Mr. Popper's Penguins
book by Robert Kauzlaric
music and lyrics by George Howe
based on the novel by Richard ​and Florence Atwater
directed and choreographed by Art Manke
November 4, 2016 - November 20, 2016

Mr. Popper's Penguins Logo

Mr. Popper loves Antarctic adventures. So he’s thrilled when a penguin named Captain Cook waddles out of a mysterious box on the doorstep. The zookeeper donates a female companion and soon—the patter of 20 baby penguin feet! They’ll sing and dance their way into everyone’s hearts in a musical version of the classic children’s book.

Previews: November 4-11, 2016
Regular Performances: November 12-20, 2016

Recommendation: Grades K-6. Theatre for Young Audiences … and Their Families is just that, a multi-generational experience for all ages (except children under the age of four and babes-in-arms). The only requirement is that each audience member occupies a seat and sits quietly through the performance while having a wonderful time. Mr. Popper’s Penguins contains strobe-light and fog effects.

Running Time: Theatre for Young Audiences performances are never more than 90 minutes.

Robert Kauzlaric (Book) is a Chicago-based playwright, actor, and director. He has written more than a dozen theatrical adaptations, which have been performed in nearly forty U.S. states, as well as in England, Ireland and Canada. His adaptations include The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards: Best Production-Play and New Adaptation), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: New Adaptation), Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (Non-Equity Jeff Award: New Adaptation), The Three Musketeers (commissioned for the 2010 Illinois Shakespeare Festival) and Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and The Woman in White. For children, Kauzlaric has written musical adaptations of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (called "one of the best children's shows of the year" by The New York Times), Peter Brown's Flight of the Dodo and Mo Willems' Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, as well as a fanciful twist on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, called Lions in Illyria.

George Howe (Music and Lyrics) is an award-winning composer/lyricist. His musicals include The Emperor's Groovy New Clothes, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, Sleeping Ugly, Brave Potatoes and a series of musicals based on the best-selling books by Doreen Cronin and Betsey Lewin; Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type; Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Duck For President; and Dooby Dooby Moo. His musical Queen Lucia won a 2006 Joseph Jefferson Citation for Best New Musical. Howe lives and works in the beautiful city of Chicago.

Richard & Florence Atwater (Authors). Richard Tupper Atwater (1892-1948) lived in Chicago and worked as a journalist, often writing humorous pieces for newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune. He wrote two books for children before beginning Mr. Popper's Penguins. Before he could finish the story, however, he became ill. His wife, Florence Hasseltine Atwater (1899-1979) finished the book, helping launch a story that has remained popular for generations. Together, they were honored with the 1939 Newbery Honor Award.

Learn more about the production, cast & creative team with a peek into the program. Read full artist bios, in-depth articles and more.

Scott McLean Harrison (Gentleman, Puppeteer). I should have known I would grow up to be an actor: I used to sneak off with the family video camera to make home movies of myself playing twins in “The Adventures of Scott and Frott.” (I’m guessing you didn’t see that series, eh?). However, I always thought I wanted to be an architect. But then I acted in the high school play and, well…I do believe it changed my mind! After that, I studied broadcast journalism at the University of Oklahoma before moving to New York City. I’ve done lots of TV, musicals and plays and have been able to perform all over North America. I’ve even worked with Disney and Nickelodeon, where I learned how to bring puppets to life by working with puppeteers from “Sesame Street.” Oh—and I just moved to your wonderful state a few months ago. Thank you for the sunshine!

​​Marlene Martinez (Mrs. Popper). As a little girl, I always was so excited to go to South Coast Repertory to see a matinee performance. Mostly because my parents would take me to McDonald's after the show... but also because I loved theatre! I would go home and practice all my favorite parts. So much so, that my mom would hide my tap shoes because they made too much 'noise'. I preferred to think of it as rhythmic music. Anyway, that didn't stop me. My life was a musical! I went on to study musical theatre and received my bachelor of fine arts from Cal State Fullerton. I even got to perform right here in Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Center for the Arts with the Broadway national tour of Mamma Mia! So keep on clicking your heels, with a shuffle ball change and time step, because it just might bring you back home!

