• Party Play: "Sheepdog"

    Beth Fhaner
     | Apr 23, 2019

    Playwright Kevin Artigue’s Sheepdog, an SCR commission that is also part of the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival, opened to an appreciative and engaged audience at its world premiere on the Julianne Argyros Stage on Friday, April 19, 2019.

    A complex and mysterious story about two ​police officers who are also romantic partners, Sheepdog captured the attention of the First Night audience right from the start and never let up, delivering 90 minutes of impressive performances, intense dialogue and deep emotion under the skillful direction of Leah C. Gardiner. Theatregoers immediately showed their admiration for Artigue’s riveting drama with generous applause and a standing ovation.

    With Erika LaVonn as Amina and Lea Coco as Ryan, the two leads delivered extraordinary performances while giving audiences a glimpse into the complicated lives of two police officers in Cleveland. Voice actors Melody Butiu and Ricardo Salinas are also heard as unseen characters in the play.

    The Playwrights Circle served as Honorary Producer for this production. The circle members include Sandy Segerstrom Daniels; Dr. Robert F. and Julia A. Davey; Patricia Ellis; David Emmes and Paula Tomei; Janet and Michael Hards; Tracy and Roger Kirwan; Carl Neisser; Michael Oppenheim; Carolina and John Prichard; Michael Ray; Susan Shieldkret and David Dull; Peter and Joy Sloan; Julia Voce; and Judy and Wes Whitmore.

    Circle member John Prichard found the play to be thought-provoking and commented, “It was truly a treat to talk to the playwright, director and dramaturg amid the excitement of Sheepdog’s world premiere! Their insight made the play that much more intense and unforgettable.”

    Guests who attended the cast party at the Costa Mesa Marriott, which was a co-sponsor of the event, were welcomed to the stylish space with the warm glow of candlelight and eye-catching floral arrangements consisting of blue hydrangeas, cornflowers and stock flowers.

    The celebratory soirée featured a menu of Cleveland-inspired dishes including passed hors d’oeuvres such as potato and cheese pierogis with hollandaise aioli and kielbasa sausage in a puff pastry. Partygoers also enjoyed savory fare including gourmet pizza bagels and grilled corned beef sliders on marble rye bread. For a sweet finish, guests indulged in scrumptious treats including strawberry cassata cake and a gourmet donut display.

    From the bar, the play-inspired signature cocktail was dubbed “Cleveland (on the) Rocks”—a delicious beverage that blended whiskey, ginger ale and lime juice over ice.

    First Night theatregoers were delighted to have the opportunity to meet the director, playwright and the cast during the after-party. As guests mingled with fellow theatregoers into the evening, kudos continued for the cast and creative team of Sheepdog, Artigue’s important new work that will perhaps help to continue the conversation regarding police violence and the feeling that something needs to change.

    Learn more about Sheepdog and buy tickets

  • The Playwrights of PPF: Chisa Hutchinson

    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 22, 2019
    Chisa Hutchinson

    Playwright Chisa Hutchinson.

    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 Whitelisted by Chisa Hutchinson. The story follows the ​strange things that are happening in Rebecca’s new apartment—poltergeist strange. And it’s not easy being on the front lines of gentrification. Now Yvette, a homeless woman, keeps intruding on her life. But even the best home-security system can’t save Rebecca from what’s really haunting her​.

    We caught up with Hutchinson and talked with her about the moment she knew she wanted to write plays, the play that changed her life and more.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    VC Andrews novels—they were so scandalous! I wouldn’t even check them out of the library; I’d just read them there in installments.

    When did you know that you wanted to be a playwright?
    When I saw August Wilson debate Robert Brustein on the issue of colorblind casting. My man was like, “It’s lazy and it’s bullshit. Just an excuse to not tell stories actually about people of color by people of color. We need to do better.” And I was like, “Right on, Mr. Wilson,” and started telling stories myself.

