• Celebrating Women in Theatre: Leaders at SCR

    SCR Staff
     | Aug 28, 2020
    South Coast Repertory

    South Coast Repertory would not be the theatre it is today without the contributions of women through more than a half-century of theatre-making in Southern California—including playwrights, directors, actors, artisans and leaders. Today, we recognize the women on SCR’s leadership team.

    From the SCR Vault: Meet some of women playwrights and directors we profiled in March 2020 as part of Women’s History Month. Read it here.

    Paula TomeiPaula Tomei (Managing Director)

    As managing director, Tomei is responsible for the overall administration of the SCR. She has been managing director since 1994 and has been a member of SCR’s staff since 1979. She is a past president of the board of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for theatre. In addition, she served as treasurer of TCG, vice president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and as a member of the LORT Negotiating Committee for industry-wide union agreements. She represents SCR at national conferences of TCG and LORT and served as a theatre panelist and site visitor for the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Her teaching background includes a graduate class in non-profit management at the University of California, Irvine, and as a guest lecturer in the graduate school of business at Stanford. She was appointed by the chancellor to UCI’s Community Arts Council and serves on the Dean’s Leadership Society Executive Committee for the School of Social Sciences at UCI. She is also on the board of Arts Orange County, the countywide arts council, and the board of the Nicholas Endowment. She graduated from UCI with a degree in economics and pursued an additional course of study in theatre and dance. In March 2017, she received the City of Costa Mesa (Calif.) Mayor’s Award for her contributions to the arts community. In 2018, she received the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award from Arts Orange County. In 2019, she was named UCI’s Distinguished Alumna in the School of Social Sciences at the Lauds & Laurels Celebration. Read the UCI feature story about her.

    Lori MonnierL​ori Monnier (General Manager)

    As general manager, Monnier oversees the theatre’s daily internal operations. She supervises five departments: finance and accounting, information technology, operations, front-of-house, and general management. She became SCR’s general manager in February, 2007 and has more than 25 years of experience working in the performing arts. Before joining SCR, she was managing director at the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre and associate managing director at Arizona Theatre Company, where she was the recipient of a grant through Theater Communications Group’s New Generations: Future Leaders program. She also served as general manager of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey from 2001-04. Monnier earned an MFA in theatre management from the Yale School of Drama and a BA in theatre arts from Florida State University. 

    Hisa TakakuwaHisa Takakuwa

    Takakuwa is responsible for the educational programs in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. She is a classically trained actor, educator, and director. She has worked at theatrical institutions around the country, including A Noise Within, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Sundance Children's Theatre, Sundance Institute Playwrights Lab, Music Center on Tour, and Actors Co-op. She has been affiliated with SCR since 1991, having appeared as an actor for 13 seasons in Educational Touring Productions (including My Mom’s Dad, Bad Water Blues, and the first Indian Summer). She also appeared in 14 seasons of A Christmas Carol and in The Man Who Came to Dinner. She started teaching in SCR's Young Conservatory in 1997 and joined the SCR staff fulltime in 2005 as conservatory director. As part of her Conservatory work, Takakuwa has directed Junior, Teen, and Summer Players shows (performed by advanced students in the Theatre Conservatory), including Into the Woods, Oliver Twist and Seussical. She was a longtime resident artist at the classical repertory company, A Noise Within, and over 14 seasons there, appeared in more than two-dozen productions including Our Town, The School for Wives, The Seagull and The Comedy of Errors. She directed several productions for the Actors Co-op (Hollywood) including Twelfth Night and Henry the Fifth. She graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Smith College, with a degree in theatre and government and earned her MFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts. In 2019, she received an honorable mention in the Tony Awards Excellence in Theatre Education Award and California Educational Theatre Association’s Professional Artist Award. Watch a video of SCR acting students talking about Takakuwa.

  • Five Questions with Playwright Octavio Solis

    Tania Thompson
     | Aug 25, 2020
    Octavio Solis
    ​Octavio Solis and one of his "kids."

