• Acting Students Graduate to Embrace a New World

    Alyssa Dong
     | Jun 26, 2020
    YC Graduates
    THE GRADUATES (clockwise from top left); Lauren Dong, Sarah Frazin, Sarah Sparks, Ella Web, Louis Tonkovich and Ben Susskind.

    When the 2020 pandemic led to a global shut-down, students in South Coast Repertory’s ​Theatre Conservatory were undaunted. They rose to the challenge when their studies migrated online and rehearsals for the Teen Players—an ensemble of advanced acting students—took place on Zoom. In fact, even the Players spring production of Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman was achieved through Zoom so that parents and families could watch the show​, some from as far away as Washington D.C., New York and Japan.

    This year, the Conservatory bids farewell to six high school seniors who now embark on a new adventure at universities around the country.

    To a person, the seniors say they’re grateful for the lessons learned, friendships developed and memories created during their acting studies at SCR. Saying farewell is the tough part, though. And they offer up heartfelt thanks to Hisa Takakuwa, Conservatory director, Erin McNally, musical theatre instructor and Mercy Vasquez, instructor and director.

    The students will start in the fall at universities in California and New York—some keeping theatre as a focus, others branching out to different fields.

    • Lauren Dong will be attending the University of California, San Diego, to study theatre.
    • Sarah Frazin will also be at UC-San Diego to study theatre.
    • Sarah Sparks will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles, to study playwriting.
    • Ben Susskind will also attend UCLA to study playwriting.
    • Louis Tonkovich will be attending the University of California, Santa Cruz, to study political science and sociology.
    • Ella Webb will be attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to study acting.

    For Susskind, “The past three years I’ve spent in Hisa’s [Takakuwa’s] class have been groundbreaking for me as an actor and a person in general. She treats us like professional adults, while still understanding that we are teenagers and we are going to act like it sometimes. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to work with her.”

    Webb reflects on the impact SCR acting teachers had on her, saying, “They taught me to care deeply about others and to always remain curious about the world around me.”

    Some of the seniors’ favorite memories are learning dances. “The collective learning and enthusiasm we all had for the dance always energized me and got me excited for class”, says Tonkovich. 

    A favorite annual event for Sparks was called “SCRom”—a Conservatory version of the prom, since play rehearsals usually happened each spring during prom season. The acting students created their own special event, drawing names from a hat and then creatively asked out the person whose name was drawn. A student’s family would then host the “SCRom” itself.

    “I loved watching the SCRom proposals because you get to see your friends do all these nice things for each other,” says Sparks.

    All six seniors say the life lessons learned in acting classes have given them more self-confidence and taught them to have empathy and compassion for others.

    “People may not realize, I certainly didn’t, that acting is a very vulnerable thing,” says Dong. “It requires deep human connection, good listening skills and effortful communication. Those three lessons I will cherish in my life, acting or not, forever.”

    Frazin agrees, saying, “I have an improved sense of self-confidence and purpose as a result of my experiences at SCR.”

    From all of us at SCR to this group of grads—Congratulations! We also thank them and our current and continuing students for their commitment to the theatrical arts.

  • Summer Acting Class Explores the Works of Anton Chekhov

    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 25, 2020
    Anton Chekhov by Osip Braz (1898).
    Michael Matthys

    About Michael Matthys

    Michael Matthys has been an acting teacher for a dozen years at institutions including San Diego State University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Stella Adler Academy and the Actor's Studio of Orange County. Among his leading theatre roles are Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Treplev in The Sea Gull, 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. His television and film credits include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” “Profiler,” Full Blast, Destiny Turns on the Radio, BASEketball, Nightwatch and the House of Deadly Secrets (both on Netflix). His latest feature film endeavor is Stan the Man.

    This summer in our Adult Theatre Conservatory, you’ll find a great opportunity to delve into one of the literary world’s most enduring writers: Anton Chekhov. The class is called “Playing Chekhov.”

    “Chekhov is always a delight to study,” says teaching artist Michael Matthys. More than a century after his death, Chekov’s plays and short stories connect with people “because we come to admit that we have flaws and dreams, passions and desires, appetites and moods—just as his characters do.”

