• Inhuman Architecture

    by 
    John Glore
     | Apr 28, 2017
    The Monster Builder Cast

    THE CAST: ​Colette Kilroy, Annie Abrams, Aubrey Deeker, Danny Scheie, Susannah Schulman Rogers and Gareth Williams in The Monster Builder.

    Amy Freed

    ​Playwright Amy Freed.

    The plot of Amy Freed’s satirical comedy, The Monster Builder, hinges on the fate of a decaying boathouse, hidden away in a city park. The city planners are of a mind to tear the old boathouse down, but Dieter and Rita, a husband-and-wife architect team with their own little boutique firm, have put forward a proposal to preserve it. They have in mind a respectful, restorative design that will retain all the vernacular charm and simple serenity of the original, while fortifying it and reclaiming it as a gathering place for the community.

    As the play begins, Rita and Dieter have been invited to the home of world-renowned “starchitect” Gregor Zubrowski, whose designs proclaim his massive ego in audacious, irrational outbursts of post-postmodern excess. His own house is a prime example: it’s made almost entirely of glass, a fact that Gregor’s live-in trophy girlfriend, Tamsin, finds disconcerting—especially since there’s a fish camp nearby, filled with ogling anglers.

    Gregor’s architectural approach, with its disregard for social responsibility and human usefulness, goes against everything Dieter believes in, and he has no patience for Gregor’s self-aggrandizing posturing. But Rita is starstruck and at the first opportunity, eagerly tells Gregor about the boathouse project, hoping to impress him. She enthuses about the structure’s “special resonance,” its almost divine imperturbability.

    When Gregor learns that the boathouse is the work of a 19th-century architect named Josephus Van Eijk, he shows keen interest, perhaps even a kind of wary concern—and as soon as Rita and Dieter have left, Gregor is on the phone to the head of the planning commission to offer his own services for the boathouse project.

    Just why a world-famous architect who specializes in monumental edifices would be interested in the renovation of a quaint old boathouse is a question that perplexes both Dieter and Rita—but when Gregor invites Rita to join him on the project, she sets aside her concerns so as to take advantage of the career opportunity. Dieter, on the other hand, determines to get to the bottom of the mystery and, when he does, he’s stunned to learn the truth about Gregor, the designer of architectural monstrosities. Rita, meanwhile, falls further and further under Gregor’s spell.

    Two other characters figure importantly in Dieter’s plan to stop Gregor and save Rita from his corrupting influence. They are Pamela and Andy Rogers-Pandermint, a wealthy couple who have hired Rita and Dieter’s firm to remodel one of their many homes, “Casa Chateau.” Pam and Andy have fond memories of the old boathouse​—and Pam has a particular reason for hating Gregor and his work—so they agree to join Dieter in his mission to defeat the monster builder. But they may have underestimated their adversary, a miscalculation that could have dire consequences.

    In The Monster Builder, playwright Amy Freed gives vent to her own dismay at some of the trends in contemporary architecture, and her sense that our cities are being despoiled by the work of today’s starchitects. “I try to bring these concerns into a language that’s theatrical, that’s fun, that’s a little outrageous,” says Freed, “to provoke discussion and reaction.” The reactions the play provokes are likely to range from hilarity to a kind of delighted horror.

    The play appeared in a staged reading in the 2010 Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) under the title, Right to the Top, and marks Freed’s return to SCR after a long absence. Four previous Freed plays were commissioned by SCR and had their world premieres here: Freedomland (Segerstrom Stage, 1997), The Beard of Avon (Segerstrom, 2001), Safe in Hell (Segerstrom, 2004) and You, Nero (Argyros Stage, 2009). Her newest play, SHREW! (freely adapted from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), had readings in both the NewSCRipts series and PPF this season and is scheduled for production in the Segerstrom Stage in 2018.

    Directing The Monster Builder at SCR is Freed’s longtime friend and collaborator, Art Manke; early in their careers, the two were acting students together at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Manke, known to SCR audiences for his work on such productions as Peter and the Starcatcher, Noises Off and Taking Steps, helmed two previous stagings of The Monster Builder in Portland and Berkeley.

