• "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" – You Don’t Need to Know Chekhov to Enjoy this Play!

    Beth Fhaner
     | Aug 17, 2018
    Durang & Chekhov

    Christopher Durang and Anton Chekhov.

    Although playwright Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Sept. 30-Oct. 21, 2018, Julianne Argyros Stage) is strongly influenced by the plays of 19th-century Russian writer Anton Chekhov, one certainly doesn’t have to be familiar with the Russian master to enjoy this comedy, which earned the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, along with a slew of other accolades.

    Durang’s main characters—the middle-aged siblings Vanya, Sonia and Masha—are all monikers borrowed from Chekhov’s works. Vanya and Sonia both originate from Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, while Masha comes from Three Sisters. As an explanation for the Russian names, the siblings’ deceased parents were “college professors who dabbled in community theater.” Additionally, there’s a minor character, the lovely, sincere neighbor Nina, who was named for a Chekhov character from The Seagull.

    Set in rural Bucks County, Penn., Durang’s play has the action largely taking place in the family’s nice, comfortable farmhouse, which also borrows from Chekhov. In addition to the country setting of the family home, there’s dialogue about a cherry orchard (The Cherry Orchard) and Vanya and Sonia often spend time watching for a glimpse of the blue heron (Chekhov’s seagull) that frequently visits a nearby pond. Durang makes his own home in Bucks County, having moved to a farmhouse from New York City two decades ago, and the play reflects that urban/rural tension.

    “I’ve always been drawn to Chekhov,” Durang told the Chicago Tribune. “But when I was in my 20s and 30s, I did not necessarily empathize with his characters. Now I’m the age of his older characters. And I do. I live in a country place and, in Chekhov, people who live in the country are always unhappy and envious of the people who live in the city.”

    The Chekhovian themes of regret, envy, unrequited love, narcissism, lack of romance and the possible loss of an ancestral family home all get their due in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Durang’s play also blends comedy with semi-tragic situations in a way that resembles Chekhov works such as The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull.

    “A lot of Chekhov’s characters are unhappy with their lives and regret the things they didn’t do, and those who live in the country seem to be unhappier than those who live in the city,” Durang commented to wisconsingazette.com. “I thought, ‘What if I wrote a play that incorporated the themes of Chekhov and set the play in modern day?’ ”

    Theatregoers familiar with Chekhov will certainly appreciate Durang’s in-jokes that are scattered throughout Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, but even if you’ve never read a word of Chekhov, the absurdist comedy presents many opportunities to enjoy some laughs. In addition to Chekhov, Durang makes references to Molière, Shakespeare, Greek myth, Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon throughout his play, too.

    So, whether or not you know the plays of Chekhov, don’t miss this Tony Award-winning comedy described as “deliciously madcap” by USA Today. The laughs are guaranteed!

    Learn more about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and buy tickets.

  • A Director Gets Lost in Austen: Four Questions with Casey Stangl

    Beth Fhaner
     | Aug 13, 2018
    Casey Stangl at First Rehearsal

    Director Casey Stangl discusses the play and designs with the cast and SCR staff on the first day of rehearsal for Sense and Sensibility.

    Casey Stangl

    Casey Stangl

    Sister Act

    Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility features the Dashwood sisters—practical Elinor and impulsive Marianne, as well as their younger sister Margaret. This charming, romantic classic has captivated legions of Austen’s readers throughout the years and made it a favorite novel for many. Austen’s millions of fans worldwide have most likely enjoyed the Academy Award-winning 1995 film adaptation starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, too. In keeping with the theme of sisterhood, check out the following links to discover more great films about sisters:

    Director Casey Stangl was last here at SCR with Wendy Wasserstein’s delightful comedy The Sisters Rosensweig, which closed out the 2017-18 season on the Segerstrom Stage. We’re thrilled that Stangl has returned to help launch our new season on the Segerstrom Stage with an exciting adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

    We caught up with Stangl for a few minutes between rehearsals to get her thoughts on this upcoming production of one of Austen’s most beloved novels.

