• A Barber’s Role in Victorian England

    SCR Staff
     | Jan 04, 2019
    Barber Surgeon Battle

    "The Battle of the Barbers and Surgeons," ​a hand-colored etching by Isaac Cruikshank, August 1797. Hand-to-hand encounters between surgeons, indicated by their instruments and their old-fashioned dress, and barbers, wearing aprons and also with the tools of their trade.

    For centuries, surgery was viewed as a craft and not a profession and it was often practiced by barbers. Up until the time of Sweeney Todd, a London resident would visit a barber-surgeon for the treatment of simple or complex health issues. In addition to providing grooming services, barber-surgeons routinely performed dental extractions, bloodletting, cupping therapy, minor surgeries and occasional amputations. Barbers could also bathe, cut hair and shave or trim facial hair.

    By the end of the 1700s, barber​-surgeons and physicians were clashing often about who was responsible for which duties. The church was no longer declaring that doctors couldn’t perform surgeries, and the general population had begun to view doctors in a more professional light. In 1745, surgeons split from the barber guild and, in 1800, the Royal College of Surgeons was established. Barbers could now focus solely on the duties of grooming their clients. The first school for barbers was founded in Chicago the late 19th century and offered lessons on shaving and cutting hair.

    Read more about the various duties of a barber-surgeon in this ​PBS article.

    Learn more about Sweeney Todd and buy tickets.

  • Sondheim Musicals at SCR

    Beth Fhaner
     | Dec 28, 2018

    Sweeney Todd Logo

    The upcoming production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on the Segerstrom Stage (Jan. 19-Feb. 16, 2019) marks the seventh time the work by acclaimed composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has been performed at SCR. In a nod to the Tony Award-winning masterpiece Sweeney Todd, we take a look back at previous Sondheim productions staged here.

    A Funny Thing Happened... Photo

    Elaine Bankston and Les Ingledue in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

    1969-70 Season

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 
    by Stephen Sondheim, Larry Gelbart, Bert Shevelove

    A Tony Award-winning musical inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 BC), notably Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria, the story revolves around a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master court the girl next door. Featuring classic elements of farce such as puns, funny disguises and satirical comments on social class, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has enjoyed several Broadway and West End revivals and was made into a successful film, starring the original lead of the stage musical, Zero Mostel.

    Side by Side by Sondheim Photo

    Martha McFarland, Gary Dontzig and Teri Ralston in Side by Side by Sondheim.

    1979-80 Season

    Side by Side by Sondheim 
    by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, and Jule Styne

    A musical revue featuring the songs of Sondheim, the title is taken from the song “Side by Side by Side” from Company. Various sections are tied together based on a particular Sondheim musical or having a common theme, and all of it is tied together by the Narrator. Additionally, the Narrator explains what show the songs are from and provides background on why a song was written, as well as noting comparing and contrasting Sondheim themes for the audience.

    Marry Me a Little

    Sarah Tattersal in Marry Me a Little.

    1987-88 Season

    Marry Me a Little 
    by Stephen Sondheim, Craig Lucas and Norman Rene

    A charming and bittersweet musical revue, this show takes songs from Sondheim’s better-known musicals, as well as songs from his then-unproduced musical, Saturday Night, to a dialogue-free plot about the relationship between two lonely singles in New York City. The strangers share a Saturday night of secret fantasies and yearning without ever leaving the confines of their own apartments. Although they’re aware of each other’s existence, they never find the courage to talk to each other, though they imagine what such an encounter would be like. A must for Sondheim fans, the one-act musical has been described as smart, funny and sophisticated.  

    Sunday in the Park

    Sally Spencer and Harry Groener in Sunday in the Park with George.

    1988-89 Season

    Sunday in the Park with George
    by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine

    Inspired by the French pointillist painter George Seurat’s painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte,” this musical revolves around George (a fictionalized version of Seurat), who is deeply absorbed in painting his masterpiece, and his great-grandson (also named George), a cynical, contemporary artist. The Broadway production opened in 1984 and the musical won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in addition to several other awards, including two Tony Awards. 

    A Little Night Music

    Stephanie Zimbalist and Mark Jacoby in A Little Night Music.

    2007-08 Season

    A Little Night Music 
    music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler

    Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night and centering on the romantic lives of several couples, this musical includes the popular song, “Send in the Clowns.” The musical’s title is a literal English translation of the German name for Mozart's Serenade No. 13 in G majorEine kleine Nachtmusik. Since its original 1973 Broadway production, the musical has had productions in the West End, in addition to being performed by opera companies, a 2009 Broadway revival and in regional theatres. The musical was adapted for a film in 1977, starring Elizabeth TaylorLen CariouLesley-Anne Down and Diana Rigg.

    Putting it Together

    Dan Callaway and Niki Scalera in Putting It Together.