    Taking on the role of Gregor Zubrowski in SCR’s production is Danny Sheie, who also played the equally outrageous title role in SCR’s production of Freed’s You, Nero. More recently, Sheie was seen at SCR as Gareth, the beleaguered head waiter in One Man, Two Guvnors.

    Susannah Schulman-Rogers returns to SCR to play Rita, having previously appeared here in Three Days of Rain (2011), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2011), The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler and several annual productions of A Christmas Carol, among others. Playing opposite her as Dieter is Aubrey Deeker, making his SCR debut. Deeker has extensive national and international theatre credits as well as numerous television and film appearances.

    Rounding out the cast are Annie Abrams as Tamsin, Colette Kilroy as Pamela and Gareth Williams as Andy. Kilroy, among her many previous SCR appearances, played Mrs. Doakes in Freed’s Safe in Hell, while Williams appeared in SCR’s 1998 world premiere of Richard Greenberg’s Hurrah at Last. Abrams is making her first SCR appearance, apart from playing Bianca in the 2016 NewSCRipts reading of Freed’s SHREW!

    Read more about the cast of The Monster Builder here.

    The design team for Manke’s production includes longtime SCR collaborators Thomas Buderwitz (sets) and Angela Balogh Calin (costumes) who have each designed more than 20 productions at SCR. They are joined by Kent Dorsey (lights), who returns after having designed several SCR shows in the 1980s; and Rodolfo Ortega (original music and soundscape) making his SCR design debut.

    Learn more and buy tickets.

  • Role Call: Meet the Cast of "The Monster Builder"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 25, 2017

    The cast for Amy Freed’s The Monster Builder is built from new and returning SCR actors. Freed’s play—started out as a 2010 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading called Right to the Top—is the story of a ‘starchitect’ named Gregor who maneuvers his way into an historic restoration project, which is nearly locked up by young architects Rita and Dieter. While the young couple idolizes Gregor, they are shocked to find out his secret. The cast have their own favorite architects, iconic buildings and more.

    Abrams,-AnnieNAME: ​Annie Abrams

    Character: Tamsin
    About Tamsin: “She is a strong-willed, street-smart, ex-escort who has social-climbed her way into the arms of starchitect Gregor. She's a fighter.”
    Previous SCR: Debut.
    Theatre: Includes The Sunshine Boys (opposite Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch); Venus in Fur; Noises Off; Tickled Pink; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Private Lives; Lysistrata.
    Film & Television: Includes “True Blood;” “Major Crimes;” “How I Met Your Mother.”
    First play I saw: I was six years old and attending the Mirman School in Los Angeles. I saw the eighth-grade production of You Can't Take It With You. I was in awe of the "big kids" When they did this play, they became gods in my eyes because they were making people laugh. Especially the girl who played Essie, the terrible ballet dancer.
    Knew I wanted to be an actor when: A combination of moments while obsessively watching “I Love Lucy” every day after school when I was little.
    My favorite building: Notre-Dame de Paris
    My favorite architecture firm: Greene & Greene
    Elevator or stairs? Elevator.

    Deeker,-AubreyNAME: ​Aubrey Deeker

    Character: Dieter
    Previous SCR: Debut.
    Theatre: Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Liar (Classic Stage Company); Stacy Keach’s King Lear; The Liar; Hamlet; The Glass Meangerie; Angels in America; Boom; The Walwroth Farce; A Fox on the Fairway; The Grapes of Wrath; Crime and Punishment.
    Film & Television: “The Man in the High Castle;” “True Blood;” "Castle," “The Wire;” “The Mentalist;” “NCIS;” “NCIS: New Orleans;” Peter’s Plan; Distance; The Seer.”

