Monday, December 29, 2014

"The Whipping Man": A Night Different from All Other Nights

by Andy Knight

In His Own Words: Playwright Matthew Lopez on The Whipping Man’s Inspiration

Matthew Lopez

"In researching the end of the war, and the very eventful month of April 1865, I came across a reference to the fact that Passover began that year on April 10, the day immediately following Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. This means that as Jews across the nation were celebrating this sacred ritual commemorating their ancestors’ freedom from bondage in Egypt, a new kind of exodus was occurring all around them. The parallels were irresistible.

"The Whipping Man began in my mind with the image of an old man performing a Seder. Recently freed from a lifetime of slavery, he speaks the words of the Haggadah with a newfound understanding of their meaning. The words are hopeful, a promise of justice to come. Something ancient and distant suddenly becomes immediate. The past and the present intermingle as he becomes a part of a history that began thousands of years before his birth and that arrives finally at the moment he takes his first psychological and emotional step towards emancipation. The promised justice has finally arrived.

"The result, I hope, is an inexorable link between the African American and Jewish imperatives of reminding successive generations about their people’s past. There has always been a conversation between black and Jewish histories in the United States. It is a conversation based, I believe, on a similar history. In The Whipping Man, that similar history becomes a shared one."

—Matthew Lopez, playwright
By the spring of 1865, the American Civil War had reached a turning point: Union troops had significantly weakened General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army during a bloody nine-month battle around the city of Petersburg, Va. When Lee and his army finally surrendered Petersburg and retreated west, they left the nearby city of Richmond—then the capital of the Confederate States of America—vulnerable. At Lee’s behest, most of Richmond’s population evacuated the city on the night of April 2, 1865.

During the evacuation, the Confederate army set fire to buildings throughout the city to keep reserves of tobacco, cotton and other supplies out of Union hands. Other Richmonders looted before leaving. At around 11 p.m. that night, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with members of his cabinet, took the last train out of the city and escaped to Danville, Va.

The evacuation cleared the way for a next step. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln visited Richmond, which had officially fallen to the Union a day earlier. Members of Lincoln’s party told stories of the president touring the Confederate Congressional chambers, visiting Richmond’s famous Libby Prison and even stopping at the Confederate White House to sit in President Davis’ empty chair. One famous account told of a group of freed slaves who bowed when the president approached, to which Lincoln replied, “Kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.” The president returned to Washington, D.C., after spending four days in Richmond—and only the day before Lee’s final surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9. Six days later, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia
Playwright Matthew Lopez sets The Whipping Man in Richmond a few days after Lee’s surrender. The play begins on a stormy night as a lone Confederate soldier, Captain Caleb DeLeon—a member of one of Richmond’s most prominent Jewish families—stumbles into the ruins of a once grand home. He collapses in a faint, but awakens when Simon, one of his family’s former slaves, enters with a rifle in hand. The two men recognize each other, and Caleb realizes that he’s finally found his way home.

Like many of the buildings in Richmond, the DeLeons’ house was destroyed and looted during the city’s evacuation, but Simon assures Caleb that the family and their former slaves managed to escape unharmed. Before Caleb can ask any more questions, Simon notices the week-old bullet wound on the soldier’s leg. Gangrene has already set in and Simon, who worked in the hospital during the war, knows that immediate amputation is the only way to save Caleb’s life.

When John, another former slave in the DeLeon household, arrives, Simon tries to convince Caleb to go to the hospital for the amputation. Caleb refuses, although he won’t say why. With time running out, Simon performs the amputation himself, with only John by his side and some whiskey to clean the wound.

As Caleb convalesces, the three men grapple with how their lives will change now that the war has ended, and a tension grows between them. With Passover underway, Simon, a devout Jew, decides to hold a makeshift Seder. For all of them, the ritual of honoring the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt carries a profound meaning in April 1865. But even the shared experience of the Seder isn’t enough to hold these men together, for each has deep secrets—and it’s only a matter of time until they’re revealed.

With rich characters, surprising plot twists and a pivotal moment in American history as a backdrop, The Whipping Man tells a harrowing and thought-provoking story. While writing the play, Lopez, the son of whom he describes as “Civil War buffs,” was interested in dramatizing “the first tentative steps of the long, painful, hopeful journey that began in April 1865 and continues today.”