    What play changed your life—and why?
    Kia Corthron’s Breath, Boom. I saw it at Playwrights Horizons umpteen years ago and it was just so different from anything I’d ever seen on a stage. Like who puts poor, black thugs on stage? Maybe in a “Law & Order” episode for two seconds, but not on stage for 90 minutes, endowing the​m with humanity and nuance and shit. That just wasn’t done. I’d read Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun before this, but nothing compares to seeing black bodies move through life, live on stage. It’s incredibly validating. Like “Wow! Society cares enough about us to make us art!”

    The reading of Whitelisted, directed by Sarah Rasmussen, will be on Sunday, April 28, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage.

    Learn more and purchase tickets.

    Meet the Playwrights of the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival
    Daniel Messe, Sean Hartley & Craig Lucas: Prelude to a Kiss
    Adam Bock: The Canadians
    Ana Nogueira: Mask Only
    Melissa Ross: Unlikeable Heroine

    Qui Nguyen: Poor Yella Rednecks
    ​Kevin Artigue: Sheepdog

  • The Art and Business of Acting

    Matthew Arkin
     | Apr 22, 2019
    Matthew Arkin with students

    Acting Intensive Director Matthew Arkin works on a scene with students.

    About Matthew Arkin

    Arkin's Broadway credits include the revival of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, as well as Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor (also national tour). He has numerous ​off-Broadway and regional credits including his Drama Desk-nominated performance as Gabe in Donald Margulies’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner with Friends and he received acclaim for his portrayal of the 600-pound Charlie in ​South Coast Repertory's ​west ​coast premiere of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale, one of his many appearances ​here. His films include indies Second Best and Raising Flagg, as well as Death to Smoochy, Liar, Liar, North and An Unmarried Woman. ​Arkin's television appearances include recurring roles on “Rescue Me,” “100 Centre Street,” “Third Watch” and “All My Children,” and guest spots on “Aquarius,” “NCIS,” and “Switched at Birth” He is an adjunct professor at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, has taught ​technique and ​scene ​study at New York’s world-renowned HB Studio and now teaches privately in Los Angeles. He studied technique, scene study and Shakespeare with Uta Hagen and studied with Austin Pendleton and Sheldon Patinkin.

    South Coast Repertory's Acting Intensive Program (AIP) is a nationally renowned seven-week summer program for serious acting students, ages 18 and over. This year, AIP takes place from June 3-July 20, ​with entry to this program by audition only. Here, Program Director Matthew Arkin writes about what students can expect in this distinctive, summer acting program.

    The goal of the Acting Intensive Program is twofold: We focus on both the art and the business of acting. First, we aim to engender in the individual knowledge of themselves and their abilities that will to guide them as they build a solid identity as an actor engaged in a lifelong quest to refine and sharpen their own craft. Second, we give participants solid technique, as well as information about the realities and practicalities involved in the pursuit of a viable living as an actor.

    I come to my work as an instructor from the standpoint of a working professional. My initial relationship with SCR was as an actor, 10 years ago. After performing in my second show here in 2012, I began teaching in the adult education program. Now, with six main stage productions under my belt, along with countless readings and workshops, I am entering my fifth year as program director. So, although I have been teaching acting and film for many years, my approach is to convey to students what I know works out in the real world, not theory that has gone stale from too much time in the classroom. This commitment extends to the selection of the other core faculty members as well, which is where the true strength of the AIP resides.

    In addition to the core curriculum, the AIP is augmented by extraordinary guest teachers and lecturers, all of whom are currently working in the industry as actors, directors, producers or show runners. Because of this extensive experience, participants will be getting priceless insider advice. AIP students will thrive for seven weeks inside a caring, vibrant community at one of the nation’s leading breeding grounds for new play development, and leave with a toolbox full of creative knowledge and technique, revitalized and ready to take their next steps down their career path.

    Learn more about the Acting Intensive Program and how to apply.

  • "Oliver Twist" Inspires Adaptations

    SCR Staff
     | Apr 16, 2019

    Oliver Twist Logo


    A poster for the 1922 Jackie Coogan version of Oliver Twist.


    ​​A poster for the 1968 musical version.


