Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet the Cast of "Pride and Prejudice"

The cast of Pride and Prejudice

Eva Barnes, Corey Brill, Cate Scott Campbell,
Jane Carr, Kandis Chappell, Scott Drummond,
Amy Ellenberger, Amalia Fite, Joel J. Gelman,
Dana Green, Brian Hostenske, Claire Kaplan,
Rebecca Lawrence, James Newcomb, Michael A.
Elizabeth Nolan, Randy Oglesby, Kalie Quiñones,
Justin Sorvillo, Daniel Sugimoto, Katie Willert

Just how big is our Pride and Prejudice cast? Big enough to form two baseball teams, with enough left over to serve as umpire, announcer and team mascot. But who would you cheer for? Team Lizzy or Team Darcy?

Lizzy, or should we say Elizabeth, will be played in this production by Dana Green, who last season won our hearts as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At her side is Corey Brill, who is making his SCR debut as the handsome Mr. Darcy.

Playing Elizabeth’s parents are two SCR veterans: Randy Oglesby (Riduculous Fraud) is the dry-witted Mr. Bennet, and Jane Carr (Habeus Corpus) is his boisterous wife. (A couple of fun facts about this acting duo: Randy has played seven different characters in four different “Star Trek” TV shows, and Jane’s voice should be well-known to fans of the cartoons “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.”)

Making her 21st appearance in an SCR show is Kandis Chappell, who originated the role of Ruth in Collected Stories and then reprised the role in 2009. Here she plays the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, aunt of Mr. Darcy.

Rounding out the list of actors who’ve appeared on SCR’s stages in the past are Michael A. Newcomer (The Heiress), who plays Mr. Wickham; Brian Hostenske (Noises Off), who plays Mr. Bingley; and two UC San Diego (UCSD) faculty members: acting teacher Eva Barnes (Aunt Dan and Lemon) as Lady Lucas/Mrs. Gardiner, and fight choreography teacher James Newcomb (The Taming of the Shrew) as Sir William Lucas/Mr. Gardiner.

UCSD is well-represented in the show: Nine of the cast members graduated from its MFA acting program, which is led by Pride and Prejudice’s director, Kyle Donnelly.  In addition to Corey Brill and Brian Hostenske, they are Cate Scott Campbell (Charlotte), Scott Drummond (Mr. Collins), Amy Ellenberger (Miss Caroline Bingley), Amalia Fite (Lydia Bennet), Joel J. Gelman (Fitzwilliam/Mr. Denny) and Rebecca Lawrence (Jane Bennet). Two others are UCSD undergraduates: Claire Kaplan (The Girl) and Katie Willert (Mary Bennet).

And finally, four cast members are graduates of SCR’s own Professional Actor Training program. They are: Liz Nolan (Catherine Bennet), Kalie Quiñones (Miss Anne de Bourgh/Georgiana Darcy), Justin Sorvillo (Captain Carter) and Daniel Sugimoto (Soldier/Servant).

You can find the complete cast bios by going here and clicking on “Cast/Creative Team.”

Gala Patron Party…Twilight on the Beach

South Coast Repertory’s annual Gala, “Theatre Magic: The Black and White Ball” is set for September 10, but the celebration began at twilight on August 25, when Bette and Wylie Aitken inaugurated their new beach cottage with a party to thank Gala table hosts and underwriters for their strong support of SCR.

The elegant event included two other firsts: it honored the first mother/daughter team to serve as Gala Chairs, Elaine Weinberg and Nancy Dahan; and it was the first official event for SCR’s new Artistic Director Marc Masterson, who commented, “I’ve never been to a party to celebrate a party. SCR’s Gala Committee has its priorities in order!”

Or maybe Gala supporters just like to party—which they did happily in the beautiful surroundings of the Aitken’s flower-filled home and and will do again at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, starting at 6pm on Saturday, September 10. For more information about “Theatre Magic: The Black and White Ball,” call Development Director Susan Reeder at (714) 708-5518.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

SCR Summer Players: Creating a Theatre Family

Nick Slimmer (Wolf #2) behind The Three Little Pigs,
l to r: Mitchell Huntley, Blaze Whiting and Chaney Lieberman in
Into the Woods.  Photo by Henry DiRocco.
There were 28 actors in the Summer Players production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Most of them were returning Players and had previous stage experience. One of them never had been a Player, never had appeared in a stage production and—at age 9—was the youngest cast member.