Since it first premiered at New Jersey’s Luna Stage in 2006, The Whipping Man has had more than 30 productions across the country, making it one of the most widely produced new American plays in the last several years. Its success thrust Lopez into the national spotlight and has made him one of the country’s most sought-after playwrights. With his incredible range as a writer and his skill at bringing complex relationships to life, it’s no surprise that Lopez’s work is so popular with audiences. He is currently under commission to write new plays for a number of major theatres across the nation—and SCR is thrilled to be one of them.

Learn more and buy tickets.

Jarrod M. Smith, Adam Haas Hunter and Charlie Robinson
The Whipping Man at SCR

Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson directs SCR’s production of The Whipping Man. Benson is drawn not only to Lopez’s fresh voice, but also the play’s bold and thoughtful take on history. “It’s a tremendously theatrical play,” Benson says. “But it also deals with a subject that is unique and very rich. It has a great deal to do with tradition and values, and it looks at the issues of slavery in many different ways. I think this play is a really unique look at an important time in history, and I find it exciting to contemplate.”

To bring the play to life, Benson assembled a cast that includes SCR veteran Charlie Robinson (Simon). Robinson—whom audiences know from performances in Death of a Salesman, Jitney and Fences—is no stranger to the character of Simon: he’s reprising the role after appearing in The Old Globe’s 2010 production of the play. The cast also includes two SCR newcomers, Adam Haas Hunter (Caleb) and Jarrod M. Smith (John). Hunter has appeared on a number of Southern California stages, including A Noise Within, the Theatre @ Boston Court and Center Theatre Group. Smith recently moved to Los Angeles after training at San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theater and makes his professional debut in The Whipping Man.

The Whipping Man’s design team includes Scenic Designer Thomas Buderwitz, Costume Designer Angela Balogh Calin, Lighting Designer Lonnie Rafael Alcarez and Sound Designer/Composer Michael Roth—all of whom have worked on a number of SCR productions.

Read more about the cast here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Go Behind the Scenes with Our Young Actors (Part Two)

Young actors from A Christmas Carol: (top row) Blogger Sophia Utria, Joshua Myran, Maximos Harris, Bloggers Zoe Hebbard and  Emily McDaniel, Mitchell Huntley, Blogger Benjamin Susskind, London Walston.
(middle row) Alexis Cueva, Bloggers Olivia Drury and William Lynam.
(bottom row) Bloggers Karoline Ribak, Katherine Parrish, Jacqueline Vellandi, Aoife McEvoy and Bella Browne.
Our Bloggers

Olivia Drury (Young Girl About Town), age 13. Olivia has been studying acting at SCR for two years and started performing in plays at age five. She played Troy in High School Musical and Burt in Mary Poppins. “I was a huge tomboy.”

Will Lynam (Turkey Boy), age 11. Will has been studying at SCR for two years. Fun fact: “I am very good with technology and I can fix most computer problems."

Emily McDaniel (Belinda Cratchit), age 11. Emily has been studying acting at SCR for three years. She has two pet bunnies named Toki and Sugar. “I am bananas about bunnies!!”

Aoife McEvoy (Tiny Tim), age 10. Aoife has been studying at SCR for two years. Fun fact: “I’m named after an evil queen who turns children into swans in Irish mythology.”

Zoe Hebbard (Belinda Cratchit), age 11. Fun fact: Zoe is a competitive ballroom dancer.

Katherine Parrish (Martha Cratchit), age 16. She’s been studying acting at SCR for four years and is an avid Broadway musical theatre fan.

Karoline Ribak (Fan), age 17. She has been studying at SCR for nine years and previously played Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol back in 2007.

Sophia Utria (Fan), age 16. She has been studying at SCR for two years. Fun fact: she has a twin sister. “We can sometimes read each others' mind.”

Jacqueline Vellandi (Tiny Tim), age 10. She started in SCR’s Youth Conservatory when she was eight and just finishing third grade. She loves SCR and can’t wait to be a Junior and Teen Player. She likes to write scripts, hold auditions and then run rehearsals and perform shows with her Barbies and Legos.

Our young bloggers performed in A Christmas Carol more than two-dozen times now. We asked them to talk about different milestones during the production.