     

    Kilroy,-ColetteNAME: Colette Kilroy

    Character: Pamela
    About Pamela: “She is a woman juggling her contradictions. She wants to have a positive impact on the world and seeks expression in designing her homes.”
    Previous SCR: Absurd Person Singular; Silent Sky; The Homecoming; Safe in Hell; Tom Walker; Dimly Perceived Threats to the System; The Triumph of Love and Night and Her Stars;
    Other Theatre: Lend Me a Tenor; Nighthawks; Quills; Life is a Dream; Julius Caesar; The Cherry Orchard; Measure for Measure; The Miser.
    Film & Television: Finding Amanda; Me and You and Everyone We Knew; David and Fatima; The Ice Storm; “Numb3rs;” “Married;” “Without a Trace.
    First play I saw: I saw the teleplay of “Cinderella.” When she sang “In My Own Little Corner,” where dreams and imagination can have full reign, I was hooked.
    Knew I wanted to be an actor when: Many moments kept drawing me in.
    My favorite building: The Musée Rodin had a powerful impact on me.
    Elevator or stairs? I take the stairs.

    Scheie,-DannyNAME: ​​Danny Scheie

    Character: Gregor
    About Gregor: “He is a visionary genius. And he knows it. Which can sometimes be a burden. He speaks German, Portuguese, and all of the Yugoslavics. He uses a defibrillator.
    Previous SCR: One Man, Two Guvnors; The Wind in the Willows; You, Nero.
    Theatre: Restoration Comedy; Tartuffe; California Shakespeare Theatre; Santa Cruz Shakespeare; Berkeley Repertory Theatre; The Old Globe; A Noise Within; Actors Theatre of Louisville; Pasadena Playhouse; Folger Theatre; Yale Repertory Theatre.
    First play I saw: It actually was Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. All I can remember is Cherubino, a boy played by a college girl.
    Knew I wanted to be an actor when: I saw Julie Andrews' entrance into Mary Poppins. And her exit. And when she sings to the snow globe about feeding the birds. And the chimneys. And the chimney sweeps. And those lucky British brats who stole my life!
    My favorite building: Julia Morgan's Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.
    My favorite architect: Mies van der Rohe
    Elevator or stairs? Stairs.

    Schulman-Rogers,-SusannahNAME: ​Susannah Schulman Rogers

    Character: Rita
    About Rita: “She is a kind person, a well-meaning person, who happens to have a yet-untapped well of ambition, steel and grit.”
    Previous SCR: Three Days of Rain, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Man from Nebraska; The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler; On the Mountain; Cyrano de Bergerac; The Dazzle; Nostalgia; The Taming of the Shrew; Six Degrees of Separation; A Christmas Carol.
    Theatre: All the Way (Broadway); You Will Remember Me; Picasso at the Lapin Agile (national tour).
    Film & Television: “Younger;” “Mr. Robot;” The Dairy of a Teenage Girl; Trouble.
    First play I saw: I vividly remember [John Patrick Shanley’s] Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. It blew my young teenage mind. I had never witnessed visceral emotion like that before.
    Knew I wanted to be an actor when: I saw Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.
    My favorite architectural work: I'm going to have go nice and classic: The Pyramids. I'm crazy about them!
    My favorite architect: Julia Morgan. I grew up in Berkeley, where she is huge. I love the wood and stone—her buildings are beautiful. I was in one of her buildings during the ‘89 earthquake; since the building was on rollers, it was like being on a roller board. Scary, but also strangely fun.
    Elevator or stairs? If I'm alone and it's under 10 floors, I'll take the stairs. Unless I'm carrying groceries.