    About Octavio Solis

    He is known as one of the nation’s most prominent Latino playwrights. His works include Mother Road, Quixote Nuevo, Se Llama Cristina, Lydia, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, The 7 Visions of Encarnación, Man of the Flesh, Santos & Santos and La Posada Mágica. His plays have been mounted at dozens of theatres including Mark Taper Forum, Yale Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Dallas Theater Center and at South Coast Repertory. His relationship with SCR dates back more than three decades to Man of the Flesh (1990) and, most recently, as bookwriter and lyricist for Cloudlands in collaboration with Adam Gwon (2012). His plays have been read in SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. Among his many honors, Solis has received National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Fellowships (1995-97), the Will Glickman Playwright Award, the National Latino Playwriting Award (2003) and a Pen Center/USA Award for Drama (2014). Solis is a Thornton Wilder Fellow for the MacDowell Colony and is working on commissions for Arena Stage, San Francisco Playhouse and South Coast Repertory. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed ​book Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border.

    Playwright Octavio Solis is best-known to South Coast Repertory audiences for La Posada Mágica, which ran for 15 holiday seasons. But did you know that he and his wife, Jeanne Sexton—former legal counsel for GATX Capital, live on a farm in southern Oregon?

    They’ll talk about playwriting, the rural life of raising chickens and goats, and the couple’s venture in making goat cheese ​during a live YouTube conversation on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5:30 p.m. ​The couple will be interviewed by Juliette Carrillo as part of the SCR commUNITY series.

    Solis’ relationship with SCR dates back more than three decades ​to Man of the Flesh (1990) and, most recently, as book writer and lyricist for Cloudlands with Adam Gwon (2012). His plays were read in both SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project and the Pacific Playwrights Festival.

    Sometimes, after a day of writing in his office on the farm, he sometimes sips a glass of bourbon—neat or on the rocks—to reflect back on the day. We caught up with him from a distance and checked in on a few subjects.

    What was the first play you ever saw—and why do you remember it?

    The first play I ever saw was a high school production of The Diary of Anne Frank. I had been cast in it and really didn’t understand the concept of theatre that well. The first professional production I ever saw was A Chorus Line. It was the touring company putting it on in San Antonio, Texas, right as my freshman year was beginning. It was startling and beautiful and I had never seen anything like that before in my life. But I kept thinking, wait, this was the guy who also composed the soundtrack for The Sting?!

    Why is South Coast Repertory important to you?

    South Coast Rep offered me my first truly regional theatre debut with Man of the Flesh in 1990. I have continued to work with that theatre throughout my career, and I regard them as family.

    What are you reading right now?

    I am reading “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks, a remarkable novel based on a true story about an entire village in 1666 that quarantined itself from the outside world once the townspeople realized they were overrun with the plague. The horrors of that contagion are nothing to the current pandemic we are living through, but there are important lessons in the novel that we can learn from. It’s simply a remarkable story.

    What’s your go-to summer drink?

    We’ve been enjoying these lavender vodka martinis in the late afternoons, when it’s still blazing hot. But at night, after a session with my characters, I savor my bourbon, neat or on the rocks.

    Which animal on your farm has the most personality?

    Pachamama, our youngest goat, is about five-and-a-half months old and she is a sweet, loving beast that always wants to be held. She’s curious and playful, but already wary of being butted by the older jealous goats. She’ll fall asleep on your lap if you let her. She’s practically a dog! And she has a beauty mark on her left cheek. She’s quite saucy.

    RSVP now to watch a live interview with Octavio Solis on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5:30 p.m. Viewers will have an opportunity to submit questions. This YouTube event is part of SCR commUNITY and is free, but RSVPs are required. A recording of the interview will be available to watch after the livestream, through Sept. 6, 2020.

  • MASA Playwrights: A Slice of Life, Served Family Style

    Tania Thompson
     | Aug 06, 2020

    The works of four playwrights featured in MASA celebrate the historical and cultural importance of masa, dough made from corn flour used to make tortillas, tamales and a variety of dishes. This free event will be livestreamed on Monday, Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m.

    RSVP to Watch MASA

    Playwright Juliette Carrillo, who’s directing the online reading, points out that masa recipes have lineage and stories behind them; those family traditions are what MASA will explore through these playwright' voices.

    Luis AlfaroLuis Alfaro

    The Gardens of Aztlan (An Acto Hecho A Mano)

    Playwright Luis Alfaro found inspiration for The Gardens of Atzlan during a meal at El Torito Grill in Costa Mesa, Calif., where he ​cooked up an existential crisis for one of the tortilla makers. The story follows a woman who ​leaves her dead-end tortilla-making job ​to find a place where her skills will be appreciated. She connects with other women tortilla makers in search of their lost heritage.