    2009-10 Season

    Putting It Together 
    words and music by Stephen Sondheim, devised by Stephen Sondheim and Julia McKenzie

    A musical revue that takes its title from a song in Sunday in the Park with George, the show came about due to many requests for an update to Side by Side by Sondheim. Putting it Together received several productions, beginning with its debut in England in 1992, Broadway in 1999 and ​London's West End in 2014. The original U.S. production’s cast included Stephen Collins, Christopher Durang, Michael Rupert, Rachel York and Julie Andrews, who was returning to the New York City stage after an absence of more than three decades.

    Learn more about Sweeney Todd and buy tickets.

  • Culture Clash Back in the OC

    John Glore
     | Dec 21, 2018

    Culture Clash (Still) in America Logo

    Culture Clash in The Birds

    ​Herbert Siguenza, Ric Salinas and Richard Montoya in SCR's 1998 production of T​he Birds.

    Culture Clash in Americca

    Ric Salinas, Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza in SCR's 2008 production of Culture Clash in AmeriCCa.

    Richard Montoya, Herbert Siguenza and Ric Salinas

    Richard Montoya​, Herbert Siguenza and Ric Salinas in 2018.

    About 20 years ago, South Coast Repertory reached out to the trio of writer/performers known collectively as Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza) to ask if they’d be interested in creating a new show with us. In preliminary conversations they expressed interest in developing an adaptation of a classic, which eventually led to the decision to re-invent a 2500-year-old comedy called The Birds, by Aristophanes. The choice was based on a perceived affinity between the contemporary trio and the ancient Greek: like the work of Aristophanes, Culture Clash’s brand of theatrical commentary typically trades upon incisive, humorous investigation of topical sociopolitical matters, using a modular structure that springs from their roots in sketch comedy.

    Because the Clash had no grounding in Old Comedy (the genre for which Aristophanes is known), I was invited to team up with them as a dramaturg and co-writer. It proved to be a watershed in my professional life, in that it began a rewarding relationship that has continued to this day. I have had the opportunity to work with Culture Clash on seven productions at three different theatres, usually as their dramaturg (although I joined the writing team again when they tackled their second Aristophanes adaptation, Peace, at the Getty Villa). Three of those collaborations happened at the Mark Taper Forum, where Lisa Peterson became integral to the team as director of Chavez Ravine, Water & Power and Palestine, N.M.

    Culture Clash (Still) in America marks the Clasheros’ third appearance in an SCR season and creates the occasion for a happy reunion of the five of us. It reprises some of the material included in their 2008 Argyros Stage production, Culture Clash in Americca, all of it reconsidered and refreshed, with some new scenes and characters created specifically for this iteration of the play.

    Like its predecessor, Culture Clash (Still) in America draws most of its material from interviews conducted by Montoya, Salinas and Siguenza over several years, for a series of shows chronicling the lives and worldviews of people living in various cities around the country, including Miami, San Diego/Tijuana, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. The three chroniclers were particularly interested in talking to people who live on the margins of society and don’t often have opportunities to express their points of view publicly. They took the raw material from these interviews, shaped and tweaked it and found the inherent humor in it, and identified the defining gestures of the characters, to create portraits that are sometimes poignant, often funny and always illuminating. As has been the case with every version of the show, their goal in creating Culture Clash (Still) in America is to investigate cultural intersections and societal stress points and to capture both the differences and the similarities among diverse Americans in diverse corners of the nation.

    Over the course of the performance, you will see Siguenza, Salinas and Montoya portray people of both sexes (as well as one gender-fluid character) and of various ethnicities. They do so with a gestural vocabulary that zeroes in on the essence of their characters and that maintains respect and even admiration for their subjects. Key to the success of the Culture Clash approach is their ability to poke gentle fun at their characters without ever mocking them. They deliberately feature many characters whose points of view and values are quite different from their own, but they manage to convey a sense of affection for them, nonetheless. And when it comes to presenting characters whose perspective is closer to theirs, they have no compunction about pointing out weaknesses, blind spots and small hypocrisies. That’s one reason they have sometimes been called “equal opportunity offenders,” although you’d be hard-pressed to find anything truly offensive in any of their portrayals.

    Their work is also characterized by a kind of comedic spontaneity that allows them to slip in commentary on the news of any given day, meaning that no two performances are ever the same. In a Culture Clash show, the fourth wall is flimsy and sometimes goes away completely—they feel each night’s audience and they enjoy feeding off of and playing with the specific energy coming to them from the other side of the proscenium.

    Under Lisa Peterson’s direction, this production will depart from the minimalist approach often taken by Culture Clash (in which a new character might be conveyed by the addition of a single, simple costume element, and the set is essentially an unadorned open space). Peterson has worked with set designer Christopher Acebo to create a more elaborate and evocative environment for Culture Clash (Still) in America, one that takes its cues from American iconography. The physical setting will be further enhanced by the lighting and projections of Tom Ontiveros.

    Composer/sound designer Paul James Prendergast contributes a soundscape that helps transport us from place to place and from character to character. And costume designer Carolyn Mazuca has worked with Peterson and the CC guys to come up with complete costumes for each character (meaning, in some cases, some very challenging quick changes).

    Many of the interviews from which Culture Clash (Still) in America has been built were conducted as long as 15-20 years ago. With some judicious updating, it’s astonishing how vivid and trenchant a portrait of America the compilation of characters (still) offers.

