• Taking an Acting Class Leads to Exceptional Life Experience

    by 
    Art Brueggeman
     | Jan 13, 2020
    Art Brueggeman and Daniel Reichert
    Art Brueggeman, left, working with actor Daniel Reichert during an Acting Intensive Program summer class.

    Art Brueggeman is retired. He started taking acting classes in SCR's Theatre Conservatory in 2019. We asked him to share with us some of his experiences.

    “What on earth prompted you to do that?”
    “Did you ever do any acting before, like in high school or college?”
    “Man…you’re brave.”
    “I could never do that.”
    …that is what I heard from friends and family when I told them I signed up for acting classes.

    To which I said…

    1. On a complete lark.
    2. No, never.
    3. No, I’m not, unless the bar for brave is very low.
    4. You not only could. You should.

    I retired from a career in finance and accounting years ago. Although I thought my creative and art-appreciation side was alive, in retrospect I can see it was undernourished and underdeveloped. My left brain had basically dominated my life, though there is nothing inherently wrong with an over-developed left brain. I could have lived out my years, happy…and oblivious…to what I was missing. My outside interests, mostly reading and playing guitar (the latter which I also took up late in life), kept me entertained. My family and friends are a continuing joy. Yet, there was a longing that I couldn’t put my finger on. One thing I did know: I wasn’t done learning and growing.

    "How the Hell Do Actors Remember All Those Lines?"

    On a “lark” I signed up for Acting l at SCR in the fall of 2016—three hours every Tuesday evening for 8 weeks. I was anxious before walking into class, thinking that I might not be able to engage without embarrassing myself. I’m self-conscious. I like to be in control. Besides, how the hell do actors remember all those lines anyway? Finally, what am I going to do with “acting?”

    It turns out, a lot. But it isn’t what you might think.

    There is a dichotomy in people’s impression of the craft and skill of acting. Fear of doing it is rooted in the same rocky soil as the classic No. 1 fear—public speaking, which is, after all, performing in front of an audience. Subjecting oneself to being “judged.” Well, take public speaking up a few notches and you have acting. 

    Then I heard this: “But, as long as you’re not afraid of being the focus of attention and you remember your lines…the ‘acting’ part itself must be pretty easy, right?” Not.

    If it was easy, anyone could do it and it wouldn’t be any more remarkable than mastering walking upright. The only people who think acting is easy are those who don’t know how to do it. Acting is a craft. Developing the skills to appreciate and hone the craft is worthy of the same dedication and focus as any other. It is in the process, in the learning, where joy and fulfillment live.

    Exhilaration

    I walked out of that first class exhilarated. Whatever worries and concerns I had about the world situation and other things going on were at least temporarily pushed to the background. It was fun and eye-opening. The teacher was an enthusiastic, supportive and experienced actor. The class included students in their early 20s all the way up to retirees. Some had acting experience, mostly from high school and college, though quite a few had done community theatre as well. Very few were complete rookies like me. The evening flew by.

    In the ensuing months, I signed up for Acting II, Acting III and Improv, repeating each several times along the way. I treated my new endeavor as I would any other skill-building path. We focused at first on acting games ​and exercises and monologues, eventually moving to scene-study work, (i.e. acting with a fellow student as a scene partner, in character, from a selected play.) This required memorizing dialogue, outside-of-class rehearsing, presenting it in class and getting “notes” from the teacher (think: what to do differently), then doing it all again the next week. It became clear why the best definition of acting is: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances.

    The Acting Intensive Program (AIP) ​two summers ago came next—7 weeks, six hours per day (plus outside work), under the direction of Matthew Arkin and numerous other experienced, working actors, directors and skill coaches. ​We worked on multiple scene studies, auditioning (under the direction of Joanne DeNaut, CSA, SCR’s casting director), acting for camera, voice and movement, and more. What a ride! The culmination of all the summer work was a full-on production of selected scenes from highly regarded plays, with invited friends and family in the audience, on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

    I enjoyed the AIP so much that I did it again last summer and benefitted from it even more the second time around.

