• Graduating Seniors Take Final Bow in "The Wizard of Oz"

    Alyssa Dong
     | Aug 01, 2019
    Graduating Seniors

    ​Joshua Myran, Olivia Drury, Mitchell Huntley and Clay Walker

    South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory has four graduating seniors—Olivia Drury, Mitchell Huntley, Joshua Myran and Clay Walker—appearing this summer in The Wizard of Oz (Aug 10-18, Julianne Argyros Stage). These young, talented performers are among the most advanced students in the Conservatory and they will all be taking the stage one final time in the Summer Players production of the beloved musical.

    Clay Walker – Hunk/Scarecrow

    Clay Walker started taking classes at the Conservatory a year ago and is playing Hunk/Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz this summer. As he reflects on the past year, he enjoyed his final Teen Ensemble demo (a demonstration done by students at the end of the session to show --demonstrate--what they have learned for family and friends).

    “Not only were we able to give input on the writing, but we were challenged with going out of our comfort zones as actors to effectively tell the story to the audience,” he says.

    Clay feels he learned valuable lessons at SCR and feels more comfortable with himself as an actor and in life. He has grown socially and learned how to collaborate with others; he now finds ways to incorporate these skills into other areas of his life. Additionally, he will always remember the friendships he developed in his classes.

    As Clay continues to pursue ​musical ​theatre at Saddleback College ​in the fall, he will miss “the SCR teachers who have been so supportive of me in pursuing my craft.” He tells incoming students to “not be afraid of trying new things and taking risks.” 

    Joshua Myran – Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard

    As Joshua Myran heads off to New York University to major in ​civil engineering this fall, he explains that the SCR Conservatory taught him the importance of collaborating and sharing ideas while working with a group of people. He has enjoyed learning about “listening in character” and “staying present and being there for your scene partner.”

    His advice to new students is to not worry about the acting decisions you make and not be afraid to make mistakes because it’s all a part of the process. Joshua has made lifelong friends and feels their support.

    “Meeting new people is so much easier for me now,” Joshua admits, with a smile.

    In his Teen Players class, he found it challenging to identify a direction of a character, but learned to try different directions and choose the best fit. Dedicated teachers and students ​are what drew Joshua ​to take additional SCR classes and audition for shows.

    His favorite roles have been Peter Cratchit in SCR’s annual production of A Christmas Carol and a ​Lost ​Boy in Peter Pan. Joshua completes his eighth year at SCR with his final performance this summer as Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard in The Wizard of Oz. “SCR is where I feel comfortable being silly and making mistakes, and I will miss that,” says Joshua.

    Olivia Drury – Miss Gultch/Wicked Witch of the West

    Oliva Drury takes the stage one more time at SCR this summer as Miss Gultch and Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.  “My classes have taught me how to have empathy, listen, and work within an ensemble,” she says.

    These lessons also apply to her real life. Oliva says learning Shakespeare at SCR was “so cool! Getting to dig into the language and use the text as a road map was incredibly rewarding.”

    Even after taking several years of acting classes at SCR, Olivia kept returning. “There is never stagnation in SCR classes,” she says. “My development always felt very palpable and each new teacher sparked something that made acting more fun.” She will attend Northwestern University in Chicago in the fall to study theatre.

    One of Olivia’s favorite memories was being in SCR’s annual production of A Christmas Carol because that show taught her how to work as a professional and helped her realize that she will never stop evolving as an actor. She feels that all her classes helped make her a better person and develop friends that are special to her. “It’s incredible to have a group of people you can feel so vulnerable and safe around,” she notes.

    Olivia initially found it challenging to be confident enough to give herself permission to be onstage. It wasn’t until she allowed herself to be "okay with being imperfect" that her confidence grew. She will miss “everybody who made all these years mean everything to me.”

    Mitchell Huntley – Professor Marvel/Wizard

    Mitchell Huntley has been dedicated to SCR for an entire decade. Although he’s headed off to Northwestern University to study theatre and playwriting in the fall, he has learned many valuable lessons here, including the importance of “having a good work ethic and treating others in a professional setting the way you would want to be treated.”