    As a director, what draws you to Jane Austen stories in general? To Sense and Sensibility?
    I love Jane Austen's combination of sly humor and the feminist perspective in all her work. With Sense and Sensibility, there is a question of how do we find a balance between the heart and the head? Women are traditionally considered to be the emotional ones, ruled by our feelings and lacking in analytical skills and judgement. But Sense and Sensibility presents us with richly complicated characters.

    What makes this production a must-see?
    A very diverse cast will bring a focus to the humanity of the characters and the universal quality of the story and give the show a contemporary feel within the period setting. The design will reflect that with a spare elegant set, furniture on wheels, mood enhancing projections and period costumes that will tie it all together.

    What's special about Jessica Swale’s adaptation?
    It is highly theatrical and cinematic with fast switches between locations and doubling and tripling of characters. The adaptation beautifully captures Austen's humor and heart and tells the story in a fast-moving and delightful way.

    What do you hope audiences will be talking about after seeing the show?
    We all seek to be connected to each other and some of us lean into our feelings and some of us lean into our reason. Both are valid and the best relationships lie when that is celebrated.

    Learn more about Sense and Sensibility and buy tickets.

  • It’s Showtime for "Seussical"! Opening Weekend from a Parent’s Perspective

    Alyssa Dong
     | Aug 13, 2018

    Marley Green, Christina Brady, Ella Webb, Tara Thompson and Lauren Dong in ​Seussical.

    Alyssa Dong

    ​Alyssa Dong

    Can you believe that Seussical is finally here?! I hope everyone has purchased tickets and can see the show between Aug. 11 and 19.

    Here’s how my daughter, Lauren, and her fellow cast members got ready to take the stage. They got out of the rehearsal hall and onto the stage during what is called Tech Week. This is when all of the many elements of the show come together for the first time on the Julianne Argyros Stage: the lighting and sound crews worked closely with the directors and cast to make sure every light is set precisely where it needed to be and the music for the show is worked flawlessly in each scene. In addition, the kids wore tiny microphones to help project their voices. So many details! As parents, when we see the show, we often don’t realize everything that goes into putting on a Summer Players show at SCR.

    Over the past seven years, the conversations with my daughter have evolved. The first time she performed in Seussical at SCR (2012), she was only 10 years old and the most important thoughts she shared with me ​were how much fun she was having and the new friends she was making. As the years went by, and she got older, the conversations grew deeper and she became more expressive about what she was learning and experiencing being a part of a Summer Players show. She talked in more detail about how she has grown in her acting and her confidence, and explained to me in more detail about either her costume or what she experienced in a scene. Her friendships at SCR are a huge part of her growth as well and have become even more important to her throughout the years.

    I get to live vicariously through her—watching and learning from all the wonderful experiences Lauren is having and learning about the memories she will cherish for the rest of her life. Seeing her face light up when I drop her off at SCR, meeting up with her friends ​receiving big smile as she walks to the car when I pick her up, are priceless moments I will treasure. Because of SCR, my daughter has been given an opportunity of a lifetime to confidently know that she can do anything she sets her mind to. My whole family will be at many of the Seussical performances to cheer Lauren and her cast-mates on. I hope to see you there, too!

    Learn more and buy Seussical tickets.

  • Meet the Graduating Seniors in the Summer Players' Production of "Seussical"

    Danielle Bliss
     | Aug 10, 2018

    From left to right: Grace Tomblin Marca, Sarah Cocroft, Julia Wolfe and Tara Thompson

    Meet the graduating seniors in SCR’s Summer Players' production of Seussical. We talk with them about their roles in the show, some of their favorite memories from acting ​classes over the years, as well as what plans they have for this exciting new chapter of their lives. Read on to learn more.

