Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hot Off the Press—Gala Entertainment Update

Tracy Kirwan and Sarah McElroy
SCR Associate Artistic Director John Glore and Gala Executive Chair Sally J. Anderson
Audrey Greenfield and Barbara Cline
Cuisine, Decor & Entertainment and Hospitality Committee member Jane Taylor shows off a dinner napkin.
There’ll be music galore during SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala at The Westin South Coast Plaza on Sept. 10. Here’s the scoop from the Gala Committee’s June luncheon meeting.
  • A lively ensemble … to provide the beat for the Galleria reception.
  • A big band … to entice guests into the ballroom.
  • A hip DJ … to select dinner tracks
Later, the band will be back—for dancing the evening away. And for those who linger into the wee hours, the DJ won’t leave until the last note has sounded.

Musical names are still under wraps, but the Gala Committee is ready to announce the big entertainment news—SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala headliner will be Nicole Parker, “MADtv” and Wicked star (and SCR Theatre Conservatory grad).

She’ll sing, of course, do a little standup, as is her wont, and reminisce about the years at South Coast Repertory, where she got her start as a member of the Young Conservatory Players.

“I believe my entire childhood was shaped by SCR,” Parker says, “starting with classes when I was seven years old until my last show at age 12. Those were truly formative years.” And they are years filled with fascinating memories that Parker will share when she headlines the SCR Gala.

Meanwhile, SCR Associate Artistic Director John Glore joined the Gala luncheon to fill everyone in on Nicole’s career and share some memories of his own. They include the first time he saw her in rehearsal for Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places, which Glore wrote for the Young Conservatory’s 10th anniversary.

“I had limited expectations for a nine-year-old actress, especially one who hadn’t even completed SCR’s Young Conservatory training, so I was astonished when Nicole took on the lead role in my play," Glore relates. "She was like this pint-sized professional, entirely natural on-stage while also projecting a huge personality and heart in the role. What a gift she was to me in my first venture as a playwright, and again in the follow-up a year later. I certainly wasn’t surprised when she went on to stardom on television and on Broadway.”

Learn all about Parker here.

From Kimberly Kay to Elphaba to Fanny Brice—Nicole Parker Comes Home to SCR as Gala Headliner

Parker gets a lift in Wind of a Thousand Tales
Nicole Parker, who will headline SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala on Sept. 10, was nine years old when she wowed audiences as Kimberly Kay in the Young Conservatory Players production of Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places. She was a dynamo then, and she hasn’t stopped for a minute. That talent, energy and pizzazz is what made Parker a hit on the wildly popular "MADtv," where she was a regular and contributing writer for six years.

More recently, she won the coveted Ovation Award for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at 3-D Theatricals and portrayed Bea in Rolin Jones’ These Paper Bullets! at Atlantic Theater Company off-Broadway and L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse.

If you traveled to New York City during the Wicked phenomenon, you may have seen her as Elphaba in that hit musical, but if you didn’t catch her then, she repeated the role in Wicked’s first national tour.

But let’s go back to where it all began, during her first year of training, at the Young Conservatory recital. According to Parker, “That’s when I decided I wanted to do this for a living. The moment happened when I sang a song as the comic character Little Lulu. I remember hearing the audience laughing and thinking, ‘Oh, I definitely want this for the rest of my life. Done.’”

In the late ’80s, Parker was on every stage at SCR, playing Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol; a Russian boy scout (!) in Highest Standard of Living; and Reverend Parris’ daughter, Betty, in The Crucible.

“That play really was life changing,” Parker says. “Even though I was only in the first scene (and spent most of it in bed, because supposedly Betty has been ‘touched’), the scene was long, and it was amazing to listen to those incredible actors every night. At only 10 years old, I was aware of The Crucible’s success. It felt special, and it was crucial for me to witness what it was to be a professional working actor.”

After her scene, Parker could have gone home, but she stayed every night, sitting in a little chair near the tech booth to watch the courtroom scene.

In Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places, Parker had more than one scene; in fact, as Kimberly Kay, she was in all of them. SCR Literary Manager John Glore (now associate artistic director) wrote the play—his first—and isn’t paltry with his praise, saying, “The first time I saw Nicole onstage, I knew she was going to be a star.”

That sentiment was recently echoed by Kris Hagen, who served for many years as SCR’s Conservatory manager. Hagen played Gramma in Wind of a Thousand Tales and remembers the first day of rehearsal—for good reason. “Nicole came to rehearsal knowing all of her lines,” Hagen says. “And the lines of all the other characters! She wasn’t being boastful, just natural, as if that’s what everyone did. She was a little girl with a big voice and a charming personality. And, yes, she exuded energy!”

