• In a Digital World, the Basics of Theatre Remain the Same

    SCR Staff
     | Jun 01, 2021
    Red Riding Hood
    Nell Geisslinger and Larry Bates in Red Riding Hood.

    Even though the pandemic has brought changes to how you currently watch a play—like the digital production of Red Riding Hood adapted by Allison Gregory—the basics of theatre remain the same. Our stories continue to be brought to life complete with sets, lights, costumes and soun​d. And we still have rehearsals (modified with safety protocols), block scenes, create props, call cues and more. [Parents & Teachers: Check out our theatre vocabulary below to ​share more about these and other terms.]

    “When you design for the theatre, you know that the audience will see the whole stage,” says Red Riding Hood Director Shannon Flynn. “For this show, the design team and I had to think about what we’d be able to see through the camera lens. Just before we filmed on the Segerstrom Stage, I stood at every point where the camera would be, to make sure that we had the best angles.”

    Red Riding Hood had a team working in front of the camera (actors Larry Bates and Nell Geisslinger) and behind-the-scenes (such as the playwright, director stage manager, artisans and others).

    “One of the joys of being in theatre is the ​'family' of people that brings the show to life,” says Geisslinger. “And I think that’s what the characters in Red Riding Hood discover in each other by the end of the play.”

    Test Your Knowledge of Basic Theatre Terms

    • Backstage The space behind the acting area, unseen by the audience.
    • Blocking The movement onstage designed by the director and performed by the actors.
    • Choreography The art of creating and arranging dances onstage.
    • Cue The last words or action of an actor immediately preceding the lines or business of another actor.
    • Downstage The part of the stage closest to the audience. At one time, stages were raked, or sloped, with the lower (“down”) part closest to the audience, and the higher (“up”) part farther away.
    • Props All the hand-held items and stage furnishings, including furniture, that are physically used by the actors.
    • Rehearsal Time used by performers to practice privately before a performance in front of an audience.
    • Script The text of the play, including dialogue and stage directions, all written by the playwright.
    • Upstage The area of the stage farthest away from the audience and nearest to the back wall.

    Learn more about Red Riding Hood and buy a ticket to stream the show.

  • Four Questions With PPF Playwright Christine Quintana

    Tania Thompson
     | May 24, 2021
    Christine Quintana
    Playwright​ ​​Christine Quintana.

    South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) has been a launching pad for many plays and playwrights, including David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel and Vietgone by Qui Nguyen and Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee.

    Among the five readings at the 2021 digital festival is Clean by Christine Quintana. The story is about two women from different worlds who meet in the fake paradise of a Mexican resort. Adriana, who works at the hotel, and Sarah, who's there for her sister’s wedding. Torrential rain, a father’s death and the mistakes of a night bring them together … but whatever they have in common, many cultural borders separate them.

    In an email exchange, Quintana talked about her favorite places to write, the moment she knew she wanted to be a playwright, how her unconventional parents helped shape her view of life and more.

    Banff Writing Stapce
    Quintana's writing spot at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity.

    About ​Christine Quintana

    She was born in Los Angeles to a Mexican-American father and a Dutch-British-Canadian mother. Quintana is now a grateful visitor to the Unceded Coast Salish Territories, commonly known as Vancouver, B.C. A playwright, actor and producer, Quintana received the Siminovitch Protégé Prize for Playwriting (2017) from Marcus Youssef and was the Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist Resident at Tarragon Theatre. Her creation and performing highlights include Never The Last (co-created with Molly MacKinnon, produced by Delinquent Theatre, recipient of five Jessie Richardson Theatre Award nominations including Outstanding Production and Outstanding New Script and winner of Significant Artistic Achievement); Selfie (commissioned by Théâtre la Seizième in French and Young People’s Theatre in English, winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Theatre for Young Audiences Play, the Sydney Risk Prize for Outstanding Script by an Emerging Playwright and the Tom Hendry Award for TYA); and the immersive digital production, Good Things To Do (Rumble Theatre, rEvolver Festival and FoldA). Quintana is a proud founding member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition. She holds a BFA in acting from the University of British Columbia.