“As a 9-year-old, you don’t have many responsibilities in life,” Chaney Lieberman said candidly, “but Hisa made me feel like I was meant to be there, like I had as much responsibiliy as everyone else.”

“Hisa” is Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa, and her belief in theatre as an ensemble art form is at the heart of the Kids and Teen Acting Program. By the time students like Chaney have completed their first year, the ability to balance individual creativity with the ideas and work of the group is second nature to them.

When Chaney was selected for the Summer Players, she moved from the classroom—and her peer group—to an ensemble of young actors of every age. “I was a little nervous about working with some of the older students at first,” she admitted, “but they were all great to me, too. They made me feel as if I really belonged in the ensemble.”

Chaney brought to rehearsal what she had learned in class about working together to create and tell a story and applied that to the characters she portrayed. “I also learned how to project,” she added, not that much projection was required. As one of The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella’s Birds, Chaney—along with Blaze Whiting and Mitchell Huntley—had non-speaking roles.

“We did get to project when we sang!” she said, pointing out that the pigs and birds joined in several songs. “I loved the musical numbers because they combined both acting and singing.”

Julia Ostmann, Kelsey Kato, Alyse Russell and Jamie Ostmann in
Into the Woods.  Photo by Henry DiRocco.
But it was the non-verbal exercises she had learned in class that helped Chaney show emotions through her body rather than through words, with help from two “family” members, Assistant Director Julia Ostmann, who played Jack’s mother in the show, and Chase Anderson-Shaw, who was Cinderella’s father. Chase returned to join the cast of Into the Woods during summer break from USC; Julia is now a freshman at Harvard. Between them, they have logged 16 years in the Kids and Teen Acting Program.

“Julia taught us to make our personalities more graceful so we could move as beautifully as birds,” Chaney said. “From Chase we learned to be the complete opposite of the birds. So, when we moved as pigs, we almost stomped our way across the stage, but as birds, we tried to glide.”

Glide and stomp they did, in roles that wowed the audience as they fit seemlessly into the ensemble. According to Hisa, that’s what it’s all about. “The ability to work and create together is rooted in mutual trust and respect. It’s the core of everything we teach; we hope the result is good art and, even more importantly, a worthwhile life lesson to learn at any age.”

The result was good art. Audiences loved the show, and Daily Pilot critic Tom Titus, noticed how well the cast worked together, saying, “The ensemble is uniformly impressive. Few shows could be more enjoyable.”

But it’s the young actors’ raves that really count. Take it from Chaney. “It was a wonderful experience, not just for the acting and singing but for meeting so many great people in the process and sharing great memories with them.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It’s Called What Again?

Cecilia Fannon has been teaching playwriting at SCR for about 12 years. (She now teaches screenwriting as well.) During that time, she’s encountered some pretty funny/weird/intriguing play and movie titles. We asked her to list a few of the more memorable ones:

Gone to Hell, Will Write by Ray Jacob
Kill the Pig by Ron Hoefer
Widows of November by Anne Grob
Briefing the Heart by Lauren Dunn
Stoney Baloney by Hannah Holden
Mohammed's Moon by Dale Andersen
The Gods That Never Were by Ken Kanouse
Liq Ho by Donna Hedman
Limboland by Alan Witchey

Of Limboland, Cecilia says: "This title derives from a preacher's experience being swallowed and shat out of a silver dung beetle. Hilarious play that had a reading on the Queen Mary, with me at the helm."

And she recalls Gone to Hell, Will Write as an absurdist comedy in which the protagonist is shot at the end of Act One—with a banana.

