John Maclay is a playwright who specializes in adapting works for young audiences. His plays and musicals include Goosebumps the Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium (with Danny Abosch), Geronimo Stilton: Mouse in Space, Just a Little Critter Musical (with Brett Ryback), Nancy Drew and Her Biggest Case Ever (with Jeff Frank), Anatole (with Lee Becker and James Valcq) and a new version of Robin Hood (with Joe Foust). His upcoming projects include writing words for the new musical, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, and a new play about Greek mythology. In addition to a busy schedule as playwright and adaptor of literature for the stage, Maclay proudly serves as director of artistic development at First Stage in Milwaukee, Wis., one of America’s largest and most respected theatres for young audiences. Maclay has been working with First Stage in one form or another since 2000 and has directed or appeared in more than 25 First Stage productions (from classics to world premieres), as well as having produced more than 50 productions for the First Stage high school programs. His work as an actor or director has also been seen at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, Defiant Theatre, Bunny Gumbo, Bialystock and Bloom, Skylight Opera Theatre and others. When not doing all of that, he is busy teaching theatre at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
Brett Ryback is an actor, composer/lyricist, and playwright based in LA. He is the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation’s Cole Porter Award. His plays and musicals include Joe Schmoe Saves the World (National Alliance for Musical Theatre 2016, ASCAP/Dreamworks Workshop); Liberty Inn: The Musical (Ovation Award nominations: Best Book, Best Music/Lyrics); Darling (Weston Playhouse New Musical Award); The Tavern Keeper’s Daughter (Best Musical, Pasadena Weekly), and Just a Little Critter Musical (First Stage). His plays Weïrd and A Roz By Any Other Name are both published in The Best American Short Plays 2007-2008. His musical Passing Through was developed at the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, where it was recently featured in their New Works Festival. As an actor, he originated the role of Marcus off-Broadway in Murder for Two. His SCR appearances include the world premieres of Shrew!, The Prince of Atlantis and Doctor Cerberus. His recent TV and film appearances include “Mom,” “Modern Family,” “How I Met Your Mother,” Hail, Caesar!, and the Lifetime movie, The Assistant. Ryback is currently writing a musical podcast called In Strange Woods. He created the online accompanist website PlayThisForMe.com, and he teaches musical theatre at the University of Southern California. brettryback.com
Learn more about the production, cast & creative team with a peek into the program. Read full artist bios, in-depth articles and more.
Daniel Bellusci (Nate)
I started acting in the 8th grade and my early mentors and drama teachers were hugely influential to me. They helped me find and cultivate a love for theatre, as well as develop an early sense
of professionalism. I also just really love music, so musicals
quickly became one of my favorite things. Since finishing school, I’ve performed in many musicals including Ella Enchanted here
at South Coast Repertory. I got to play Prince Charmont and I had so much fun getting to share that story. When I’m not performing, I love to read and play the piano.
Luzma Ortiz (Rosamond)
grew up in a very musical family. My father is Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, a world-renowned harpist and composer so, as a kid, I was always singing and dancing. My parents decided to put me in private voice lessons and, eventually, I realized that what I liked most about singing was when I pretended to be someone else. I decided to become an actress. I studied musical theatre at AMDA in New York City and received my BFA in musical theatre locally from UC-Irvine. Some favorite roles that I’ve played include Maria from West Side Story, Jan in Grease, Eva Peron in Evita, and Dora in Dora The Explorer Live! When I’m not performing, I teach musical theatre, singing and acting privately right here in Orange County. I dedicate this performance to my son, James Alfredo, who is 5 ½ years old. For more information, visit my website at LuzmaOrtiz.com.
Domonique Paton (Annie)
I am so happy to be performing at SCR for the first time. I have seen many young audiences shows and I’m so glad to finally take part in one. Currently, I am a full-time princess—you can find me at Disneyland’s California Adventure playing Princess Anna in Frozen—Live at the Hyperion. I’m so lucky to have worked in many different theatres in Southern California. You may have also seen me in the recent production of UMPO’s Clueless at Rockwell Table & Stage. Many thanks to my amazing friends and awesome family: DMP4, JJS and AH. domoniquepaton.com
Erika Schindele (Mom/Fang/the Hexes)
Since I can remember, I’ve loved playing in a world of make-believe. As an actor, I’ve been able to meet people and visit places I could only imagine. I was shipwrecked in Twelfth Night and married to Thomas Jefferson in 1776. At SCR, I have been seen as Belle in
A Christmas Carol and I was a bride chasing after her husband who was trying to find An Italian Straw Hat. Last season, I got to dance with giants and cast spells as the flighty fairy godmother in Ella Enchanted and, before that, I swept the stage floors as Cinderumplestiltskin in The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, showed my stripes in Jane of the Jungle, was a girl with long braids in Sideways Stories from Wayside School, a princess in Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! and Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, made new friends in The Brand New Kid and spent A Year with Frog and Toad (twice!). Though I’ve encountered many people in my theatrical journeys who have touched my life, my dad and mom will always be my heroes. For my prince, Brent.
Xavier Watson (Harry/the Hexes)
When I was 12 years old, I got bitten by the acting bug. Growing up, I always loved playing with my stuffed animals and toys, acting as if they were real people. I also played lots of sports in school, wrote poetry and did some drawing. When I was 18,
I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to study acting and graduated with the school’s award for best actor. I’ve done a few commercials and, if you watch Nickelodeon, you may have seen me and my horse friend, Thunder, on the show, “Henry Danger.” I’ve performed with kids, for kids and even put kids in huge bubbles. Who says you have to grow
all the way up?