    What’s your favorite place to write?

    Pre-pandemic, I was lucky enough to have a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, on Treaty 7 territory. The Centre is an incredible place—a purpose-built artist retreat nestled in the mountains of Banff. The Playwrights Lab furnishes playwrights with dedicated writing space, in addition to a full meal plan and beautiful accommodations, so all one needs to do is focus on their art. I snapped this picture while I was working there in February 2020 in the Evamy Studio—snow falling, sun shining, deer meandering outside the window. We were on the brink of change, and didn't truly know it. I was among one of the last artists to complete a residency

    I live on the unceded territories of the Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, also known as Vancouver. Since the pandemic I've been mostly working from home—I share a two-bedroom place with a partner and a roommate, so things are tight. My desk is about four feet away from my bed, which obliterates any attempt at separating work and rest. I've discovered new inspiration in screen-free, notebook-free walks—that fresh air and meandering thoughts are as good a workspace as any.

    As a child, did you read stories in secret?

    My parents were both punk rockers and super cool people, and so my guilty pleasure was musical theatre. I used to take cast recordings out from the library and hide out in the basement to listen to them and sing along. I can still sing every word of the entire three-hour long score of Les Miserables! It was patently uncool. It still is...

    When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?

    This is a hard one to answer. I got hooked on theatre at age 8—I'm an actor and playwright, and I split my practice between the two—I've never considered another life. I think I need both because they balance the degrees of exposure. As an actor, your body and your voice are on display. When I come home after a show, I can still feel dozens of eyes on me and I find that challenging—I'm not the kind who likes the spotlight. As a playwright, your soul and life are on display in ways that might be more obscured or indirect, but you feel, nonetheless, vulnerable and raw. I couldn't do one full time. The balance makes it possible for me.

    What play changed your life?

    When I was 14, I saw a production of Cul De Sac by Daniel MacIvor, who is one of Canada's most prolific and gifted playwrights. I don't know who sold me a ticket—I came to the theatre alone, a dorky young teen—because the play is FULL of drugs, sex, violence; but I'm so glad they did. Daniel wrote and performed the piece and it was the first multiple-character play I'd seen. I watched him flip seamlessly between characters, building a world with words and movement in an economic and powerful way. I sat in my seat long after the show. I didn't know that's what theatre could do. It opened my mind to the possibilities of theatricality.

    What should audiences know about Clean?

    Clean is, in part, about how our experiences, memories and lived experiences inextricably shape how we perceive our present. The play itself is a result of a stacking of different lenses.

    The play came out of a visit to a Cancun resort where my father and aunt worked in sales—I was so struck by the uncomfortable contradictions of the resort. I'm LA-born, Mexican-American on my dad's side but, since I grew up in East Vancouver, my views and experiences of Mexico will always be through the eyes of an outsider. The translation and adaptation by Paula Zelaya Cervantes, who lives and works in Mexico City, has offered a different lens on the piece.

    The character of Sarah is a white Canadian woman who is deeply steeped in the settler culture of Canada, which has intersections with class privilege and a culture of silence—a world in which many theatre practitioners in Canada are deeply embedded, and in which I spend a lot of time. All of these lenses are part of the storytelling of Clean.

    Watch this video interview with Quintana for #PPFPlaywrights.

    Learn more about Clean and the 2021 Pacific Playwrights Festival.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Abundance"

    Tania Thompson
     | May 21, 2021
    Adam Haas Hunter, Daniel Reichert, Paige Lindsey White and Lily Holleman in Abundance by Beth Henley (2015). Photo by Debora Robinson.

    About ​​​Abundance

    1860. A stagecoach pulls into a station in the middle of the Wyoming Territory. Off step two mail-order brides, one innocent and wide-eyed, the other spunky and assertive. For the next quarter of a century, they struggle with the incongruities of fate while clinging to their dreams in a fierce and funny story set in a wild west that would have daunted even Thelma and Louise. This dark comedy by Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart) has found a new life, both here from its 1989 world premiere, and in New York, where The New York Times said its revival “makes you realize how much you’ve missed a playwright’s voice.”