    So, what did I get out of it? I spent seven weeks getting to know and work with delightful, high-energy human beings of all ages, most with significantly more acting training than I had. I grew and witnessed stunning growth in my classmates. I stepped outside myself and I’m the better for it. I sweated, but held my own, giving me a sense of accomplishment. My respect for the craft and skill of acting grew by magnitudes. It has informed and deepened my awareness of and appreciation for live theatre performances and film. If I want to, I can certainly audition for theatre anywhere, but I don’t feel compelled to do that for this to have been a rich and worthy life experience.

    There's an acting class for you in SCR's Theatre Conservatory​—any time of the year. Check out the upcoming class schedules for kids, teens and adults to learn more.

  • Meet the Cast: "She Loves Me"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Jan 06, 2020
    The Cast of She Loves Me
    ​The cast of She Loves Me in SCR's Costume Shop.

    Sixteen actors—plus a small ensemble of musicians—bring to life the goings-on at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in She Loves Me (Jan. 25-Feb. 22, Segerstrom Stage)—the hit Broadway musical inspired by the story that brought us the hit film, You’ve Got Mail. SCR veterans (from The Light in the Piazza, Shakespeare in Love, American Mariachi, The Fantasticks, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and others) and newcomers are included in the casting mix for this romantic musical that brims with romance, charm, comedy and joy. Read on to meet the cast. ​

    Abilez,-RickyRicky Abilez

    I portray Arpad Laszlo.
    My SCR credits include Shakespeare in Love, The Velveteen Rabbit and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
    My other credits include Frederick!, In the Heights, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Secret in the Wings, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta, More Guns! and Mysterious Skin.
    I love the scent of lavender. It is a calming and uplifting scent and I use it in baths, laundry and linen sprays. My favorite cologne is Versace Pour Homme. It smells like all the qualities you could ever want in a man. Good job, Versace.
    My favorite romantic story is Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, which happens to be both a book and a film. I don't think I could properly communicate my profound love for this story through words, but I'll try. It is a masterpiece. The book beautifully captures the experience of falling in love for the first time. Doesn't matter who you are or whom you love, people from all walks of life can relate to this story. The film is equally breathtaking. It captures the inner battles we encounter when navigating our own self-worth and acceptance. It dissects both the beauty and tragedy of love and it captures the true essence of romance. I think what I appreciate the most about this story is that even though it revolves around two men falling in love, it has nothing to do with their sexuality. Neither man ever says "I'm gay" and both men have had relationships with women. Sexuality doesn't dictate the narrative—it is the visceral human experience of falling in love with another person's soul. That, to me, is transcendent.
    My earliest childhood crush was David Archuleta. I swooned over him every week on “American Idol.” It was a combination of his genuine personality, his goofiness, his shy, awkward demeanor and his talent. Talent is very attractive to me and his voice is beautiful! I still adore him, though my crush has changed. Another story for another time!

    Coca,-AliciaAlicia Coca

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    My SCR credits include American Mariachi.
    My other credits include Pippin, Heathers the Musical, American Mariachi and La Virgen de Guadalupe: Dios Inantzin.
    I love the scent of a rose. Yes, predictable and basic. Roses are also my favorite flower. Again, predictable and basic.
    My favorite romantic story is the book Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. The love story in this novel is beautiful and dynamic. And most importantly, it comes as an afterthought to Eliza’s personal growth, discovery of her individuality, and strength as a woman. She unites with her true soulmate only after going on a journey completely alone.