    He attributes to his SCR experience developing self-confidence and being able to articulate his thoughts, which both pushed him out of his comfort zone. So what kept Mitchell coming back for 10 years? His personal growth, the community and the character work. “I felt like I found my place, my community and I was able to express myself. At SCR, the ensemble is the most important thing you can be a part of,” he says.

    Even though Mitchell sometimes felt challenged ​to find similarities and differences between himself and his character, he admits that SCR taught him, through the process of exploring different characters, to play them honestly. He also learned memorable things like animal work and Shakespeare, which helped him become a better storyteller. His advice for new students is “to give it your all, have an open ear and an open mind and trust the process.” Mitchell says he will miss the incredible training he got here and SCR’s focus on his growth and journey as a person.

    “It’s a lesson I’ll hold dearly and miss when I leave,” says Mitchell.

    Learn more about The Wizard of Oz and buy tickets.

    Learn more about taking acting classes at SCR.

  • Becoming “Dorothy”

    Lauren & Alyssa Dong
     | Jul 15, 2019
    Lauren Dong

    ​A young Lauren Dong (in the blue and green) as a munchkin in a community theatre production of The Wizard of OZ.

    Ruby Slippers

    Four-year-old Lauren's first pair of Ruby Slippers.

    Lauren Dong is one of 34 Theatre Conservatory students cast in the Summer Players’ production, The Wizard of Oz (Aug. 10-18, Julianne Argyros Stage). She portrays Dorothy Gale. Lauren, who is entering her senior year in high school, has been taking acting classes at SCR for eight years, since fourth grade. Donning Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and singing classic songs like “Over the Rainbow” have been part of a long-held dream for Lauren. In this blog article, she and her mom, Alyssa, talk about the path to this iconic role.

    Lauren Dong started acting and singing at seven years old at a local community theatre, her mom, Alyssa Dong, says. She even performed in a production of The Wizard of Oz—but not as Dorothy.

    “She quickly developed a love for it, and I started noticing she could sing,” says Alyssa.

    Lauren studied with different vocal coaches and, at age nine, was introduced to the song “Over the Rainbow” by one of her former vocal coaches who taught Lauren how to sing it. Lauren quickly became interested in seeing the movie and watching Judy Garland sing “Over the Rainbow.”

    The movie wowed her, Lauren says, “It stood out just because of the colors alone. And it struck a chord with me because of the unique story it told. There was something really magical about seeing the Emerald City for the first time and watching that horse change colors throughout the song. I thought ‘how are they doing that?’ ”

    But the most significant takeaway for Lauren was watching Judy Garland "sing the beloved ballad with a voice that was very mature for her age; Garland was only a teenager when she filmed The Wizard of Oz" in 193​9. Lauren had started classical vocal training at the age of nine.

    Alyssa says that Lauren has always had a special place in her heart for "Over the Rainbow," even as she continued her vocal lessons through the years.

    “Here was a young girl who was kind of like me,” ​Lauren says. She has had the movie poster hanging on the back of her bedroom door since she bought it during a trip to Hollywood at the age of 10. “It was a film I absolutely found charming and that was very dear to my heart.”

    She recently re-watched the video of her childhood performance.

    “A part of me thought ‘yikes, my voice was pitchy,’ but I found myself smiling by the end of the video,” she says. “I don’t give myself a lot of credit for the things I do, but I think looking back on that day I can now say I was proud of myself for getting up there, even though it wasn’t perfect. I loved singing that song no matter how it sounded and still do.”

    Alyssa and Lauren never thought the dream role—to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—would happen.

    "She feels so honored to be cast in the part for the Summer Players’ 2019 production at SCR,” Alyssa says.

    After watching the MGM movie again and getting into ​L. Frank Baum's novel, Lauren stripped away all previous versions of Dorothy, to create an original character. Lauren says the most important word she’d use to describe Dorothy is “curious.”

