Perfect Ingredients for Hilarious Theatre: Loh + DeLorenzo

Jerry Patch
 | Nov 27, 2017
Sandra Tsing Loh and Bart DeLorenzo

Sandra Tsing Loh and Bart DeLorenzo during rehearsal for Sugar Plum Fairy.

Sugar Plum Fairy

Sandra Tsing Loh.

If you want to know the circumstance and part of the plot of Sandra Tsing Loh’s Sugar Plum Fairy, read this. For a story about the cast members and their thoughts about the play, read this one. But, if you’re looking for more information about the show’s creators—playwright Loh and director Bart DeLorenzo—keep reading.

My nominee for Renaissance Woman of Theatre: Sandra Tsing Loh. She’s the only theatre person I've met, over five decades of work, who graduated from California Institute of Technology. In physics. So did her brother. So did her father. And she was Cal Tech’s commencement speaker in 2005.

She’s a musician—an accomplished pianist who can double on strings—and a composer of pure music and songs. She wrote the music for Jessica Yu's 1997 Oscar-winning documentary Breathing Lessons, and released a critically acclaimed solo piano CD, “Pianovision.”

Loh and Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues and others) are the top contenders for our Best Female Monologist (most rank David Sedaris or John Leguizamo on the male side). Since Loh and Ensler tend to play on opposite coasts, this works out well.

Loh’s a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, teaching a variety of performance classes and was a commencement speaker there in 2014. She even picked up a master of professional writing degree at the University of Southern California from T. C. Boyle.

She published six books in less than 20 years, including two that were New York Times “Notables”—and one national best seller, and serves as a contributing editor to The Atlantic.

For 20 years she was an NPR darling, hosting both “The Loh Life” and “The Loh Down on Science.” Also a regular on “Morning Edition,” “Marketplace” and “This American Life.” In fact, she worked with Ira Glass “before he was Ira Glass.” She continues as a regular contributor to Southern California’s KPPC—the studio is very near her house.

She’s a Southern California icon. She’s a doting and devoted mother of two teenage daughters. She’s been in a couple of films. And now, is a second-time playwright.

An amazing resume for a native Southern Californian raised in Malibu, but born in Newport Beach.

But, Loh was fired from public radio outlet KCRW when she took the fall for an editor who failed to bleep a profanity that was spoken—scripted to be bleeped, but wasn't—and went out on the air. Soon after, she and Joe Frank, KCRW’s other text icon, were hosted by Bart DeLorenzo, artistic director of the fabled Evidence Room theatre on Beverly Boulevard, to pair for an evening. It sold out, so a late show was added. It sold out.

Thus began a collaboration that grew when DeLorenzo presented her again in 2004, and then directed two of her monologue shows (Mother on Fire and a remount of her 2004 monologue, Sugar Plum Fairy) in succeeding years. DeLorenzo stepped in to help develop the play version of The Madwoman in the Volvo when Lisa Peterson (who directed that play’s world premiere at SCR) was unavailable; he has since directed Sugar Plum Fairy’s multi-actor play version as well as another one still in development, a post-2016 election piece entitled Blue State.

DeLorenzo, born in Spain but raised in Massachusetts, is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Yale University (BA) and was an MFA directing grad from The Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater. DeLorenzo’s focus on theater is as singular as Loh’s is protean.

He migrated to Los Angeles and founded The Evidence Room, becoming a celebrated producer of new plays and winning four directing awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, the Theatre Communications Group’s Alan Schneider Award for Directing and the Milton Katselas Award for Lifetime Achievement, to name but a few. He's been a regular director at the Odyssey Theatre and the Geffen Theater, guest directed at many of Southern California's leading stages, and is on the faculty of California Institute for the Arts.

At SCR he's directed new works in the Pacific Playwrights Festival, as well as full productions of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, and the world premieres of Donald Margulies' Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, and Kimber Lee's tokyo fish story.

It’s not all theatre. He’s an expert foodie, and a talented cook.

So these are two individuals, who began with impressive educational backgrounds, have backed it up professionally with decades of work. But it's only recently that Loh has turned to putting her work onstage with more than one performer, abetted by DeLorenzo's development and direction.

They are LA cultural mainstays. Southern California culture would be less without either of them.

Learn more and buy tickets for Sugar Plum Fairy.