Monday, December 20, 2010

Introducing…SCR’s Rewards Card

What’s better than live theatre?  A free ticket to see more live theatre!  With the new SCR Rewards card, any patron who buys five South Coast Repertory tickets before June 17, 2012, will receive a sixth ticket free.

On your next visit to SCR, be sure to stop by the box office and request your own SCR Rewards card.  Each time you purchase a ticket valued at $20 or more, your ticket services representative will stamp your card.  For each ticket you buy, you’ll receive one stamp.  Once it has been stamped five times, bring the card to the box office and collect your free ticket.

There are some restrictions.  Subscription purchases don’t qualify, but subscribers can collect stamps when they purchase additional single tickets.  Also, tickets for the Theatre for Young Audiences season, as well as any special events—like the upcoming engagement of the Martha Graham Dance Company—do not qualify.  Visit the SCR Rewards Card FAQs page for complete guidelines and limitations.

And if you’re interested in bigger rewards—in the form of larger discounts and exclusive benefits—check out the SCR Subscriptions web page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Acting for the Camera: A Former Casting Director’s Approach

Jill Newton teaching a class.
SCR Acting for the Camera instructor Jill Newton has 16 years experience—in casting.  That’s not the usual credential for an acting teacher, but having spent five days a week, eight hours a day choosing actors for roles on daytime television, Jill bring a unique point of view to her class.

“I like to take the ‘scary’ out of the casting process by placing the students in a postion of casting a part themselves,” Jill said.  “Through this process, they can observe how each actor sees the role differently and why some stand out from the others.”

The main focus of Jill’s class is to put the students on camera in various circumstances so they can see how their nerves and reactions are projected on screen. “Even though my class takes place in a fun and safe environment, no one is entirely comfortable the first time the camera rolls, but by the end of the class, they can’t wait for their turn to shine.”

So that students come away with a better understanding of the business of acting, Jill’s first class is dedicated to the basics—resumes, pictures, agents, unions, building the experience.  The final classes are devoted to actually shooting scenes, which gives the students a sense of what is expected on the film or television set.

And it’s that set that is so different from the stage: “The camera is an intruder in your intimate world of conversation and especially your thoughts,” Jill said.  “The stage requires you to project your performance to the audience.”

And then there is rehearsal.  “Stage performances are a culmination of many hours perfecting roles.  In film and television, there’s much less rehearsal time, and in daytime TV, there is literally none—that’s right, none, except for a rushed camera blocking!”

In television and film, the actor needs to make choices and bring 100 percent to the first performance.  So Jill throws her students into the fire!  “But, again, we’re in a friendly and safe environment—a good place to prepare students for situations they may eventually face on real sets.”

Jill enjoys sharing her experiences with the students, helping them understand the process and getting them on the road to their passion.  “Whatever their degree of experience when they walk into class, we support each student at his or her personal level.”

At the end of nine weeks, they leave the class with a sense of accomplishment—and a copy of their on-camera scenes, edited by Jill and set to music.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

‘Turkey Boy’ Grows Up

At age 11, Jordan Bellow thought he knew everything about acting.  After all, he had taken acting classes. He was good at memorizing.  And he’d learned how to block scenes.  So when Jordan entered SCR’s Summer Acting Workshop it was with a single goal:

Jordan Bellow in The Beloved Dearly (2004).
“I wanted to be famous.”

One day he and his classmates performed a seemingly simple exercise called sound/movement circle.  He never had done anything like it and began to think maybe there was more to acting than just reciting lines and standing in the right place.  So he joined the year-round program for kids and teens.

Every day he learned something new, and it stuck with him, especially another exercise that didn’t seem to have anything to do with acting—looking at a picture and imagining the story behind it.  Jordan and the others in his group began to bounce ideas off each other about what had happened to the people in the picture and what might happen next, surprising themselves as they came up with fascinating possibilities.

“It was more fun than anything I’d ever done in an acting class, and I finally realized I’d been excited for the right reason—it was all about story.  In the past, it had been about performing onstage with people watching.  At SCR I threw away that other actor guy and started fresh.”

He also thought directors just told you what to do and you did it.  “I didn’t know you could have conversations with them.  In my first Players show, Scouting Reality, I was part of an ensemble with the director (Hisa Takakuwa) and the cast.  It was a real collaboration, and I loved it!”

And it was a lead role.  Not so the Players production of Snow Angel.  “I almost never spoke … well, at least not in the show,” added the admittedly talkative Jordan.  “When I started studying the person I played and the reasons why he didn’t talk much, he became really interesting to me.  It was all about understanding character.”

Hal Landon Jr and Jordan Bellow
in  A Christmas Carol.
Photo by Henry DiRocco.

When he moved out of his comfort zone as the sidekick-comic-guy, other roles, big and small, followed until—the summer after his freshman year of college—Jordan was accepted into SCR’s Professional Acting Program.  At first, he was skeptical.

“In Players, there was an environment that I can only describe as magical.  I still don’t know how they created it, but I could be my complete self all the time—with the director and all the other actors, who are still the closest friends I have.  I was sure they couldn’t create that environment in the professional program, in just eight weeks.  But by the second week, everyone was making the same comments I used to get in Players as a kid—we all just loved being at SCR and being ourselves.”

Now a sophomore in the BFA theatre performance program at Chapman University, Jordan recently appeared in If All the Sky Were Paper, and last year, he played Lövborg in Hedda Gabler—the only freshman in the cast.

