• Three Questions for Playwright Adam Bock

    SCR Staff
     | Aug 26, 2019
    Adam Bock

    ​Playwright Adam Bock

    Adam Bock’s The Canadians had ​its first reading at​ South Coast Repertory as part of the 2018-19 NewSCRipts play-reading series and later a reading at the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival. Now, The Canadians will have its world premiere at SCR on the Julianne Argyros Stage (Sept. 29-Oct. 20). We caught up with Bock to ask him a few questions about his early (really early) playwriting efforts, the play that changed his life and what we should know about The Canadians.

    When did you know that you wanted to be a playwright?
    I knew pretty early on. I started writing plays in the third grade​—for me and my friends to do in class​—and took my first playwriting class in high school (my teacher made me listen to a recording of Marat/Sade, she was awesome and I was hooked on experimental theatre). I didn’t know playwriting could be my career until I went to the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center for a semester after college. After that, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do.

    What play changed your life?
    Far Away
    by Caryl Churchill. I saw it at New York Theatre Workshop. It was 45-minutes long and explained war, how it creeps up on us, how it dehumanizes us​, how it turns the whole world against itself and how terrifying that is. There is an amazing speech at the end of the play, when a returning soldier describes not knowing whose side silence and darkness are on—and whether the river is an enemy—and suddenly I understood how, during war, walk outside and who knows what will attack you. We are so lucky we have lived without mass armed conflict on our land for a while, a fortune that I think we take for granted. Churchill did all this in 45 minutes and ​it was a deeply theatrical, entertaining and horrifying play. Made me know that the length of a play is not its virtue, that deep is as strong as wide and that our job as playwrights is to delight and terrify people with the reality of the world, to wake up and to awaken others. A very high bar she raises and an inspiration always.

    What should we know about The Canadians ?
    I am a Canadian who has lived in the U.S. for most of my adult life. I love the experience of exploring a new world, but also of knowing another one. It’s a bit like being gay—learning to be comfortable in many different environments, hopefully learning from them all. I think the sadness of all the difficulties we have with difference, misogyny, racism, homophobia and on and on, is that we lose the chance to learn from each other, to explore each other’s worlds, so fascinating and vast.

    Learn more about The Canadians and buy tickets.

  • Celebrating SCR: Angela Balogh Calin Designs Third Gala

    Beth Fhaner and Tania Thompson
     | Aug 19, 2019
    Angela Calin

    Angela Balogh Calin

    Gala Design

    Design rendering for the gala stage.

    Gala Design

    ​Idea board for the gala stage.

    Gala Design

    ​Design rendering for the gala lobby.

    Gala Design

    ​Idea board for the gala stage.

    When patrons walk into the South Coast Repertory Gala, "Play Your Part," at The Westin South Coast Plaza on Sept. 7, 2019, they will enter an immersive, interactive and glamorous world, where they’ll enjoy a fun evening of theatrical experiences, delicious cuisine, live entertainment and dancing.

    Angela Balogh Calin, who is well-known to SCR regulars as a set and costume designer for more than two decades, most recently designing costumes for Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience (Theatre for Young Audiences), Sugar Plum Fairy, Ella Enchanted: The Musical (Theatre for Young Audiences) and The Monster Builder, marks her third consecutive year designing for SCR’s annual Gala.

    In our Q&A, Calin reveals her thoughts about designing this year’s Gala—and also about creative design work in general.

    The theme for this year’s Gala is “Play Your Part”—tell us what that means to you.

    This year’s Gala is an open invitation to both the SCR team and the patrons to join forces in looking ahead and helping promote the thriving future of South Coast Repertory.

    How have you gone about designing for the theme—such as your process and your inspirations?

    Once the theme is ​chosen, I begin my design process by drawing inspiration from various artistic mediums. This process is very similar to what I do when I design sets or costumes for the theatre. I try to translate words into visual imagery. In the theatre, I work with a play and, as an event designer, I work with a theme. My research in this case is mainly visual. I use as many tools as possible from online  surfing, to using books, photography, and more. Yes, I still have a passion for books and use them as research​! I always try to learn how other artists convey their vision about words, themes or stories. For example, I take a word and I ​Google it in images (such as photography, fine art/visual art, literature, in fashion, architectureor nature). It is a fascinating process, one that I enjoy immensely and spend as much time with as I can. With each project, I learn something new and exciting about the way people/artists think and express feelings, moods and ideas.