    ​A poster for Roman Polanski's 2005 version.

    The Teen Players’* production of Oliver Twist (May 18-26, Nicholas Studio) stays true to Charles Dickens’ exploration of social justice in Victorian England. The tale follows the life and adventures of Oliver Twist, an orphan, as he confronts poverty and crime, unlocks the mystery of his birth and learns the meaning of family. It’s the story of one child’s discovery about the power of resilience.

    Since its publication as a serial in the late 1830s, Dickens’ story has inspired numerous adaptations from page to stage to screen to television and more. Here’s an overview.

    • 1909: U.S. silent film with Edith Storey as Oliver
    • 1912: British silent film with Ivy Millais as Oliver
    • 1912: U.S. silent film with Nat C. Goodwin as Oliver
    • 1916: U.S. silent film with Marie Doro as Oliver
    • 1919: Hungarian silent film adaptation with Tibor Lubinszky as Oliver
    • 1922: U.S. silent film with Jackie Coogan as Oliver. A popular song, “Oliver Twist”, written by singer Vaughan De Leath accompanied the film.
    • 1933: U.S. film with sound. Dickie Moore portrayed Oliver.
    • 1948: British film directed by David Lean with John Howard Davies as Oliver and Sir Alec Guinness as Fagin.
    • 1960: The musical play Oliver! debuts in London’s West End for a long run, followed by long runs on Broadway, on tour and in revivals. Keith Hamshere was the original Oliver in London; Bruce Prochnik was Oliver in the Broadway premiere.
    • 1968: Oliver! the film adaptation of the hit musical play; won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Mark Lester was Oliver.
    • 1974: U.S. animated version with Josh Albee as Oliver.
    • 1982: Australian animated TV series
    • 1982: U.S. film with Richard Charles as Oliver and George C. Scott as Fagin.
    • 1985: BBC TV series with Ben Rodska as Oliver.
    • 1988: Disney adapted the story into an animated film called Oliver & Company, with Oliver as a homeless kitten who joins a gang of dogs to survive. Joey Lawrence was the voice of Oliver.
    • 1996-7: “Saban’s Adventures of Oliver Twist,” a French-American animated TV series with the characters as animals. Oliver, voiced by Mona Marshall, was an orphan dog.
    • 1997: Disney made-for-television film with Alex Trench as Oliver and Richard Dreyfus as Fagin.
    • 1999: British mini-series with Sam Smith as Oliver.
    • 2003: Twist is a film adaptation updated to modern times with Joshua Close as Oliver.
    • 2004: Boy Called Twist sets the story in Cape Town, South Africa.
    • 2005: Roman Polanski-directed film with Barney Clark as Oliver Twist.
    • 2007: BBC television adaptation with William Miller as Oliver.

    Learn more about the Teen Players’ production of Oliver Twist and buy tickets.

    The Teen Players are carefully chosen through auditions from students in the teen acting classes at SCR’s Theatre Conservatory, with a minimum of two years’ experience.

  • Get Your Groove On with "Poor Yella Rednecks" Playlist

    SCR Staff
     | Apr 16, 2019
    Poor Yella Rednecks Production photo

    Paco Tolson, Tim Chiou, Samantha Quan and Eugene Young dig the music in Poor Yella Rednecks.

    Qui Nguyen’s Poor Yella Rednecks incorporates original rap songs to help tell the story of one family’s immigrant experience while building a new life in a foreign land called Arkansas. The hilarious, heartfelt comedy also includes snippets of familiar hits from the ’70s and ’80s that set the tone between scene changes. Here’s a look at the show’s incidental music and some fun facts about these nostalgic tunes that offer a stroll down memory lane.

    “September” - Earth, Wind & Fire
    Released as a single in 1978, this song was included on The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978). “September” went on to reach No. 1 on the U.S. R&B chart, No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the U.K. Singles Chart.

    “Upside Down” - Diana Ross
    Written and produced by Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, “Upside Down” was issued as a single through the Motown label (1980). The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, No. 1 on the Billboard Disco and Soul charts and the single was also a big international hit. “Upside Down” is listed at No. 80 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of All Time.”

