• Paying It Forward for Acting

    Tania Thompson
     | Jan 02, 2020
    Michael Matthys
    Michael Matthys

    Fundamentals of Acting: Act III

    In this advanced scene study and characterization course, you’ll dig deeper into creating more believable, focused and truthful onstage relationships. With at least two semesters of actor training under your belt, you’ll be comfortable with the language of the basic tools and may find more and more consistency in the ability to apply these tools. This course concentrates on skills including relaxation, commitment, listening, truthful response, characterization and speaking heightened language. There’s time to address any individual blocks you might be struggling with. We’ll work on multiple scenes over the eight weeks and learn how to make committed choices in a relatively short period of time, which is one of the hallmarks of the professional actor.

    Learn More & Enroll

    When a young Michael Matthys saw Jesus Christ Superstar, it changed his life.

    “I walked out of the theatre thinking, ‘This is what I want to do!’” he recalls. And he never looked back.

    Matthys, who joined SCR’s Theatre Conservatory faculty in the winter of 2019, has been teaching acting for a dozen years including at San Diego State University, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Stella Adler Academy and the Actor’s Studio of Orange County.

    He started his professional career as a member of the Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, Minn.) and remembers the impact of that company's mentorship of him. He uses that as a guide to pay it forward and serve as a mentor and teacher to others.

    As an actor, he has performed in more than 100 plays at theatres around the country. His roles on stage include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Treves in The Elephant Man, Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard, Alan in Equus, Levin in Anna Karenina and, most recently, Mike Dillon in Good People.

    We caught up with him to find out more as he prepares to teach Act III: Advanced Scene Study and Characterization beginning Jan. 27, 2020.

    What has been your proudest moment as an actor?
    My proudest moment as an actor was playing Treplev in Garland Wright's acclaimed production of The Seagull (1992). The recording has been archived at Lincoln Center.

    What drew you to and guides you in teaching?
    I always knew that I wanted to teach and act. I really admire the members of the Guthrie Theater acting company who mentored me during grad school and I always envisioned myself giving back in that way. My approach to teaching is largely instinctual, while being rooted in Stanislavski and Meisner acting techniques. I believe in the power of the imagination—releasing into that and finding yourself in the flow of the character's life and immersing yourself in the world of the character. If you can convince the imaginative part of your brain that you are in the story, you will start flowing moment to moment.

    What “aha!” moments by your students are special?
    When they realize there are no rules! When they realize the reality of doing spurs them on to honest behavior and choices. When they acquiesce to ongoing stimuli and find themselves in flow.

    What book are you reading now?
    Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

    What was the last play you saw?
    Elijah at the Victory Theatre (Burbank)

    What was the last movie you saw?
    The Two Popes

    What do you do when you’re not acting or teaching?
    I watch basketball, play ultimate Frisbee, hike and see tons of movies and plays.

    In addition to his stage work and teaching, Matthys is active in television with appearances including the role of Dr. Kent on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Save By the Bell: The New Class" and "Profiler." He has appeared in several feature films including Full Blast, Destiny Turns on the Radio, BASEketball, Nightwatch and The House of Deadly Secrets (both on Netflix). His latest feature film endeavor, Stan the Man, is slated to be released later this year.

  • Fully Human: Passion, Faith and Doubt in "Fireflies"

    Macelle Mahala
     | Dec 24, 2019
    Fireflies text with photo of black woman
    Lou Bellamy
    ​Director Lou Bellamy
    Christiana Clark and Lester Purry
    ​​Actors Christiana Clark and Lester Purry. Meet them in this SCR blog article.

    Fireflies presents an intimate moment between an iconic Civil Rights leader and his wife, speechwriter and partner in activism as they confront the brutal violence directed towards African American men, women and children during this time period.

    Although the characters of Reverend Charles Emmanuel Grace and his wife, Olivia Mattie Grace, are fictional, the play references real events such as the bombing of the 16th ​Street Baptist ​Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four little girls—Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Suffering from what we would now call PTSD, Olivia hears bombs exploding in her mind and imagines the souls of the children killed by racial violence as fireflies flying home to God.