How does it feel performing onstage, in front of sold-out houses?
Jacki: It feels like a dream come true!
Olivia: It's a feeling that really cannot be put into words. It's like everything around you just disappears and you can't feel or remember anything other than that moment. It is truly a feeling like no other, kind of like electricity.
Aofie:  I like it when I can hear people in the audience laugh or gasp. I want to make them feel emotions and get involved in the story.
Karoline: The audiences' energy creates the magic and brings our story to life.

Are you still discovering new things about your character?
Karoline: I'm constantly challenging myself to break routine and find ways to keep my interactions real and fresh.
Benjamin: In the party scenes, I play a character without a name.  I haven't really thought about this, so I have been coming up with his story as the shows go on.
Jacki: I keep finding out new things about Tiny Timlike he's really energetic even if he is sick and weak. I’m working on showing that excitement he feels inside.

Were you nervous before opening night?
Sophia: Surprisingly, no. We had been rehearsing for this moment, and everyone was ready.
Emily:  I couldn't sit still all day. I was shaking when the lights dimmed for the show to begin. But once I got out on stage I felt great, not scared at all. I loved it!
Olivia: I was very nervous backstage. But, once I was waiting to enter and heard the excited murmurs of the crowd trying to find their seats, I just took a deep breath, and stopped being nervous. I thought "This is what I love to do, so why am I nervous?"

What do you do backstage when you’re not onstage?
Sophia: Costume changes!
Benjamin: I have so many that I don't even get to talk and rest during intermission.
William: I have to do a really quick costume change for one of my scenes.  If I take too long then the other actors in my dressing room squirt me with a water bottle to get me to move a little faster. It is a fun way of keeping me on track.
Olivia: If I am not changing costumes, I hang out with the other actors in the dressing rooms or the green room. We usually play chess and talk.
Karoline: Our chess games backstage are extremely intense.

Any fun backstage stories?
Aoife: Backstage we like to make up names for the characters that don’t have official names. We gave Turkey Boy the name Gregory Thomas Caspian III. We named two of the Fezziwig guests Beatrice and Esmeralda.
Emily: Daniel Blinkoff (Mr. Cratchit) taught me how to play checkers during intermission. One time, Karen Hensel (Mrs. Fezziwig) was about to go and she realized she had a Vons grocery bag caught on her hoop skirt.
Katherine: Our Red Team cheer before every show is "Roses are red and so are we!" We like to make a tunnel for Gregg Daniels (Marley's Ghost) to exit through before the schoolyard scene. And after every show, Daniel Blinkoff (Bob Cratchit) high fives us and says "Slap me five!"and we say "Gimme some change!"

Have your friends and family been able to see you in the show?
Zoe: Definitely! My grandma flew from Virginia to come see the show!
William: My parents and brother have seen the performance three times and I have had family fly in from three different states to watch me perform.
Emily: My mom has a ticket to every performance and my whole family has seen it. Even my Grandma who lives out of the country came to opening night.

Jacki Vellandi as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol
What's been the best part about being in A Christmas Carol this year?
Jacki: Christmas started in November for me, when I was cast in A Christmas Carol and I love Christmasso that’s been awesome.
Katherine: I've loved making relationships with all these wonderful people I never would have met otherwise, including the actors, the tech crew and my crazy Cratchit family. I will never forget the time I have had doing this show; these wonderful memories will live with me forever.
Emily: I have been able to meet so many nice, kind people and I’ve learned new acting skills. My favorite part though is being on stageI just love it!
Olivia: My favorite part is being with all the actors and the crew. They are so much fun to be around and are always very helpful. We have such a good time!
Zoe: Probably just getting to perform with all these professional adult actors. I learn so much stuff from them.
Aoife: I love everything about it!
Sophia: I love the holidays, and this year I got spend a lot of time this season doing what I love and being around people I have become really close to. Every day since the first rehearsal, there is something to celebrate or smile about. The whole cast and crew is so full of spirit, it's impossible not to be happy.
Benjamin: I think my favorite part about being in A Christmas Carol this year is being able to perform with professionals and being able to perform with Mrs. Argyros.
William: The best part of being in A Christmas Carol is being transformed into another period of time.
Karoline: Every member of the cast is warm-hearted, supportive and always there to make me laugh. I feel blessed beyond belief to work with such an inspiring group of artists. I cherish every second with my A Christmas Carol family and will always treasure the memories, wisdom and joy they have given me.