Alex Miller (Mr. Popper). I am super excited to be back at SCR, where you may have seen me as James in James and the Giant Peach, the Prince in The Prince and the Pauper and Frog in A Year with Frog and Toad. Originally from chilly Chicago, I grew up performing in fun shows like Oliver, Pippin and Mame. I've also been on cool TV shows with my identical twin brother (yes, there are two of me!) like “Pushing Daisies” “Scare Tactics” and “Victorious.” Because I am a huge animal lover, my sister and I have an animal ambulance business and we help furry creatures in need. Much love to my family and friends and the newest Poppers, Jarvis and Giselle. Enjoy the show!

A.J. Sclafani (Mr. Johnson, Delivery Guy, Barber, Reporter, Policeman, Bus Driver, Theater Manager, Sven Svenson, Admiral Drake, Puppeteer). Hi, I’m A.J. and when I was little, I would pretend to be a ninja or a secret agent and I would fight the imaginary bad guys who were hiding throughout my house. I hoped that I would be able to be a clown or a ninja or a commando when I grew up; now that I’m an actor, I get to be all those things and more! I’ve been a knight, a jester, a cat, a monster and everything in-between in my years of acting! I grew up in Mission Viejo, but I’ve lived in San Diego, as well as Virginia, where I earned two masters degrees in Shakespeare. In addition to being an actor, I’m also a college professor. I hope you enjoy the show!

​Miles Taber (Radio Announcer, Puppeteer). Hi! How are you today? I hope you didn't answer that out loud, because I probably can't hear you. Especially if the play is happening right now—people can be touchy about talking during plays. I've been puppeteering for a pretty long time, and accidentally getting people to talk during plays for a very short time. I often puppeteer with a group called Rogue Artists Ensemble, but you can also see me puppeteering marine animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Izzy the Piranha Plant on the "Play Nintendo Show" web series. Penguins are pretty great, aren't they? Don't answer that one out loud, either. We both know the answer is yes, anyway.

​​​Nicole Weber (​Mrs. Callahan, Curator, Passenger, Mr. Greenbaum, Copper, Puppeteer). My first part in a play was in second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Macmillan, asked me to play the role of a beetle with a golden coat. I guess you could say I was bit by the acting bug, because I’ve loved it ever since! My family moved a lot when I was a kid, so I also love to travel. I've lived in seven different states, including California where I attended the Academy for the Performing Arts, a performing arts high school here in Orange County. After high school, I went on to get my bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Texas, Arlington, and have continued to travel and act ever since! I’ve been in some films and TV shows, but mostly act in plays and have been able to perform in places like San Francisco, New York and even Edinburgh, Scotland. I hope you enjoy our show!
Creative Team
Art Manke (Director) grew up in Chicago, where he produced and directed his first play at the age of 11 in his best friend’s garage. He continued to act, sing, dance and direct his way through high school, and was a theatre major in college; later, he studied acting in graduate school at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. After moving to Los Angeles, he co-founded a classical theatre company called A Noise Within. Since then, he has directed many plays at SCR, including Peter and the Starcatcher. For television, he has directed several shows including “Hannah Montana.”

Alby Potts (Musical Director) loves music. He began playing his first instrument in elementary school and knew right away he wanted to be a professional musician. He got his first paying musical job in the eighth grade and has been working ever since. Alby's first piano teacher taught lessons in her house, which her husband had built by hand around a gigantic tree. He made it out of found lumber, stones and junk and kept the tree trunk and lower branches in the living room. He had two grand pianos and the roof leaked when it rained, but nobody seemed to mind. Alby wrote a piano concerto at the age of 13 and his great junior high music teacher, "RO," let Alby perform it with the school orchestra. Teachers who encourage their students are the best! It makes a difference for the rest of your life, just like discipline and practicing. Enjoy the show!

Keith Mitchell (Scenic Design) returns to SCR, where he designed Anastasia Krupnick, Junie B. Jones and A Little Monkey Business, Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells Batman Smells! and Ben and the Magic Paintbrush. Yeah, mostly shows with really long titles! He has designed sets for plays at many of the theatres in Los Angeles and around Southern California. He enjoys painting and recently illustrated a book, written by his friend JoAnn Dickinson, called I Love to Go Camping. Keith is an artistic associate of Rogue Artists Ensemble, a theatre group that makes shows with puppets, and he also is an Emmy Award-winning commercial art director. He spends his free time in a cabin that he shares with a bat, a tribe of chipmunks and a cadre of lizards. He is a University of Southern California Trojan alumnus, a member of the United Scenic Artists, Local 829 and the Art Directors Guild, Local 800.