    Henerson,-MatthewMatthew Henerson

    I portray Ladislav Sipos.
    My SCR credits include Shakespeare in Love and Hamlet.
    My other credits include Flashdance the Musical (national tour), 12 Angry Men, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Cabaret, “Hung,” “The Fosters,” “One Day at a Time” and theatre performances include the Ahmanson Theatre, A Noise Within, La Jolla Playhouse, West Virginia Public Theatre and the Arizona, Colorado, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Utah Shakespeare festivals.
    I love the scent of fenugreek! Not long after our daughter was born, my wife began taking this supplement; it's an herb and anecdotal evidence (and some studies) suggests that it's good for a lot of different things. And, for as long as she took the stuff, her hair smelled of maple. Not the sweet of maple syrup; maybe closer to the scent of the sap, before any sugar is added. To this day, my wife's hair still smells faintly of maple! We've been married 29 years in June, and our daughter turned 20 in October, and that faint maple smell remains. The scent which evokes my two favorite people is, naturally, my favorite scent.
    My favorite romantic story is the one I return to time and again is Talley's Folly, a two-person play by Lanford Wilson. The story is about Matt Friedman, a middle-aged German-Jewish immigrant, who woos and wins Sally Talley, the intelligent but despised daughter of a prominent Midwestern (Protestant) family. No great psychological penetration required here: I'm Jewish myself and—professionally, at least—I was never young. I was too old to play Romeo before I started shaving. The character of Matt Friedman on the other hand... Then, too, I prefer my romances comical (rather than tragic, historical or pastoral). I like to see love rewarded in this life so, for me, Emma and Mr. Knightly over Catherine and Heathcliff eight days a week!

    Holzer,-BrandenBranden Holzer

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include Hairspray the Musical, and LA’s Next Great Stage Star 2018.
    I love the scent of fresh-cut citrus.
    My favorite romantic story is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.


    Kim,-JonathanJonathan Kim

    I portray the Busboy.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include dancing in The Corps Dance Crew, as well as La Cage Aux Folles, Beijing Spring, The Red Car Trolley News Boys and Stiles and Drewe’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
    I love the scent of a bowling alley! I know, I know! But it is the one smell that can and will, without a doubt, immediately make me feel nostalgic.
    My favorite romantic story is the relationship between Elend Venture and Vin in the Mistborn book series. Read the books!

    Knight,-RobertRobert E. Knight

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    My SCR credits include Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
    My other credits include
    Big River, Parade, and Urinetown.
    I love the scent of
    the smell of fresh garlic and onions being sautéed into whatever delicious food you are cooking.
    My favorite romantic story is, weirdly, the movieLove Don’t Cost a Thing, with Nick Cannon and Christina Milian. It’s a little random, but I love it because it shows no matter how flashy or rich you are, what matters the most is how you treat one another and take the time to show each other who you really are inside.

    Ludwig,-SamSam Ludwig

    I portray Steven Kodaly.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, On the Town, Avenue Q, Big River, 1776, A Little Night Music, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Proof and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
    I love the scent of honeysuckle (cliché, I know!).
    My favorite romantic story is the film Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I love the other two movies in the Before trilogy, but the first one is the most romantic.

    Mackey,-ErinErin Mackey

    I portray Amalia Balash.
    My SCR credits include The Light in the Piazza.
    My other credits include In Transit, Amazing Grace, Chaplin, Anything Goes, Sondheim on Sondheim and Wicked (all on Broadway), as well as South Pacific, Sunday in the Park with George, “Blue Bloods” and “Gossip Girl.”
    I love the scent of being out hiking in nature—that’s my happy place. I love the smell of pine trees and dirt, especially in upstate New York, where you’ll find some of my favorite spots.
    My favorite romantic story is Pride and Prejudice. I could read it over and over again—and I have. It’s a classic. Plus, that BBC miniseries version with Colin Firth—swoon!
    My first childhood celebrity crush was
    Michael Vartan. I watched him on TV in “Alias” and in the film, Never Been Kissed. I thought he was so dreamy.

    Martinez,-MarleneMarlene Martinez

    I portray Ilona Ritter.
    My SCR credits include Mr. Popper’s Penguins and the Pacific Playwrights Festival concert-reading of the musical, Prelude to a Kiss.
    My other credits include Native Gardens, Mamma Mia! (national tour) and West Side Story, as well as concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad Stage and the Hollywood Bowl.
    I love the scent of brownies baking. I have a weakness for all things sweet—especially chocolate.
    My favorite romantic story is The Princess Bride. It has all the quintessential love story elements; love at first sight, damsel in distress, a happily ever after. I try to use this film as a model for my marriage. Mainly, when Westley was her farmhand and the only words he said to her were “As you wish.”
    My childhood crush was Jonathan Taylor Thomas from “Home Improvement”. I even wrote to him once from one of those teenybopper magazines. I can’t say he ever received my letter, so our love was never fully realized. But I did see his name recently on a SAG [Screen Actors Guild] ballot. Needless to say, he got my vote!