    “She is a young woman seeking adventure and something greater than herself,” she says. “Throughout the story, she never ceases to display both her ambition and kindness. Eventually, she realizes that she has always had everything she needed and wanted right at home and, of course, that ‘there’s no place like home’."

    For Lauren, Dorothy is ultimately a symbol for dreams and imagination, yet a reminder that no matter how simple it may be, happiness is enough.

    Alyssa will be among the audience members to cheer Lauren—and the rest of the cast—on during performances in August.

    Learn more about The Wizard of Oz and buy tickets.

  • Meet the Chairs of the 2019 Gala, “Play Your Part”

    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 24, 2019
    Gala Ball
    Steve and Laurie Duncan

    201​​9 Gala Chairs ​Steve and Laurie Duncan.

    The Gala Committee

    Bette Aitken • Sally Anderson • Julianne Argyros • Kathryn Cenci • Sophia Hall Cripe • Carla Furuno • Maralou Harrington • Olivia Johnson • Deirdre Kelly • Sarah McElroy • Stacey Nicholas • Talya Nevo-Hacohen • Bill Schenker • Susan Shieldkret • Tammy Tang • Elaine Weinberg

    Sept. 7 Event Raises Funds to Support SCR

    Steve and Laurie Duncan had already been seeing shows at South Coast Repertory when they attended the theatre’s annual Gala; it was roughly a decade ago and they were guests of another couple.

    “It was refreshingly different from other organization’s Galas that we had attended over the years because there was no financial ask—no silent or live auction,” Steve recalls. “It was just a chance to celebrate the success of SCR in a special context with people who appreciate and respect good theatre.”

    The couple is actively involved in the life and work of SCR—they have underwritten six productions over the past six years (including Once and The Siegel), they subscribe to First Nights (what SCR calls its opening nights) and are Platinum Circle donors. Steve is also a member of the theatre’s Board of Trustees.

    They’re excited for the opportunity to chair the Gala this year, with a theme of "Play Your Part" (Sept. 7, The Westin South Coast Plaza). In this Q&A, they talk about the Gala and what they enjoy most about SCR.

    What are you bringing to the creation and development of this year’s Gala?
    We are simply trying to uphold the standards and quality of past SCR Galas. We have incredible staff and Gala Committee volunteers making it happen. We have the advantage of it being the first time many of the Gala attendees will get to meet and hear the passion and enthusiasm that resonate within new Artistic Director David Ivers. We simply want people to come, relax and have fun!

    What does the theme “Play Your Part” mean to you—and how will we see it come alive?
    Everyone has a role in ensuring we continue to have the finest theatre in America here in Orange County. The cast, crew and staff, of course, are required, but volunteers and patrons are also necessary. When we all join together, doing our part as individuals, something magical and extraordinary happens! All nonprofit theatres are experiencing significant changes in subscription purchases and corporate giving. And, while we are blessed to have a strong base of supporters, we want to help the future stay bright by paying attention, attending plays and supporting the theatre. “Play Your Part”, whether on or off stage, means it takes the positive contribution of each individual for a successful group production.

    What is it about SCR that keeps you both so engaged?
    We appreciate the chance to have a shared experience with other theatre fans and get an up-close look at what it takes to create great art and the finest theatre in America. Each night in the theatre, we get to have an experience that cannot be exactly replicated. In a world that increasingly values having new and great experiences, we think everyone will benefit by embracing live theatre, in general, and SCR, in particular.

    Also, the chance to experience fantastic set and lighting designs, costumes, acting, often times singing and dancing, and directing is always exciting. Even ​if the play is less to our taste, we always walk away impressed with several of the components required to produce the show.

    Let’s come back to the Gala. What will the experience be and why should people plan on attending?
    If you’ve attended ​SCR's Gala in the past, many things will feel the same: a great venue, good food and wine, and entertainment. We will have people from in and around the area attending what feels like a party with cocktails, dinner and dancing. Also, as in the past, there will be no auction or programmatic “ask” for support. We will hear from Artistic Director David Ivers about his vision for the theatre and we hope you will find his enthusiasm as contagious and exciting as we do.