    The next step is to process all the information and then create my own visual concept, my own way to bring to life the theme picked for the event. This phase is followed by a number of meetings with the committee and the theatre when I present my ideas and visual material. It’s a chance for me to get valuable feedback from the committee. Based on the feedback I receive, I make the necessary revisions and then turn in the final project.

    What questions did you ask yourself in the initial design planning stages?

    'What is the most relevant aspect of the theatre​?' ​The main objective is to find a way to make my design exciting for the guests and, at the same time, be relevant to SCR’s aesthetic and mission. I try to incorporate elements specific to SCR. For example, I like to incorporate production photos, costumes, wigs and props in the event décor. This is an evening dedicated to this theatre and its accomplishments, while looking ahead to the next season and the future. I want guests to feel connected to SCR while enjoying this event. It’s kind of like peeking through a window to see the various SCR departments at work.

    Touch on elements of the Gala, including lighting, and how they all work together.

    When designing for an event like this, many departments have to work in unison in order to make the evening a success. When the guests begin to arrive, it is still light outside, so the entrance and lobby area need to have just a minimal amount of lighting, but once the event moves into the ballroom, the entire space will transform, thanks in part to our very talented lighting designer John Acton from Brite Ideas. I work closely with him, Jon Lagerquist, SCR's technical director, and David Saewert, SCR's prop mater. I’m always in awe at how a simple room can turn into a magical place, thanks to lighting to create a whimsical, moody, unique setting for this special night.

    What are some cool things that Gala attendees may not know about the work you do?

    I’d like them to know this event is very dear to me. I look at it as my chance to celebrate SCR, the theatre I love and admire. I ​am very fortunate to have a 20-year artistic collaboration with SCR and I am grateful for it. Designing the Gala is my chance to give back to an organization that has been at the forefront of theatre in California and the country.

    What will we see at the Gala—in broad terms?

    This year we are trying a more interactive approach in the lobby area. We’d like to engage the guests into playful photo opportunities. We’ll have freestanding frames with photo backdrops from various SCR productions, so the guests can create their own photo setups. This will give patrons a chance to meet and interact and have some fond photo memories from the event. In the ballroom, we’ll have a combination of costumes and scenic drafting on display to reflect the creative work at SCR. And, of course, we do have a stage for the speeches and for the band.

    How do you “set” the design for a ballroom and a foyer space at The Westin?

    Just as when designing for the stage, event design has its challenges: I have to t​consider the physical space and its limitations. The Westin ballroom and foyer have low ceilings, so the concept for the Gala has to transform and enhance the space as much as possible. There are limitations on how much rigging/attaching can be done in this space, so the design/décor needs to be self-contained. There is also a time limitation, as the “set” needs to go up fast and be taken apart in the shortest time possible. Usually we have one day to decorate the space, have the Gala and then wrap everything. This entire process involves a lot of planning.

    Tell us about working with the artisans at SCR on the Gala build?

    SCR has some of the most talented and dedicated artisans around, and I’m blessed to have known and worked with some of them for 20 years. Ours is a collaborative effort and I welcome their feedback and suggestions. I value and trust their opinions, experience and friendship.

    Jon Lagerquist, technical director, is my biggest ally and most valued collaborator. He is the one who coordinates his team of masters and, with “his magic wand,” turns my scribbles on paper into reality. My other collaborators are Amy Hutto, ​Costumes ​Shop manager; David Saewert, ​Prop ​Shop manager; and ​all the other SCR artisans.

    And finally, what feelings or emotions, do you hope the Gala design will evoke?

    A whimsical, joyous and loving celebration of SCR, the theatre we love and respect.

    Learn more about the 2019 Gala “Play Your Part”.