    Sarah Cocroft

    What role do you play in Seussical?
    I am The Cat in the Hat!
    What are some of your favorite memories from Players’ productions?
    My favorite part about the Players’ ​shows is that the cast becomes a family. With the summer shows, we often have to play peculiar characters, so when all of us are making big choices and being a little goofy, we bond through that; that bond translates into our time away from the stage, too. I’ll never forget the reactions to my exuberant kangaroo costume during Peter Pan, the backstage contest among the Silly Girls to see who could send the cutest notes to Gaston during Beauty and the Beast, or the hilarious panic of trying to put on the pregnancy belly for the Baker’s Wife during Into the Woods. But most of all, I’ll never forget that feeling onstage during the last number of the last show. That is the moment I feel everyone around me breathe in how proud we are of the show and how special it is to our lives. It’s the moment, I think, we really understand we’re a family, even though it’s the end of our journey. It’s a feeling that can’t be recreated.
    Who inspired you to start studying acting and immerse yourself in the theater world?
    My sister was actually the person who sparked my interest in acting. When I was seven years old, my sister was already super involved in theatre and I would go see all of her shows. Like a lot of younger siblings, I wanted to be exactly like my big sister, and the more I saw how much fun she was having, the more I wanted to be on stage next to her! Then in seventh grade, right after seeing SCR’s first production of Seussical, I followed her to SCR. Now it’s crazy to think that I’m finishing my SCR career with this show; plus, I get to have my sister, who started this all for me, by my side again in the rehearsal process as the assistant director.
    Do you plan to go to college? If so, what do you plan on studying?
    I will be attending Boston University as a chemistry major to focus on neurochemistry.
    How have Conservatory classes prepared you for this next step?
    While I might not be continuing in the arts, I believe these classes have prepared me for whatever I end up doing in life. I have learned the importance of listening to the people around me and responding thoughtfully, as well as the importance of being distinct and assured in my choices. While these lessons relate to acting during the classes, they’ll help me as I meet new people and begin to explore the opportunities in front of me and they’ll propel me to be bold enough to pursue them. I honestly don’t believe I would be as curious or confident as I am today without my time at SCR and I will strive to remember these lessons for the rest of my life.

    Grace Tomblin Marca

    What role do you play in Seussical?
    I play Mrs. Mayor. 
    What are some of your favorite memories from Players’ productions?
    I always love the first day of Tech Week (the week before performances start, when all of the technical elements like sound and lighting are set), when we start to see the magic of the show come together. There's such a wonderful excitement in the air and we get to see the set and everyone in their costumes for the first time and hear how we sound in the glorious acoustics of the theatre. For me, those moments of real excitement and crazy contagious energy are the moments that stick in my mind. 
    What inspired you to start studying acting and immerse yourself in the theatre world?
    I've been on stage almost my entire life, starting with ballet when I was 3. Around fourth grade, I started to go to summer theatre camp at my school and there I really fell in love with musicals and plays, and how fun it was to sing and dance on stage. Believe it or not, it was watching the Oscars that really introduced me to acting as an art that one could work to perfect. My favorite part of the awards wasn't the glamour; it was seeing the little snippets of the movies and nominees before they announce the awards—it was through that I could get a peek into some fantastic performances before I was old enough to watch the actual movies. That obsession made me want to dive deeper into acting myself. In sixth grade, when my parents suggested SCR, I said heck yes and that's been probably the best decision of my life!
    Do you plan to go to college?
    I will be attending Scripps College next year and I will be studying theatre and art.
    How have Conservatory classes prepared you for this next step?
    I have come out of SCR's Conservatory knowing what professionalism is, knowing what hard work means and, most importantly, knowing what real passion looks like. Every teacher, director, artist, technician and student is truly passionate about what they do and being in such a wholesome environment where everyone cares so much has been truly fantastic. I hope to keep in touch with that passion, wherever life takes me!