    Twenty-five years after Beth Henley's Abundance had its world premiere at South Coast Repertory, the theatre brought the play back to audiences—much to the delight of actor Paige Lindsay White, who portrayed Macon, one of the frontier mail-order brides in the story. She had been in a university production of the play and it quickly became one of her favorites. She has some very precise reasons for choosing the photo above as a key moment from Abundance (2015)including some eerie connections to the world premiere.

    What moment does this depict?

    This is when my character, Macon, is calling for the night's celebrations to include dancing, and, if no one else will dance with her, she is perfectly content having everyone else watch her. This is right near the end of Act One; it’s an anniversary celebration of the two mail-order brides, Macon and Bess, to their strange homesteader husbands. 

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    Here Macon is the center of attention. She already has the established relations of her doting husband, Will, and her deprived friend, Bess, who are in the background. In this staging, Macon dances watching only Jack Flan (Bess's husband)—and Jack Flan watching only her. Their outward flirtations are about to take a dark and private turn.

    What’s the power about this moment?

    Neither Macon nor Bess's dreams have been fulfilled. Macon was hoping for a grand adventure; Bess, simply a loving home. Macon urged Bess to escape with her, until Macon began to settle into material comforts—as well as the admiration of ​Will and Jack. Bess finally realized that she deserved more than her abusive husband and was ready to leave only when Macon was not inclined to go anymore. Here, Macon basks in the spotlight she craves, but the shadows cast on Bess belittle her and endanger her. Macon can thrive if she turns a blind eye to Bess's withering.

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

    Here what I love about this photo: SCR commissioned the original production of Abundance 25-years prior to our production. The play spans 25 years and so our staging felt like a bookend to honor the original. There is a photo of this scene from the original production (1989) in the hallway near the dressing rooms. In it, Macon, true-to-form, is the focus of attention with hands outstretched. She has a cast on her right hand, because the actor broke her wrist in rehearsals. In our production, I wore her same brown dress for most of the first ​act—and 25 years later—with a cast on my right hand, because I broke it the night of the first preview. Is there a curse of Macon?!

    Abundance was my first production with South Coast Repertory. It has a very special place in my heart. I love this cast so much, all talented and generous people. And I love this play. I had been in a production of it at the University of Alabama in 2000 where I played Bess. Both Macon and Bess are captivating and complicated women and I appreciate Abundance as a play with two strong female leads, written when such roles were not abundant. Thank you, SCR for commissioning it!

  • Four Questions With PPF Playwright Shayan Lotfi

    Tania Thompson
     | May 17, 2021
    Shayan Lotfi
    Playwright​ ​Shayan Lotfi.

    South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) has been a launching pad for many plays and playwrights, including David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, Vietgone by Qui Nguyen and Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee.

    Among the five readings at the 2021 digital festival is Park-e Laleh by Shayan Lotfi. The play follows Amir, who seeks asylum in the U.K. after fleeing persecution in his native Iran. But he’s haunted by what he's left behind. Now he's attempting to settle in a city full of strangers—looking for anything or anyone that might allow him to finally feel at home.

    In an email exchange, ​Lotfi talked about his favorite places to write and the play that changed his life.

    Shayan Lotfi
    Lotfi's writing spot at the Millay Colony for the Arts.

    About Shayan Lotfi

    He has written a few plays and, thankfully, still wants to write. He has been fortunate enough that some really cool institutions—like South Coast Repertory, The Lark, Roundabout Theatre Company and Boston Court Pasadena—have helped develop his work and that some really cool residencies—like SPACE at Ryder Farm and The Millay Colony for the Arts—have fed and housed him as he tried desperately to be productive. When he’s not writing, he works as an urban policy consultant, splitting his time between New York and Los Angeles.

    What’s your favorite place to write?

    I have been so lucky to have had residencies provide me with space and time (and meals!) as I attempted to write in their idyllic settings, which include SPACE before the pandemic, and the Millay Colony for the Arts multiple times during the pandemic. These places are a testament to how productive one can be when untethered to day-to-day demands and distractions. This was my go-to spot at Millay. 

    As a child, did you read stories in secret?