  • Actor, Teacher, Playwright: The Many Roles of Diana Burbano

    Beth Fhaner
     | Aug 16, 2019
    Diana Burbano

    ​Diana Burbano

    Diana with Student

    ​Burbano works with a student.

    Diana Burbano on Teaching Acting

    Burbano has been a Conservatory instructor for several years, where she’s taught youth and adult acting classes, musical theatre and acting for the camera. Here, she explains what she enjoys most about teaching:

    I love teaching. From the first day of adult basics class, when 20 grown-ups file into a room, nervous as heck and wondering what they are doing there, to the last class where they are playing, laughing and responding to each other as people and as actors, it’s a real joy. Sometimes I think I’m just a conduit to help these folks find their light. A lot of my students come to me after spending their whole lives doing something else, or they had a dispiriting experience in college, or they never got up the nerve to try acting before. I love watching them allow themselves to have fun. And a lot of my students keep going and go on to work in the industry! I keep in touch with many of them. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I do.”

    Learn more about Burbano’s approach to teaching.

    Diana Burbano is a familiar face around SCR, as the actor and playwright is also a Conservatory instructor who has taught beginning youth and adult acting classes, musical theatre and acting for camera. As an actor, she’s appearing in SCR’s season opener, American Mariachi, where she plays the character of Amalia, a role she portrayed in Arizona Theatre Company’s production of the play earlier this year. In our Q&A, Burbano shares her thoughts about American Mariachi and why it’s such an important play.

    You’re reprising the role of Amalia in SCR’s production of American Mariachi. What is it about this play that resonates with you?

    It’s a beautiful, relatable play about a daughter looking to connect with her mother while also finding her independence. But the reason it’s so important, so relevant in this moment is because there seems to be a need to open hearts about the essential humanity of Latinx/Mexican-American people. There feels like a real division right now that may be caused by a lack of seeing Mexican people depicted in their wholeness on stage, film and TV.

    American Mariachi is a family story and an American story. We are here and have been for a long, long time. We are part of the fabric of America and it’s important to see us onstage.

    How do you relate to the character of Amalia? What do you enjoy the most about playing this role, and what are the challenges?

    Amalia is suffering from early onset dementia; she often shifts ages in a single sentence. She becomes a child, and then ages tremendously in an instance, depending on how she reacts to outside stimulus. It’s incredibly challenging. But my absolute favorite thing is that I get to sing. I never get to sing enough!

    Amalia’s daughter, Lucha, is the primary caregiver for her mother. How does mariachi music help Lucha to connect with her mother?

    Amalia’s favorite aunt was a Mariachera, the music infuses her life, it’s deeply embedded in the way Amalia sees the world. When Amalia’s dementia takes her away from reality, the music brings her back.

    What do you hope audiences take away from American Mariachi?

    That we have more in common than we are different. That music is a balm to everyone. That love sometimes means defying expectations. That another language is only a barrier if you close your ears to its music.

    In addition to acting and teaching, you’re also a playwright. Tell us a bit about your recent work as a playwright.

    I’ve been extremely lucky, my writing has taken me all over the country—most recently to Actors Theatre of Charlotte, NC, with their NuVoices program. This year I was part of Center Theatre Group’s LA Writers’ Workshop, where I wrote a play about orangutans and autism called Sapience, and I’m under commission by Alter Theater in the Bay Area with my play Ghosts of Bogota, which will be produced in their 2020 season. I really like how Alter’s Artistic Director Jeanette Harrison describes Ghosts: “It is the story of three siblings, who return to their birth country when their grandfather dies. Ghosts is a universal story about family secrets, told through a very specific Latinx lens, and a story about that unique immigrant experience of never feeling fully at home in any country that can claim you."

    Who are your literary and artistic heroes?

    Top of the list: José Cruz Gonzalez! I first met José in the Hispanic Playwrights Project (HPP) on a play called Inkarri’s Return in 1995. He’s a generous person with a long memory, and we got to work together again on Long Road Today, SCR’s incredibly successful community based program in Santa Ana, Calif. To be on the Segerstrom Stage acting for him in American Mariachi feels like a grand, full-circle moment.