    Montes,-MarleneMarlene Montes

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    My SCR credits include American Mariachi.
    My other credits include In the Heights, American Mariachi, Legally Blonde the Musical, Gypsy, Cabaret, South Pacific, Tommy, Miss Saigon and The 1940’s Radio Hour.
    I love the clean scents of an ocean breeze and fresh linen. There's something so peaceful and satisfying when you take a deep breath in at the beach or crawl into bed in your newly washed sheets.
    My favorite romantic story is one that is rooted in truth and not fantasy. That is why When Harry Met Sally comes to mind. They spend years building a solid foundation on a friendship. As an audience member, you can see the chemistry and want them to get together. When they finally do, it's so gratifying! That's how I feel when Amalia and George finally figure out what we did from the very beginning in She Loves Me!
    My childhood crush was Fred Savage, who played Kevin Arnold in the TV show “The Wonder Years.” He was a sweet, funny, clean-cut boy and I thought he was so adorable! To be honest, I think that he left such an impression on me that if you asked me my “type” now, he'd probably look like Fred Savage plus 30-40 years. Haha!

    North,-GregoryGregory North

    I portray Mr. Maraczek.
    My SCR credits include The Fantasticks.
    My other credits include Into the Woods, The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol and Grand Hotel (all on Broadway), Grumpy Old Men, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Rock of Ages, 12 Angry Men, Ragtime, The Sound of Music, King Charles III, Comedy of Tenors, Pride & Prejudice and Sting’s The Last Ship.
    I love the scent of fresh ground coffee! That’s followed in a close second place by the ozone smell of fresh air after a rain.
    My favorite romantic story is the movie Same Time, Next Year based on the play by Bernard Slade. It came at a time when it made a huge impact and had two of my favorite actors—Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. One of my favorite movies of all time is The Natural, which has at least two kinds of romance central to the story: the romance between a man and a woman and the romance of a man with baseball.

    Scheie,-DannyDanny Scheie

    I portray the Head Waiter.
    My SCR credits include SHREW!; The Monster Builder; One Man, Two Guvnors; The Wind in the Willows; and You, Nero.
    My other credits include The Music Man, Richard III and Tartuffe, as well as performances at regional theatre companies including Pasadena Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Folger Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre and others.
    I love the scent of Mary Scheie’s cinnamon rolls. There’s nothing special to them, probably, other than cinnamon and gluten!
    My favorite romantic story is Brideshead Revisited.
    My childhood crush was Mark Lester.

    Stiles,-DannyDanny Stiles

    I portray Keller.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include Wonderland, Sister Act and Leap of Faith (all on Broadway), The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show, Spamalot, Hairspray, Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, the Emmy Awards and the 2002 Winter Olympics.
    I love the scent of freshly laundered clothes—Gain, Downy, Fabuloso, whatever. When I open the dryer, and that warm air wafts into my face, I get both a sense of accomplishment and joy. It’s also lovely to greet someone with a hug and smell that April freshness as you pull away. Always makes me want to go in for a second hug.
    My favorite romantic story is the film The Remains of the Day. I remember the impact it had when Emma Thompson’s character decided to leave her post and live her life. She had also fallen in love with Anthony Hopkins’ character and invited him to leave his post and run away with her. They had both become so close, and were obviously in love, but he decided to remain and work as a butler. I was so devastated for both of them. True love was right at their fingertips, and was so obvious, yet, you can’t convince someone to be in love with you. He lost her to his job. Idiot.
    My childhood crush was an adorable girl named Joanne. I think I was four years old. We met at the drinking fountain because I was obsessed with drinking fountains. She had the most beautiful dark chocolate skin, perfect braids and really cute clothes. Somewhere, there are still pictures of us holding hands.