Angela Balogh Calin (Costume Design) is very excited to be back at SCR and to collaborate with director Art Manke again. She has designed costumes and/or sets at SCR for 14 Theatre for Young Audiences shows and more than 35 other productions including Abundance, The Whipping Man, Peter and the Starcatcher, Rest, The Whale, The Trip to Bountiful, Circle Mirror Transformation and Ordinary Days among others. She also designed sets and costumes for more than 60 productions for Denver Center Theatre Company, A Noise Within, Milwaukee Repertory, The Old Globe, Pasadena Playhouse, Georgia Shakespeare and many local theatres and in her native Romania. She has worked extensively in film and television in the U.S. and Romania, having design credits with I.R.S. Media, Cannon Films, PBS, Full Moon Entertainment and Romanian Films. She graduated with an MFA in set and costume design from the Academy of Arts in Bucharest.

Josh Epstein (Lighting Design) has been working as a lighting designer for 16 years. In college at the University of Chicago, he studied political science and did theatre as a hobby. Although he always loved the performing arts, it wasn’t until he moved to New York and got his MFA from NYU that his career really got started. Now he travels the country and designs lighting for shows from coast to coast. In Los Angeles, where Josh lives, he has worked at such places as the Mark Taper Forum, Pasadena Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theater and Geffen Playhouse. In addition to designing, he also teaches lighting at UCLA. When he isn’t working, Josh loves to spend every free moment with his wife and three daughters.

Michael K. Hooker (Sound Design) is based here in Orange County. He actually started working with audio in elementary school because none of his teachers knew how to set up the cafeteria sound system. He now loves sound design as a career because very few people really know what it means. If he does a good job, you probably will hear every note and word in this wonderful show. He is most proud of the many shows he designed for Walt Disney Imagineering, all of which are in faraway Disneylands located in Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. He is a professor of sound design at the University of California, Irvine.

Sean T. Cawelti (​Puppet Design) was just three years old when he convinced his parents to buy him his first puppet at a swap meet in Orange County. Growing up, he was inspired by movies that told stories using puppets and he now is a professional puppet designer and director. He studied theatre at UC, Irvine and studied puppetry at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Sean is the artistic director for Rogue Artists Ensemble in Los Angeles, a theatre company dedicated to telling new stories with puppets, masks and media. He is the Center Theatre Group’s 2015 Sherwood Award recipient and has won awards for directing, designing things and for writing. Sean is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.

Roxana Khan (Stage Manager) was an evil witch in a play a long time ago. After a while, she realized she like being backstage quite a lot more. As a young girl, she took classes at SCR, and is so happy that she gets to work here as an adult. As a stage manager, she gets to help everyone on stage by making sure that everything going on backstage happens just right. She and her team work together to orchestrate the scenery, costumes, props, music or anything else you see or hear on stage. She went to school in California and England and has been able to work as a stage manager up and down the west coast, mostly at a big theatre in the forest of Oregon called the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this productions are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Puppeteers Miles Taber, A.J. Sclafani and Scott McLean Harrison with Alex Miller and Marlene Martinez in 'Mr. Popper's Penguins.' Photo by Debora Robinson.
Puppeteers Scott McLean Harrison, Nicole Weber, A.J. Sclafani and Miles Taber with Marlene Martinez, center, in 'Mr. Popper's Penguins.' Photo by Debora Robinson.
Nicole Weber, Alex Miller and Marlene Martinez in 'Mr. Popper's Penguins.' Photo by Debora Robinson.
Alex Miller, puppeteers Miles Taber and Scott McLean Harrison and Marlene Martinez in 'Mr. Popper's Penguins.' Photo by Debora Robinson.
Alex Miller and Marlene Martinez, front center with puppeteers Miles Taber and A.J. Sclafani in​ 'Mr. Popper's Penguins.' Photo by Debora Robinson.
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From the Blog
The AtwatersThe Poppers and the Penguins: A Perfect Team
Teamwork by husband-and-wife writers Richard and Florence Atwater resulted in the popular book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Find out more about the Atwaters and Mr. more
Sean and the Penguin PuppetsTwenty-Four Puppets in the Wings for Mr. Popper’s Penguins
The puppets in Mr. Popper’s Penguins—two-dozen of them—come from the creative mind of designer Sean T. Cawelti, who was first drawn to the art form as a child. read more
The Penguin(s) That Changed LivesThe Penguin(s) That Changed Lives
Generations have loved the story of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Need a refresher on it? Read it more

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