Read part one of this blog.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Discover Your Voice—As a Playwright

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Kristina Leach knows how to tell a story. Oh, boy, does she know how, and if you give her a few minutes of your time, she’ll tell you one.

And you’ll love it! Because Kristina is a born storyteller; in person or on paper, her words will grab your interest. Here’s the best part: she’s also a great listener. If you have a story to tell—and who doesn’t?—she wants to hear it.

So bring your story to Kristina’s new playwriting class.

It’s called “Discovering Your Voice:  An Introduction to Playwriting,” and it’s the newest addition to SCR’s Adult Program in the Theatre Conservatory. A class description and a short biography of Kristina are on the website. (There, you’ll discover her background at SCR as a literary associate and Pacific Playwrights Festival co-ordinator, as well as a teen and adult acting instructor.)

Because she’s so good at it, we’ve decided to let Kristina her tell students what to expect in her playwriting class, which starts on Monday, January 12th at 7:30 p.m.

According to Kristina, "You can either talk about it, or you can do it. But you can’t do both. Admit it, there’s a tale you’ve been thinking about telling. So let’s work on it, together. In my class, you will have time to write, hash it out and eventually finish the thing. Bring a notebook and something to write with—a pen, a pencil, a quill—and we’ll explore the ups and downs of creating something new. I’m also a firm believer in reading other works—so we’ll be taking a look at some scenes from new playwrights as well as some tried and true scribes. Don’t be afraid to tell your story—my classroom is an “applause only” environment. I look forward to meeting you!"

Register now

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grads Look Back—As They Step Forward

Guy McEleney, center, with members of the boy band in Bliss, left to right Christopher Huntley, Jamie Ostmann, Guy, Kelsey Bray and Lauren Cocroft
It happens every year. High school seniors, who’ve attended acting classes at SCR since they were little kids, prepare to move on. As two of these young people get ready to take the next step in their lives, let’s look back at what they’ve achieved and what’s in store for the future.

Grace O’Brien, right, with Chaney Liberman, in Annie
Grace O’Brien first walked through SCR’s doors when she was in the third grade, and her parents signed her up for the Summer Acting Workshop—her initial step on a nine-year journey. “I grew up at SCR,” she says. “This has been my home, my stability and refuge in the craziness of life.”

Grace’s theatre experience included much more than just learning to act. She has taken from the program exactly what Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa hopes for every student. “It has benefitted me in all my studies, giving me new perspectives, introducing me to enlightening texts and teaching me the importance of self-discovery.”

Guy McEleney, who also entered the program through the Summer Theatre Workshop, shares Grace’s views. “SCR isn’t just about acting, singing, dancing, etc.,” he says. “It also teaches you how to be responsible, trustworthy and supportive in many ways.”

SCR audiences don’t see the process—the training that has helped these students through their formative years and made them freer, more confident, responsible and supportive young adults. But theatregoers have been able to witness the product—their work onstage.

“Grace remembers, “When I was ten, I’d look to the older Teen Players, wishing that one day I could be as brave, creative, experienced as they were.” Since then, she has appeared in five Players productions and portrayed both Cratchit daughters in A Christmas Carol, Belinda (2008) and Martha (2013).

Guy also appeared in A Christmas Carol, alternating in the role of Peter Cratchit in 2010, which turned out to be more than just a fun experience. “When I was in the show, I learned the responsibility of working with an adult cast,” he says. That experience also taught Guy to understand the emotion behind the text, which was particularly helpful last season, when, as a Teen Player, he had the opportunity to portray an original character in Bliss, a coming-of-age story by Laurie Woolery.

Performing with the Players allowed Guy and Grace to bring their classroom training onto the stage, maturing and developing as they moved from Junior to Teen Players. This spring, they’ll appear in their final Teen Players production, which Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa will announce in the next few weeks. (Stay tuned!) Meanwhile, they continue training in class twice a week.

 “As I was welcomed back into Players in September, I was overjoyed by the sight of my closest friends,” Guy says. “Under Hisa’s direction, I expect to continue learning how to work as an ensemble and what it means to become a character.”

And for the future?