    “I’m Coming Out” - Diana Ross
    Written and produced by Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the song was released as the second single from Diana Ross’s self-titled tenth album Diana ​(1980). Rodgers stated that he got the idea for the song after noticing three different drag queens dressed as Diana Ross at a New York club called the GG Barnum Room.

    “I Wanna Be Your Lover” – Prince
    Released in August 1979 as the lead single from Prince’s second self-title album, Prince, the song was Prince’s first major hit single in the U.S., reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart for two weeks.

    “Funkytown” – Lipps Inc.
    From Minneapolis group Lipps Inc.’s debut album, Mouth to Mouth, the song was released as the album’s lead single in 1980. A smash disco hit, “Funkytown” held a record for reaching the No. 1 spot in 28 countries, more than any other single release until Madonna’s “Hung Up” reached No. 1 in 41 countries in 2015. “Funkytown” was reportedly written while the band lived in Minneapolis and dreamed of moving to New York.

    “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
    Written by Daryl Hall and John Oates, and co-written by Sara Allen, the song was released as the second single from Hall and Oates’ tenth studio album, Private Eyes (1981). The song became the fourth No. 1-hit single of their career on the Billboard Hot 100 and the second hit single from Private Eyes. “I Can't Go for That” was voted No. 6 on VH1’s list of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s.”

    “Fire” – Ohio Players
    A hit song by R&B funk band Ohio Players, the song was the opening track from the album of the same name and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Soul Singles chart in early 1975. The single is currently used as the theme song to the FOX reality series, Hell’s Kitchen. It was also featured in the fourth season of Gotham, in addition to appearing in a 2019 TV commercial for the Toyota RAV4.

    “Just the Two of Us” (featuring Bill Withers) – Grover Washington Jr.
    A 1981 R&B song recorded by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers, “Just the Two of Us” originally appeared on Washington’s album Winelight (1980). An edited version reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, a position it held for three weeks, behind “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton and “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes. “Just the Two of Us” won a Grammy Award for Best R&B song.

    “9-5” – Dolly Parton
    This song was written and originally performed by Dolly Parton for the film 9 to 5, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Parton in her film debut. Released as a single in November 1980, the song was the centerpiece of Parton’s 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs album. The song earned Parton an Academy Award nomination and four Grammy Award nominations, and won her the “Best Country Song” and “Best Country Vocal Performance, Female” awards.

    “Call Me” – Blondie
    Released in the U.S. in early 1980 as a single by American new wave band Blondie, “Call Me” became the band’s biggest single and second No. 1 hit. The single was No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s 1980 year-end chart and the song was ranked at No. 57 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100. Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, as well as for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, “Call Me” was also the theme song of the 1980 film American Gigolo, starring Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton.

    “Miss You” – The Rolling Stones
    Released as a single by The Rolling Stones in May 1978, one month in advance of their album Some Girls, the song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The song was featured in the debut episode of the TV series “Miami Vice” and at the beginning of the film At Close Range.

    “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) – Sly & the Family Stone
    “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” appeared on Fresh, the sixth album by the American funk band Sly and the Family Stone. Released in June 1973, Fresh was the band’s final album to reach the U.S. Top 10. Significant as the only cover song issued on an original Family Stone album, “Que Sera, Sera” was a cover of Doris Day’s Academy Award-winning song from Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much, sung here by Rose Stone.

    “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Stevie Wonder
    A 1973 single released by Stevie Wonder, the song became his third No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and his first No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart. The song won Wonder a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and was nominated for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Rolling Stone ranked the single as song No. 287 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

    “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge
    Composed by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, the song was recorded by American vocal group Sister Sledge and eventually became the group’s signature song. “We Are Family” went gold, becoming the No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop song on the American charts in 1979. The single reached No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs. It was also the theme song for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2017, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or artistically significant.”

    Poor Yella Rednecks’ playlist on Spotify.

    Learn more about Poor Yella Rednecks and buy tickets.