• A Guide to Getting the Most Out of the Pacific Playwrights Festival

    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 15, 2019

    PPF Logo

    South Coast Repertory’s three-day national showcase of new plays—the Pacific Playwrights Festival—is just around the corner​, April 26-28, with five readings and two full productions of new works.

    In addition to local new play fans, the festival draws theatre industry professionals from across the country and everyone wants to be among the first to see some of the best new plays in the country.

    “PPF is the most exciting 48 hours in our entire season,” says John Glore, festival co-director and SCR associate artistic director. “Chances are good that audience members are going to see a play that will go on to be very prominent in American theatre.”

    Here is our PPF New Play Starter Kit—your guide to getting the most out of your PPF weekend.

    Get Festival Updates and Join the Conversation
    Follow SCR on Twitter at @SouthCoastRep for updates throughout the weekend.
    Connect with us and other PPF attendees, tweet with us using #PPFSCR.

    Go Behind-the-Scenes
    Follow us on Instagram at @SouthCoastRep for behind-the-scenes photos of the festival. Follow our PPF story on Snapchat at @SouthCoastRep. Get a look at the PPF weekend through the eyes of SCR Communications Associate Nicholas Pilapil.

    New Play Development at SCR
    SCR has produced more than 525 plays over its 55-season history. And the number continues to climb as we watch plays developed here go on to other productions across the country. Check out the lobby display ​for ​highlights from our new-play development history.

    Playwrights Panel: Playwrights and Institutional Change
    Sunday, April 28, at 9 a.m.,​ the post-breakfast panel discussion will focus on Playwrights and Institutional Change, a discussion about what theatre leadership change means to writers and to the future of their work. Moderated by playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil, the panel members include Kevin Artigue, Adam Bock, Sean Hartley, Chisa Hutchinson, Craig Lucas, Dan Messé, Qui Nguyen, Ana Nogueira and Melissa Ross. Admission is free or you can live stream the panel via HowlRound.

    Something For Everyone!
    From a concert-reading of the musical adaptation of Prelude to a Kiss to a rap and hip-hop infused family immigrant story (Poor Yella Rednecks) to a horror story about gentrification and unconscious bias (Whitelisted) to the story of two police officers—partners and lovers—whose relationship is rocked to the core (Sheepdog), there's no better way to experience the festival than by seeing a new play.

    Packages for all five readings are a great value. Learn more about PPF and purchase tickets.

  • In Other Words: Stories of Police and Community

    SCR Staff
     | Apr 11, 2019

    Lea Coco and Erica LaVonn in Sheepdog.

    The story of two people—Amina and Ryan—in Kevin Artigue’s gripping drama, Sheepdog, is complex and mysterious. Actually, it's a mystery within a love story because, in addition to being police officers and partners, Amina and Ryan are lovers. Until something happens that rocks their relationship to the core.

    Artigue explains that the term “sheepdog” comes from a concept that suggests police officers are like sheepdogs, which have qualities of both sheep and wolf—including the capacity for violence—in order to do their job effectively. Read below to hear other voices on the stories and issues of community and law enforcement.


    ​David A. Love

    The Untold Story of the Black Cop by David A. Love
    From The Philadelphia Citizen
    Black officers often experience conflicting loyalties to the community versus the department. Many face racial discrimination in their own departments, which helps explain why African-American police have their own organizations to look out for black interests and sometimes even their own unions, as in St. Louis, where the name of the African-American union—The Ethical Society of Police—hints at the internal chasm between the races. On the force, many report being subject to retaliation from their agency if they speak out against police corruption and abuse. And on the street, black officers are often victims of racial profiling, harassment and shootings from fellow officers.

    Despite the introduction of inclusive hiring policies, police culture has not changed, and a “blue mentality” has prevailed in cities with a majority black and brown population—including localities with African-American police leadership.

    Rochelle Bilal—who served as a Philadelphias police officer for 27 years before retiring—said she faced racism from her days at the police academy, and was called “Angela Davis” by her colleagues for not allowing white officers to commit misconduct in her presence.

    A recent report dealing with Philadelphia' force found that blacks account for 80 percent of people shot by police, and black suspects in officer-involved shootings were most likely to be the subject of “threat perception failures”—unarmed and carrying a nonthreatening object such as a cellphone or wallet, but perceived by police as carrying a weapon. Whites, on the other hand, were most likely to be involved in a physical altercation with police leading to a shooting.

    Internally, the black cop is often similarly targeted. Cariol Horne, an ex-Buffalo police officer who was fired for stopping a white fellow officer from choking a handcuffed man. The offending officer—who punched Horne in the face, requiring her to replace her bridge—was forced to retire after choking and punching other fellow officers, and indicted for federal civil rights violations against black teen suspects. But Horne has been fighting for her pension for 10 years.