“SCR has been a second home to me, with the students and teachers as an extended family,” says Guy, “Because of my training here, I’ve decided to major in theatre when I start college next fall.”
Grace also has chosen theatre as her major. “I’m sad to leave my ‘home’ behind as I continue my journey on to college,” she says. “But I know the lessons I’ve learned at SCR will be with me, guiding me to embrace the process, every step of the way.”

Karoline Ribak, another senior who’s moving on, recently talked with the Orange County Register during her run as Ebenezer Scrooge’s sister, Fan, in A Christmas Carol. See what Karolina had to say.

Karoline also just announced her plans for college and the future. She can proudly say she has been accepted into and will be attending Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in the BFA Creative Producing program.

Learn more about classes on the SCR website.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bringing the Spirits of Christmas to Life

James MacEwan, Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., Gregg Daniel and Timothy Landfield in the 2013 production of A Christmas Carol.
Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by four spirits who aim to change his ways and save him from a lonely, haunted end. Each spirit enlightens Scrooge about what he needs most—from humanity to love to a warning of what could be.

Gregg Daniel as Jacob Marley's Ghost.
The Ghost of Jacob Marley

“Mankind was my business!  The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, patience, kindness were all my business!  And now, I cannot rest.”
  • Jacob Marley is the first spirit to visit Scrooge and warn him of his impending visits from the spirits of Past, Present and Yet-to-Come. He is punished to wander the Earth in chains for living a life full of avarice and uncaring attitude towards others. He warns Scrooge not only of what is to come but what he could become if he continues on his current path. Despite being the only spirit who personally knows Scrooge and the only friend he ever had, Marley is direct and as A Christmas Carol director John-David Keller puts it, “The least friendly.”
  • Jacob Marley’s chains represent the selfishness he exhibited in life. He unwittingly forged it through his many careless acts, "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol) Jacob Marley died seven years before the events of A Christmas Carol.
  • Many adaptations have stayed true to the Dickens descritions. Although, in A Muppet Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley is split into two characters, Jacob and Robert, played by the heckling duo Statler and Waldof.

Hal Landon Jr. as Ebeneezer Scrooge and Richard Doyle as The Spirit of Christmas Past
Spirit of Christmas Past

“These are but shadows of the things that have been. They have no consciousness of us.”

The Spirit of Christmas Past is Scrooge’s second visitor that Keller believes, “Is there to reawaken Scrooge’s humanity.” This shows Scrooge who he once was and the moments that have led him to be the curmudgeon he is. In the original novel, the spirit is described as a childlike figure with an illuminated head—similar to a candle—that is ever changing in number of arms and legs. The light it omits is often thought to represent the illumination of the mind the spirit presents to Scrooge.
  • Due to the unique description of this spirit, many adaptations have interpreted the look and characterization of the spirit differently.
  • In SCR’s production, the wand the spirit carries acts as a representation of the illuminating light that Dickens describes in his novel. His costume is also from an earlier time period.
  • The Spirit of Christmas Past has been interpreted as elderly men, angelic women, children and even as a cab driver in the movie adaptation Scrooged.
  • In a 2009 movie of A Christmas Carol the Spirit of Christmas Past receives an adaptation faithful to its Dickens description.

Timothy Landfield as The Spirit of Christmas Present and Landon as Scrooge
Spirit of Christmas Present

“They know me wherever they hum a Christmas tune, or have a Christmas thought, or remember some bygone Christmas Day and the hopes that went with it.”

Jolly, giant and only able to exist for a single year’s Christmas, the Spirit of Christmas Present offers Scrooge the idea of empathy and community. “He shows Scrooge what he is missing. The other aspect of life he needs,” Keller says. The spirit guides Scrooge to both moments of joy and festivity as well as moments of hardship. At the end of their journey he presents two children to Scrooge, Ignorance and Want. He warns him to beware of them and at the stroke of midnight fades away.
  • The Ghost of Christmas present represents many of the Christmas ideals including generosity, empathy and celebration.
  • He is typically first seen on a throne of a large feast in Scrooge’s home to further illustrate the idea of sharing one’s riches with the community.
  • In Dickens’ novel he is able to freely change size and towers over Scrooge when they meet.

James MacEwan as The Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come and Landon and Scrooge.
Spirit of Christmas Yet-To-Come

“Spirit, I know that I, like all men, must die—but not having lived as I have! Not alone, unmourned, so poor in heart.”