    Alfaro is a director and an SCR-commissioned playwright; his current commission is the third for the theatre. He is an associate professor of dramatic writing at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts. Among his honors are a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, PEN/America/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award, Joyce Foundation Fellow and a two-time recipient of a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play Awards. He was Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural playwright-in-residence from 2013 to 2019.

    Lisa LoomerLisa Loomer

    “El Maiz” from Café Vida

    Actor, playwright and screenwriter Lisa Loomer wrote Café Vida as the inaugural play in Cornerstone Theatre Company’s Hunger Cycle (2012). She interviewed dozens of people who were part of Homeboy Industries, lauded for its programs for at-risk young people and former gang members, and Homegirl Café, a division of Homeboy Industries. The café transforms young people through culinary training. In full, the play is about two women from rival communities who, after serving time in prison, find a fresh start through growing, cooking and serving food. At the heart of the story is the hunger for community. MASA will feature a section of Café Vida, about the character “El Maiz.”

    Loomer’s first play, Birds, was produced at SCR in 1986. Her plays—including Roe, Living Out, The Waiting Room, Distracted, Café Vida, Homefree, Expecting Isabel, Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner, Maria, Maria, Maria! and Bocón!—have been  produced at such theatres as The Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle Rep, Denver Theatre Center,  Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Trinity Repertory Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival; and, in New York, at The Roundabout Theatre Company, The Vineyard Theatre, Second Stage, INTAR Theatre and the Public Theater. Her work has also been produced in Mexico, the Middle East and Europe.  She’s a two-time winner of the American Theatre Critics Award and has also received awards from the Kennedy Center, the Pen Center, the Imagen Foundation, (Norman Lear Award), the Jane Chambers Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, among others. Her film credits include Girl, Interrupted, and she also writes for television.

    Amilcar JaureguiAmilcar Jauregui

    “Tejuino” from Tejuino

    Actor and playwright Amilcar Jauregui is from Orange County, Calif., and a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine. Tejuino is his most recent work that tells stories that are important to him and to empower the Latinx community. The sweet and tart cold beverage, tejuino, is made from fermented masa.

    Diane RodriguezDiane Rodriguez

    The Path to Divadom, or How To Make Fat-free Tamales in G minor

    Playwright Diane Rodriguez helmed Center Theatre Group’s new play production program from 2005-19, part of her nearly quarter-century of work for CTG. Her Path to Divadom is the story of Rachel who decides to make masa from scratch and take her place as a keeper of the tradition.

    Among her other work, Rodriguez directed at readings and plays at SCR including The Beauty of the Father by Nilo Cruz (2002, readings, Pacific Playwrights Festival and Hispanic Playwrights Project); Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams by Nilo Cruz (2000, reading, PPF); and the production La Posada Mágica by Octavio Solis and Marcos Loya (2001-03). ​She passed away in 2020.

    Learn more about MASA and reserve your free “ticket” by Aug. 16, 2020, to watch the live event.

  • SCR commUNITY: Stories to Connect Us

    Tania Thompson
     | Jul 27, 2020

    How to Watch the Reading

    The online reading of MASA is free, but RSVPs are required in order to receive the link to view the live event. Make your reservation here.

    Online Food Drive

    Between now and mid-September, we’re holding an online food drive in partnership with Second Harvest Foodbank of Orange County. Please consider a donation to the drive to provide help to those having trouble accessing nutritious food during the pandemic. Read more about this on the foodbank’s website.

    Our Relationship to Food Takes Center Stage

    SCR commUNITY is a new online series of free readings, events, interviews and community-centered stories to engage Southern California with the power of live theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series kicks off on Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m., with MASA, a live, online fiesta with readings of four short pieces relating to the historical and cultural importance of masa (corn meal).

    MASA, curated and directed by Juliette Carrillo, includes selections from​ these works.

