Monday, July 29, 2013

The Summer Players in "Annie:" No One Ever Said it Was Going to Be Easy

Ben Susskind, Sarah Cocroft, Dylan Davies and Jaden Fogel join the cast of Annie.
The Summer Players production of Annie boasts the largest-ever cast—34 young actors, who won their roles through audition after at least a year in the Theatre Conservatory.  Most of them are old pros—students with SCR resumes that include two or more years of training, roles in previous Players shows and, for many, in A Christmas Carol.  With all that experience, when rehearsal begin, they know what to expect.

But what’s it like to be one of the new guys in a huge production where everyone has a vital part to play?  We asked that question of the four first-year students as they took a break from rehearsal.

All four cast members are part of the Annie ensemble, but each has at least one other role—and they all sing and dance as well as act. 

According to Ben Susskind (Al the Appleseller, Chauffeur), “There’s a lot to do, so much to put together that each one of us is working all the time.  But the rehearsals are so well organized that we can learn really fast—and it’s fun!”

For Jaden Fogel (Bert Healy) the experience is very different from what he’d imagined.  “I was surprised because we’re working on everything at the same time—acting, singing and dancing.  It’s stressful but I love the stress!”

It’s also longer than expected, according to Dylan Davies (Eddie, Producer).  “I was excited when I got cast in the show; I just didn’t know the rehearsals were going to last so long!  But I learned a lot in class during the year so I can put everything together—and I’m having fun.”

Sarah Cocroft (Star to Be) found out about the fun part from her sister, Lauren, a fifth-year student.  “I saw how much fun Lauren was having, and I finally decided to give it a try.  In this show, with all the music and dancing, everyone has so much to do, but I’m learning a lot—and I love it.”

Hard work… stress… long hours… a lot to do … and fun!  It all comes together when the Summer Players present Annie on the Julianne Argyros Stage, Saturday Aug. 10 and 17 and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 18 at 1 and p.m.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Annie’s" Long History: From the 1884 Poem to SCR’s Summer Players Production

Annie (Kelsey Bray) and “Sandy."
Annie is one of the world’s most popular musicals.  Everyone knows that.  But who knows how Annie got her start? 

Let’s have a look at the little waif’s antecedents.

She first surfaced in James Whitcomb Riley’s 1884 poem, “Little Orphant Annie,” in which Annie admonishes children, “…the Gobble-uns 'at gits you ef you don't watch out!”  In 1918, the poem was the basis of a silent film of the same name.

Annie as we know her today—the urchin with curly red hair and blank orbs for eyes— made her debut on August 12, 1924 in the New York Daily News as the comic strip, “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray.  While she got her name from the original poem, there the similarity ended.

In her comic strip version, Annie represented the All-American qualities of individuality and self-reliance.  She recued the dog Sandy, her future companion, from a gang of bullies, fought criminals (she had a great right hook!) and proved her mettle to her future “Daddy,” the billionaire Oliver Warbucks, in the early comic strips.

“Little Orphan Annie” participated in America’s major events and even blowing up a submarine during World War II, and she remained unchanged—orbs, orbs, red dress and all—until Gray’s death in 1968.  Through it all, she embodied the politically Conservative philosophy of her anti-Roosevelt/New Deal/labor unions creator.

Although the comic strip had its detractors, it was enormously popular, inspiring a radio show in 1930 and film adaptations in 1932 and 1938.  After Gray’s death, “Little Orphan Annie” continued for on-and-off for 40 years in the hands of other artists and in reruns of classic strips. Fading slowly, the comic strip drew its last breath on June 13, 2010.

In the meantime, Annie the Broadway musical was born.  Gone were the politically Conservative views; in fact, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Annie become friends, with the President encouraging his Cabinet to join in singing “Tomorrow.” But the original comic strip spunk was still there, as was the perseverance and hope that Annie has demonstrated in all of her guises through the decades.

You’ll see it in the SCR Summer Players production, and if the characters seem authentic to you, that’s because the young actors in the ensemble—with the help of their dramaturg, Andrew Knight—have researched the era in which the play is set (during the Great Depression) and become familiar with the way their characters lived.  These players don’t just learn their lines, they inhabit their roles.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 50th Season and Beyond

Fifty years ago, a band of untested former theatre students embarked on “an artistic odyssey on little more than raw talent and enthusiasm.” That’s the genesis for South Coast Repertory, which has done tremendous work serving the Orange County community—and American theatre—for a half-century.