    We caught up with Matthys, from a distance, to find out why he loves teaching this class, the continued draw that Chekhov has, what students will experience in the class and more.

    Why does Chekhov have such a timeless draw for people?

    Because his characters are so human. They are venting, complaining, lusting, falling in love, feeling futility or excitement just as we do now. And we see complete, nuanced human beings. You really feel for his characters.

    What are hallmarks of his stories?

    Well, the rise of the underling is one I am fascinated with. I’m speaking, of course, of the character Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard. Unrequited love is another theme I think many, if not most people, have experienced in their lifetime.

    What will students experience & learn?

    They’ll encounter the world of Chekhov and all of his characters. They will explore their own humanity through his rich characters and learn to bring a personal connection to them. They will get to have the experience, through acting, of living in turn of the 19th-century Russia—albeit with American accents!

    Students will need two semesters of acting study to join your class—why?

    I believe the nuances of Chekhov's work would be too difficult to digest for most beginning acting students. The character motivations and actions are not as cut-and-dried in Chekhov's plays as they are in many other scripts.

    What do you like most about teaching this class?

    It’s really just about engaging with Chekhov's writing and illuminating the four main plays for actors to work on.

    When did you first encounter Chekhov’s writings—short stories, books, plays?

    Probably in college, but my fascination with his work was cemented when I played Treplev in Garland Wright's renowned production of The Seagull at the Guthrie Theatre. I was straight out of grad school and couldn't have been more excited!

    What’s on your Essential Chekhov reading list?

    For me, really just the four major plays (The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters). I know a lot of people like his short plays and short stories, as well. I have worked on some of his short plays, but have not read many of his short stories or essays. Perhaps I should!

    A study in the journal Science (2013) concluded that reading Chekhov (or other literary fiction) helped people perform better on tests that measured empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. Do you find truth in this?

    Absolutely! Literature gets the brain going—you are exposed to other ways of thinking and being. If you consider carefully what you are reading, you can't help but grow.

    Let’s sit you down for tea with Anton Chekhov. What would you two talk about?

    Wow, if I had the chance to chat with Anton, I think I would want to hear about his life, particularly his work as a doctor and his travels and how that informed his work. I would love for him to regale me with stories from his life!

    Learn More About This Class

  • We’re Taking Some Time to Pause and Chart a New Course

    David Ivers and Paula Tomei
     | Jun 15, 2020

    A Message From Artistic Director David Ivers & Managing Director Paula Tomei

    We hope this letter finds you safe and well, as we all adapt to the changes that 2020 has brought to our lives.

    Last week we reopened our offices to staff only. With social distancing measures in place, some staff members have returned, some work remotely, and some—nearly half—are unfortunately still furloughed. Change is everywhere and adapting to it is paramount in our visioning, planning and moving forward.

    At this moment, we do not know when it will be safe for actors to rehearse again, for artisans to create together or for audiences to gather. And it is clear that the 2020-21 season we announced last March is simply no longer possible. So, we’re taking some time to pause, gather more facts and chart a new course. In mid-July, we will unveil a new season that works with the realities we all face, a new starting date, and some exciting new programs and initiatives. It’s a shame to waste a crisis, and we are working every day to make sure SCR comes through this stronger, more resilient and changed for the better.

    The subscription renewal deadline is paused, too.

    • If you’ve already subscribed for the 2020-21 season, the money you’ve paid is safe with us, and you don’t need to do anything at this point.We will be back in touch at the time of our July announcement to let you know the changes and your options.
    • If you haven’t renewed your subscription, your seats are still on reserve for you, and will be waiting should you choose to renew after our July announcement.
    • And because we realize that not all our audience members will be ready to return to the theatre at the same time, we are safeguarding your subscription seats until June, 2021.You will have the option to take the upcoming season off, and still keep the seats you love.

    The physical, mental and societal well-being of our audiences, artists and staff is vitally important, so we are proceeding with great care. We want—and need—you back when the conditions are right.

    If you have questions regarding your subscription, the ​Box ​Office phone lines are open Monday from noon to 5 pm and Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (714) 708-5599. You may also email us at [email protected].

    Thank you for being a part of the SCR subscriber family. We look forward to sharing more news with you in July!