    • “The Gardens of Aztlan” (An Acto Hecho A Mano) by Luis Alfaro (from California Scenarios, a 2001 SCR-commissioned work)
    • “El Maiz” from Café Vida by Lisa Loomer
    • “Tejuino” from Tejuino by Amilcar Jauregui
    • The Path to Divadom, or How to Make Fat-free Tamales in G minor by Diane Rodriguez

    “I’m thrilled by the launch of SCR ​commUNITY, utilizing our digital platform to celebrate stories that help shape the rich tapestry of Orange County,” says Artistic Director David Ivers. “​Our playwrights, directors and actors—many of whom have a long history with SCR—are thrilled to be a part of the creative process once again and so are we! Tune in.”

    Adds Managing Director Paula Tomei: “SCR has always been strongly engaged with the Orange County community. ​During these times, when we’re unable to gather in-person, it becomes even more important that we continue to celebrate our connections to each other. SCR CommUNITY provides us with the perfect venue for this—a virtual gathering spot.”

    MASA is the first of three events curated by Carrillo in SCR Comm​UNITY; the trio is collectively titled El Teatro de la Comida (Theatre of Food). The next two events will take place on Aug. 31 and Sept. 14.

    El Teatro de la Comida explores how food brings us together, even when we’re forced to stay apart,” says Carrillo. “Our relationship to food in this pandemic demands a different kind of attention and many of us have had to embrace cooking—'slow food’—and the art of preparing a meal. I’m interested in how recipes, smells and tastes live in our DNA; more specifically, in the Latinx community. Since every recipe has a lineage and a story, how do we reach back into the past and embrace the traditions of our ancestors?”

    Who’s Who in MASA

    Juliette Carrillo (Director, Playwright) has had a long relationship with SCR including both as a staff member and as a director. Among the SCR works she directed were Sidney Bechet Killed a Man by Stuart Flack (1998); References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot by José Rivera (2000); The Countess by Gregory Murphy (2000); Nostalgia by Lucinda Coxon (2001); California Scenarios (2001, site-specific work); Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz (2004); and Jane of the Jungle by Karen Zacarías (2012).

    Luis Alfaro (Playwright) is a director and an SCR-commissioned playwright; his current commission is the third for the theatre. He is an associate professor of dramatic writing at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts. Among his honors are a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, PEN/America/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award, Joyce Foundation Fellow and a two-time recipient of a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play Awards. He was Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural playwright-in-residence from 2013 to 2019.

    Lisa Loomer (Playwright) is an actor, playwright and screenwriter whose first play, Birds, was produced at SCR in 1986. Her works for stage and screen include The Waiting Room, Roe, Living Out, Girl Interrupted and Happily Ever After. She has written the long-awaited musical adaptation of Lisa Esquivel’s novel, Like Water for Chocolate. Loomer is the recipient of numerous honors including the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics New Play Award, Ovation Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

    Amilcar Jauregui (Playwright) is an actor and playwright from Orange County, Calif., and a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine. Tejuino is his most recent work that tells stories that are important to him and to empower the Latinx community.

    Diane Rodriguez (Playwright) helmed Center Theatre Group’s new​-play production program from 2005-19, part of her nearly quarter-century of work for CTG. Among the works she directed at SCR included two readings of The Beauty of the Father by Nilo Cruz (2002, Pacific Playwrights Festival and Hispanic Playwrights Project); a reading of Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams by Nilo Cruz (2000, PPF); and the production La Posada Mágica by Octavio Solis and Marcos Loya (2001-03). Rodriguez passed away in 2020.

    Learn more about MASA and reserve your spot by Aug. 16, 2020.

  • Nike Doukas: Her Favorite Roles

    SCR Staff
     | Jul 23, 2020
    Nike Doukas
    ​Nike Doukas

    With some 20 productions at South Coast Repertory to her credit, actor Nike Doukas admits that it’s hard to narrow down specific favorites. Three things make a role memorable for her: it teaches her something about herself; teaches her something artistically; and reveals something about the playwright.

    “When you do a play, you immerse yourself in a piece of literature, you share the experience with some incredible artists, and then the audience comes in adds to that experience,” she says. “Each time I worked on one of these plays, I fell in love with the role and the playwright and what the playwright could do for, and with, an audience. It’s fabulous life.”

    Eric Woodall, Doukas and Mikael Salazar in Loot.