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget the power of what you have in your own backyard,” says Marc Masterson, South Coast Repertory’s artistic director. “We should never take for granted David Emmes and Martin Benson—and the rest of the SCR team—have built here and what has been accomplished as a result of the community leadership that got behind their vision and enabled them to grow this company into one of the finest theaters in America.

“We should celebrate that in our 50th year and we should celebrate them because they are really pioneers and entrepreneurs and innovators. They built something truly special here and we need to take care of it. We need to build on it for the future,” he says.

“From inception, SCR has been blessed with a forward-thinking community who realized the potential to have world-class theatre in their own backyard” says Managing Director Paula Tomei.  “David and Martin inspired audiences with the risks they took onstage and gained respect for their business savvy, which gives us a position of strength as we move into our next 50 years.”

With an eye toward the future, Masterson sees the world becoming a “smaller” place.

“We live in a global culture and the work that South Coast Repertory will do over its next 50 years will increasingly reflect that world community,” he says, taking a moment to reflect on SCR.

“I think we will have significant artists from the world stage here with us and we will take our work out more globally, as we did this past season by taking Chinglish to the Hong Kong Arts Festival. People in other parts of the country and the world know SCR more through the plays that have begun here than they do through re-productions of the classics or other contemporary plays and repertoire,” he says.

“You only turn 50 once and we're planning to mark this year with a series of activities aimed at celebrating all things SCR” says Tomei.  “There will be public displays that trace our history as a company, an open house with tours and backstage insights into the artistry of SCR and recognition throughout the season on our website and otherwise of the artists, audiences and community leaders who have helped define SCR throughout the years.”

“As we move forward, I think we will continue to examine how we reflect the community around us and engage not only our local Orange County community, but that global one as well,” adds Masterson.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Julianne Argyros Stage—Tied to Our Mission for New Works

Presenting new works is special and amazing for Marc Masterson.

“In doing new plays you are part of the generative process,” says Masterson, South Coast Repertory’s artistic director.  “If I direct Death of a Salesman [which Masterson will direct this fall], I’m interpreting something that has been done many times before by other people. I measure myself against that other mountain of productions.

“But with a new play, I am part—and SCR and the audience are part—of the creation of that work. We launch it into the world. Our audience has an opportunity not only to see something before any other audience sees it, but also to help shape it through their response to things. The playwright is there, the directors are there and everybody is listening to what our audience thinks. Fundamentally we want to make good theater with these plays and tell a story to our audience that gives them a chance to respond and participate in the creation of something.”

Masterson says some of the most successful recent works have been world premieres, like Beau Willimon’s The Parisian Woman, one of the most successful shows in SCR’s history.

Here are some quick-takes on how Masterson sees the new works coming up on the Julianne Argyros Stage:
  • Fast Company is a caper. It’s a heist and a grifter story and you don’t know who to believe and who to trust. It moves at a lightening pace and it keeps you guessing right up until the end. It’s a fun and fresh contemporary play that will be directed by Bart DeLorenzo. Bart is going to bring his magic to the storytelling and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do. I know there’s going to be great design and great acting and it’s going to be fun!”
  • Trudy and Max in Love… is a contemporary love story. Maybe you would call it a “twenty-something” love story. It’s young love in every sense: the way people live, the way people love and the way people interact. It has great heart and a wonderful sense of humor about it. You care about these people and you want them to, if not have a happy ending, at least to have learned something from the experience of falling in love that way.”

  • Reunion is visceral. It’s highly theatrical, “gut-check” play. It’s a great contemporary drama that has opportunity for virtuoso performances. When you see Reunion, you will know that you’re in a live theater event and not in a movie or watching television. It is right there in front of you and you’re going to feel it.”
“I think all of these plays have something to offer our audiences,” Masterson says. “They’re fresh, they’re exciting, they’re new but they’re good stories well-told. And we’re looking forward to announcing the final world-premiere work during our season. It will be one of the anchors for our 17th Pacific Playwrights Festival in the spring.”

And his hopes for the 50th season?