    Williams,-GarethNAME: ​​Gareth Williams

    Character: Andy
    About Andy: “He is a self-made millionaire who came from extremely humble beginnings. He made his made his fortune designing and building replicas of ‘old European’ models for modern living. ​He got the idea while spending idle time at a community parks building with a lake, completely alone in his thoughts. He is insanely in love with the greatest gal in the world—Rita!”
    Previous SCR: Hurrah at Last.
    Theatre: Little Mary Sunshine; Signature; The Last Vig; The Stand In.
    Film & Television: Love After Love; 20th Century Women; “This Is Us;” Masters of Sex; “The Mentalist;” “Deadwood.”
    First play I saw: A college production of Spring Awakening and it was, I believe, the first production that I was in. My only function was to dispense fog, via a dry ice machine, onto the stage and it felt like the most significant thing in the world. In my 36 years in this business, very few things have ever felt as magical.
    Knew I wanted to be an actor when: I watched from the pinrail when David Holliday performed Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha at The Burt Reynolds Theatre in South Florida. I realized that he could put the audience wherever he wanted them, at will, each and every night. I watched his performance over the course of six weeks and thought; "I might not be able to do that, but perhaps I could learn!"
    My favorite architectural work: The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Spain). Although it looks strikingly similar to his Disney Hall in Los Angeles, it's in... well... you know... Bilbao, Spain!
    My favorite architect: I shudder to say this, for fear of being fired from this production, but... Frank Lloyd Wright. I say this because, although not a connoisseur of architectural design by any stretch, I find much of modern architecture sterile, austere, aesthetically pleasing but completely unpleasing to exist in. Mr. Wright's designs are, to me, not only stunning to look at, but inviting to be a part of​—Fallingwater the greater of examples. Having seen it, it would be a place I would love to live in.
    Elevator or stairs? It would depend entirely on just how many floors I would have to ascend. But, typically, the stairs.

    Learn more and buy tickets.

  • Conservatory Student Shines On Stage and in Marketing Work

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 25, 2017
    wings1_topper

    Artist Grace Tomblin Marca, conservatory student, creating show art for Teen Players production.

    wings2_web

    Artwork in process.

    wings3_web

    Grace creating show art.

    Grace Tomblin Marca is wearing a few more hats for the spring Teen Players production. In addition to being an actor, she also has designed the artwork used to market the show.

    Now a junior at the Waldorf School of Orange County High School, Grace started classes in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory as an eighth-grader. Over the next few years, she progressed through the teen acting program, adding classes such as musical theatre. For the past two years, she has been a member of the Teen Players, a performance ensemble whose members have been chosen by audition after at least two years in the Theatre Conservatory’s year-round actor training program.

    “Being a part of the Teen Players is absolutely incredible,” Grace says, adding that she loves every minute of it. “We are very close-knit and the friendship of these people really means a lot to me.”

    “Grace is such a talented visual artist, I was really excited to give her the opportunity to speak for both the story and for the ensemble through her art,” says Takakuwa. “ She was so wonderfully positive about the entire experience, constructively taking input, offering strong and confident ideas.  I’m thrilled for and proud of her!  She really found a strong and evocative image and mood to convey both what the show is about and our approach to it.”

    The next Teen Players production is Mary Zimmerman’s The Secret in the Wings (May 13-21, 2017, Nicholas Studio). It’s the story of Jamie, who—on a dark and stormy evening—is left in the care of her neighbor. But is Mr. Ficcadenti just an unusual man with a tale to tell or an actual ogre with a tail, as Jamie fears? This highly theatrical exploration of lesser known and darker folk tales examines the timeless themes of family, love, transformation and redemption. Jamie learns the powerful possibility of “Once Upon a Time”…and that not every person—or story—is exactly as it may first appear.

    “It’s a strong ensemble piece,” Grace explains. “And Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa has done a wonderful job of utilizing each of the players' individual talents and gifts.”

    Grace brings an additional artistry to the production—painting—because she created the show art that helps to market the play. In this Q&A, she talks about creating the art, working in the show and learning at SCR.

    Tell us about the art work you created for The Secret in the Wings.

    The painting I created is acrylic on paper. When Hisa [Takakuwa] asked me to do the postcard image, I was so excited I did a happy dance​! I started by drawing every idea that popped into my head. I had a few meetings with Hisa and Ben Horak, SCR’s associate graphic designer, and we decided on an image concept and color scheme. The idea behind the image was to use two objects, the rose and the chair, which are used in the play by the characters of Jamie and Mr. Ficcadenti. The rose growing out of the chair represents the love and compassion that prevails even in the rough circumstances that many of the characters find themselves in. The play is set in a basement that doubles as a forest, so the tree and the light bulb are there to allude to that notion. The feathers strewn around the chair are the feathers of the Seven Swans, which represent personal growth and evolution, which is another theme of the play.

    What have you enjoyed most about being in Players productions?

    ​We have a chance to apply what we are learning in class to a show that is treated like a professional production. The shows test our skills and our stamina, and we learn what it's like to work in a production with professionals who are truly top notch.  As for our production of The Secret in the Wings, it is a strong ensemble piece and Hisa has done a wonderful job of utilizing each of the players' individual talents and gifts. 