    David Ivers

    David Ivers
    Artistic Director

    Paula Tomei

    ​Paula Tomei
    ​Managing Director

  • Richard Doyle: My Favorite Roles

    SCR Staff
     | Jun 11, 2020
    Richard Doyle
    Scott Ferrara and Richard Doyle in Outside Mullingar (2020).

    Actor Richard Doyle is a founding member of South Coast Repertory—one of six original actors who signed on in the early 1960s to make a go of what would become the Tony Award-winning, nationally renowned regional theatre. He was 19 when he joined the company.

    Over the course of 56 years—as of 2020—Doyle has been in more than 200 productions at SCR. At first, when you ask him about his favorite plays, he’ll smile broadly and say, “My next one!”

    He explains: “In my mind, it was not appropriate to look for or designate a ‘favorite’, because in many productions, the reason for the experience being significant or memorable may have had little to do with the play itself. Sometimes, these SCR experiences came along at significant moments in my life.”

    All that said, if you give him some time to reflect, he does admit to having some as he puts it, plays that were “memorable influences on me and my craft.”

    Candida by George Bernard Shaw (1965)
    Role: Marchbanks
    “I played opposite Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson’s Reverend Morrell. This was my “first big role,” when SCR was located at its Second Step location on Newport Beach Boulevard.

    Doyle in The Tavern.
    Leo Greene and Richard Doyle in Godspell.

    The Tavern by George M. Cohan (1973)
    Role: The Vagabond
    “It was my first chance at SCR to carry a show and learn what that meant to inhabit a role.”

    The National Health by Peter Nichols (1976)
    Role: Barnet, an Orderly
    “I learned what it meant to inhabit a character that spoke directly and, somewhat uncomfortably, to the audience. I learned a lot. Fun, hard work. Scary, but fun.”

    Godspell by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz (1974)
    Role: Judas / John the Baptist
    “This was the first show where I became aware of the concept of doing a show as a gift to the audience. It grew our audience in ways that made it exciting. Some saw theatre for the first time at SCR and some stayed as patrons. Godspell was like being a rock star in ‘70s Costa Mesa!” SCR went on to produce this musical the next season as well because, as Doyle remembers, “we could not do enough shows!”

    Wild Oats by John O’Keeffe (1979)
    Role: Rover
    “This was my first big part in the theatre ‘new’ (current) location. I played a romantic, high energy, kaleidoscopic character. I was actually a last-minute choice for the role and was under the gun, but I was able to do it.”

    Men’s Singles by D.B. Gilles (1983)
    Role: Larry
    “In this story about three guys in a tennis club in New York City, we dressed and undressed onstage and discussed our love lives, or lack thereof. I was the  kind of actor who was always  “all in” leaving little to the imagination, but this was my first all off kind of role. I learned to focus on the story.”

    Unsuitable for Adults by Terry Johnson (1986)
    Role: Nick, a British stand-up comic / impressionist.
    “This experience taught me that, on my worst day as an actor, I never wanted to be a stand-up comic! The theatre put me with a real impressionist/comic and my counterpart, actor Karen Hensel, and I worked very hard. The result was that she came to the same conclusion I did: we loved being actors … it was exciting and memorable.

    Karen Hensel and Doyle in Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.
    Jeanne Paulsen and Doyle in Holy Days.

    Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune by Terrence McNally (1989)
    Role: Johnny
    “Karen Hensel (as Frankie) and I teamed up again for a rough-edged love story about a waitress and fry cook. We took the show to the Singapore Centennial Arts Festival. This one stands out because of my respect and love for Karen and for the power of language to tell a story with very little manipulation and some disrobing!”

    Holy Days by Sally Nemeth (1990)
    Role: Gant
    “This story about a farm family in the dust bowl is a masterpiece, and there wasn’t a dry eye in house on our dust-filled stage.”

    Hospitality Suite by Roger Rueff (1992)
    Role: Larry
    “What I remember is the earthquake that stopped the show! But our audience wouldn't leave, so we went on.”

    Doyle and Don Took in Hospitality Suite.
    Kene Holliday and Doyle in Playland.

