Friday, June 28, 2013

Tell Me a Story

For Marc Masterson the heart of a theatrical season is a good story, well told.

Now entering his third year as SCR’s artistic director, Masterson recently talked about the general approach to developing a season.

“It should reflect variety,” Masterson says. “A season should be surprising and something of a journey. It may have a drama followed by a comedy, with a darker story and maybe a musical. You want classics and new in the mix. And along the journey of moving through the season, I also want to keep people guessing.”

Masterson says that planning starts by “falling in love” with more works than a season could possibly hold and then making decisions about specific plays from the large pool of works. Among the factors that could help with the decision: a great role for a particular actor, a story that needs to be told, or a new work that’s in development and that SCR wants to be a part of.

And then there’s reality, which always comes in at some point: “Can we afford to do all of the things we want to do?” Masterson says that some adjustments could make one play a possibility, or find another play that might wait a bit longer before coming into a season. Also there are decisions about plays that he and Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson may want to direct.

“We have a tradition at SCR of offering a great mix,” he says. “Our seasons mix classical and contemporary work and world premieres that will continue to shape not only the future of SCR, but of American theatre as well. That’s right in line with our mission.”

Telling a Community’s Story Through Theatre

The Process
Walk into the lobby of Latino Health Access in Santa Ana and you encounter a phrase that rings true: “Participation makes the difference.”

The phrase defines the success to date of Dialogue/Diálogos, a two-year bilingual theatre-making project that is currently gathering stories of the Santa Ana Latino community. The goal is to turn those stories into a play to be performed in Santa Ana as well as South Coast Repertory in the fall of 2014.

Latino Health Access is a long-standing Santa Ana organization that promotes health awareness through community participation. In partnership with SCR, the two organizations are working to build community connections to and support for Dialogue/Diálogos. The entire project is made possible through support from The James Irvine Foundation.

“What makes this project so different and exciting is that the point of inspiration is from gathering the stories of the Santa Ana community,” says Kimberly Colburn, Dialogue/Diálogos dramaturg.  “Our playwright, José Cruz González, is charged with listening to the many people in the community who have generously shared their lives with us. He will weave together the threads of these stories into the fabric of his play with the aim of honoring and respecting the many faces of Santa Ana.”

The Playwright and Engagement Ensemble

Dialogue/Diálogos Engagement Director Sara Guerrero gathered an ensemble of SCR bilingual teaching artists to work with González. Together, they are guiding the story-sharing process, will teach play-making workshops, and mentor and train community members who want to be involved in the production process.

“Our teaching artists are essential to promote trust, guide open participation and facilitate story-sharing exercises that are useful for the creation of this play,” says Guerrero. “More importantly, participants have told us that sharing stories with their neighbors has had a profound impact on their bond with the community.”

The Stages

The project is fully open to community participation. There are three distinct phases that are guiding the creation of  this community play from its inception through curtain call:
  1. Story-gathering with Dialogue Days began in early 2013. Santa Ana residents at more than 10 locations throughout the city have been sharing their stories, memories of and hopes for their community.
  2. Play-making workshops will be offered in fall 2013. SCR teaching artists will work with Santa Ana residents who are interested in acquiring or honing skills, which they can use in the creation of the play, either on stage or behind-the-scenes.
  3. Play development will be open to the community as well, with activities ranging from participating in readings of the draft script to backstage work and to auditioning for a role.
Follow this exciting theatre-making process as Dialogue/Diálogos’ unfolds, and learn about the partner organizations, playwright and engagement ensemble through our Facebook page!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Coming Together for "Neva"

Timeline of NEVA
  • 2006 – Premiered with Chile’s Teatro en el Blanco
  • 2006 - Best Play of the year by the Art Critics Circle of Chile
  • 2007 – Altazor Awards for Best Director and Best Playwright.
  • 2008 – Jose Nuez Martin Award given by Catholic University of Chile
  • 2011 – Premiered in the United States, Neva premiered at the inaugural RADAR L.A. Festival.
  • March 2013 – Premiere of a new English translation of Neva premieres at The Public Theater in New York.
  • June 2013 – The new English translation of Neva embarks on a rolling West Coast premiere at three of Southern California’s leading theatre companies: Center Theatre Group, South Coast Repertory and La Jolla Playhouse. 
  • June 11-16, 2013 – Los Angeles, Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre. 
  • June 19-23, 2013 – Orange County, South Coast Repertory. 
  • June 26-30, 2013 – San Diego County, La Jolla Playhouse
When three of the West Coast’s most celebrated theatre companies come together it must be for a good reason; that reason is Guillermo Calderón’s Neva.  For the first time ever, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Repertory and La Jolla Playhouse are partnering for an historic collaboration to bring Neva to Southern California audiences.