    Tang,-KatyKaty Tang

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    My SCR credits include Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
    My other credits include Candide, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Spring Awakening, Le Nozze di Figaro, Werther and Orphée et Eurydice.
    I love the scent of vetiver oil. It's a very earthy fragrance, and definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but I LOVE it!
    My favorite romantic story is the opera Eugene Onegin, from the story by Alexander Pushkin, with music by Tchaikovsky. It's by no means a story with a happy fairytale ending, but maybe it's the journey through heartbreak and heartache within the unrequited love that appeals to me. It's transformative, and there is always great romance to be found within love that changes you.

    Tucrkile,-DekonteeDekontee Tucrkile

    I portray several characters as a member of the ensemble.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include Mamma Mia, Invisible: A New Musical, The Music Man and the film Friends with Awkwardness.
    I love the scent of Disneyland at Christmastime—especially Main Street! I think it’s the scent of gingerbread. I also love the fragrance Daisy by Marc Jacobs.
    My favorite romantic story is West Side Story. I don’t care what anyone says—I know it’s Romeo and Juliet, but the music and dancing are beautiful!
    My childhood crush was Nick Jonas. And he’s still my current crush!

    Vaughn,-BrianBrian Vaughn

    I portray Georg Nowack.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include Hamlet, Henry V, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, Into the Woods, Camelot, Pirates of Penzance, The Producers and as a director, Shakespeare in Love and Peter and the Starcatcher.
    I love the scent of vanilla—and cue the song “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me!
    My favorite romantic story is
    Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Act 5 is the most beautiful moment in theatre. I’m also a sucker for When Harry Met Sally.


    The Musicians of She Loves Me

    • Tom Griep, conductor, keyboard
    • Alby Potts, keyboard (previously at SCR for The Light in the Piazza, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Ivy+Bean: The Musical)
    • Robert Peterson, violin
    • Elizabeth Brown, cello
    • Jay Mason, reeds
    • Dustin McKinney, trumpet (previously at SCR for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
    • Louis Allee, percussion (previously at SCR for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
    • Tim Christensen, bass (previously at SCR for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)

    Learn more about She Loves Me and buy tickets.

  • Paying It Forward for Acting

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Jan 02, 2020
    Michael Matthys
    Michael Matthys

    Fundamentals of Acting: Act III

    In this advanced scene study and characterization course, you’ll dig deeper into creating more believable, focused and truthful onstage relationships. With at least two semesters of actor training under your belt, you’ll be comfortable with the language of the basic tools and may find more and more consistency in the ability to apply these tools. This course concentrates on skills including relaxation, commitment, listening, truthful response, characterization and speaking heightened language. There’s time to address any individual blocks you might be struggling with. We’ll work on multiple scenes over the eight weeks and learn how to make committed choices in a relatively short period of time, which is one of the hallmarks of the professional actor.

    Learn More & Enroll

    When a young Michael Matthys saw Jesus Christ Superstar, it changed his life.

    “I walked out of the theatre thinking, ‘This is what I want to do!’” he recalls. And he never looked back.

    Matthys, who joined SCR’s Theatre Conservatory faculty in the winter of 2019, has been teaching acting for a dozen years including at San Diego State University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Stella Adler Academy and the Actor’s Studio of Orange County.

    He started his professional career as a member of the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, Minn.) and remembers the impact of that company's mentorship of him. He uses that as a guide to pay it forward and serve as a mentor and teacher to others.

    As an actor, he has performed in more than 100 plays at theatres around the country. His roles on stage include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Treves in The Elephant Man, Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, Alan in Equus, Levin in Anna Karenina and, most recently, Mike Dillon in Good People.

    We caught up with him to find out more as he prepares to teach Act III: Advanced Scene Study and Characterization beginning Jan. 27, 2020.


    What has been your proudest moment as an actor?
    My proudest moment as an actor was playing Treplev in Garland Wright's acclaimed production of The Seagull (1992). The recording has been archived at Lincoln Center.