    Playland by Athol Fugard (1994)
    Role: Gideon La Roux
    “I played white, South African mercenary soldier who meets up with Martinus Zoeloe, a black South African (played by Kene Holliday, who nightly got to kick dirt on people in the front row!). Our characters worked behind-the-scenes of an amusement park to try to solve Apartheid. Tough love and some amazing text and emotional revelations made for a particularly memorable show."

    Proof by David Auburn (2003)
    Role: Robert
    “This play has stayed with me because it touched so many people, who expressed to me the degree to which I had spoken to them through this portrayal.”

    In addition, Doyle has fond memories of performing in Wit by Margaret Edson (1995), which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; The Weir by Conor McPherson (2011); and Outside Mulligar by John Patrick Shanley (2020).

    Doyle says, “Have I loved every minute of it? Every role? Well suffice to say, some nights it could have been just a job were it not my SCR colleagues and our SCR audience. We have worked very hard to let our work speak for itself. Favorite or not, each play got the full measure of our commitment to SCR and the audience who had come to see and hear the story.”

  • Skilled Artisans Bring Costumes to Life

    SCR Staff
     | Mar 30, 2020
    An array of costumes built by SCR's Costume Shop.
    Costumes from SCR's production of Little Black Shadows (2018).

    As you step into South Coast Repertory's Costume Shop, bolts of fabric are stored by color, making the perimeter of the room a visual delight. Large tables, sewing machines, mannequins and more populate the space. So what does it take to bring a designer's illustration to life as a costume for an actor to wear on stage?

    The Costume Shop is tasked with supplying all of the clothes for a production. The Wardrobe Supervisor works backstage and is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the clothes once the show is running in the theatre.

    Here's a look at some of the most common positions in a Costume Shop.

    Cutter/Draper – This position basically takes a two-dimensional rendering and engineers it into a three-dimensional garment that fits an actor.

    A cutter/draper studies a drawing of what the designer has in mind, takes the measurements of the actor and, on a piece of plain brown paper, develops the patterns needed to construct the garment. The cutter/draper cuts the pattern out of muslin for a mock up, fits this and then, after correcting the pattern, cuts it out of the fashion fabric.

    The cutter may develop this pattern mathematically, in what we call flat patterning, or may drape muslin on a dress form and then transfer that information to the paper pattern. In addition, they are well-versed in fabrics and which ones will produce the effect the designer wants.

    The cutter/draper also oversees the fitting and alterations of pulled (from SCR's inventory of costumes from previous shows) and purchased costumes while they are building the costumes that they are patterning. In addition, they supervise the work of the first hands and stitchers.

    First Hand - This position is the assistant to a cutter/draper or tailor. This person is knowledgeable about fabrics, is an excellent stitcher, can produce simple patterns for things for things including aprons, linings and collars. The first hand will assist in fittings by taking notes and helping the cutter/draper keep track of items of clothing. The first hand may also help guide the stitchers with construction techniques and may also help cut the fabrics for costumes under the cutter/draper's supervision.

    Stitcher - These people come in many skill levels from beginner to highly experienced. They primarily sew all day, either on the machine or by hand.

    Crafts - Craftspeople have a wide range of duties that they may perform. They dye fabrics; paint fabrics or shoes; make hats, jewelry, body padding, wings, armor, tails, ears, masks, amd other items. A craftsperson should be familiar with working with plastics, foam, fabric and other non-traditional materials. They take perfectly good clothes and make them look years old, muddy, dirty or bloody.

    Wardrobe Supervisor - This position takes responsibility for the costumes once they are moved from the Costume S​hop to the dressing rooms. The supervisor cleans, repairs and sets costumes where they're needed during a show (called presets). In addition, the supervisor must track costume pieces ​through a show, making sure to always know the costumes are where they need to be. The ​position will choreograph the quick changes for other dressers when necessary, set schedules for maintenance, assign duties for the run of the show and send out dry cleaning when needed. The wardrobe supervisor may also have to train stage management interns or wig run crew to perform quick changes when there are not enough hands backstage. The primary goal is to maintain a production, so that it looks the same on closing as it did on opening and all that entails.

    Learn more about SCR’s 2020-21 Season.