    Whether it’s your first Gala, or your 41st, plan to dress up a bit—this is an evening of celebration, with family and friends, food and fun! We want this night to be about supporting all that is good about SCR and extending appreciation for everyone’s contributions, on and off stage, and being thankful that SCR is here, in our very own Orange County.

    Thank you for joining us, thank you for supporting SCR and thank you to everyone for PLAYING YOUR PART!

    Learn more about 2019’s “Play Your Part” Gala.

  • Celebrating Pride Month

    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 21, 2019
    Blue Window

    Alice and Boo (Barbara Tarbuck and Jane Galloway, center) talk about their relationship after a party, whose guests can also be seen in their homes (l-r, Chris Mulkey, Lisa Pelikan, Brad O'Hare, Maureen Silliman and Tuck Milligan) in SCR's West Coast premiere of Craig Lucas's Blue Window in 1985. Photo: T. Taylor Browne.

    Raised in Captivity

    ​Julie Hagerty and Steven Culp in ​SCR's 1995 West Coast premiere of Nicky Silver's Raised in Captivity. Photo by: Mark Jordan.

    Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune

    ​Karen Hensel and Richard Doyle in SCR's 1989 production of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.


    Mark Harelik and Paul David Story in SCR's 2016 production of John Logan's Red.

    A recent Pride Month feature in Entertainment Weekly focused on playwright Craig Lucas and his groundbreaking movie, Longtime Companion.  Lucas has a long relationship with South Coast Repertory—most recently, we enjoyed the concert reading of a new musical adapted from his SCR-commissioned play, Prelude to a Kiss, at the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival, known as PPF (Lucas’ original 1988 play went on to enjoy numerous productions around the country and was adapted for the big screen).

    Next season, works by two playwrights who identify as LGBTQIA+ are featured in the Julianne Argyros Stage series.

    • The Canadians (Adam Bock, 2020; also as a 2018 NewSCRipts reading and 2019 PPF reading)
    • Fireflies (Donje R. Love, 2020)

    Here are some of the plays with LGBTQIA+ characters or story lines produced at SCR since the late 1960s.

    • A Taste of Honey (Sheilagh Delaney, 1968)
    • Breaking the Code (Hugh Whitmore, 1989)
    • Raised in Captivity (Nicky Silver, 1995)
    • Six Degrees of Separation (John Guare, 1996)
    • God of Vengeance (Donald Margulies, 1999 PPF reading)
    • Doctor Cerberus (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2010; also a 2009 PPF reading)
    • The Whale (Samuel D. Hunter, 2013)
    • Reunion (Gregory S Moss, 2014)
    • Going to a Place where you Already Are (Bekah Brunstetter, 2016; also as a 2014 NewSCRipts reading and a 2015 PPF reading)
    • Curve of Departure (Rachel Bonds, 2017)
    • The Roommate (Jen Silverman, 2017)
    • Kings (Sarah Burgess, 2018)
    • Mask Only (Ana Nogueira, 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading)
    • M. Butterfly (David Henry Hwang, 2019)

    Here are some playwrights who identify as LGBTQIA+ whose works have been produced by SCR:

    • Edward Albee (A Delicate Balance, 2001)
    • Bertolt Brecht (Baal, 1966; The Threepenny Opera, 1969; Galileo, 1985; Happy End, 1991; The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 2005)
    • Noël Coward (Private Lives, 1977, 1998; Hay Fever, 1993); Blithe Spirit, 1995​)
    • Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days, 2010; Cloudlands, 2012, original music)
    • John Logan (Red, 2016)
    • Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man, 2015)
    • Craig Lucas (Reckless, 1985; Blue Window, 1985; Three Postcards, 1987; Prelude to a Kiss, 1988; Marry Me a Little, 1988, writer; The Light in the Piazza, 2014)
    • W. Somerset Maugham (The Circle, 2001)
    • Terrance McNally (Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, 1989; Lips Together, Teeth Apart, 1994)
    • Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, 1995; The Altruists, a PPF reading, 1999)
    • Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2019; Putting It Together, 2009; Little Night Music, 2007; Sunday in the Park With George, 1989; Marry Me a Little, 1988; Side by Side by Sondheim, 1983; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1969)
    • Michel Tremblay (Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, 1980)
    • Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie, 1965, 1970, 1980; A Streetcar Named Desire, 1968, 1994)
    Stephen Caffrey

    Lucas Verbrugghe​ and Stephen Caffrey in ​M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang. Photo by Jordan Kubat/SCR.