In those days, newspapers reviewed all the shows, even those “for kids, by kids,” as the Players deemed their productions. Los Angeles Times critic Lynne Heffley gave Wind of a Thousand Tales a rave review and called Parker “irresistible.”

Years later, StageSceneLA called her performance in Funny Girl, “Dazzling…(She’s) a comedienne who can sing, dance and act every bit as spectacularly as she can make you laugh.”

Her next stop? (Well, maybe not the next stop; she’ll no doubt be onstage or on TV between now and then.) But count on her appearance Sept. 10 at SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala. She’ll sing, for sure. And maybe she’ll also talk about how she got her start—here at SCR.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Special Guests at Summer Acting Workshop

Sara Guerrero, one of the Summer Acting Workshops daily instructors, leads students in movement exercises.
Want to give your kids something fun to do this summer? Looking for arts camp options at family-friendly prices?  SCR’s Summer Acting Workshop is a theatre camp for young people, primarily those who are new to SCR’s Conservatory. We work with many experience levels and age groups, from 8-18, grades 3-12. The purpose of the camp is to learn the process of making theatre in a challenging and fun environment. Students work on acting tools—voice, body, imagination—to improve their individual creativity, confidence, and ability to work and communicate effectively with others.

Instructor Diana Burbano works with a student
on musical theatre.
Each day of the 10-day session starts with a quick camp-wide warm up to promote energy and focus.  Then, for two hours, students break into peer groups (grades 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12) of no more than 18 students for interactive instruction in voice, movement, character development and more, led by SCR’s veteran staff of theatre professionals. The final hour is spent with special guests who bring to life various aspects of theatre, like improvisation, combat, singing and playwriting—something different every day.  Finally, at the end of the two weeks, there is an open classroom presentation of what’s been learned.

Here's a look at the special guests who will visit visit the class throughout the week. All these experienced teaching artists have links to SCR, both past and present. Here’s a little bit about them, what they’ll be teaching, and how they’re connected to SCR:

  • Playwriting will be taught by award-winning playwright Kristina Leach, who worked at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. SCR Connection: Kristina was formerly on SCR’s literary staff and is current Conservatory faculty member.

  • Putting it Together (the process of putting together a show: casting, theatrical design, rehearsal, performance) will be taught by Patrick Williams. SCR Connection: Patrick was once a stage management intern here at SCR.

  • Mask & Physical Acting will be taught by Emily Heebner, who received her MFA from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and has acted in many national tours and regional theatres.  SCR connections: Heebner has performed in The Diviners and is an Adult Conservatory faculty memeber.

  • Improvisation will be taught by two familiar SCR faculty members. Chris Sullivan is one of the founding artists of the Modjeska Playhouse, as well as a trained clown, competitive improviser and ship captain (who appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean, thanks to his skills). Amy-Louise Sebelius received her MFA from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and currently teaches at Lakewood High School, while staying active as a director and performer in Long Beach. SCR Connections: Sullivan is a graduate of SCR’s Acting Intensive Program, and Sebelius regularly teaches in the Conservatory.

  • Musical Theatre will be taught by SCR regulars Tom Shelton and Diana Burbano. SCR Connection: Both Tom and Diana have regularly graced SCR’s stages: Burbano in Theatre for Young Audiences productions, and Shelton in more than 15 productions.

  • Instructor Richard Soto works with a student on stage combat.
  • Stage Combat will be taught by Richard Soto, an actor, producer, writer, stunt performer and stage manager.  SCR Connection: Soto spent 11 seasons at SCR as Young Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol!

  • Movement will be taught by Mercy Vasquez, who received her dramatic training at UCLA, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and King’s College in London. For several years, she served as the program director for Voices Unheard at Greenway Arts Alliance in LA. SCR Connection: Vasquez is the Junior Players director (she recently directed The Witches), an actor in previous SCR productions (Our Town), and a graduate of the Acting Intensive Program.

  • Mime will be taught by Deborah Marley, who has experience teaching dance and movement all over the country, including at Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and at Vanguard University. SCR Connection: She started in SCR’s Conservatory classes when she was 8 years old and went all the way through until she graduated at 16! 

Sound like fun? Make sure your kids don’t miss out. There are four sessions this summer: July 30 - August 11 and August 13 - August 25, each with a morning and afternoon option. Enroll online now or call (714) 708-5577 to enroll now!