    What drew you to and guides you in teaching?
    I always knew that I wanted to teach and act. I really admire the members of the Guthrie Theater acting company who mentored me during grad school and I always envisioned myself giving back in that way. My approach to teaching is largely instinctual, while being rooted in Stanislavski and Meisner acting techniques. I believe in the power of the imagination—releasing into that and finding yourself in the flow of the character's life and immersing yourself in the world of the character. If you can convince the imaginative part of your brain that you are in the story, you will start flowing moment to moment.

    What “aha!” moments by your students are special?
    When they realize there are no rules! When they realize the reality of doing spurs them on to honest behavior and choices. When they acquiesce to ongoing stimuli and find themselves in flow.

    What book are you reading now?
    Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

    What was the last play you saw?
    Elijah at the Victory Theatre (Burbank)

    What was the last movie you saw?
    The Two Popes

    What do you do when you’re not acting or teaching?
    I watch basketball, play ultimate Frisbee, hike and see tons of movies and plays.

    In addition to his stage work and teaching, Matthys is active in television with appearances including the role of Dr. Kent on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Save By the Bell: The New Class" and "Profiler." He has appeared in several feature films including Full Blast, Destiny Turns on the Radio, BASEketball, Nightwatch and The House of Deadly Secrets (both on Netflix). His latest feature film endeavor, Stan the Man, is slated to be released later this year.

  • Fully Human: Passion, Faith and Doubt in "Fireflies"

    by 
    Macelle Mahala
     | Dec 24, 2019
    Fireflies text with photo of black woman
    Lou Bellamy
    ​Director Lou Bellamy
    Christiana Clark and Lester Purry
    ​​Actors Christiana Clark and Lester Purry. Meet them in this SCR blog article.

    Fireflies presents an intimate moment between an iconic Civil Rights leader and his wife, speechwriter and partner in activism as they confront the brutal violence directed towards African American men, women and children during this time period.

    Although the characters of Reverend Charles Emmanuel Grace and his wife, Olivia Mattie Grace, are fictional, the play references real events such as the bombing of the 16th ​Street Baptist ​Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four little girls—Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Suffering from what we would now call PTSD, Olivia hears bombs exploding in her mind and imagines the souls of the children killed by racial violence as fireflies flying home to God.

    Part of a trilogy on the subject of queer love in black history, Fireflies imagines what the private lives of the dignified leaders of the Civil Rights Movement might have been like and how they coped with the stress of the constant violence they encountered in their quest for freedom. In an interview in connection with South Coast Repertory’s production of Fireflies, playwright Donja R. Love emphasized the leadership role that black women have always played in the struggle for freedom. (Read the full interview here.) The lack of recognition for the efforts of black women during the Civil Rights Movement led the playwright to create the character of Olivia, a woman who deals not only with the brutality of white supremacy, but also with repressive social expectations regarding her gender identity and sexuality.

    Love is a recipient of the 2018 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, the 2017 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and a 2016 Van Lier New Voices Playwriting ​Fellowship from the Lark. Described by The New York Times columnist Laura Collins-Hughes as “defiantly life embracing,” Love is one of the brightest and fiercest playwrights to recently debut work on the American stage.

    Leading SCR’s production of this play is Lou Bellamy, Obie ​Award-winning director and founder of Penumbra Theatre Company. Long recognized for his meticulous and naturalistic direction of African American drama, Bellamy ​directs a powerhouse cast featuring Christiana Clark (recently seen on stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Goodman Theatre) and Lester Purry (veteran stage and film actor who has performed at Baltimore’s Center Stage, Penumbra Theatre Company, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and many others) on an emotional tour de force that links the personal with the political. A former professor and mentor to SCR’s Artistic Director David Ivers, Bellamy presents a nuanced exploration of the humanity of Civil Rights leaders who are often portrayed as super-human in the celebratory but sometimes anesthetic historical accounts presented during Black History Month. The characters in Fireflies are fully human; we see them experience passionate love, crises of faith, problems in their marriage and doubts as to whether their sacrifices will make a difference. Seen in this light, their achievements become that much more admirable and inspirational.

