• From The Director’s Chair: Tony Taccone and "A Shot Rang Out"

    Brian Robin
     | Oct 20, 2021
    Tony Taccone
    Director Tony Taccone. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
    David Ivers
    ​David Ivers in A Shot Rang Out. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    Along with being one of the most acclaimed theatre directors in the country, Tony Taccone is renowned for his work with one-person plays. For reference, see Latin History for Morons with John Leguizamo, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, Sarah Jones’ Bridge & Tunnel and Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, which Taccone co-wrote. During his acclaimed 33-year-tenure as the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory, Taccone oversaw more than 70 world, American and West Coast premieres. He sent 24 shows to New York and two to London.

    Yes, it was Taccone who commissioned and co-directed Tony Kushner’s pioneering Angels in America.

    Taccone was set to make his South Coast Repertory directorial debut in the spring of 2020 with Caroline V. McGraw’s I Get Restless. But the pandemic shelved those plans, postponing Taccone’s SCR debut to A Shot Rang Out, which welcomed audiences back to live theatre. Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain) wrote A Shot Rang Out specifically for SCR Artistic Director David Ivers to perform. And the A-list trio of Greenberg, Taccone and Ivers creates a dynamic play that already has audiences enraptured.

    Taccone sat down last month and talked about what went into bringing A Shot Rang Out to audiences and why it’s the perfect vehicle for the times we live in.

    What makes A Shot Rang Out such a poignant and timely play?
    “Well, it doesn’t get any more topical. It’s about a guy who’s emerging from a pandemic. A guy who’s emerging from a place of great isolation for a very long time. A person who’s emerging from a place where his habits have been broken and new ones have had to take their place. … There are beautiful, long passages in this play where the character articulates his experience in a way that feels existentially, very, very immediate and relatable to everybody. Everybody. We’ve all gone through this thing for better and for worse. This struggle, which has brought up different things for different folks. But the struggle is there for everybody.”

    What are the directorial challenges and nuances in directing a one-man play?
    “Directing a solo show is different than directing a multi-cast play. The relationship with the actor is different. It’s more intimate. You’re more privy to a single individual’s personal habits, nuances, behaviors, defense mechanisms and strengths. You get a front-row seat to this person and you are the audience. You’re sort of sitting in for another character in the play. … One person shows in general tend to be more intense. You have to understand who the individual is and what they need. ... What David (Ivers) needs isn’t what John Leguizamo needs and what John Leguizamo needs isn’t what Sarah Jones needs and certainly not what Carrie Fisher needed. There’s a very wide range of adaptive mechanisms that come into play when you engage with a particular person and the story they’re trying to tell.”

    Let’s take this another step. Tell us about the experience of directing ‘A Shot Rang Out’.
    “It’s a particularly unique challenge. The piece doesn’t have a lot of physical fireworks. It doesn’t have a lot of magic tricks. It doesn’t have a lot of aces up its sleeve. It’s going to mean the act of watching this guy process the material, process his story and be both courageous and vulnerable enough to tell it. That’s the event. … This is one of the few solo shows I’ve done, maybe the only one, where the performer did not write the material. David is an actor, but he’s still interpreting Richard’s work. That’s fun, because there’s a distance mechanism that we can both analyze and address. But he’s creating a character and that character has to appear to be him.”

    Talk about your relationship with David Ivers and what he brings to this challenging role:
    “It feels special because (he) is a longtime colleague and pal and associate. That feels like a really solid foundation to re-emerge into something approaching normalcy, if you can use that word anymore. … David has a long and illustrious and rich career as an actor. He came at this from the opposite way (I did). He was an actor for many years and then started to direct. … For him, this is about actually using muscles crying to be used.

    How do you think audiences will respond to such a powerful, engaging work?
    “That’s a big question mark. Nobody knows what people are used to now. Are they so used to Netflix melodramas that they won’t have the nervous system to sit back and watch this thing roll out? Watching David, it’s going to be pretty impressive. It’s going to be pretty impressive. There won’t be any doubt when he opens this about his ability, his talent or his desire. I think that will be on full display and I think that will be exciting.”

    Learn more and buy tickets to A Shot Rang Out.

  • Greenberg at a Glance

    Jerry Patch
     | Oct 14, 2021
    Richard Greenberg
    Playwright Richard Greenberg

    ​Did You Know?

    Playwright Richard Greenberg has received 13 SCR commissions, 13 SCR productions and 10 SCR world premieres?

    Commissions and NewSCRipts are among the nine initiatives in South Coast Repertory’s comprehensive new play development program, The [email protected]Learn more about the program here.

    Richard Greenberg is a bona-fide New Yorker. Born and raised just east of Manhattan on Long Island, he settled in the Chelsea district after graduating from Princeton and Yale Universities, with a year of grad work at Harvard in between. 