    Not sure if I read anything in secret, but I didn't grow up in a house filled with books, so any reading felt a bit transgressive. I remember randomly picking out a copy of the Best American Short Stories annual anthology at the local library as a kid, and being transfixed by the short story as a form, and the diversity of voices and perspectives. I've read each year's issue ever since. 

    When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?

    Later in life (i.e. recently). This play is my first, and I wrote it whilst in an MFA program. I still feel weird proclaiming that I'm a 'playwright' rather than someone who happens to write plays, and I attribute that to having too much respect for playwrights. (Also, immigrants are some of the primary sufferers of imposter syndrome).

    What play changed your life?

    I didn't grow up with theatre, so it was actually a lot of cinema and literature that informed my sensibilities around narrative and drama. I do however remember seeing the HBO adaptation of Angels in America when it came out (long before I ever saw it on stage), and amazingly it does a remarkable job of retaining so much of what makes the play the masterpiece it is, and I just remember being awed by its ambition, scope, dialogue, humanity, fearlessness, and theatricality. 

    What should audiences know about ​Park-e Laleh?

    I hope they enjoy it! Or it makes them rethink a long-held assumption! Or at the very least aren't bored by it!

    Watch this video interview with Lotfi for #PPFPlaywrights.
    Learn more about PPF and buy tickets.

  • The Story Behind the Photo: "Fast Company"

    Tania Thompson
     | May 07, 2021
    Fast Company
    Jackie Chung, Emily Kuroda, Lawrence Kao and Nelson Lee in the world premiere of Fast Company by Carla Ching (2013). Photo by Debora Robinson.

    About ​​​Fast Company

    Mable Kwan is the best grifter who ever lived. And this tough cookie raised her kids to be just like her. Son Francis is the top roper around and H, the number one fixer. When daughter Blue surprises them all by putting together the score of the decade, will the entire family get in on the action or will one of them walk away with it all? Fast, funny dark and dangerous—this skewed look at family and ambition keeps us guessing about who’s on top and who’s getting conned.

    Lawrence Kao made his South Coast Repertory debut in the world premiere of Fast Company by Carla Ching (2013). It’s a heist and grifter story—you ​don't know whom to believe or trust​. Kao found working with the cast and director Bart DeLorenzo to be memorable, along with the magic tricks he learned to become Francis, one member of a family of grifters. Read on to find out why this moment in the play is one of his favorites.

    What moment does this depict?

    Fast Company centers around a grifting family unit and, in this specific scene, the siblings—H, Francis (my character) and Blue—attempt to con Mable, our mother, into disclosing the whereabouts of an elusive multimillion-dollar comic book that she’s stolen from us. We called this the meat locker scene. Here, I pretend to be “The Dentist”, the most feared gun-for-hire in the con industry, and threaten to chop H, my brother, into pieces unless Mable releases what we want. Look at that meat cleaver in my hand!

    How did you work to make this moment happen?

    It ​was pleasure to work with Bart DeLorenzo and this was a fun moment to shape. Obviously, my character is playing a con, but it was also interesting to convince the audience that maybe my character could, indeed, be “The Dentist.” We figured out a way to convincingly slice a piece of finger off H (played by Nelson Lee). The gasps from audience members always tickled me! I also remember screwing up a line to my sister, Blue (played by Jackie Chung), and I followed up with the words: “Just kidding!”  Oh, the magical blunders of theatre.  

    What’s the power about this moment?

    There are a lot of psychological games being played throughout this play and it culminates in this moment, where we use the power of “family” to get our mother, Mable (Emily Kuroda), to disclose information about the comic. Eventually, we discover the bigger, underbelly con played by Mable herself, who has only a short time left to live. Her last con-hoorah closes the distance between her three children, who have drifted apart over the years.  

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

    This was such a fantastic experience!  I even got to learn a few magic tricks for Francis and that was so much fun. The cast was such a delight to work with. It’s great to do theatre and continue to have lasting relationships with these great artists. This was my first production at South Coast Repertory and I lucked out with the combo of Bart DeLorenzo and Carla Ching and a theatre production I will never forget.