    Culture Clash has been working together as an artistic team for 35 years, adding layers of skillful artistry and finesse to the insight and exuberance that have characterized their work from the beginning. They always blow into Orange County with the fierceness of a whirlwind, bringing thoughtful provocation and irreverent fun with them.

    So batten down the hatches, because the whirlwind is back!

    Learn more about Culture Clash (Still) in America and buy tickets.

  • "Sweeney Todd" and the Tradition of Pie and Mash

    Beth Fhaner
     | Dec 14, 2018
    Pie and Mash

    Traditional pie and mash.

    A London food tradition since the days of Queen Victoria, “pie and mash”—a small meat pie served with a side of mashed potatoes and an optional herbed parsley sauce known as “liquor”—was often the only hot meal one might eat in a day. Affordable, filling and tasty, the staple dish provided sustenance for hungry families and workers alike. The first recorded pie and mash shop opened in Southward in 1844, but it wasn’t long before pie sellers roamed the streets and pie shops were ubiquitous. The hearty dish quickly became synonymous with working-class London.

    With Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop figuring prominently in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, it seems fitting that a pre-show meal consisting of pie and mash would become a theatre-going tradition. When Sweeney Todd played in London in 2014, and then later in New York City in 2017, audience members would arrive early to enjoy a pre-show experience of indulging in delicious pie and mash. Find recipes and read about the London menu here.

    For Barrow Street Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd in Manhattan, former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses took on the role of official pie maker, serving-up three varieties of pie and mash (meat pie and mash, vegetarian pie and mash and beef wellington pie and mash) to patrons who had opted in for the pre-show meal. Read about this at NPR and check out recipes.

    Although SCR doesn't have an official chef on-site to whip-up meat pies, you can still partake in the Sweeney Todd pre-show tradition with savory pie and mash that you prepare at home. Bon Appetit!

    Read more about the Sweeney Todd pre-show tradition of meat pies, plus recipes and where to find pie and mash in London in this Daily Telegraph article.

    Learn more about Sweeney Todd and buy tickets.

  • Marking a Milestone: The Segerstrom Stage at 40

    Beth Fhaner & Tania Thompson
     | Dec 12, 2018
    South Coast Repertory in 1978

    ​South Coast Repertory in 1978.

    Segerstrom Stage by the Numbers

    Dedicated to extraordinary plays—timeless classics, modern masterpieces and emerging new works.

    • 224 productions (out of 520 total by the start of the 2018-19 season)
    • Productions have been honored with 71 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, the most prestigious Southern California recognition for theatrical work.
    • 49 world premieres

    This season, South Coast Repertory celebrates 55 years of theatre and also marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Segerstrom Stage.

    By 1976, a little more than a decade after its founding, SCR had grown in size, caliber and renown. It was primed to achieve the final part of a four-step growth plan envisioned by Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson: a permanent home in which SCR could fulfill its artistic goals.

    Emmes and Benson, along with the theatre’s Board of Trustees, had scouted out what they saw as the ideal location: near South Coast Plaza, where Interstate 405 and State Route 55 came together. But how to make this happen? The founders and trustees hit on an idea: talk to Henry Segerstrom and the Segerstrom family.

    The Segerstroms were deeply rooted in Orange County with strong agricultural and other business holdings. The family’s South Coast Plaza, which had more than 130 stores by the mid-1970​s, drew shoppers from the region and nation—and, ultimately, the globe.

    The family, as noted in 50 Years of Quality: South Coast Plaza, was and is “united in its conviction that public art and the performing arts were indispensable to any major metropolitan development, and that cultural activities were a key ingredient to successful urban planning.”

    Henry Segerstrom knew about SCR because of his deep connection and commitment to the arts and he had attended performances at SCR’s 217-seat theatre in Costa Mesa.

    “He was an extraordinary man, whose love for the arts shaped Orange County,” says Emmes. “We are deeply grateful for his vision—as well as the entire Segerstrom Family—that created a permanent home for SCR.”

    In 1976, a year after The New York Times lauded SCR for its production of three contemporary British plays, the Segerstrom Family gifted the theatre 1.5 acres of a former lima bean field on which to build its new home. The land gift became the catalyst for what was Orange County’s largest-to-date capital campaign—and led to the theatre’s permanent home.

    “This marvelous theatre complex fulfilled our four-step vision and enabled us to ascend to a new level of achievement,” says Emmes.

    The theatre was designed for versatility and theatricality, along with all the needed shops to build costumes, set pieces, props and more. Its intimate space has seen a range of productions, everything from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller to musicals to important new plays and more.

    The collaborative spirit is a hallmark of SCR and one example of this manifested itself on Sept. 29, 1978, when the theatre moved into its current location. That day, all 507 seats for the Segerstrom Stage were trucked in—but with no crew to unload them. SCR staff and some of the company actors pitched in to unload the huge trailer by hand. Sixty days later, The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan became the first production in the new space. The fourth and final step had been achieved. The future was—and continues to be—bright.

    Learn more about the 2018-19 season.