    Loot by Joe Orton (1993)
    Role: Fay
    This was my first show at SCR, and directed by the late, great Mark Rucker. I’ve always been a pretty bad liar, but this role taught me how to lie convincingly. I had to be brazen because the character of Fay is a compulsive, brazen liar. Creatively, I had never really done a farce before, which requires split-second timing, utter conviction and a straight face—this last part is the hardest. Orton himself is so brazen: he dares to pay tribute to Oscar Wilde, Coward, the whole tradition of British comic playwrights, while making the play utterly singular and contemporary.

    Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward (1995)
    Role: Elvira
    This is an extremely funny play, in which I played a ghost, and I thought I understood where all the laughs came. Coward wrote Blithe Spirit during World War II, and many of the jokes had a deep resonance for people who had relatives away fighting in the war. I found the jokes about ghosts for some of our older, matinee audiences were quieter, more reflective moments. So, what I learned about myself and my artistry was to be humble: to let an audience teach me about the play and let go of my own assumptions. That if you listen there may be sorrow in the joy and vice versa. All while a third of my body was covered in grey make-up.

    ​Lynn Milgrim, Doukas, Anne Gee Byrd, David Byrd and Nicholas Hormann in ​Pygmalion.

    Pygmalion by George Bernard
    Shaw (1997)
    Role: Eliza Doolittle

    I love accents, I even coach accents, and this play is all about how accents do and don’t define a person. How the way we express ourselves makes us unique and shapes who we are. How if our unique voice is robbed, we are left with something less than what we were, despite the fact that we’ve found something more within that new accent/voice. Also, my father, who was a huge theatre fan and who saw me in almost every play I did, was dying while I rehearsed this play. There’s a lot about fathers and daughters here, too, that Shaw addresses. And it’s also about our ability to love. Neither of the two main characters can take responsibility for their feelings, though Eliza is better at it than Henry Higgins. It required a lot of exploration, and it was a deep, deep experience.

    Much Ado about Nothing
    Doukas and Douglas Sills in ​Much Ado About Nothing.

    Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (2001)
    Role: Beatrice
    This was a part I had always wanted to play, and the fact that I got to do it with one of my best friends, Douglas Sills, playing Benedick, was magical. The two smartest people in the room aren’t emotionally smart enough to understand that they love each other, until their friends and family trick them into discovering their feelings—it takes a village! Finding Beatrice’s journey was tricky; it’s hard to see beyond the wit and into her heart. I had to work hard to find her emotional journey, and when I did, I was so moved by what a sensitive, understanding character Shakespeare had created and how complex our hearts and minds are. Plus, our choreographer, Art Manke taught me to tap dance!

    Everett Beekiin
    Adam Scott, Doukas and Kandis Chappell in Everett Beekin.
    Major Barbara
    Leo Marks and Doukas in Major Barbara.

    Everett Beekin by Richard Greenberg (2000)
    Roles: Anna / Nell
    I am the second generation of an immigrant family and I really love how, in the first act, Greenberg (or Richard, as I call him), captures that tension between first and second generation and, in the second act, how the third generation gets even farther away from the familial roots, but still, there are echoes and reverberations from the past. And he does it all in an incredibly elegant, almost invisible way. The range of things you get to do in this play is thrilling.

    Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw (2002)
    Role: Barbara Undershaft
    This play is a sentimental favorite because it’s where I got to know my future husband, Leo Marks. AND, it’s another Shaw! I love that Shaw never lets you figure out who’s right, because everyone is right or wrong, depending on what part of the argument you are engaged in. That is really fun for an actor, because you get to play both the dark and light sides of a person, so you’re never fully evil or fully angelic. And, all the while, you’re more passionately articulate than you could ever be in real life. And then you end up marrying the guy who played Bill!

    Yoga Play
    ​Doukas and Lorena Martinez in ​Yoga Play.

    Yoga Play by Dipika Guha (2017)
    Role: Joan
    This was one of the few times I got to play the absolute leader of the play—literally the boss—as well as the heart of the story. That’s rare for female actors and it’s really empowering. One of the things you discover when you act any role is that you’re capable of doing and saying and feeling more than you thought, because the playwright allows and forces you to live up to what the character needs, wants and does. Joan allowed me to take charge, give orders, think big. And yet, she was full of fear, so that made her human and funny and I hope, relatable. It’s a generous play to all the characters, it loves and makes fun of them all, and consequently, I think the audience is allowed to laugh at some of the absurdities of our moment.