• The Playwrights of PPF: Adam Bock

    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 22, 2019
    Adam Bock

    ​Playwright Adam Bock.

    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 2019 festival is The Canadians by Adam Bock, which recently had a reading here as part of the NewSCRipts play-reading series. We caught up with Bock and got him to talk about his early (really early) play writing efforts, the play that changed his life and why, for him, there’s no place like home to write.

    Adam Bock's Dog Gracie


    Describe your favorite writing space.
    I always write at my desk at home, facing a window with a rooftop view of the water towers of New York City, a view that I love and can get lost in while I daydream. Everything has to be in its place: my dog, Gracie (pictured), sleeping underfoot and the desk has to be pretty clear for me to start, otherwise I fuss around and then start to vacuum instead of write. It also has to be quiet. They are about to tear down and then build a new high-rise across the street. I have to get noise-cancelling earphones.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you.

    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​—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 and then 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 with 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 others’ worlds, so fascinating and vast.

    ​The PPF staged reading of The Canadians will be Friday, April 26, at 4 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage.

    Learn more about the Pacific Playwrights Festival, and purchase tickets.

  • 40th Anniversary of "A Christmas Carol" to be Hal Landon’s Farewell as Scrooge

    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 21, 2019
    Hal Landon Jr. and Presley Coogan

    Hal Landon Jr. as Scrooge and Presley Coogan as Tiny Tim in SCR's 2018 production of A Christmas Carol.

    A​bout Hal Landon Jr.

    He is a South Coast Repertory Founding Artist who joined the theatre at its inception in 1964. He has appeared in the theatre’s productions of Gem of the Ocean, All the Way, Going to a Place where you Already Are, Rest, The Fantasticks, The Trip to Bountiful, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Nothing Sacred, Man from Nebraska, Born Yesterday, A View from the Bridge, Habeas Corpus, Antigone, The Drawer Boy (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination), Major Barbara and Tartuffe. His other theatre credits include Arcadia, Our Town, Sidney Bechet Killed a Man, BAFO, Six Degrees of Separation, An Ideal Husband, A Mess of Plays by Chris Durang, Faith Healer, Green Icebergs, The Miser, Our Country’s Good and Waiting for Godot. He created the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in SCR’s A Christmas Carol. He appeared in Leander Stillwell (Mark Taper Forum), Henry V (The Old Globe) and as Polonius in Hamlet (Shakespeare Orange County). Among his television and film credits are “The Closer,” “My Name is Earl,” “CSI: NY,” “Mad Men,” The Artist, Trespass, Pacific Heights, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (Netflix) and All the Way (HBO). Born in 1941, he will be 78 years old when he takes his last bow as Scrooge.

    Nobody “Bah-humbugs” quite like Hal Landon Jr. Or somersaults into a top hat and comes up ready to meet Christmas Day in style. The New York Times acknowledged him as one of the longest-running Ebenezer Scrooges in the country. But, on Dec. 24, 2019, after 40 years of playing Scrooge—a role he originated for South Coast Repertory’s popular adaptation of A Christmas Carol—Landon will hang up his top hat.

    “For me, this 40-year run has so many stand-outs,” says Landon. “Playing such a terrific role and having an extended period of time to develop it has been immensely satisfying and made me a better actor, too. And to share the success of A Christmas Carol with the SCR family of talented actors and be able to create a true ensemble under director J.D. Keller’s inspired guidance. And, of course, the response from our audience—knowing how much the show means to them—is one of the big reasons I’ve done it for so long.”

    Two of the 40 years stand out personally for him—1995, when his daughter, Caroline, auditioned and was cast as Girl About Town, and 2018, when his granddaughter, Presley, auditioned and was cast as Tiny Tim.

    “The response from our audience—knowing how much the show means to them—is one of the big reasons I’ve done it for so long.”
    -Hal Landon Jr.

    At the end of the day, he has found Scrooge to be “a symbol of hope for all of humanity because he proves without a doubt that anybody can change.”