    His roommate for his first years in the city was the actress Patricia Clarkson, a fellow New Yorker who’s still a close friend. He’s moved once in 40 years, from W. 23rd St. to W. 22nd, a block away. He hates leaving town, and hates traveling even more. 

    His favorite writer is Dawn Powell, a slick, satirical stylist and contemporary and friend of Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos, James Thurber, and her editor, Maxwell Perkins. Originally from Ohio, she chronicled New York life and its people, writing novels and plays from the 1930s to her death in 1965 at 69. 

    She was known as a “writer’s writer,” a tag that is often put on Greenberg. There has been no more “literate” playwright in America over the last 40 years than he, having been compared to writers from Noel Coward to Henry James. His Tony winner, Take Me Out, is being revived on Broadway this fall, and has been optioned for a television series. 

    He has written well over 30 plays, most of which were set in or around New York City and produced on and off-Broadway. He has won every playwriting prize in New York, most of them more than once. 

    All of which makes his 33-year association with South Coast Repertory something of an anomaly. A Shot Rang Out is the 13th play by Greenberg to be produced here, 10 of which were world premieres. 

    Most of these productions required Greenberg to be on site for development and rehearsals of his texts—which meant enduring travel he loathes. But surprise! The native New Yorker enjoyed Orange County, long enough over the years to find local favorites still abiding here and rue the losses of those now gone.

    Greenberg loves our temperate climate; loved staying near SCR in the Marriott Suites. He mourned the loss of the flagship El Torito Grill on Anton Blvd., and breakfasts at Jerry’s Deli around the corner. The typewriter on which he wrote until he could no longer justify not using a computer sits in place of honor: a bookshelf in the office of his pal, Joanne DeNaut, SCR’s casting director for decades. 

    In 2020, the onset of the pandemic and the unresolved restrictions placed on assembling creatives and audiences prompted Artistic Director David Ivers to ask Greenberg for a solo play—one that could be performed by a single actor and streamed if audiences could not gather in person. A Shot Rang Out is the result. It was Greenberg’s idea that Ivers be cast in the role, a part he wrote with Ivers in mind. 

    As usual, Greenberg has been a periodic presence during the development and rehearsal of his text—but this time over Zoom. A true man of the theatre, Richard’s play is both a celebration of returning to the art form, and the tale of one man’s odyssey—one taken by many of us—before, during and after a period of great stress. And a welcome back. 

    Learn more about A Shot Rang Out and buy tickets.

  • How Would You Like to Engage?

    SCR Staff
     | Oct 12, 2021
    Photo of Inside the Season Discussion
    Lighting Designer Karyn D. Lawrence and Literary Manager Andy Knight during an Inside the Season for Vanya and Sonja and Masha and Spike.
    H. Adam Harris
    ​H. Adam Harris

    Exciting new additions have been added to South Coast Repertory’s line-up of pre- and post-show engagement opportunities. In 2019, we introduced Director/Designer Conversations to the lineup of popular Actor Talks and Inside the Season. And now, there are three more opportunities for audiences to engage with the artists, the work onstage and theatre itself.

    We sat down with H. Adam Harris, SCR’s Artistic/Audience Engagement Associate, to learn more about the new offerings—Performance Perspectives, The Deep Dive and Playwright/Dramaturg Conversations.

    First, tell us about the inspiration behind the expansion of engagement offerings?

    H. Adam Harris: We hope that each of these opportunities allows the audience to engage deeply with the work in a variety of ways. Each post-show opportunity is meant to provide a gathering place for conversation, creativity and connection. Artistic Director David Ivers is really interested in activating our lobbies and theatres as places for communal gathering. Places where we don’t just bear witness, but interact with the play, and more importantly, with each other!

    What kinds of topics can we expect at Performance Perspectives?

    H.A.H.: Performance Perspectives conversations will be based on different themes or ideas relevant to each play. Since our plays cover a range of ideas, the perspectives will as well. With A Shot Rang Out, I’m really interested in discussing the impact of this pandemic on our sense of wellness and self-care. What I Learned in Paris is a perfect play to engage with the intersectionality of feminism and Blackness. And Tiger Style! is set right here
    in Orange County! What else can we learn about the Chinese-American experience right outside these doors?

    The Deep Dive encourages active participation and sharing from the audience. What do we want theatregoers, especially those who may be hesitant to share their opinions, to know about this experience?

    H.A.H.: In education we talk about a circular feedback loop between teacher and students. And believe it or not, that also happens in the theatre! With The Deep Dive, we want to open up the space to the audience’s opinions and thoughts, negative or positive. Think of it like a really robust book club; the author isn’t normally there, so you feel free to speak candidly. That’s the same energy we are bringing to The Deep Dive—no creatives, just you and other audience members.