    Julia Wolfe

    What role do you play in Seussical?
    I am an ensemble member in the Jungle of Nool, Hunter, Cadet and a Hunch
    What inspired you to start studying acting and immerse yourself in the theatre world?
    I originally started taking acting classes because my mom signed me up—she thought it would be fun. But, the musical that made me fall in love with theatre and want to really study it was Wicked.
    Do you plan to go to college?
    I will be double-majoring in psychology and theatre with a focus in acting at University of Denver.
    How have Conservatory classes prepared you for this next step?
    Classes at SCR have prepared me for a career in theatre by giving me the chance to learn from many different teachers and various performance opportunities. The classes have taught me discipline and how to conduct myself at rehearsals and auditions. I have learned so much at SCR and I can’t wait to continue my theatre education at college!

    Tara Thompson

    What role do you play in Seussical?
    I play Mayzie La Bird—the exuberant, free-spirited, over-the-top bird who lives in the Jungle of Nool!
    What are some of your favorite memories from Players’ productions?
    Though too many to count, some of my top favorite memories from Players shows over the six years have been the cast-hype sessions backstage before every show, meeting and working with a different crew of stage managers and assistant directors every summer and the amazing group of friends I have made along the way.
    Do you plan to go to college? 
    I will be going to Saddleback Community college in the fall with a major in acting, as well as pursuing a theatre and film career in Los Angeles.
    How have the Conservatory classes prepared you for this next step?
    Growing up in SCR’s theatre conservatory has provided me with a supportive and loving environment to stumble and succeed, while learning the level of professionalism required in the adult world of theatre, or any profession. Erin (McNally, music director) and Hisa (Takakuwa, director) have guided me through my personal growth experience and have taught me numerous things. There are not enough words to express the gratitude and appreciation for my teachers and the theatre that I’ve been able to call my second home.

    Learn more about ​Seussical and buy tickets.
  • Behind the Scenes of Building the 2018 Gala “Places, Please!”

    Danielle Bliss
     | Aug 10, 2018

    ​Rendering by Gala Designer Angela Balogh Calin

    South Coast Repertory’s 2018 Gala—(“Places, Please!”, Sept. 15)—serves an important purpose for the theatre and promises to be a most memorable evening.  Read on to learn about the building process of making the 2018 Gala distinct from previous SCR gala events.

    Many SCR employees ​across various departments of the theatre started working on the event months in advance. One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) is making the Gala unique from past gala events.

    “Places, Please!” is themed around the backstage world—what goes on in the theatre that isn’t visible to the audience. While the gala is guaranteed to be a fun and entertaining event, each guest will leave at the end of the evening having learned something new about the magic that goes on behind the scenes.

    “How are we going to create this backstage experience for our guests?” says Holly Ahlborn, associate production manager. “To be fair backstage can be boring. There are dressing rooms with a bunch of clothes and we run around getting everything set. We only have about an hour and then, it's show time. So, how do we make that intriguing? The gala will be a more stylized, glamorous version of what it’s like to be in that process—the magical process of transforming yourself from who you are into what you will become.”

    During the cocktail hour, ​partygoers will step into areas designed to represent the different spaces that actors use during the transformation process to become performance ready. It's the chance to see up-close makeup application, wig fitting, getting costumed, and getting props and even body microphones affixed for a musical. SCR technicians will be there to help the actors prepare as if getting ready for a performance.

    These backstage spaces are built up about eight inches off the ground, so guests will be able to walk right up and talk to the technician and the performer. Part of what we’re instilling in the performer and technician is that they should engage with guests; there is no fourth wall.

    “The actors will start at one station, and then move to the next station,” Ahlborn continues. “There are many different ways to get the most out of this backstage experience. You could follow one actor from each of those platforms and watch them progress into full realization. Or, you can stay at one platform and watch four different ​actors get four completely different styles ​set on them.”

    ​Ahlborn is excited for how the evening will immerse Gala attendees into the magic of the backstage experience.


    Learn more about the 2018 Gala “Places, Please!”

    Renderings by Gala Designer, Angela Balogh Calin.