    “Hal was our immediate choice to portray Scrooge when this production started,” says SCR Founding Artistic Director David Emmes. “Even as a younger actor, Hal was able to carry the weight of Scrooge’s path to redemption. This is a complicated and demanding role and, each season, Hal’s performance grows stronger as he continues to explore and deepen Scrooge. Hal’s dedication to this production, to his actor’s craft, to his fellow cast members and to our Orange County audiences over the span of four decades is truly exceptional.”

    SCR’s A Christmas Carol, adapted by Jerry Patch, debuted at SCR in December 1980 and its warmth and distinctive qualities, such as Landon, have kept the production timeless.

    “Our audiences may rest assured that A Christmas Carol, will remain part of the tradition and the fabric of South Coast Repertory,” says Artistic Director David Ivers. “Hal has brought a brilliant sense of humor and pathos to Scrooge over the decades and I admire both Hal’s performance and this production. While these are big shoes to fill, Dickens’ timeless classic—with its rich language—will be at the center of our programming.”

    “In Orange County, Hal Landon Jr. is synonymous with A Christmas Carol,” notes Managing Director Paula Tomei. He has become not only a seasonal favorite but a local treasure. His performance as Scrooge is always a highlight of the holidays, bringing joy to many. We look forward to sending Hal off in style.”

    A Christmas Carol tickets will go on sale to the general public on June 10, following an exclusive pre-purchase period for 2019-20 SCR subscribers that begins March 25, 2019.

  • Meet the Cast: "Poor Yella Rednecks"

    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 19, 2019
    Poor Yella Rednecks Cast

    THE CAST: Eugene Young, Maureen Sebastian, Tim Chiou, Samantha Quan and Paco Tolson.

    It was like a class reunion on the day rehearsals started for the world premiere of Qui Nguyen’s Poor Yella Rednecks (March 30-April 27, 2019, Segerstrom Stage). Actors Samantha Quan, Maureen Sebastian and Paco Tolson reunited after appearing in the world premiere of Nguyen’s first play here about his family, Vietgone (2015). Tim Chiou and Eugene Young joined the cast to dive into the world of Nguyen. And playwright Nguyen is paired once again with director May Adrales.

    The play is funny and poignant—much like the emotions that ran through Vietgone. Set six years after the end of that story, Poor Yella Rednecks finds Tong and Quang living in El Dorado, Arkansas, with their five year old son, illustrated by a puppet, named Little Man, and Tong’s mother, Huong. Little Man struggles in school, in no small part to Huong’s influence. Quang and Tong struggle with many issues including making a living, taking care of family, infidelity (she with her former boyfriend, Bobby, and he with a hook-up in Houston) and his still-living-in-Vietnam wife. But love may not be enough for Tong and Quang.

    “It’s about my family,” Nguyen says. “It’s about two people who are very much in love here in America, but also haunted by the ghosts of who they were in Vietnam. And as the title suggests, it’s about living in poverty in the ​deep South as Asian immigrants. That’s the heartbeat of the play, which I’m aware sounds heavy.”

    Watch the cast talk about Poor Yella Rednecks.

    Get ready for the show with these resources.


    Tim Chiou
    : Quang, Bully Chris
    At SCR:
    Yoga Play by Dipika Guha (world premiere)
    Other credits include:
    Two Mile Hollow by Leah Nanako Winkler, Tokyo fish story by Kimber Lee, The North China Lover, Snow Falling on Cedar and Year Zero. His television and film credits include “Silicon Valley,” “iZombie” and “American Koko.”
    Meet him in this video.


    Samantha Quan
    Huong, Thu, San, Cop
    At SCR:
    Vietgone by Qui Nguyen (world premiere, 2015) and the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading in 2018 of Poor Yella Rednecks.
    Other credits include:
    Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club). Also Masha No Home, An Infinite Ache, Peerless, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, Red Flamboyant, American Hwangap and B.F.E. Her film and television credits include 4 Wedding Planners, Sake Bomb, Good Grief, “Elementary,” “NCIS,” and “Castle.”
    Meet her in this video.