    I also owe so much to Luis Alfaro, who invited me to be a part of the Latinx Play Project at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where I spent time with Octavio Solis. All three of these men have been incredibly generous with their time and with sharing opportunities with me. Thanks to Octavio’s recommendations, I have been playwright in Residence in Marfa, Texas, and got my commission at Alter! And Luis, by being a generous mentor and artist, has helped my work get into Center Theatre Group. Also, Karen Zacarías, Laurie Woolery, Sara Guerrero, Jesus Reyes, Patricia Garza, Tlaloc Rivas, the list goes on and on of Latinx artists generous with their time, their ideas and their advocacy.

    Any final reflections on American Mariachi?

    I can’t wait for audiences to see it. And we love the reactions. To hear the gritos at the start of the music energizes us for the rest of the show. 

    Learn more about American Mariachi and buy tickets.

  • Four Questions for Two “Wizard of Oz” Ensemble Members

    Beth Fhaner
     | Aug 14, 2019
    Kid actors from Wizard of Oz

    Caitlyn Yu and Preston Veravanich in rehearsal for The Wizard of Oz.

    With the Summer Players production of The Wizard of Oz (Argyros Stage, Aug. 10-11, 17-18), in full swing, it’s been a highly creative and exciting time around here. We recently caught up with actors Preston Veravanich and Caitlyn Yu, ensemble members in Oz, to give us the scoop on what they love about being a part of this spectacular show, which features all advanced students in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory.

    Tell us about the characters you portray.

    Veravanich: In our show, I portray many characters as a member of the ensemble. I play a Crow, an Osian [a resident of the city of Oz], a Winkie and a Snowflake. My favorite character by far is the Crow, but all characters have been a blast to play so far. 

    Yu: Since I am a member of the ensemble, I portray several characters in Oz. These characters include a Munchkin (who represents the Lullaby League), an Osian manicurist and a ghost. Each of my characters introduce Dorothy (and Toto) to the various locations found in the Land of Oz.

    What do you love most about working on The Wizard of Oz? And what has been most challenging?

    Yu: Since I have the opportunity of portraying several characters in The Wizard of Oz, I find distinguishing between my characters a bit complicated. For example, finding the differences in how my Osian character reacts to a significant object or person compared to my Munchkin character can be difficult. However, this is also one of my favorite parts of being in this show; I am able to explore my characters and find the differences and similarities between them that ultimately make them real people/beings in the story. This, along with several other aspects of being in SCR’s production of The Wizard of Oz, allows me to enjoy telling such a beautiful story with my friends.

    Veravanich: The thing that I love the most about being in this amazing show is the sense of professionalism that comes with it. Every time that I enter the Julianne Argyros Stage, I’m blown away by just how complex and impressive our set and our space is overall. The most challenging thing, for me, has been living as my characters, as strange as it may sound. Whenever I am a part of a show, my mind is so filled with what comes next in terms of notes and choreography and lines that I often forget that I am a person living in that moment. In other words, living in the present as opposed to living in the past or the future has been my biggest obstacle. 

    What do you enjoy most about working with/learning from director Hisa Takakuwa and musical director Erin McNally?

    Yu: Hisa and Erin focus on the importance of process versus product by teaching you about the how’s and why’s in relation to doing something instead of simply telling you what to do. I also love working with Hisa and Erin because they let you grow as an individual by letting you do the work. They are a significant part of your growing process, but they give you the freedom to grow by encouraging you to take risks, ask questions and find answers.

    Veravanich: Hisa and Erin have been a large part of my life for a very long time. I am so grateful to have known them for as long as I have, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had them as teachers. The favorite thing that I have learned from Hisa and Erin is the importance of togetherness. Everything that I know about acting has come from others, and Hisa and Erin both taught me to open my eyes towards the many things that my fellow castmates have to offer me and what I have to offer to them. 

    How are you using what you learned in your acting classes here to help you in this show?