Writing Students: Remember any more good ones? You can post them in the comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Acting Class: It’s Not as Scary as You Think

Jane Terry
This summer, Jane Terry tried something new: She took her first acting class. We asked Jane, who is the president and chief operating officer of Ajax Boiler Inc., to tell us what it was like to be a first-timer in one of SCR’s classes. Here’s what she had to say:

As a manufacturing executive—and one who has never set foot on a theatrical stage—I found the adult acting class to be a welcome relief and distraction from my daily operations at the factory.

I am an early riser, and so the class hours (Mondays, 7-10 p.m.) almost dissuaded me from signing up. But the teachers were generous with us, cutting slack as needed. My classmates were from all walks of life—attorneys, civil servants, business people, students, and retired people. Many had enjoyed acting during some part of their life—primarily in childhood—while some of us never acted before. So we had quite a range in age and experience to draw from.

Students rehearse a scene in class.
The first couple of classes just broke the ice for us; after that, we selected monologues to deliver in the fourth class. Next we were assigned partners, and performed skits in front of the class. We spent time working of them, incorporating stage blocking and developing their flow, and most became very nice pieces. Not everyone was able to memorize their lines, but we all enjoyed watching our classmates perform, and helping each other as best we could.

All in all, the work was fun enough that I may continue with this as a hobby. It was refreshing to step away from a world of spreadsheets and manufacturing disciplines to enter a new one comprised of endless possibilities of the imagination.

For more information on any of SCR’s acting and writing classes for adults, teens and kids, click here

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Ballet to Brain Cancer to Classes at SCR

Rob Johnston
Rob Johnston started dancing during his sophomore year at UC Irvine. He liked that it kept him in shape and made him feel connected to his artistic side, so after graduation he continued classes at a studio in Anaheim. Then, in November 2008, he suffered a seizure during class. He was only 29 and in seemingly perfect health. But an MRI and subsequent tests revealed cancerous masses on the front and back parts of his brain.

“Being diagnosed with cancer so young, especially after having lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 17, really forced me to look at my life from a lot of angles,” he said. “And I found there were a few things I’d never done for whatever reason, whether it be fear or no time.”

Rob is a fan of "Glee," having been part of a show choir in high school, and a big fan of the actor Max Adler, who plays the homophobic (but closeted) football player Dave.

“His character had a pivotal scene early in the second season which was just amazing to watch him go through. I remember watching that scene and going, ‘You know what? I want to learn how to do that.’”

Rob, right, with fellow students.
“I almost talked myself out of it before it hit me that, at this point, what have I got to lose?”

A Google search turned up SCR’s classes, and Rob enrolled.

Like any first-time acting student, Rob remembers feeling “extremely nervous” on his first day. But that soon wore off.

“Diana [Burbano] is the perfect teacher for people who just come off the street wanting to give acting a try, which was 90 percent of my Acting I class. We were totally comfortable with her by the end of the night.”

Since then, he has taken Fundamentals of Acting II and III with Greg Ungar.

“Greg really stepped it up a notch and challenged me…He really laid it on the table and pushed us to bring our best to class.”

Rob, who works in the undergraduate admissions office at UCI, has found that taking acting classes helps him at work.

Rob with a fellow student.
“The classes allow me to come into work refreshed, since I’ve been able to focus on something new.”

These days, beyond some weakness and fatigue on his left side, Rob is feeling good. Doctors are monitoring the tumors, but so far haven’t recommended removal or radiation.

Now that he’s feeling confident he has the necessary tools to give his best performance, Rob’s planning his next challenge: “I am going to start auditioning for some local theater and student films here in Orange County, and then go up to L.A. to audition for TV and film.”

Note: You can help support Rob in his fight against cancer by liking the picture of his “everyday moment” on Mastercard’s “Every Moment is Priceless” Facebook page

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SCR Annual Dinner: A Midsummer Night

On July 27, 2011, South Coast Repertory, its donors and trustees had a very exciting—and very full—day, beginning with the final board meeting of the 2010-11 Season, followed by cocktails on the terrace and dinner on the Segerstrom Stage.

New board members were elected, last season’s officers were re-elected, an emeritus trustee was announced and two board members retired, and that was just the beginning.