    Actor From Early Lucas Film With SCR Ties

    Actor Stephen Caffrey had one of the lead roles in Craig Lucas’ film, Longtime Companion. Caffrey has been in three shows at SCR—Bach at Leipzig (2006), Shakespeare in Love (2018) and this season in M. Butterfly (2019).

  • Designing a Magical Set for "The Velveteen Rabbit"

    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 03, 2019
    The Velveteen Rabbit Production Photo

    Paul Culos, Nicole Cowans, Joseph Abrego, ​Amielynn Abellera, Carina Morales and Nicole Erb in​ SCR's Theatre for Young Audiences ​production of ​The Velveteen Rabbit ​with sets by Keith Mitchell.

    Velveteen Rabbit production photo

    ​Amielynn Abellera and​ Ricky Abilez in The Velveteen Rabbit.

    scale model tree

    ​Designer Kieth Mitchell's scale model tree for the set of The Velveteen Rabbit.

    Set designer Keith Mitchell is drawn to designing shows that are based on books—such as Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience, Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

    For The Velveteen Rabbit, he found a lot of joy in making the magical world in which the story about the Boy and his stuffed velveteen rabbit doll unfolds. Although he didn't read the book as a child, he did as a teenager and also saw an animated film version of the story in the 1980s. It’s possible that rabbits are special to him because he grew up in the Conejo Valley—which means “rabbit” valley—and saw cottontail rabbits all the time.

    We caught up with Mitchell while he was designing the set for The Velveteen Rabbit (May 24-June 9, 2019), Theatre for Young Audiences) and asked him about the inspiration for his designs and more.

    What was the first play you remember seeing?
    It was Tales From the Arabian Nights at the Indio Date Festival. It was outside and had live camels and I remember the genie disappearing in a puff of colored smoke.

    When did you become a designer?
    I think that happened at a very young age. I remember moving my parents’ furniture around when I was about 6 years old; I'd do that every time they’d leave me alone. I’d get on the floor and push the sofa around.  But, I also made my own movies with friends and I think my favorite part was making the world of the story.

    Do you find a lot of creative freedom in designing shows for young people?
    Oh, there's a bit of radical freedom to be had designing for young audiences! There’s often a level of naturalism in adult plays that is rarely utilized in children’s shows. Adults should see what they’re missing! I would love to approach a play for adults the way I approach a children’s show. It would be exciting.

    What draws you to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit?
    I’m a fan of classic British children’s stories and the golden era of illustrations. I studied those things when I dreamt of being an artist and my favorite color palette comes from those old illustrations. I think the strength of The Velveteen Rabbit story is the power of a child’s imagination.

    How did you go about designing the set?
    The world of play, which is still where I go when I design, can be a very richly detailed emotional place. I remember spending a summer at my grandmother’s house and, to me, it was a place of pure adventure. But the river pirates were all in my head. As I designed this show, I thought about the wall in the Boy's garden as the edge of childhood. The gap in the wall leads to the woods and adulthood. The wall is broken by some unseen cataclysmic event. The woods are sort of vague, like adulthood from a child’s perspective, and maybe a little scary. The nursery feels very bright and safe, but its walls are made of scrim and when the lights are right it becomes transparent and can transport us to the world beyond. We also had to play with scale, since the toys are bigger than the Boy. I wanted to evoke the feeling that you have when you are looking at a blade of grass close up, or you close one eye to play with perspective, to make your toys look bigger than life.

    What was your favorite childhood toy?
    It was a little stuffed bear—his name was Rufus.

    Learn more about The Velveteen Rabbit and buy tickets.