    Part of a trilogy on the subject of queer love in black history, Fireflies imagines what the private lives of the dignified leaders of the Civil Rights Movement might have been like and how they coped with the stress of the constant violence they encountered in their quest for freedom. In an interview in connection with South Coast Repertory’s production of Fireflies, playwright Donja R. Love emphasized the leadership role that black women have always played in the struggle for freedom. (Read the full interview here.) The lack of recognition for the efforts of black women during the Civil Rights Movement led the playwright to create the character of Olivia, a woman who deals not only with the brutality of white supremacy, but also with repressive social expectations regarding her gender identity and sexuality.

    Love is a recipient of the 2018 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, the 2017 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and a 2016 Van Lier New Voices Playwriting ​Fellowship from the Lark. Described by The New York Times columnist Laura Collins-Hughes as “defiantly life embracing,” Love is one of the brightest and fiercest playwrights to recently debut work on the American stage.

    Leading SCR’s production of this play is Lou Bellamy, Obie ​Award-winning director and founder of Penumbra Theatre Company. Long recognized for his meticulous and naturalistic direction of African American drama, Bellamy ​directs a powerhouse cast featuring Christiana Clark (recently seen on stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Goodman Theatre) and Lester Purry (veteran stage and film actor who has performed at Baltimore’s Center Stage, Penumbra Theatre Company, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and many others) on an emotional tour de force that links the personal with the political. A former professor and mentor to SCR’s Artistic Director David Ivers, Bellamy presents a nuanced exploration of the humanity of Civil Rights leaders who are often portrayed as super-human in the celebratory but sometimes anesthetic historical accounts presented during Black History Month. The characters in Fireflies are fully human; we see them experience passionate love, crises of faith, problems in their marriage and doubts as to whether their sacrifices will make a difference. Seen in this light, their achievements become that much more admirable and inspirational.

    Donja R. Love
    ​Playwright Donja R. Love

    I find myself just getting incredibly livid at this idea that a woman has to be behind a man. When I think about black history, when I think about all of the times that the needle was moved in a progressive direction, I find myself always thinking that it was because of a black woman. I think about during the time of enslavement, Harriet Tubman, all of the work that she was able to do. I think about the Civil Rights Movement and I think about Rosa Parks and all of the work that she was able to do, and her being one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement to exist. In the here and the now, thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and thinking about it being created by three black women … So, I found myself thinking, what was it like back in the ‘60s? What was it like to be this black woman, who is quite literally writing the words that are healing a nation? You are writing the words but your husband is the face of the movement and the one that is getting all the credit. To know, just because of who you are, because you are a woman, that you don't have that sort of power, you don't have that sort of agency. I found myself really interested in exploring that. What does that look like? What are the ways in which Olivia can be able to grow into the fullness of herself, to be able to become self-actualized? Not just through her writing these sermons and speeches for her husband. When we get to the end of the play, we are quite literally able to see her step into and own her voice.

    —Donja R. Love, in an interview with Fireflies dramaturg, Macelle Mahala
    (​Read the complete interview here.)

    Learn more about Fireflies and buy tickets.

  • My Dad is Ebenezer Scrooge

    Guest Contributor Kate Coogan
     | Dec 23, 2019
    Hal and Kate Landon
    Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge with his daughter Kate.

    Kate (Landon) Coogan is one of Hal Landon Jr.’s daughters who grew up while her dad portrayed the beloved, curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge in South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol. While her dad prepares to bid farewell to the role after 40 years, she shares her memories of growing up as a ‘kid of Scrooge.’

    Like many other Southern Californians, SCR’s production of A Christmas Carol is part of our family’s Christmas traditions. The holiday season is busy with many parents working long hours, right up until Christmas Eve, and my dad is no exception.

    My family’s Christmas Carol traditions are slightly unique in that my Dad is Ebenezer Scrooge—Hal Landon Jr.—also known as Grandpa Lanny by my children. It truly has been a family affair over the years, with two of my cousins, my sister and my daughter all auditioning, being cast and being a part of the production. Not only have my family members been in the show, but everyone in the production is family. I was raised in and by the people of SCR and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    The Christmas season is one of his busiest times of the year and it has been for my whole life. Despite Dad working late into the night, we still held the same Christmas traditions as most families; picking out a tree, for example, was always a highlight when I was a kid, but Dad was often off to work by the time we started decorating it. Christmastime with my dad meant that I would lie in bed at night, waiting to hear him come through the door a little after 10 p.m.; I waited to hear him lock the door and unplug the Christmas tree lights. Finally, all was calm and I would drift off to sleep.