    In New York, Officer Edwin Raymond resorted to recording NYPD officials in an attempt to reform the department. He became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by a dozen cops of color who claimed the NYPD forced them to meet racially discriminatory arrest quotas against blacks and Latinos. Other NYPD officers have received death threats and lost backup on duty from other cops for piercing the blue wall of silence.

    According to Rochelle Bilal, black officers have to ensure that they do not allow the system to change them, and stay grounded in the community.

    “Because most of us do the job of policing, we move on up and disconnect ourselves from the communities that mold us. And then we separate ourselves from the people who raised us,” Bilal says. “Then you build this mentality of us versus them, and you get this false sense of security. Then, you find out you’re black again.”

    Read the full article. David A. Love is a journalist and commentator who writes on politics, social justice, race and human rights. His work has been featured in numerous outlets including CNN, MSNBC and CBC news. He teaches in a social justice journalism lab at the Rutgers University School of Communications and Information.


    ​Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Quotes From His New York Times Bestseller
    “You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training, and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are the product of democratic will.”

    "You are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful—the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements."

    “It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black.”

    "In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

    “My work is to give you what I know of my own particular path while allowing you to walk your own.”

    “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”

    “All my life I'd heard people tell their black boys and black girls to be 'twice as good,' which is to say 'accept half as much.' These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile. No one told those little white children, with their tricycles, to be twice as good.”

    “The streets transform every ordinary day into a series of trick questions, and every incorrect answer risks a beat-down, a shooting, or a pregnancy. No one survives unscathed. And yet the heat that springs from the constant danger, from a lifestyle of near-death experience, is thrilling.”

    Learn more about the book. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His book, Between the World and Me, won the National Book Award in 2015. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

    In California News

    “Why California’s proposed law on deadly police force isn’t as tough as it seems” Los Angeles Times April 4, 2019

    Learn more about Sheepdog and buy tickets. This world premiere is part of the 22nd Pacific Playwrights Festival.

  • Party Play: "Poor Yella Rednecks"

    Beth Fhaner
     | Apr 09, 2019

    The world premiere of Poor Yella Rednecks, the next chapter in playwright Qui Nguyen’s story about his parents’ immigration from Vietnam to the United States, opened to an enthusiastic First Night audience. Nguyen’s highly anticipated new work captivated the crowd right from the start and never let up, delivering two hours of raucous comedy, heartfelt performances, colorful characters, kung-fu, puppetry, projections and more.

    Nguyen’s first chapter of the story, the award-winning Vietgone, was commissioned by SCR and had its world premiere here in 2015. With Poor Yella Rednecks—also an SCR commission—Nguyen continues his family’s hilarious, yet deeply moving take on the immigrant story. Set six years after Vietgone, the second chapter has married couple Tong and Quang building new lives in El Dorado, Arkansas, but nothing is easy in this foreign land.

    Theatregoers showed their appreciation for Poor Yella Rednecks with generous applause, ​lots of laughter and an immediate standing ovation. Led by May Adrales’ expert direction, the entire ensemble created a truly memorable evening that transported First Night attendees to Arkansas in 2015 and 1981. The buzz was overwhelmingly favorable surrounding both the play and the performances of the talented cast: Tim Chiou, Samantha Quan, Maureen Sebastian, Paco Tolson and Eugene Young, with Quan, Sebastian and Tolson reprising their Vietgone roles.

    Honorary Producers and First Night attendees Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Bill Schenker found the play to be highly entertaining.

    “Poor Yella Rednecks is a brilliant play full of energy and surprises performed with grace and joy by an amazing cast,” they said. “A story of an immigrant family’s assimilation told by the playwright through the prism of a young boy’s imagination where mom is a martial arts warrior, dad is a bad-ass with a heart of gold, and the boy himself, played by a puppet, can fly like a superhero. Watching the performance, we cheered, laughed and cried for each of the characters, including the puppet, as they persevered to make a new life for themselves.”

    Honorary Producers Marci Maietta Weinberg and William Weinberg were also in attendance on First Night and they greatly enjoyed seeing the play.

    “Marci and I were so excited after we sat through the table read,” said William Weinberg. “Imagine our joy at discovering that the play had truly come alive on opening night. We were thrilled.”

    Guests who attended the cast party in the Plaza Ballroom at The Westin South Coast Plaza, which was a co-sponsor of the event, were welcomed to the elegant space with beautiful floral arrangements consisting of white and yellow dahlias and yellow billy buttons, along with greenery such as Bells-of-Ireland and Amaranthus.