    What’s the best thing about acting classes at SCR?

    There are so many things I enjoy but, most of all, I love the sense of trust that each person brings. Acting can be intimidating and scary, as I am constantly trying to expand my comfort zone. The environment at SCR is one of total safety, and it allows me to take bigger risks and be more creative without worrying about being perfect all the time. 

    How have the acting classes helped you most?

    I am very comfortable with public speaking now and my writing has greatly improved from studying words and learning why and how words are spoken. I also find that I am more confident and outgoing than I used to be, and I credit that to SCR. 

    What’s the best part of SCR’s Theatre Conservatory?

    Being able to work with all the talented and wonderful people here is the thing I find most fun. The level of talent is so high, that every day I am more impressed and inspired. I really enjoy the collaboration and teamwork that happens at every rehearsal—whether it's figuring out five ways to show flight or huddling around a piano and creating harmonies we could use in our songs, there is nothing lonely about this process and I love that. 

    Find out more about acting classes for kids and teens at SCR.
    Find out about the 2017 Summer Acting Workshop.
    Learn more about The Secret in the Wings and buy tickets.

  • The Life and (SCR) Times of Playwright Donald Margulies

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 21, 2017
    Long Lost PPF rehearsal

    From left to right: Playwright Donald Margulies, Dramaturg Jerry Patch, Stage Directions Reader Travis McLean, actor Steven Culp, director Casey Stangl, actors Jon Tenney and Dana Delany and ​Production Assistant Colby Sostarich in rehearsal for the 2017 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Margulies' Long Lost.

    Margulies at SCR

    Donald Margulies

    • Sight Unseen (SCR commission: 1989 NewSCRipts reading; 1991 production; 2012 production)
    • Collected Stories (SCR commission: 1995 NewSCRipts reading; 1996 production; 2009 production)
    • Dinner with Friends (1998 production)
    • God of Vengeance (1999 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading)
    • Brooklyn Boy (SCR commission: 2003 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading; 2004 production)
    • Shipwrecked! An Entertainment (ISCR commission: 2007 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading; 2007 production)
    • Long Lost (2017 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading)

    While Playwright Donald Margulies first came to South Coast Repertory’s Pacific Playwrights Festival in its second year (1999), for the reading of God of Vengeance, his relationship with the theatre started much earlier—with Sight Unseen (world premiere at SCR, 1991; off-Broadway, 1992; on Broadway, 2004; SCR revival, 2012) and strengthened through the years. In 2017, he returned to PPF for the festival’s 20th year and the staged reading of his latest play, Long Lost.

    Theatre was ever-present for Brooklyn-born Margulies, thanks to his parents, who took the family to see countless plays. But it was his strong childhood talent for drawing that first guided his education and he started to study graphic design at college. As time went on, he took to reading great literature and writing and then transferred to another college where an influential professor set Margulies on the course of his life.

    In a wide-ranging conversation on the eve of PPF, Margulies talked about influences in his life, his writing process and more.

    Tell us about your early influences—for both theatre and writing.

    My parents introduced my brother and me to Broadway at a pretty early age. The first play that I ever saw was Herb Gardner’s A Thousand Clowns, when I was nine years old. It was just a seminal experience. But I didn’t become an actor, and I didn’t become a writer right away. When I was a young child, I was very good at drawing, which more or less determined the course of my education and my identity. I first went to the Pratt Institute, but was kind of restless there and I increasingly became interested in reading literature and writing, so I ended up transferring schools. When I was an art student at Purchase College, I began a one-on-one playwriting tutorial with Jay Novick, a drama critic, who became my first mentor and my first champion. He was unequivocal in his enthusiasm and he had a really tremendous impact on my life.

    Was there a specific moment with him that was life-changing?

    I think it was when he evaluated the first semester that we worked together; it was one of those standard questionnaires that the teacher gets to fill out. On a “Do you recommend that this student continue in this genre?”-type question, he wrote “YES”—with about five exclamation points. Those five exclamation points mean a lot to a 20 year old, so that was very significant.