    Veravanich: My acting classes laid the groundwork for all that I am able to do in the show. Many people don’t realize just how complicated a process acting is; each tier of acting is built upon the lessons learned in the last class. Theatre truly is life with all the dull parts cut out, as Alfred Hitchcock once said. The lesson that had to be reiterated to me the most was the importance of the ensemble. I was quite shy when I first entered the world of theatre and it took at least two years for me to break out of my shell. Thanks to all of my amazing teachers, I was able to realize how I could deepen my work onstage if I connected with my fellow actors that are onstage with me. 

    Yu: The acting classes at SCR focus on building characters by exploring their relationships and intentions in relation to where they are in their story. These classes give us the tools we need to build a story with characters ​who have their own unique traits so that we are prepared to perform our best in a show or ensemble, such as Summer Players. SCR’s acting classes have taught me how to succeed in this show by helping me animate my characters, which contributes to the overall show.  

    Learn more about The Wizard of Oz and buy tickets.

  • Great Taste – Menu Planning for the 2019 “Play Your Part” Gala

    Beth Fhaner
     | Aug 13, 2019

    Work on SCR’s 2019 Gala (“Play Your Part”, Sept. 7, at The Westin South Coast Plaza), the theatre’s annual fundraiser, is well underway. As part of their work, members of the Gala’s Cuisine Committee gathered at The Westin South Coast Plaza for one of the most important tasks of planning for the Gala—menu planning. Of course, this job involves tasting an array of flavorful dishes and signature cocktails. A tough job, but someone has to do it, right?

    Gala Chairs Steve and Laurie Duncan, along with Cuisine Committee co-chairs Deirdre Kelly and Bill Schenker and committee members Bette Aitken and Sarah McElroy tasted suggested menu items—from drink specials to hors d’oeuvres, from soups and salads to main courses. And, of course, desserts, too! Executive Chef Adrian Hernandez, who is new to The Westin South Coast Plaza, prepared a feast of savory dishes and the committee then had the incredibly difficult decision of selecting a winning dish for each category.

    The committee began by sampling a variety of hors d’oeuvres options, which included everything from a vegan polenta with vegetable ratatouille to an ahi wonton crisp with watermelon radish to grilled lamb chops with port wine reduction and much more. When making a final decision on a dish, the committee takes several factors into account including taste, presentation, whether the appetizer can be eaten in one or two bites, and if vegan and gluten-free options are also available.

    Following the hors d’oeuvres selection, the committee moved on to determining the menu’s first course. Various soup and salad options were presented such as a caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese, chilled potato and leek soup and a bibb lettuce salad with beets, caramelized walnuts and feta cheese. Once again, the committee kept in mind taste, presentation and portion size when making their final selection.

    The group then moved on to making a decision regarding the entrée dishes. Several mouthwatering and appetizing entrée options included filet mignon with a cabernet reduction and rosemary skewered shrimp, short ribs, halibut served with tropical fruit relish, a New York strip steak with peppercorn and scallops with a garlic pesto reduction, plus a vegan option consisting of butternut squash, turkey tofu and sundried tomato and spinach with balsamic glaze. Ultimately, the committee opted to go with a delectable and satisfying dish, keeping in mind that the entrée shouldn’t be too large or overwhelming.

    Once the entrée option was finalized, it was time for everyone’s favorite task—selecting a scrumptious dessert. Chef Adrian brought out a variety of tempting treats including grilled peaches and mascarpone, chocolate cake, poached pears and key lime crème brûlée, in addition to a delicious selection of vegan and gluten-free desserts. The committee eventually selected a decadent dessert guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. And finally, the last decision to be made involved a signature cocktail tasting. The mixologists at​ The Westin concocted four different, colorful cocktail options—all of which are vodka-based using Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The committee then narrowed down the choices to select two creative and refreshing drinks for partygoers.

    With a tantalizing menu of culinary creations and libations, not to mention dramatic décor, theatrical experiences, live entertainment and dancing, the 2019 “Play Your Part” Gala is set to be a fabulous evening, indeed!

    Learn more about the 2019 Gala “Play Your Part.”