At dinner, Damien Jordan, Vice President, Finance, announced that the theatre had ended its 47th consecutive season in the black, saying, “We have the momentum going after a great 2010-11 Season, and all of our trustees are committed to the theatre’s continuity.”

It was the first Annual Dinner for SCR’s new Artistic Director Marc Masterson, and David Emmes and Martin Benson’s first Annual Dinner as Founding Artistic Directors. All three spoke eloquently of the years gone by and those that lie ahead for SCR and its new team of leaders: Masterson and his co-CEO, Managing Director Paula Tomei.

Then it was time for the show, a retrospective of the season, its productions and the Honorary Producers who made them possible, fittingly titled “A Dream of a Season.” (Just before the show, we caught five of SCR's favorite actors in rehearsal.)

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Moments in the Woods

by Valentina Gehley and Julia Ostmann

About a week before a show opens, the cast and crew begin technical rehearsals. These rehearsals are often the first time the actors have ever stood on the set, worn their costumes or handled their props—the first time they’ve performed with sound or light cues. Two teen members of our Summer Players—Valentina Gehley and Julia Ostmann—kept a log of the first day of tech for Into the Woods, which opened last weekend and continues through Sunday. Check it out and get a peek behind the scenes…

Members of the cast gather
around the vending machine.
Alyse Russell (Giant/The Harp) and
Allison Baayoun (Snow White) get
set up in their new dressing room.
12:28 p.m. Cast members arrive, squealing as they discover their dressing room assignments.  Next stop?  The vending machine, conveniently located across from the boys’ dressing room.

12:37 We trek through the new, awe-inspiring set (thanks designer Sara Clement!) and sit in the theater.  Director Hisa Takakuwa and Musical Director Erin McNally give us notes – comments and adjustments for our performances.

Rapunzel, meet your tower!
Lindsey Wiercioch reacts to
her imprisonment.
Chaney Lieberman, Blaze Whiting, and
Mitchell Huntley (Three Little Pigs)
chill backstage.
12:38 The amazing set is a little distracting.  “Look it’s Rapunzel’s hair!” says Valentina Gehley (Narrator).  “Why is it green?” asks Jamie Ostmann (Hen).  “That’s the beanstalk you guys…” says Erin.

12:49 Rapunzel’s tower makes its first appearance!  “Go climb it bro!  Good luck!” says Cinderella’s Prince (Jordan Bellow) to his brother, Rapunzel’s Prince (Nick Slimmer).

12:52 Released back to the dressing rooms – costumes have arrived!! Entire cast crowds the hallway to check out each other’s costumes. Thanks again, designer Sara!

Jamie Ostmann (Hen that lays golden eggs),
Lindsey Wiercioch (Rapunzel), and
Katie Haas (Little Red Ridinghood)
hold prop babies.
1:15 “Once upon a time…” says The Narrator (Valentina Gehley). And the work-through of the show begins!

Lauren Cocroft (Granny), Lindsey
Wiercioch (Rapunzel), and Alyse
Russell (Harp) model their costumes.
2:05 “Going dark!”  Lighting designer Benjamin Weill shouts before lowering the lights.  He tries out different levels and effects while we rehearse.

2:49 Cast members hang out in the dressing rooms and the hallway, listening for their cues over the monitor.  A lot of tech week is waiting!

Brianna Beach (Witch) and
Kailyn Dunkelman (Cinderella) hang out
in the dressing room.
3:50 Working the blocking of “Hello Little Girl” with the Wolf (Connor Dugard) and Little Red Riding Hood (Katie Haas). “What is motivating the twirls you do in the song, Katie?” asks Erin. “A sugar high,” says Katie.

4:35 In the middle of singing “It Takes Two,” the Baker (Akshay Sharma) drops his props: Rapunzel’s hair, a knife, and a stalk of corn. Fits of laughter ensue!

5:30 Finishing the Act I finale and starting Act II.  It’s always encouraging to reach a big milestone!

6:03 Time to get out of costume!

Get more information and tickets to Into the Woods here.