A silent specter that leads Scrooge on his final journey through a Christmas that could occur if he continues on his path. A cold spirit who is reminiscent of the grim reaper, that offers Scrooge two forms of grief and as Keller puts it, “Who forces him to figure it out on his own.” The final moment with the spirit thrusts an awakening upon Scrooge and reinforces the idea that he shouldn’t waste time.
  • The Spirit does not utter one line and simply points Scrooge towards his answers. J.D. believes, “He says nothing but at the same time says the most.”
  • In the novel, Dickens does not refer to this character as a spirit or ghost like the previous two. He simply refers to it as a “phantom.”
  • Scrooge is quick to dismiss the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present initially. When the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come arrives, he is quick to seek its message and even begs mercy from it at the end of their journey.
  • His interaction with the final spirit shows how much Scrooge has learned from his vistors.
Act now and get your tickets to A Christmas Carol before the spirits visit you!

Learn more and buy tickets now.

Dynamic Cast Breathes Life into "The Whipping Man"

THE CAST:  Jarrod M. Smith, Charlie Robinson and Adam Haas Hunter.
Award-winning veteran performers and a new talent making his professional stage debut form the cast for The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez. Stage, screen and television actor Charlie Robinson last appeared at SCR as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. He has received accolades and awards, including the NAACP’s Theatre Image Award for Best Actor in a Play for The Old Globe’s production of The Whipping Man. Adam Haas Hunter is making his SCR debut. He has earned or been nominated for numerous awards, including Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Ovation awards and has done extensive theatre work regionally. Jarrod M. Smith is making his professional debut, having fallen in love with acting while he pursued a history degree in college. But there’s more to each of these actors; read on to learn more about them.

Adam Haas Hunter (Caleb) is making his SCR debut. He is the co-founder of Poor Dog Group, an L.A.-based arts collective. He theatre credits include The Importance of Being Earnest and Cymbeline at A Noise Within; Prometheus Bound at the Getty Villa; The Nether at Kirk Douglas Theatre; The Government Inspector and Dark Play or Stories for Boys at The Theater @ Boston Court; The Walworth Farce at Theatre Banshee; Medea at UCLA Live; and Romeo i Julia 1968 with Ulysses Theatre in Croatia, to name a few. His appearances with Poor Dog Group include Brewsie and Willie (part of RADAR LA), The Internationalists and The Midnight Sun. Hunter has won or been nominated for Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and Garland awards. He is a graduate of California Institute of the Arts.

Charlie Robinson (Simon) is becoming a well-known face on SCR stages. His work at SCR includes The Piano Lesson; My Wandering Boy; Fences, which earned him a 2006 Ovation Award for his portrayal of Troy; and Jitney, which earned him a Los Angeles Drama Critics award nomination for his portrayal of Becker. He is the proud recipient of the NAACP’s Theatre Image Award for Best Actor in a Play for The Old Globe’s production of The Whipping Man. Another theatre home has been Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is best known for his television credits, as a series regular in “Night Court,” “Buffalo Bill,” “Love & War” and “Buddy Faro.” He has had recurring television roles in “Home Improvement,” “The Secret Life of an American Teenager,” and “Hart of Dixie.” His guest roles include “House,” “Big Love” and “Cold Case.” He is the CAMIE Award-winner for the made-for-television movies Miss Lettie and Me and Secret Santa. His feature film credits include Apocalypse Now, The River, Gray Lady Down, Beowulf, Set It Off, Antwone Fisher, Even Money, Jackson, Steam, Natural Disasters, Sweet Kandy and House Bunny.

Jarrod Smith (John) is making his South Coast Repertory and professional debut. He is an actor from LaPlace, La., a suburb right outside of New Orleans. Smith attended and graduated from Southern University of Baton Rouge with a bachelor of arts in history in 2011. In 2008, while at Southern, he took an interest in acting, and was immediately bitten by the acting bug. His interest and talents soon led him to the training grounds of the prestigious American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where he worked towards a master of fine arts. Smith now resides in Los Angeles.