    And finally, for those interested in how plays get written, what would you like to share about Playwright/Dramaturg Conversations?

    H.A.H.: The telling of stories is one of our oldest crafts. And our playwrights and dramaturgs have worked hard to understand what makes a story work. These conversations will focus on the process of playwriting and developing new work. Participants will love the ability to quiz these master storytellers on the craft and each specific play. 

    Learn more, including the entire schedule of upcoming engagement opportunities.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "The Roommate"

    SCR Staff
     | Sep 02, 2021
    Tessa Auberjonois and Linda Gehringer in The Roommate by Jen Silverman (2017). Photo by Debora Robinson

    About The Roommate

    Sharon is sensible. An Iowan. An empty nester. Curious and very, very talkative. For the first time in her life, at age 54, she takes in a roommate to make ends meet. Robyn, a new arrival from the Bronx, is hiding a lifetime of secrets. But Sharon has a way of getting to the truth—the fascinating, shocking truth. This intriguing and funny play proves it’s never too late to shake things up—for better or worse.

    Tessa Auberjonois has been in nearly a dozen productions at South Coast Repertory—as well as numerous new-play readings as part of the NewSCRipts series and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. In SCR’s production of The Roommate by Jen Silverman (2017), directed by SCR Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson, she portrayed Robyn, a world-wise woman who rents a room from Sharon. The experience was magical for Auberjonois, who selected this photo as her favorite.

    What moment does this depict?

    This play was a two-character story of two very unlikely and mismatched roommates, Robyn and Sharon.  It begins when my character, Robyn, arrives in the home of Sharon (Linda Gehringer) and ends after Robyn has left. Over the course of the play, they form a very unlikely friendship. In this photo, Robyn has just convinced Sharon to smoke a joint with her—something Sharon has never done!—and they are having a really good laugh.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    Because it was just two actors and our director Martin Benson working on a full-length play, we were a very tight company. Martin helped me find the physicality—and padding, wig and make-up!—to create a character who was about 15-20 years older than my actual age.  

    What’s the power about this moment?

    It was not hard work at all to find the genuine laughter you can see in this picture. Linda and I had a really magical time performing this piece together every night. All I needed to do for moments like this was look to Linda to make me laugh and fill me with real joy.

    Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

    Because the play takes place on one set and has multiple scenes with just the two of us, and also Jen Silverman's writing was very contemporary and specific, this was (one of) the hardest scripts to memorize. Linda and I worked really hard and it certainly paid off. Some writers have an innate sense of language and timing and we found that when we really nailed the words exactly as written and punctuated on the page, it just soared. I'm proud of that because I think it's an example of making something that was really hard look easy and effortless. I also got to stand backstage at the end of the play, after my character had moved out, and listen to Linda's beautiful final monologue, which made me cry every single night!

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "How to Write a New Book for the Bible"

    Linda Gehringer
     | Aug 06, 2021
    How to Write a New Book for the Bible
    Linda Gehringer, Jeff Biehl and Tyler Pierce in How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain (2012). Photo by Henry DiRocco.

    About ​​​How to Write a New Book for the Bible

    “Write about what you know.” Bill Cain took that advice, and this is the dazzling result—a play about a family so appealing that you want to find a comfortable chair and settle down in their living room. When Bill comes back home to care for Mary, his often maddening (but always funny) mother, he tells the family story as it unfolds—in evocative flashbacks. The memories are both bitter and sweet, for this is a family with its own set of commandments. They squabble, yes, but even their arguments are beguiling.

    Linda Gehringer has been in more than 20 productions at South Coast Repertory—in addition to readings for NewSCRipts and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. She had already been involved with How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain (2012), directed by Kent Nicholson, as the play developed and ​had two productions at two other theatres before ​SCR produced it. She fell in love with this story of a strong, feisty elderly woman at the end of her life.

    What moment does this depict?

    We worked on this particular moment over and over—it comes early in the play, soon after we meet my character, Mary Cain. She is dying of cancer and her son has come home to take care of her. He thought his mother needed a cane or some assistance for walking, but she was not happy about it at all. In fact, she ended up kicking the medical helper, who came to test her, across the room.

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    It was, of course, funny—but it had to be believable. Like so many other moments in that play, Mary had enormous strength for someone who was dying, so there was always a balance that could be hard to find. We wanted her to be as funny as possible but always so real—and, of course, so heartbreaking. This moment happened because of everyone involved—the director, the playwright and the actors. It was a wonderful ensemble group where people felt free to express their opinions.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    This was such a victory for her—and emotionally it was so satisfying because she stunned them all.

    Anything else you’d like to say?

    This is such a wonderful memory. I can still hear the audience laughter from this moment and when we finally got it right, it was so right. This was a beautiful play.