John Maclay (Book and Lyrics)
I’ve loved theatre since I was very young and originally wanted to be an actor in musical theatre. I went to Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, to study singing and play football. That’s where I realized I loved Shakespeare and went to school again to study classical acting at the University of Illinois. Since then, I realized that I wanted to write the plays myself. I started adapting children’s books I love into plays and musicals. And I’ve written or co-written Anatole, Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium, Robin Hood, Just a Little Critter Musical (also with my friend Brett Ryback), Geronimo Stilton: Mouse in Space and Nancy Drew and Her Biggest Case Ever. Later this year my newest show, The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors will open in Portland!
Brett Ryback (Music, Lyrics, Orchestrations and Arrangement)
I was five years old when I started acting. I grew up composing songs and writing stories, and eventually I studied music composition at UCLA. This is my first time working with SCR as a writer, but I’ve worked here a few times as an actor. My first show here was a young audiences show called Imagine! As an actor I’ve also performed off-Broadway and on TV shows like “Modern Family” and “How I Met Your Mother.” I also wrote a musical called Just a Little Critter Musical based on the book series by Mercer Mayer. When I write music, I think about it like painting. I use words like “color,” “texture” and “tone” to describe how I want the music to sound. You can learn more about me at brettryback.com. Thank you for coming to the show. I hope you enjoy it!
Kari Hayter (Director/Choreographer)
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work on this production with such a fun and fabulous team. Here at SCR, I have assistant directed Noises Off!, Ben and the Magic Paintbrush and Once. I went to college at California State University, Fullerton, where I earned a BA in Theatre and an MFA in Directing. I also went to college to earn a teaching credential and Masters Degree in Education so that I could be a teacher and teach students like you! My favorite plays to direct are musicals because I love to sing and dance. Parade and Urinetown are two musicals I directed recently, and they were both nominated for Ovation and Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Awards. When I am not directing, I love to walk my two dogs, Jackson and Toby, around the lake and watch them chase after the ducks and squirrels.
Fred Kinney (Scenic Design)
I build the models and create the drawings that carpenters and painters make into the scenery that you see on stage today. This is my ninth production at SCR; I also designed the marsh for A Year With Frog and Toad, the scaffold playground that lit up for Pinocchio, the forest for Robin Hood, The Elephant for The Emperor’s New Clothes, New Duck City for Lucky Duck and three worlds and an evil brain for A Wrinkle in Time. When I was just a small boy, I thought I might become a painter, sculptor or an architect. In high school, I started to design the scenery for school productions and really enjoyed it, and I still do. I’m the proud father of Kate and Gigi who will be seeing Nate the Great.
Kaitlyn Kaufman (Costume Design)
Growing up I was inspired by the stories that clothing tells and the fun everyone has getting dressed up. Theater is the perfect place where I get to do those things every day. I studied Costume Design at UC-Irvine where I learned how to make masks, hats, how to paint on clothes and all sorts of things so I could become a Master of Fine Arts. Some of my favorite shows that I’ve worked on are Orlando, Oliver, Mamma Mia, and
A Midsummer Nights Dream. I work all over Southern California and am so excited to share Nate the Great (my first design on the Argyros Stage) with all of you. I hope you enjoy the mystery!
Karyn D. Lawrence (Lighting Design)
I am a theatrical lighting designer, which means I love to paint with light! I fell in love with lighting design while studying acting at UC-Irvine. From magical twinkle lights to flashy rock ’n’ roll strobes, I have fun making pretty pictures on stage. I have designed numerous plays and events at SCR including the Theatre for Young Audiences productions of Junie B. Jones, Ella Enchanted, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Light Princess, A Year with Frog and Toad and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, as well as Seussical, Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Annie for SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. One of my favorite designs each year is lighting the haunted mazes for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights! When I’m not playing with lights, I’m riding my horse in the mountains near my home in Los Angeles.
Jeff Polunas (Sound Design)
I’m so excited to be sound-designing this production at SCR. I have designed many young audiences shows including Ella Enchanted, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Flora & Ulysses, The Light Princess, Ivy + Bean: The Musical and Anastasia Krupnik. During the summer, I love designing for SCR’s Summer Players, which I have done for the last seven years. I attended San Diego State University and UC-Irvine, where I earned degrees in theatre and sound design. I love what I do and have designed for productions from San Francisco to San Diego. I enjoy taking the sounds we hear and creating something magical from them.
Pat Loeb (Stage Manager)
I’ve worked all over the world and all over California, on plays and musicals for kids and adults, with singers and dancers and actors from all over the world. I am a stage manager—we make sure lights and
sound and sets and costumes all happen at the right time and in the right place. As a kid, I wrote and performed puppet
shows, and I still sing—my caroling company is celebrating its 36th year. I’ve toured the country teaching people about recycling, and visited schools and community centers with several children’s theatre companies, performing with and for young people. And I get to do outdoor Shakespeare. One of the special groups I’ve worked with is Deaf West; many of my shows have been with disabled artists, and I especially love working with deaf actors in sign language. Finally, I am a proud member of my union, Actors Equity.
The Actors and Stage Managers employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.