    Maureen Sebastian
    At SCR:
    Vietgone by Qui Nguyen (world premiere, 2015) and the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading in 2018 of Poor Yella Rednecks.
    Other credits include:
    Arabian Nights; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Thunder Above, Deeps Below; Now Circa Then; Lonely, I’m Not and Year Zero. Her television credits include “Law and Order: SVU,” “Elementary,” “Oasis,” “American Gothic” and “Revolution.”
    Meet her in this video.


    Paco Tolson
    Playwright, Immigration Officer, British Narrator, Little Man Puppeteer, Bobby, Bully Tommy, Grocery Boy
    At SCR:
    Peter and the Starcatcher (2013); Vietgone by Qui Nguyen (world premiere, 2015) and the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading in 2018 of Poor Yella Rednecks.
    Other credits include
    : Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club), Twelfth Night, The Unwritten Song, the Children of Vonderly, Soul Samurai, Men of Steel, Fight Girl Battle World, Agent G, The Winter’s Tale and Daedalus Project. His film and television credits include “Madam Secretary,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Code” and 7-Day Gig.
    Meet him in this video.


    Eugene Young
    Nhan, Cowboy, Little Man, Grocery Boy
    At SCR:
    Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Poor Yella Rednecks (2018).
    Other credits include:
    Cardinal, Alice in Slasherland, Twelfth Night, “Veep,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Criminal Minds,” “Unforgettable” and “Revenge.”
    Meet him in this video.

    Learn more about Poor Yella Rednecks and purchase tickets.

  • The Playwrights of PPF: Daniel Messe, Sean Hartley & Craig Lucas

    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 19, 2019

    Sean Hartley & Craig Lucas

    ​The Collaborators

    Daniel M​essé is the founder and principal songwriter of the band, Hem. In 2009, The Public Theatre tapped Hem to score Twelfth Night for Shakespeare in the Park (starring Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald, directed by Daniel Sullivan), for which they were nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Messé is thrilled to be working again with Craig Lucas. In 2017, their last musical, Amélie, premiered on Broadway after successful runs at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Ahmanson Theatre (Los Angeles).

    Sean Hartley is the director of musical theater at Kaufman Music Center in New York City, where he curates, produces and often hosts the series Broadway Close Up and Broadway Playhouse. As a lyricist, composer and/or playwright, his productions include Cupid and Psyche (with composer Jihwan Kim, Drama Desk nomination), Little Women (Syracuse Stage, Village Theater), Love and Real Estate (with composer Sam Davis) and Snow (ASCAP Harold Arlen Award for Best New Musical.) His works for television include the Disney Channel’s The Book of Pooh and Bear In the Big Blue House. His works for children include Number The Stars (from the Newbery Medal book by Lois Lowry), Sunshine (from a book by Ludwig Bemelmans, music by John O’Neill) and Vashti!, and Holy Moses! (both with books by Bob Kolsby.) He teaches at Special Music School, One Day University and Lucy Moses School.

    Craig Lucas’s plays include Missing Persons, Reckless, Blue Window, Prelude to a Kiss, God’s Heart, The Dying Gaul, Prayer For My Enemy, The Singing Forest, Ode To Joy and I Was Most Alive With You. His screenplays include Longtime Companion (Sundance Audience Award), The Secret Lives of Dentists (New York Film Critics Best Screenplay Award), Reckless, Blue Window and The Dying Gaul. His libretti include The Light in the Piazza, Two Boys, Orpheus in Love, Three Postcards and An American in Paris. He directed the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza, Saved Or Destroyed, Play Yourself and the films The Dying Gaul and Birds of America. He received the Excellence in Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Madge Evans-Sidney Kingsley Award, the Laura Pels/PEN Mid-career Award, the Greenfield Prize, LAMBDA Literary Award, Hull-Warriner Award (Dramatists Guild of America), Flora Roberts Award, Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Best Play Award (The Singing Forest). He has three Tony Award nominations.