    My earliest memories of seeing A Christmas Carol include me hiding my head in my mom’s shoulder when I knew the Ghost of Jacob Marley was about to burst through the door; showing off my Christmas Eve dress and shoes to JD [director John-David Keller]; presenting Scrooge with roses at curtain call; racing down the hall backstage into my dad’s arms and begging him to let me watch him take off his “old man” makeup.

    Was it hard having my dad gone almost every night through the month of December? Well, it’s all I’ve ever known. And it’s all my parents’ marriage has ever known. A mere two months after they tied the knot, my dad began rehearsals for the very first production of A Christmas Carol. He will be the first to tell you that there is no way he could have sustained 40 seasons without the unwavering support of his wife, my mom. She set an example of love, patience and grace during this busy season and we all just try to follow suit.

    The past two seasons have been extremely special: my daughter, Presley, auditioned for and played Tiny Tim last year (growing three inches) and, this year, she is playing Belinda Cratchit. Somehow, the role of daughter and mom has helped me see A Christmas Carol’s impact in a new light: seeing more and more red scarves every year, learning about other families’ traditions surrounding A Christmas Carol, ​hearing people recite lines from the show as they walk away from the theatre and exclamations about the “hat trick.” I am overwhelmed with extreme pride and thankfulness.

    I am so proud, in fact, that I got a portion of Scrooge’s final toast—“Ring out wild bells”—tattooed on my arm.

  • SCR Founding Artist Don Took Reflects on "A Christmas Carol"

    Beth Fhaner
     | Dec 23, 2019
    Don Took and Hal Landon Jr. in ACC
    ​Don Took and Hal Landon Jr. in the 2002 production of A Christmas Carol.

    SCR Founding Artist Don Took played Jacob Marley’s Ghost (and some other of the ‘spirits’) in A Christmas Carol during his 26 years in the show. He was one of six actors—founding artists—to join the theatre in its very early years. During the show’s 40th anniversary run, we asked him to share some of his favorite Christmas Carol memories. Here’s what he had to say about his most memorable moments throughout his Christmas Carol years. This is his story, as told to Beth Fhaner.

    We—Art Koustik (Joe; Mr. Fezziwig); Richard Doyle (Ghost of Christmas Past); Hal Landon Jr. (Ebenezer Scrooge); and myself—meet for lunch once a month at a Mexican restaurant in Costa Mesa​; four comrades, four veterans. Between the four of us, we’ve been acting at SCR for more than 150 years and for almost that long as members of the cast of A Christmas Carol.

    These men are my dear friends, my theatrical family. We have grown up and grown old together. We were in our 20s when we started SCR and now we are near or over 80. And a major part of our ongoing history with SCR has been our annual involvement with A Christmas Carol.

    For me, A Christmas Carol is not only a celebration of the spirit of Christmas, but also a celebration of the spirit and success of SCR as a family of theatrical actors and artists. Over the years, A Christmas Carol provided an annual opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones. We watched as kids in the cast grew up and had kids of their own who also became members of the cast. It truly was a family experience from the very beginning in the mixture of the generations.

    I have many fond memories, of course, and these are just a few:

    • For many years, my friend, the irrepressible Richard Soto (Young Ebenezer) and I made more than 100 tacos for the cast and crew at the annual Christmas Carol taco feed. We consumed them all, along with many wonderful side dishes, between shows on a selected Sunday. There were never any leftovers.
    • Jacob Marley had to be scary. He was a ghost, after all, but I always felt a teeny, tiny twinge of remorse when a parent had to take their screaming child out of the auditorium during my scene. But simultaneously came the thought: Job well done.
    • Every year, Mr. Scrooge almost always had a special treat in store at the last performance. When he opened the trunk at the foot of his bed to check for ghosts, there would very often be a special mystery guest staring up at him…seen only by Hal. Members of the cast would vie to be chosen for this honor.
    • It was always fun to look out at the audience and see the proliferation of red scarves increase as we got closer and closer to Christmas; Hal wears a bright red scarf on Christmas morning in the play.
    • It became a personal tradition, in the spirit of the season, for me to repair to The Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar after the last show of the run to dine on roast beef and enjoy the bell-ringing carolers.