    What plays changed your life?

    I would say there were three significant plays. One was A Thousand Clowns. Another was seeing Death of a Salesman—the Lee J. Cobb production—on television when I was about 11 years old. And the final was rediscovering Our Town when I was an adult. It is one of the great American plays and it was a play I didn’t fully appreciate until I was in my 30s. I teach it every year and I marvel at every time.

    You mention teaching—how do your students help you learn?

    I love teaching and I’ve been doing it for 26 years. One of the joys of teaching is that you get to share works with your students that inspired you and I think it’s a very useful pursuit to try to convey to students what you found inspiring. And in communicating that, you get to re-experience it vicariously through them. That, for me, is very meaningful and very refreshing, and it keeps you honest.

    When you’re in the process of getting ready to write a play, what do you return to as a kind of “palette cleanser”?

    Well for me, it’s Our Town. Most people are exposed to Our Town when they’re children or middle-schoolers and usually they see some sort of hackneyed production. It’s a wonderful play to teach to young people—to reintroduce them to something they may have been cynical about or dismissed as sentimental, Normal Rockwell Americana. I like to convey to them the artistry and the kind of radical nature of this play and put it in the proper context—nobody was doing what Thornton Wilder was doing in playwriting at that time. So for me, Our Town really is a kind of palette cleanser because it just gets the juices flowing again.

    Your first PPF reading was God of Vengeance—what memories do you have of that?

    It was such an enjoyable experience and we had a really good time working on it. It was the biggest play I that I had ever written and it was just great fun to see it on the stage here—with so many bodies on stage!

    And now, it’s 18 years later—the 20th festival.

    I’m thrilled that I had a new play to bring to the 20th PPF. Long Lost began as a commission from Nashville Repertory Theatre as part of their Ingram New Works Festival almost two years ago. I like accepting commissions because they give me the impetus to move forward and write a new play. It means a lot to me to know that people are waiting for my next play. Last year, Daniel Sullivan, the director with whom I’ve worked numerous times over the last 20 years, brought me out to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he teaches, to work on ​Long Lost. We rehearsed it for two or three weeks and played it for two weeks, which gave me a chance to see it. John Glore [SCR associate artistic director, PPF co-director] came out to see it and said, “We’d love to have you [at PPF], if you’d want to come back to SCR with it.”  

    What was the inspiration point for Long Lost?

    My plays always come from something that’s kind of eating away at me. I was processing a friendship that had imploded and that informed this play tremendously. And, of course, in looking for ways to raise stakes, I made the characters of Billy and David brothers, and not friends.

    Let’s wrap up with your thoughts about SCR’s place in the American theatre landscape.

    South Coast Repertory was really at the forefront of the regional theatre movement and has spearheaded this play commissioning program. SCR has a really keen sense of burgeoning talent. Look at the people they’ve plucked out of obscurity and ​given commissions that led to breakthroughs. That happened for me when I was not yet a nationally known playwright in the late ‘80s​: I received my first commission from SCR that became my breakthrough in 1991 and the year after. I think it all attests to this theatre’s very a stout sense of talent and that has been a model for theatres all over the country.

    The PPF reading of Long Lost is at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, April 21, 2017. For information about the festival and to purchase tickets, go here.

  • "Yoga Play"—Comedy in the Quest for Meaning and Happiness

    by 
    John Glore
     | Apr 18, 2017
    Yoga Play Logo
    Discussion with Dipika

    Playwright Dipika Guha talks about Yoga Play.

    Dipika Guha’s Yoga Play is a provocative comedy that derives ample humor from the collision of personal authenticity and spiritual well-being with the drive for corporate success.

    Jojomon, a company that manufactures high-end yoga apparel and accoutrements, has a new CEO. Joan was brought in after the previous CEO gave the company a public-relations black eye by blaming the unfortunate transparency of their most recent line of yoga pants on the size of women’s thighs. It turns out fat-shaming is not a good marketing strategy.

