Thursday, January 28, 2016

How Giving Helps Theatre Transform Lives

Nancy Bell, Timothy Landfield, Kandis Chappell, Jennifery Lyon and Kaleo Griffith in South Coast Repertory's 2009 production of Noises Off by Michael Frayn.  Photo by Henry DiRocco.
William Schenker and Talya Nevo-Hacohen
Talya Nevo-Hacohen and William Schenker attended South Coast Repertory’s production of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off six years ago and got hooked.

“The comedy of errors, physical comedy and the fabulous character actors in that show made it lively and fun to watch,” Nevo-Hacohen, a real estate industry executive, remembers.

Since seeing that first play at SCR, the couple have become enthusiastic advocates for the type of productions that unfold on the theatre’s stages. “We try to share this experience with others any way we can,” she says.

In addition, they quickly began giving to the theatre, first as Friends of SCR and now as members of the Platinum Circle, by providing financial support to help ensure the theatre’s future remains stable and grows.

 “The high standard of the plays is thrilling for me,” he says. “When a pearl comes by you want to hold it up and praise it.”

As a child growing up in Boston, the city gave Nevo-Hacohen and her family access to a vibrant arts scene that included symphony, theatre, ballet and more. A strong theatre memory is the night her parents came home after seeing a production of Richard III at The Charles Street Playhouse.

“They were just agog over the lead actor—blown away by his breathtaking performance,” she recalls. The actor was a young Al Pacino. She gives credit to her parents for providing her with those experiences.

“They made me a theatre lover,” she says. “For me, theatre is about the human condition, so it’s important, intellectually interesting and stimulating to be challenged to see things differently through the eyes of a character. That’s done so well at SCR.”

Schenker, who was himself an actor for 17 years in New York and now is a television audio engineer,  remembers wanting to work in regional theatre. Even then, he knew that SCR was among the top such theatres in the country.

He loves the transformational power of theatre: “It takes you to places where you may never go in life, whether you’re an actor bringing out something deep through a character or an audience member experiencing that performance.”

“I want SCR to continue creating, producing and providing these experiences through fantastic shows, actors, and creative teams,” she says of one key point behind the couple’s giving. Their support also is driven by a desire to help bring new audiences in to see and experience great, live theatre on stage.

Erika Schindele, Louis Pardo, Alex Miller, Justin Michael Duval and Emily Eiden in South Coast Repertory's 2015 Theatre for Young Audiences production of A Year with Frog and Toad. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.
At the Theatre for Young Audiences production of A Year with Frog and Toad, the couple was amazed at the reaction of young audience members—many of whom were attending a play for the very first time.

“They were transfixed,” Schenker recalls. “Yes, the power of theatre still exists. There were times you could hear a pin drop and other times when the laughter was so loud. This is such a great ‘classroom’ for them.”

Up next for the couple this season is taking in their first Pacific Playwrights Festival in April, another way they can be supportive of the next generation of playwrights “doing contemporary work about contemporary issues.”

Learn more about supporting SCR as a Silver, Gold or Platinum Circle member.

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