Learn more and buy tickets.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Frontline Faces of South Coast Repertory

Volunteer ushers working at SCR's concession stand.
They’re the ones who scan your ticket as you enter the lobby. They help you find your seat. They sell you that cookie that you eyed. South Coast Repertory’s team of ushers is dedicated to making your experience as comfortable as possible. By day, they are doctors, teachers, ministers and retirees; by night, they’re dedicated volunteers. For SCR playgoers, they’re the familiar faces that have become part of a great night out at the theatre.

Why do they take on this role? Because they find a personal satisfaction in helping patrons. That’s what keeps them coming back to volunteer—some of them for nearly 20 years. A true love and appreciation for theatre—and SCR’s work in particular—adds to the satisfaction. Remember, ushers get to see the show for free!

For many of them, ushering began on a whim. “A veteran usher I met recommended I sign up, and I found the SCR team to be warm and accommodating,” says current usher John Nguyen. What starts off as quick conversation soon becomes an experience that flourishes through a love of theatre. Ushers begin to meet patrons who share the same appreciation for theatre and over time they begin to learn more about the patrons personally, which can quickly build connections that form a sense of community. Husband-and-wife ushers of 19 years, Stephen and Nanci Schrieber-Smith, see their roles in a specific way.

“We like to think that ushers are the ambassadors for SCR and that it can even be interesting for the patrons to meet us,” says Stephen. “We would encourage other people to stretch their horizons from ‘just their job’ lives and become ushers to see great plays and meet great patrons.” It fuels their work and brings both the ushers and patrons together. It’s an energy that can be electrifying.

Duane Legg has been ushering for nearly a year and can feel how this energy binds the team together, “There is an excitement that permeates the theatre as we prepare the programs, lobby and the house for patrons. When our team of ushers works together to help make a memorable and professional experience for the audience, we take satisfaction in knowing that we had a small part in making magic happen.”

That’s all they need. Meeting other theatre lovers, talking about each production and experiencing the unique response each audience member brings to every performance. That excitement and magic can be found in moments such as watching children experience a live performance for the first time through the Theatre for Young Audiences series or catching up with the regulars at SCR. Ushers discover that they become an important element in the productions at SCR.

John Nguyen, who began ushering on a whim, sums up his volunteer work as an experience that continually gives back. “Being an usher at SCR is one of the few great volunteer opportunities where you actually get something back the moment you show up to volunteer. And SCR is a wonderful place to meet new like-minded people. Whether you love theatre or simply like it, as an SCR volunteer usher, you are bound to learn more about the inner workings of this grand tradition.”

Interested in ushering? Go online to our website or email to get details and volunteer your time.

A Salute to SCR’s Current Usher Team

South Coast Repertory extends a heartfelt thanks to the volunteer ushers* who love theatre, love SCR and love helping you have a great theatre experience!