    The celebratory fête featured an assortment of tantalizing bites including passed hors d’oeuvres such as veggie spring rolls and beef potstickers with dipping sauce. Partygoers also enjoyed a noodle station featuring flavorful options like rice noodle salad with sesame ginger chicken, Soba noodle salad with seared soy sauce tofu and spicy udon noodle salad with sweet chili sauce and mushrooms. For a sweet finish to the evening, guests indulged in a tempting array of scrumptious miniature desserts such as lemon bars, brownies, cheesecakes, tarts and eclairs.

    The evening’s signature cocktail was dubbed “Vietgone—again”, a delicious take on a Cosmopolitan comprised of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice.

    Guests lingered into the evening as much appreciation continued for the cast and creative team of Poor Yella Rednecks, an extremely funny, touching take on one family’s immigrant story—told with hip-hop style. All in attendance at Poor Yella Redneck’s First Night agreed—it was an exciting evening, indeed!

    Learn more about Poor Yella Rednecks and buy tickets.

  • The Playwrights of PPF: Ana Nogueira

    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 08, 2019
    Ana Norgueria

    Playwright Ana Nogueira

    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 Mask Only by Ana Nogueira. We caught up with her and talked about her favorite (and surprising) writing place, the play that changed her life and more.

    Ana Nogueira

    Nogueira writing on the subway.

    Describe your favorite writing space.
    I need a mixture of public and private. I don't write very well in like, a silent cabin in the woods. But I also can't write in a loud space with music. I need people around and a sort of low hum of conversation. Also, snacks. I'm very picky! I think it's because I'm a little more extroverted than most playwrights, so I get energy being in a room full of people. When I'm home alone and trying to write, I just end up taking a nap; there's no energy for me to feed off. I also have to set strict rules for myself. I hide my phone (literally putting it in a cabinet or asking someone at the coffee shop to put it behind the bar for me) and I have an app that turns off my internet for an allotted period of time. I guess the place that makes all of this possible with the least effort on my part is the subway. As long as you can find a seat, it's one of the best places to write in New York. Plus, having to finish writing a scene is one of the best ways to keep yourself from feeling homicidal towards the MTA for all the delays.

    As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
    I wish I had been cool enough to read something in secret! That sounds like a badass move for a child. There was no Lady Chatterly's Lover under the covers with a flashlight happening for me. Everything I read, I read in public.

    When did you know that you wanted to be a playwright?
    I absolutely stumbled into this job. I'm an actress as well and that's what I spent my life working towards and studying. My mother was always telling me that I was a writer, but I ignored her because it felt like she was telling me I wasn't a good enough actress (she wasn't saying that—I’m just overly sensitive!). When I was in my mid-20s, I had an idea for a play and I sort of gave myself the challenge to see if I could finish it. It was really just an exercise, but I clearly fell in love with the process. Writing is hard work and takes a ton of discipline, but there is also this liminal space that you can slip into, where time expands and the play seems to be writing itself through you. It is quite a delicate state and it can't be forced; but, when it happens to you, you want to try to make it happen again and again. Add to that the joy of working with actors and a director on something you wrote and you have a job that's sort of an addiction.

    What play changed your life?
    There are so many, but the first one that really shifted my perspective was Into the Woods. I was obsessed with it as a child. I would build forts in the TV room so I could camp out and watch the PBS “Great Performances” VHS tape of it on loop. I was really young, probably 8 years old, and I think the mixture of familiar subject matter (fairy tales) and the deeply universal and complicated adult themes simultaneously drew me in and also forced me to rise to a new level of thought. I think about this a lot lately: the way too much musical theatre panders to its audience, to its fan base, without forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. The great musicals do and I believe that's why they've withstood the test of time and deserve a place in the history books next to Shakespeare and Chekhov and all the rest. I think falling in love with Into the Woods at such a young age put me on a lifelong search for theatre that balances darkness and light. I'm always trying to find that sweet spot and this play, Mask Only, is no exception.

    What should we know about Mask Only?
    I guess it's important to know that Mask Only is about something I care about deeply. Or rather, many things that I care about deeply: musical theatre, friendship, the allyship between straight women and gay men. It is very much a love letter to all the people that I went to theatre school with many moons ago. But, to care about things deeply also means that you have to examine them fully and be willing to criticize them and even make fun of them. There are a lot of competing issues brought up in the play and I hope people know that I don't take a definitive stance on any of them but, rather that I am curious about the argument and the mucky grey territory. Also, it's about the theatre and there are a lot of inside baseball jokes about musicals, but it will make just as much sense if you've never seen a musical in your life.

    There are three public readings during PPF of Mask Only, directed by Mike Donahue: Friday, April 26, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 27, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 28, at 2:30 p.m., in the Nicholas Studio.

    Learn more and purchase tickets.