    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 2019 festival is Prelude to a Kiss, a musical by Daniel Messé (music and lyrics), Sean Hartley (lyrics) and Craig Lucas (book). This SCR commission is adapted from Lucas’s earlier play—also an SCR commission that premiered here in 1988, was a hit on and off-Broadway and became a popular film. We caught up with Hartley and Lucas to talk about their literary lives and get glimpses into their favorite writing spaces.


    Describe your favorite writing space.
    My favorite writing space depends very much on the project, as well as what stage that project is in. For theater pieces, there is nothing better than a small room filled only with my collaborator(s), and a decent piano. The room does not have to have a view, or even be particularly nice​in fact, the more tomb-like the better in most cases. Hot coffee and hard chairs are a plus, but otherwise the fewer distractions the better. The best work is almost always done when collaborators come  together to work in just such a room. Of course, it's also important to do preliminary work by myself sketching musical/lyrical themes. For those times, I do prefer a nicer space, preferably with a window, and filled with cats.

    Dan Messe

    Dan Messé's workspace.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    I don't remember ever needing to read anything in secret at home. My brothers and I were raised by voracious readers, and one of my earliest memories is being read aloud to by my momhardly unique, except she would just read us whatever novel she happened to be reading at the time. I remember falling asleep to novels like The Poseidon Adventure (by Paul Gallico) and Ghost Story (by Peter Straub) not necessarily kid-friendly stuff, but I ate it up. We were also allowed to stay up late, just as long as we were reading quietly in our beds, so there was never any need to hide under the covers with a flashlight. I do have one memory of secretly reading a book in a high school math class. The novel was The Collector by John Fowles, and I remember being so upset by the ending that I let out an "Arrrgh!" right in the middle of Ms. Vinnick's lecture on quadratic functions.

    Describe your favorite writing space.
    These days, my favorite place to write is in my office at Kaufman Music Center. I come in an hour or so before I’m supposed to start work, or on a Sunday, and I put down all of the ideas that have been running through my mind. If I need a piano, I have all of these great Steinway grands in our music studios. I make notes all day long, wherever I am, so I always like to have pencil and paper with me, in case I get an idea.
    Hartley Workspace

    Sean Hartley's workspace.

    Another favorite place is the Hermitage Artist Colony in Manasota Beach, Fla. Nothing but a cabin and the beach. Craig, Dan and I spent a week there in January, with no distractions and 24 hours a day to talk and think and write. It was heaven.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    Late at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I seem to remember reading a Black Stallion book under the covers. When I was a teenager, and starting to realize I was gay, I probably read the play Boys In the Band in secret, not wanting to begin the discussion with my parents yet. And, I think probably once I wanted to read a Nancy Drew book, but was told that was for girls.

    When did you know that you wanted to write musicals?
    I was a big Gilbert and Sullivan fan in high school, and a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan before that, and I would fantasize writing musicals on Broadway from probably age 10 on. I remember some of the titles of my imaginary musicals: Consequences (which was kind of like Camelot) People Are Different (which was kind of like West Side Story) and Catch Me a Tiger Shark. Don’t know what that last one was supposed to be about, but I remember the tune of the title song.

    What play or musical changed your life—and why?
    A lot of shows have influenced me but I would mention two: the Peter Brook A Midsummer Night’s Dream production inspired me to look at the possibilities of theater in a new way. Seeing the mechanics behind the magic doesn’t have to spoil it, it can really enhance it. That kind of transparent theatricality is something we aspire to with Prelude to a Kiss.

    And the original cast album of Company gave me a whole new sense of what a musical could be. Instead of simplifying life in order to make it palatable, songs can embrace all the ambiguity and subtleties of life. Interestingly, when I actually saw the show in production I was a little disappointed. What I’d pictured in my mind from listening to the album was so much richer!

    What should we know about this adaptation of Prelude to a Kiss?
    One of the first decisions we had to make [in adapting] Prelude to a Kiss was whether to set it in the 1980s, when the original play was written, or in the present day. We chose the present day. Thinking about the neuroses and anxieties and political polarization of the world now has really informed the project. We live in a world of incredible anger, tension, fear and danger and yet we continue to meet and fall in love, just as people have throughout time. That’s the source of one of our songs, “Love in the Age of Anxiety”, which has become a kind of a theme song for the show. We recognize that love is fragile, but tough, and is always worth fighting for and that’s what we celebrate.


