excited to see how their experiences in the OC will inform what they write.”
SCR audiences may already be familiar with three of the local CrossRoads playwrights who hail from Los Angeles: Luis Alfaro, winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, who has had projects developed in SCR’s Pacific Playwrights Festival and Hispanic Playwrights Project, and performed his solo play, St. Jude, in the Studio SCR Series earlier this season; Carla Ching, whose dark comedy Fast Company received its world premiere at SCR last fall; and Julia Cho, whose plays The Language Archive and The Piano Teacher have both been produced at SCR.
The five other playwrights may be new to South Coast Repertory, but they are all rising stars in the American theatre. Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Oakland, Calif.) is an acclaimed poet, performer and playwright, whose red, black & GREEN: a blues (rbGb) has toured around the country. Aditi Brennan Kapil (Minneapolis, Minn.) is a writer, actor and director whose Displaced Hindu Gods trilogy of plays premiered at Minneapolis’ Mixed Blood Theatre this past fall. Qui Nguyen (Brooklyn, NY) is a playwright, fight director and co-Founder of Vampire Cowboys, a theater dedicated to pop-culture-inspired theater; his play She Kills Monsters has made a recent splash in New York and Chicago. Mona Mansour’s (New York, NY) newest play, The Way West, will receive its world premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in April. Tanya Saracho's (Chicago, Ill.) The Tenth Muse premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last season. “I’ve been following these artists for years,” says Miller, “and I am thrilled to bring them into the Orange County community as a part of the SCR family.”
Los Angeles playwright Carla Ching kicked off the first CrossRoads residency in July 2013, when she met with Asian-American community leaders and activists throughout Orange County. Her exploration included tours of UC Irvine, the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, and she attended Common Ground’s Asian American youth open mic night at the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA) in Santa Ana. Ching also met with leaders from the OC chapter of APEX, the Asian Professional Exchange, and the Community Action Partnership of Orange County.
“It has been truly an honor to get to know the Asian American community in Orange County,” Ching says, “and to understand the breadth of incredible work being done in community-based organizations, at UC Irvine and in the community at large.”
In October, Ching invited community leaders and students from VAALA, Common Ground, Project Motivate, Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance and other organizations to attend SCR’s world premiere of her new play Fast Company, a dark comedy about a family of Chinese-American con artists. She deepened her community engagement with a pre-show conversation with community leaders about the cultural and racial morés of the play.
Ching says of her time at SCR: “Most moving was the desire for connection that so many people I’ve spoken with have mentioned—their desire to have continued connections to me as a theater-maker, to SCR and to theater in general. It’s my hope to make a piece of work that continues these connections and brings people back into conversation with one another.”
Join us as these exciting artistic and cultural conversations continue to unfold—and as the CrossRoads playwrights return to SCR to develop their new work in the summer of 2014.
With this new program, we’re building an exciting, new artistic CrossRoads at SCR—where our audiences, our community and our playwrights meet to share their stories and their artistry—and reflect the incredible tapestry of diversity of Orange County on our stages.
For more information about the CrossRoads playwrights and community partners, please visit http://www.scr.org/get-connected/crossroads. To receive emails about upcoming CrossRoads events, please email Literary Associate Andy Knight at: firstname.lastname@example.org.