    Donja R. Love
    ​Playwright Donja R. Love

    I find myself just getting incredibly livid at this idea that a woman has to be behind a man. When I think about black history, when I think about all of the times that the needle was moved in a progressive direction, I find myself always thinking that it was because of a black woman. I think about during the time of enslavement, Harriet Tubman, all of the work that she was able to do. I think about the Civil Rights Movement and I think about Rosa Parks and all of the work that she was able to do, and her being one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement to exist. In the here and the now, thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and thinking about it being created by three black women … So, I found myself thinking, what was it like back in the ‘60s? What was it like to be this black woman, who is quite literally writing the words that are healing a nation? You are writing the words but your husband is the face of the movement and the one that is getting all the credit. To know, just because of who you are, because you are a woman, that you don't have that sort of power, you don't have that sort of agency. I found myself really interested in exploring that. What does that look like? What are the ways in which Olivia can be able to grow into the fullness of herself, to be able to become self-actualized? Not just through her writing these sermons and speeches for her husband. When we get to the end of the play, we are quite literally able to see her step into and own her voice.

    —Donja R. Love, in an interview with Fireflies dramaturg, Macelle Mahala
    (​Read the complete interview here.)

    Learn more about Fireflies and buy tickets.

  • My Dad is Ebenezer Scrooge

    by 
    Guest Contributor Kate Coogan
     | Dec 23, 2019
    Hal and Kate Landon
    Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge with his daughter Kate.

    Kate (Landon) Coogan is one of Hal Landon Jr.’s daughters who grew up while her dad portrayed the beloved, curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge in South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol. While her dad prepares to bid farewell to the role after 40 years, she shares her memories of growing up as a ‘kid of Scrooge.’


    Like many other Southern Californians, SCR’s production of A Christmas Carol is part of our family’s Christmas traditions. The holiday season is busy with many parents working long hours, right up until Christmas Eve, and my dad is no exception.

    My family’s Christmas Carol traditions are slightly unique in that my Dad is Ebenezer Scrooge—Hal Landon Jr.—also known as Grandpa Lanny by my children. It truly has been a family affair over the years, with two of my cousins, my sister and my daughter all auditioning, being cast and being a part of the production. Not only have my family members been in the show, but everyone in the production is family. I was raised in and by the people of SCR and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    The Christmas season is one of his busiest times of the year and it has been for my whole life. Despite Dad working late into the night, we still held the same Christmas traditions as most families; picking out a tree, for example, was always a highlight when I was a kid, but Dad was often off to work by the time we started decorating it. Christmastime with my dad meant that I would lie in bed at night, waiting to hear him come through the door a little after 10 p.m.; I waited to hear him lock the door and unplug the Christmas tree lights. Finally, all was calm and I would drift off to sleep.

    My earliest memories of seeing A Christmas Carol include me hiding my head in my mom’s shoulder when I knew the Ghost of Jacob Marley was about to burst through the door; showing off my Christmas Eve dress and shoes to JD [director John-David Keller]; presenting Scrooge with roses at curtain call; racing down the hall backstage into my dad’s arms and begging him to let me watch him take off his “old man” makeup.

    Was it hard having my dad gone almost every night through the month of December? Well, it’s all I’ve ever known. And it’s all my parents’ marriage has ever known. A mere two months after they tied the knot, my dad began rehearsals for the very first production of A Christmas Carol. He will be the first to tell you that there is no way he could have sustained 40 seasons without the unwavering support of his wife, my mom. She set an example of love, patience and grace during this busy season and we all just try to follow suit.

    The past two seasons have been extremely special: my daughter, Presley, auditioned for and played Tiny Tim last year (growing three inches) and, this year, she is playing Belinda Cratchit. Somehow, the role of daughter and mom has helped me see A Christmas Carol’s impact in a new light: seeing more and more red scarves every year, learning about other families’ traditions surrounding A Christmas Carol, ​hearing people recite lines from the show as they walk away from the theatre and exclamations about the “hat trick.” I am overwhelmed with extreme pride and thankfulness.

    I am so proud, in fact, that I got a portion of Scrooge’s final toast—“Ring out wild bells”—tattooed on my arm.