“After seeing the play we decided on the spot to work together,” says South Coast Repertory’s Artistic Director Marc Masterson.

Calderón’s Neva tells the story of Anton Chekhov’s widow, Olga Knipper, and two fellow actors, huddled in a dimly lit rehearsal room while a revolution happens in the streets outside.  Inside, the actors rehearse and recreate scenes from their own lives and try to find the meaning of art in turbulent times.

Neva is bold, theatrical, funny and fierce—a unique evening of theatre,” says Masterson.  ”By joining forces we are able to bring this exciting new work to audiences throughout Southern California.”

Olga Knipper and Anton Chekhov.
Who is Olga Knipper?

Anton Chekhov is considered among the greatest writers in history, known for his short stories and his classic plays like The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard.  A strong actress captured not only his art but his heart: in 1901 Chekhov and Olga Knipper married and she became a champion of his works for her lifetime.

Neva follows Knipper, newly widowed from Chekhov, in a rehearsal for The Cherry Orchard.  Knipper was an original member of the Moscow Art Theatre.  Originally of German origin, her family moved to Moscow when she was two years old and began claiming Russian as their family heritage.  Growing up in Moscow with her mother, father, and two brothers, she lived a pampered lifestyle.

Knipper was fluent in French, German and English and showed promise as a painter and musician.  However, due to social conventions of the time, it was intended that she be a house wife and not an artist.  After her father’s death and against her mother’s approval, Knipper pursued and found success as a stage actress.  She studied acting with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and through him was introduced to Konstantin Stanislavski.  When Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko founded the Moscow Art Theatre, Knipper was invited to join.

She met her future husband, Anton Chekhov, when she played Chaika in Chekhov’s The Seagull on the opening of the first season of Moscow Art Theatre.  They married in 1901 remained together until Chekhov’s death in 1904; she never remarried.  She also appeared in Chekhov’s plays The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.  She performed with the Moscow Art Theatre throughout her entire acting career and was bestowed with the title of the People's Artist of the Russian Federation. At the time of her death, at age 90, she was the last living original member of Moscow Art Theatre.

Friday, June 7, 2013

SCR Favorite in a New Role: A Heart for Storytelling, A Gift for Acting

There’s a new face in the classroom at South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory. At least, it’s new to students in the Adult Acting Program.  But if you’ve been around SCR during in the past 20 seasons, the face is very familiar. It belongs to Richard Soto, who will teach Fundamentals of Acting: Act I Basic Skills during summer session.

Here are just some of the places Soto has been seen at SCR over the years:  as Young Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol for 11 seasons, as stage manager of the Educational Touring Production for 13 years, in various Hispanic Playwrights Project roles for 3 three years, as an instructor in the Neighborhood Conservatory for another 3 three years and the Teen and Kids Acting Programs for 10 years.

Besides being an actor and teacher, Soto is an artist, writer and director. He has performed on stages throughout the Southland and in numerous film, television and web series roles. Acting is in the family, too: he’s married to Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa, whom he met when they appeared as Claudio and Hero in the Grove Shakespeare Festival production of Much Ado about Nothing. Later, the couple became resident artists with the classical repertory theatre A Noise Within and joined the cast—for the first of many seasons—as Young Eb and Sally in SCR’s A Christmas Carol.

Hisa Takakuwa and Richard Soto.
Soto’s teaching philosophy is simple and positive. “I love storytelling, acting, and people!”In his new role as Adult Acting Program instructor, he is just as encouraging—and challenging—as he is with younger students, urging them to find their own “voices.”

“By using imagination and emotion, they’ll be able to create a character that will move people to laugh or cry through a great story.  That’s what I live for—helping find the freedom to ‘play!’”

And that’s what his students appreciate most.

Learn more about acting classes for any level.