“I hope that people will feel and different times of the year that they have been delighted and surprised. Come with an open mind and encounter something surprising. Learn about who we are by watching these stories. Enjoy the variety of these experiences and come back for more!”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Marc Masterson Talks Theatre, SCR and 50th

Charlie Robinson as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.
Masterson on Segerstrom

“Great actors deserve great roles.”
—about Arthur Miller,
Death of a Salesman

“Her work is subtle and smart. She is one of the bright lights in American theatre.”
—about Amy Herzog,
4000 Miles

“Piazza is a lovely musical—a beautiful story, elegantly told.”
—about Craig Lucas’
The Light in the Piazza,
with music and lyrics
by Adam Guettel.

“Sam is a rising star in the American theatre. The compassion and love in this play is breathtaking.”
—about Samuel D. Hunter,

“Here is a fierce, dark, and funny take on a classic by Moliere by one of the most inventive directors working today.”
—about Moilère’s Tartuffe,
which was the first production (1964) done by South Coast Repertory.
The Stage is Set: Segerstrom Stage for SCR’s 50th Season

For Marc Masterson, many things factor into programming a theatrical season. One of them came up over a lunch with actor Charlie Robinson.

“I asked him the question, ‘What roles do you want to play? What are the great roles that you feel challenged by?’” Masterson recalls. It was a great lunch topic for SCR’s artistic director and his long-time actor friend. “I believe that when an artist is challenged, they have the opportunity to do their best work. And Charlie said he wanted to do Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.”

And that’s the work that opens SCR’s 50th Season.

Early in the summer, Masterson gathered a group of actors, including Robinson, to do a reading of the play to hear it.

“Out of this initial reading, the challenges, strengths and universality of it were apparent and clear to us,” he says. “It’s a classic play that has been produced in almost every language, in different cultures and different contexts. I think we demonstrated that the play is deserving of a great cast.”

Masterson says the variety of offerings on the Segerstrom Stage is exciting: classics like Death of a Salesman and Molière’s Tartuffe (which was SCR’s first production in 1964), the highly acclaimed 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog, and the world premiere of Samuel D. Hunter’s Rest.

“I’m extremely excited about Rest,” says Masterson. “It’s compassionate and loving in a way that is breathtaking. He’s got the ability to write a story with characters in it that you deeply care about. They have problems that are so human and so understandable. It’s a beautiful, beautiful work of art. Sam is definitely a rising star and has had a great deal of success already. I think this play is going to launch him into the stratosphere.”

Masterson also looks forward to what he calls one of his favorite musicals: The Light in the Piazza, by Craig Lucas, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel.

“South Coast Repertory has had a great relationship with Craig from early in his career,” Masterson relates. “And I’m also a fan of Adam. They have created something beautiful in The Light in the Piazza: it’s a lovely story, elegantly told. I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.”

Find out more about the Segerstrom Season

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Help Us Get 7,000 Likes on Facebook!

Like Us and Win!

The more "Likes" we get, the more prizes get unlocked!  When we reach these number of likes the following prizes will be unlocked: 

  • 6,150 likes: Two tickets to our season opener, Death of a Salesman.
  • 6,500 likes: Personal exclusive backstage tour of SCR and two tickets to our season opener, Death of a Salesman.
  • 7,000 likes: Two subscriptions to the Segerstrom Stage, personal exclusive backstage tour of SCR and $100 gift card to Seasons 52 Fresh Grill.
If we reach any of the above number of likes by August 30, one random new fan* will be chosen to win the prize that has been unlocked; a possible three winners.

*If you already like us, you can enter to be eligible to win by sharing our image on your Facebook page and telling your friends to like us, too. 

There’s a lot to like about South Coast Repertory, including an incredible 50th season lineup! And to help lead up to the start of this milestone season, we want to reach 7,000 likes on our Facebook page by August 30. And if we reach our goal, one random lucky fan who “Likes” us will get the ultimate “Theatre Likers” prize.  

Share in all the special moments as we celebrate 50 years of SCR, get sneak-peeks into the 50th season and communicate directly with us, all on Facebook—see you there! 
Like South Coast Repertory on Facebook here.

How We Can Reach 7,000 Likes

Like Us

If you haven’t already liked our Facebook page, like us on Facebook

Tell Your Friends

After you like us, tell your friends to like us by sharing our image on your Facebook page.