Celeste Ames • Reyne Ames • Janice L. Amster • Kathy Anderson • Michelle Anthony • Leo Arko • Dorothy Arko • Charlotte Art • Stan Ashbaugh • Donna F. Ashbaugh • Catherine Aubert • Clara Baker • Elaine Barnard • Tamara Bazargan • Frank Beach • Carole Beach • Ginger Bengochea • Sandra Benson • Judith Berman • Annette Blaney • Dale Bohannon • Ann Marie Bown • Chie Bresnan • Shirley Bridwell • Toby Brown • Becky Bruno • Raquel T. Bruno • Jane C. Buck • Anne Budniewski • Mimi Buffington • Marilyn J. Bunton • Melissa Burgess • Nancy Burgess • Dona Burrell • Bob Byrd • Laurie Cable • Laura Cadieu • Mary Camarillo • Richard Cassiere • Judy Cawley • Tim Chin • Weiping Chu • Lisa Ciampa • Richard Clayton • Serene Clayton • Sandra Clement • June Cohen • Steven Cohen • Jean Cohn • Ellyn Cole • Mary Lou Coleman • Mary Collins • Sallie Coltrin • Ann Combs • Anna J. Combs • Bonnie Coons • Ron Craddick • Joanne Crane • Mary Jo Cumming • Lynda Daley • Jackie Davidson • Mary DeSloover • Pat Detro • Mario Divok • Arinda Dolter • Teri Drake • Kay Drysdale • Carol Ducommun • Marianne Duncan • Arlene E. Eckstein • Mary Ehrlich • Susan Faludi • Erika Faust • Ana Fluck • Karen Ford • Anita Ford • Fran Fordyce • Jan Fournier • John Franceschini • Erika Franceschini • Milli Fredricks • Jane Fretz • Ken Gaines • Christina Gaines • Gus Ganotis • Marion Garbatow • Janet Garrick • Don Garrick • Marlan Globerson • Darilyn Goffman • Anita Goldman • Leonard Goldman • Mary-Pat Gonzalez • Dan Gonzalez • Ken Gordon • Phillip Grange • Sandy Grange • Anita Greenberg • Lucie Greville • Lindee Gschwind • Sally Hall • Larry M. Halperin • Donna L. Halperin • Jean L Harduvel • Lori Harvey • John Hay • Carol Hay •  Janie Hemminger • Jan Hendricks • Mary Hendricks • Patricia A Henry • Margee Hills • Harriet Himmelstein • Harvey Himmelstein • Siddiqua Hirst • Susan Hodge • Joanne Hogan • Erna Hollerbach • Gail Holmes • Larry Holmes • Maria J. Hurban • Joan Ingram • Ethel G. Ison • Irene Iverson •  Greta Jacobs • William Jacobson • Elaine Janssen • K.C. Jimenez • Tanya Johnson • Edith Jones • Roman Jurenka • Mary Jurenka • John Kaufman • Roger Kempler • Ellen Kempler • Laurie Kluge • Mary Konrath • Donna Krebs • Kathie Kuehn • Alice W. Lahtela • Sheila M. Lane • Thu Le • Susan Lee • Duane Legg • Carol Legg • Kimberly Legg • Johanna Lemos • Barbara Leonard •  John D. Leonard • Judy Lerner • Mary Leshure • David Levy • Danice Limberg • David A. Limberg • Riva Lippincott • Fred Locarnini • Lisa Locke • Dianne Lundquist • Joan Lyons • Robert Lyons • Anne Mai • Marie A. March • Ken L. March • David March • Donna March • Rose Margulieux • Julia Marko • Cy Marsden • Tom Mason • Lisa Masterson • Sherry McCallon • Joan McDavid • Pam McDonald • Mary Pat McEnrue • Joan McMahan • Glenda Mercado • Jeanne Michaels • Tamar Morris • Christine Munoz • Joan Naideth • Mona Nassimi • Lynda (Muffy) Nelson • Gina Nessel • David Vien Nguyen • John D. Nguyen • David Nugyen • Yvette Nord • Joan Nortel • Jeanne A. Oelstrom • Edward Parr • Robert Pettis • Kay Phillies • Michele Phillips • Michael Plean • Marcia Plean • David Reaux • Glenda Reaux • Lori C. Redelsheimer • Ann Reiner • Kameel Renner • Serene Rhodes • John Riordan • Karen Robinson • Merry Rossini • Nancy Ryder • Ann Sabina • Joe I. Sandoval • Gay Geiser Sandoval • Shirley Saturensky • Jean Savage • Fran M. Sawyer • Mary Beth Schipke • Nanci Schrieber-Smith • Stephen Schrieber-Smith • Charlotte Schroeder • Maryam Sedadi • Joy Shaikh • Marcy Shapiro • Barbara Sherman • Blanche V. Sibner • Carolyn M. Simmons • Peter Simmons • Linda Simpson • Eileen Simpson • Raymond Simpson • Sarah Siskind • Paul Sochat • Judy Sochat • Stephanie Solomon • Anita Soriano • Amy Sosa • Marilyn Spielberg • Richard Spielberg • Christine Stadelmann • Bonnie Steele • Julie Stein • Sheila Stewart • Bibe Stockman • Lane Straley • Ann Tack-McClure • Sandra Tauber-Rosen • Christine Tfaye • Libby (Sally) Thomas • Will Tran • Lolita Trausch • Perle Tropp • Lee Van Dyke • Ita Vandenbroek • Elizabeth Varo • Patricia Vega • Kathleen Vogel • Richard Vogl • Jackie Vorona • Sandra Walker • Lynn Wallace • Suzanne M. West • Peter Wetzel • Marte Williams • Patricia Wittenberg • Sidney Wittenberg • Christina Wu • Susan Yada • Sheree Yang •  Ricci Zinger.

*Usher list current as of Jan. 7, 2015.