  • Meet the Cast of "Sheepdog"

    Tania Thompson
     | Apr 02, 2019
    Lea Coco and Erika LaVonn

    ​Lea Coco and Erika LaVonn in rehearsal for ​Sheepdog.

    The story of two people—Amina and Ryan—in Kevin Artigue’s Sheepdog (April 14-May 5, Julianne Argyros Stage) is complex and mysterious. Actually, a mystery within a love story because, in addition to being police officers, Amina and Ryan are lovers. Until something happens that rocks their relationship to the core. We caught up with the cast of Sheepdog to learn more about this new drama.

    Lea Coco

    Lea Coco
    At SCR: This is my debut.
    My other credits include Blue Man Group, The Public Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Utah Shakespeare Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, J. Edgar, Sinister 2, “Queen Sugar,” and The Sweetest Christmas (Hallmark Channel).
    I’m drawn to Sheepdog because I love plays about discovery. I am particularly attracted to projects where characters are on a journey that takes place at the edge of their understanding. I love plays about discovery. Amina and Ryan both relentlessly ask, “Who am I?”; and we see them earnestly trying to answer that question in real time. It's ironic that our story is presented as a “memory” play because the discoveries are so immediate. I love plays that are distinctly rooted in difficult American values. Kevin [Artigue] has a unique, authentic and essential perspective of where the “rubber meets the road.”
    My character, Ryan, is a guileless and idealistic cop whose values are put to the test in his professional and personal life. He finds himself at a crossroads when his sense of justice comes in conflict with his sense of self. More importantly for the story we are trying to tell, Ryan is motivated by a desire to be the kind of man that Amina can love and respect. He is most relatable in his yearning to prove himself as a worthy father. He is honorable, forthright, a bit naïve, haunted, loving and kind. He is both qualified and unprepared for the challenge that he faces.
    My favorite donut is, well, I can't talk about donuts without talking about a specific place called District in New Orleans. Come for the food and music...stay for the doughnuts at District. My personal favorite is their take on a chocolate eclair.

    Erika LaVonn

    Erika LaVonn
    At SCR: I’m making my debut here.
    My other credits include Broadway production of The Lion King, My Lord, “Law & Order: SVU,” War of the Worlds, The Christians, What I ​Learned in Paris and The Mountaintop.
    I’m drawn to Sheepdog because it's a new work. It's also a new voice that touches on a very timely subject, a subject that is necessary to look at from different angles. One of the lines in the play is “we see what we want to see.” With the current atmosphere not only in America but in the world, I think it's really important to put fresh eyes on why we choose to see what we see. I really respect that [playwright] Kevin Artigue has done that, and that he challenges us to look at ourselves at the same time.
    My character, Amina, is a 13-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department in a district that has been hit hard on many fronts—especially socially and economically. It's considered a dangerous part of Cleveland but is, and always has been, her home. She's there because she loves it and she wants to be a part of making it better. It's a story that follows a path in life when head, heart and home collide.
    My favorite donut is something from childhood. I grew up in an area where a bakery was on my way home from school. My path intersected with buttery, sweet, nutty aromas wafting in the air that would lure me like a mouse to the Pied Piper. Often, if the baker spotted me with my nose mashed to the window, they would offer up a sugar or black and white cookie the size of my head—I think just to see me smile. Don't you know that set me up for My Love of All Things Baked?! If I haaad to choose, I’d say that I'm a fan of the mash-up. With thoughts of sweet and buttery swirling in my head, the Cronut has to be my go-to because it's all things good. Light, flaky croissant inside, the best of crispy, fried donut outside and the tiniest drizzle of sweet glaze and cinnamon sugar sprinkled about. Nom, nom, sigh... Now, off to find one!

    And while you won’t SEE them in the play, you’ll HEAR these voice actors.

    Melody Butiu

    Melody Butiu
    ROLES: Female voices
    At SCR: A Christmas Carol (2018), Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, Ivy + Bean: The Musical, Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells Batman Smells.
    Her other credits include Dr. Zhivago (Broadway), Here Lies Love (off-Broadway), Sunday in the Park with George, A Little ​Night Music, Golden Child, Boy, The Patients, A Mother’s Great Fear, “The Kominsky Method,” “NCIS: LA”, “Gotham” and “Modern Family.”

    Ricardo Salinas

    Ricardo Salinas
    ROLES: Male voices
    At SCR: Culture Clash in AmeriCCa (2008), Culture Clash (Still) in America (2019).
    His other credits include With Culture Clash, has written more than a dozen plays and performed more than 5,000 nationwide. Currently touring a solo show, 57 Chevy, and in the fall, Bad Hombres, Good Wives (San Diego Repertory Theatre).

    Learn more about Sheepdog and buy tickets.