    Joan has some ideas about how to redeem the company’s reputation ​and—and in truth, she needs some professional redemption herself, after a breakdown cost her her previous executive position with an international coffeehouse chain. Working with Jojomon execs Raj and Fred, Joan convinces the company’s chairman to let her begin manufacturing their apparel in larger sizes, arguing that this will spread yogic joy to a whole new clientele and will convince the existing Jojomon “family” of customers that the company doesn’t disregard anyone based on their body type.

    Everything seems to be going exceptionally well for Joan and Jojomon, until another scandal breaks—and the company may never recover from this new public-relations nightmare unless Joan, Raj and Fred can come up with a rescue plan immediately.

    Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but the scheme Joan concocts (and coerces her colleagues to participate in) is extreme. It will require Raj to come face-to-face with an identity crisis that has been quietly brewing for some time, stemming from the fact that, while he is of South Asian heritage, he grew up in the U.S. and has no connection to the language and culture of his motherland. But now Joan needs him to become an expert in all things Hindu​—fast—and she’ll stop at nothing to ensure his cooperation.

    The play’s comedy at times explodes into out-and-out farce​—but it’s farce with a heart, because ultimately Guha wants us to care about the characters and their quests for meaning and happiness. She understands that we all sometimes feel as though we’re living in a farce amid the craziness of today’s world—and that maybe the cure for all that craziness must be found within rather than from outside ourselves.

    Guha wrote Yoga Play with a commission from SCR’s CrossRoads Initiative. In keeping with the CrossRoads methodology, she began her work on the play by coming to SCR for an immersive residency, to investigate the Orange County community and aspects of the local culture. She was interested in exploring California as a longtime destination for spiritual seekers, a kind of Shangri-la for people hoping to find inner peace and happiness; and in particular she was intrigued with the proliferation of the yoga phenomenon in California.

    Guha was born and spent some of her childhood in India​—the birthplace of yoga—where her school day included yoga exercises. But she had never taken any yoga in America until she came to Orange County. Her residency included visits to several different yoga studios, where she quickly learned that yoga as practiced in the U.S. is quite different from the instruction she received as a schoolgirl, which had been more like calisthenics and had little or no transcendental purpose.

    While the primary pursuit of most California yogis may be flexibility and physical fitness, many are also drawn to the promise of spiritual well-being (or at least a kind of New-Age version of it), which was the original aim of traditional yoga, when it arose from Hindu religious beliefs some 3,000 years ago.

    At the same time, Californians have become enamored of such non-traditional yoga paraphernalia as yoga balls, yoga mats, yoga blocks, yoga pants, yoga videos, etc – which can cost hundreds of dollars. The commercialization of yoga seemingly knows no bounds in America, where the industry that has grown up around this spiritual/physical practice generates more than $10 billion a year.

    That intersection of spirituality and commodification, Hinduism and capitalism, fascinated Guha, as did some of the yoga practitioners she encountered during her residency, who seemed to embody the contradictions of a practice that began in ancient South Asia but has been enthusiastically embraced in a whole new way in the new world.

    SCR’s world premiere of Yoga Play takes the stage in the intimate Nicholas Studio as one of three productions in the 20th Pacific Playwrights Festival. The director is Crispin Whittell, whose work was last seen here when he staged Adam Rapp’s The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois, also in the Nicholas.

    The cast includes longtime SCR favorite Nike Doukas in the role of Joan. Doukas was last seen here earlier this season when she played Ladybird Johnson in All the Way. She is joined by Jeff Marlow (George Wallace in the same production of All the Way), who plays the chairman of Jojomon and also another surprise character. In the role of Raj is Dileep Rao, returning to SCR after appearing in Joe Hortua’s Making It on the Argyros Stage in 2002. Raj’s sidekick, Fred, is played by Tim Chiou, making his SCR debut. Lorena Martinez, also making her SCR debut, plays a series of on- and offstage roles, most prominently a yoga teacher named Romola who is recruited to help Joan with her plan to save Jojomon. Learn more about the cast of Yoga Play here.

    The design team comprises Se Hyen Oh, scenic design; Kathryn Poppen, costume design; Adam J. Frank, lighting design; Cricket S. Myers, sound design; Lianne Arnold, projection design.

    Learn more and buy tickets.