“I owe that one to Hisa and our monologue classwork.  I’d chosen a speech from The Seagull and had worked on it since high school.  So I just put that in my back pocket and pulled it out for the Hedda audition!”

Now he is onstage with one of his favorite Professional Acting Program teachers—Hal Landon Jr.—playing Thomas Shelley in A Christmas Carol.  “It’s a long way from my 13-year-old ‘Turkey Boy’ role, but I’m just as excited as I was then because I’ll be onstage at SCR, where I learned what acting was all about.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A tradition of classes and A Christmas Carol

Henry Ficcadenti’s family has had a long history with South Coast Repertory’s acting classes: “My older brothers and sister all took acting classes, so when my 14-year-old brother signed up, I just followed. Seeing them all take classes made me interested in it.”

Now in his fourth year of acting classes, Henry is part of the Junior Players and will be performing in a full-length show in April

“I like these classes because I’m not being set aside from anyone else,” he said. “We work together in a group and function as an ensemble.”

At age 12, Henry is the sixth Ficcadenti sibling to take classes in SCR’s Kids and Teen Conservatory. Will his youngest sister Violetta sign up, too?

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see if it’s something she’s interested in.”

The Ficcadenti family has more than one SCR tradition: “We always go see A Christmas Carol together on Christmas Eve.”

But it’s not just about watching the show—it’s about performing in it. Four of Henry’s siblings have performed in A Christmas Carol, so naturally he auditioned as well.

“It looked like it was a cool thing to be in. And for the same reason I joined SCR as a whole, it just looked like a lot of fun.”

The acting classes must have helped, because after auditioning three times he finally landed the role of Young Ebenezer Scrooge, the same role his brothers Connor and Alex once played. “My dad has seen everyone else do it multiple times, so they’re really happy to see me do it, too.”

Your kids can follow Henry and his siblings’ example by enrolling in classes in January, or catch his début performance as Young Eb in A Christmas Carol, playing now through Dec. 26.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Christmas Carol' Memories

South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol is 31 this year—the same age as Charles Dickens when he wrote the beloved novel. After so many years, the actors and artists associated with the production have collected many memories. Here are a few:

Jerry Patch (Adaptor): I remember getting up at 4:30 a.m. in Huntington Beach during the summer of 1980 to write the adaptation SCR first presented that Christmas.  The sun was up early, blazing across my desk, while I tried to put myself in London in December.  It wasn’t that hard—Dickens overpowered life at the beach almost every morning.

John-David Keller and Martha McFarland.
John-David Keller (Director and Actor): Many of my favorite memories revolve around the children in the cast. I always insist that they not have their own dressing room but share with the adults, so they can really experience what it is like to be part of a production. Of course, the children are given instruction in rules of behavior that the adults are not. I remember one time asking a father about how his child was enjoying being a part of the show, and the father replied, “He’s having the time of his life, and his vocabulary has become quite colorful.”

Howard Shangraw and Hisa Takakuwa.
Speaking of which…

Hisa Takakuwa (Assistant Director, Former Actress: Sally/Toy Lady/Scavenger): One year the actress who played Mrs. Cratchit (who shall remain nameless) missed her first entrance with the Cratchit children. I was sitting next to her in the dressing room when she heard the entrance music and the voices of the Cratchit kids and realized she’d missed her entrance.

Let’s say she spouted some very colorful and un-Mrs. Cratchit like phrases and ran to get on stage.  The kids had to start the scene alone by improvising and did a fine and very professional job.  I doubt anyone in the audience even knew.  Later, the girl playing Belinda said, “No problem.  I loved saving the scene!”

Daniel Blinkoff, the Cratchit children and (far right) Jennifer Parsons and
Hal Landon Jr.
Daniel Blinkoff (Actor, Bob Cratchit): A few years ago, on Christmas Eve—our last show for that year—I’m waiting backstage for the scene where we glimpse into Tiny Tim’s future. I feel a tug on my sleeve, and it’s Tiny Tim. He says, “Don’t go on.” I ask him why, and he says, “If you go on, that means it will all be over soon.”

This was a kid with a lot of initial anxiety, but through the course of the production he really fell in love with the show and became a real actor. I went out on stage with the kids and we were all in tears. It was one of the most magical moments I’d ever felt as an actor, with these kids who just gave their heart and souls to this scene. The moment was amazing, with a sense of the fleeting, but what makes the job of an actor so special.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Degree of Separation

Octavio Solis and Adam Gwon.
  • Octavio Solis and South Coast Repertory met in 1989 when Octavio’s play Man of the Flesh was read during the Hispanic Playwrights Project.  The following year, Man of the Flesh was produced on SCR’s Second Stage.
  • Octavio and Adam Gwon met in 2005, at the New Dramatists’ Composer/Lyricist Studio in New York, where they wrote a song together.  Octavio suggested they collaborate on a musical someday.  He promised to call.
  • SCR commissioned Octavio for a new play in 2008.  He told Artistic Director John Glore he had a song that could be the basis for a play.  John asked if it might be a musical.  Octavio called Adam!
  • Once the possibility of commissioning a musical became real, John had coffee with Adam in New York to talk about it.  Before he left, Adam gave John a CD of another musical he was working on at Roundabout Theatre Company, called Ordinary Days.
  • John took the CD back to Costa Mesa. Ordinary Days had its West Coast Premiere last season on the Argyros Stage.
  • And now, Octavio and Adam are here at SCR, working on their commissioned musical, Cloud Lands, which will be presented during an in-house workshop for the artistic staff on December 10.
  • Will SCR audiences get to see this work someday? Stay tuned.