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention the devotion, dedication and exuberance of the intrepid John-David Keller in bringing Jerry Patch’s adaptation of Dickens’ masterpiece to life every year for the last 40 years. JD not only performed in the play, but directed it for each of its 40 years with consummate care, clucking like a mother hen over the kids in the cast and keeping the rest of us toeing our marks. Well done, John-David.

    And well done all—all of the hundreds who have taken part in A Christmas Carol over the years. As actors, stage crew, artists and staff, we’ve been very lucky and privileged to play our parts and be a part of SCR’s A Christmas Carol. I’ll give the last word to Tiny Tim: “God bless us, every one.”

    The 40th Anniversary run of A Christmas Carol is sold out. To inquire about standby tickets, call the Box Office at (714) 708-5555.

  • Meet the Cast: "Fireflies"

    Tania Thompson
     | Dec 17, 2019
    Christiana Clark and Lester Purry
    ​Christiana Clark and Lester Purry

    Two actors make their South Coast Repertory debuts, bringing to life the gripping drama Fireflies by Donja R. Love (Jan. 5-26, 2020, Julianne Argyros Stage). Lester Purry portrays the Rev. Charles Grace, who travels the South in 1963 spreading hope during the Civil Rights ​movement. Christiana Clark portrays Olivia Grace, the wife who skillfully crafts—in the couple’s kitchen—Charles’ eloquent speeches. But secrets and regrets are beginning to take their toll, and Charles is expected home at any moment. We caught up with Clark and Purry during rehearsals to talk with them about the play’s story, what it means to them and more.

    Christiana ClarkChristiana Clark

    I portray Olivia Grace. She is the devoted wife of Reverend Charles Emmanuel Grace, one of the faces of the Civil Rights movement, and, as far as the world is concerned, that alone is the be​-all and end​-all of who she is or ever needs to be. Until recently, that is all she purposed herself to be, but the pressure and pain she’s been living under as a black woman in the South in 1963 has ignited a powder keg of self-discovery.
    This is my SCR debut!
    My other credits include How to Catch Creation, ​The Way the Mountain Moved, Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, The Wiz, Hamlet, Into the Woods and The Taming of the Shrew (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Blue (Penumbra Theatre); Pure Confidence (59E59, off-Broadway); Othello, Endgame, Constant Star, Lost in the Stars, A Raisin in the Sun and The Trinity River Plays.
    The story of Fireflies resonates with me because Donja [R. Love, playwright] has put fire in the language, whether it’s fire in the language in sermons, given to uplift and encourage in-charge black folks during this unbelievably trying time, or the fire between a husband and wife that can spark quicker than expected or smolder under the surface. Sometimes, the raw, wild realness of a fire can grow out of control but, in the hands of an alchemist, can be controlled and used to a purpose and I really see that there in the language of this piece.
    The play is important right now because if you change some names and references and other specific details that said this play is set in 1963, it could completely be taking place today, right now. As Olivia says early in the play, “Pain has a way of lingering.” I believe that theatre has the capacity to begin facilitation healing, or at least sparking the conversations necessary for dealing with the traumas and tragedies of life.
    The book I’m currently reading is My Life With Martin Luther King Jr. by his widow, Coretta Scott King.

    Lester Purry​Lester Purry

    I portray Rev. Charles Grace. He is a Southern preacher during the Civil Rights movement. His main task is preaching at the funerals of kids killed during the movement, falsely imprisoned and to comfort the families of the victims.
    This is my SCR debut.
    My other credits include Othello, The Darker Face of the Earth and The Big White Fog (Guthrie Theater), Fences, Dutchman, Two Trains Running, The Piano Lesson, King Hedley II and Jitney (Penumbra Theatre); Thunder Knocking on the Door and You Can Stop on a Dime (Baltimore Center Stage); as well as Arizona Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company and Children’s Theatre Company. I was also in the one-man show Thurgood as Thurgood Marshall at Geva Theatre Center.
    The story of Fireflies resonates with me because it looks at the truth of flawed people dealing with people during a time of tremendous oppressions and the truth of a complicated life.
    This play is important now because many of the themes in Fireflies are happening today. It’s a window both into the past and today.
    The book I’m currently reading is The Traveler’s Giftby Andy Andrews.

    Learn more about Fireflies and buy tickets.