    Describe your favorite writing space.
    Any place where the phone can’t ring, people aren’t talking, there are no surprises, animals or children underfoot, no loud trucks, deliveries, or music playing. The moon would be ideal.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    I never had to read in secret, my family let me lose hours, days and weeks in books and never asked what I was reading. My parents liked to go to cocktail parties and play golf (badly) and so they were happy I had found a friend in books.

    When did you know that you wanted to be a playwright, composer or lyricist?
    I still don’t know what I want to be.

    What play or musical changed your life—and why?
    Oklahoma! performed by my teachers. I was so frightened by their behavior, in their weird orange makeup under bright lights I felt that someone had to reorient the solar system to its correct axis or we would all spin out of control.

    What should we know about this adaptation of Prelude to a Kiss?
    It’s better than the play!

    The PPF concert-reading of Prelude to a Kiss, directed by Artistic Director David Ivers, is Friday, April 26, at 1 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage.

    Buy Tickets

  • Theatre Conservatory Students Present "Harriet the Spy"

    Tania Thompson
     | Mar 18, 2019

    SCR's Junior Players

    Performances of the modern, popular classic Harriet the Spy are just around the corner—March 23-31 in the Nicholas Studio​—directed by Theatre Conservatory faculty member Mercy Vasquez.

    The Junior Players* are in rehearsal to bring to life the ​story of sixth-grader Harriet—an aspiring writer and a spy—who constantly records observations about everyone (and everything). When her classmates discover her secret spy journal full of unflattering notes about them, they all turn against her. This funny, heartfelt story is about growing up, compassion and the importance of looking beyond the surface.

    Learn More

    *The Junior Players are carefully chosen through auditions from students in the kids and teen acting classes at SCR’s Theatre Conservatory who have a minimum of two years’ experience.

    The cast pictured above (front row) Natalie Dien, Katie Lee, Maxfield Ney, Maggie Moland, Timory Taber, Natalie Bright and Maya Ferchaw; (back row) Piper Huntley, Julia Meads, Remington Walker, Philip Giglia, Grady Farman, Calvin Morgenstern and Kemper Rodi.

    A Refresher on Harriet the Spy

    More Than a Half-Century of Harriet the Spy

    Louise Fitzhugh’s enormously popular book is now 55 years old—and it is still a childhood favorite. Read this Washington Post article that looks back at the book and its place in children’s literature.

    When I Grow Up…
    For Harriet M. Welsch, her life goal was to be a spy: “…the best spy there ever was and I will know everything. Everything.” That’s how author Louise Fitzhugh wrote about Harriet’s sixth-grader goals and caught the world’s attention in Harriet the Spy.

    Harriet Author Inspires a Generation of Young Audiences Writers
    When Louise Fitzhugh wrote Harriet the Spy, she probably never imagined how groundbreaking it would be—from becoming a beloved classic to paving the way for a next generation of kid spy stories. Check out these titles and their connections to Harriet in this blog from Airship Daily.

    How ‘Toon Lisa Simpson Looked at Harriet
    More than 20 years ago, an episode of The Simpsons made a connection between Lisa and Harriet the Spy. Read about it in this article from The New Yorker.

    16 Things Harriet the Spy Taught Us About Life
    Harriet is all about exploring options. Find out about this and other lessons in this BuzzFeed article.

    Another Thing Harriet Loves
    Did you know that she found something she really liked? Tomato sandwiches! Check out this recipe for Harriet’s favorite tomato and mayonnaise sandwich.

    Buy Now

    Take Acting Classes Here
    Enroll your child in one of two Summer Acting Workshops in July or August 2019. Our summer theatre camps offer up a sampler of the classes we hold year-round. Members of Junior Players ensemble are students from our Theatre Conservatory. Let your child get inspired by watching Harriet the Spy and then get in on the act in classes this summer!

    Learn More and Enroll