Press Release - ​​​How to be a Rock Critic

Studio SCR: Lester Bangs Sought Perfection in the Harsh Sounds of the World

COSTA MESA, Calif. (May 19, 2015)–The story of a man who lived as dangerously as he wrote comes to South Coast Repertory in June. Based on the writings of music critic Lester Bangs, How to Be a Rock Critic, by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, is part of the Studio SCR series in the Nicholas Studio. The one-man show, directed by Blank and featuring Jensen, is a co-production with Center Theatre Group. Tickets are available at

Manic. Impossibly creative. Dead of an overdose at 33. Gonzo journalist Lester Bangs was America’s greatest rock critic and the first missionary of the movement he dubbed “punk.” His faith was shattered as the rebel ethos of music in the ’70s gave way to the corporate pop of the ’80s. Told through Bangs’ own words, this solo play sheds light on a groundbreaking, pioneering voice in music.

"Lester demanded honesty; he was endlessly in search of authenticity,” said Jensen, who portrays Bangs in the production. “It didn't matter how awful you played, as long as you did it with heart. He was a champion of the underdog. He made us see music in a different way. He made that fantasy of connection real. With every word he reminds us to listen."

How to Be a Rock Critic had a 2013 reading at Center Theatre Group and will have a full production in June through the support of SCR and CTG. This “documentary drama” is not a first for husband-and-wife team, Jensen and Blank. The couple has found critical success in their previous works that shed insight into the real-life situations of individuals with tumultuous stories.

Their play, The Exonerated, was formed through interviews that Jensen and Bank conducted with death row inmates. It had an off-Broadway production with more than 600 performances, a national tour and a television movie. It won the 2003 Drama Desk award, Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics award. For their play, Aftermath—which had an off-Broadway production and international tour—the couple traveled to Jordan to interview Iraqi refugees.

Now in its fifth year, Studio SCR is an alternative to SCR’s main stage offerings—in the intimate Nicholas Studio. The series offers a mix of ambitious, provocative and experimental theatrical works in partnership with some of Southern California’s most innovative companies and artists.

Performances for How to Be a Rock Critic are at SCR on Thursday, June 11, at 8 p.m.; Friday, June 12, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 13, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m.

Performances at CTG run June 17-28; Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. No performances on Monday and Tuesday at CTG.

Ticket prices range $25-30; student and MyStage (ages 15-25) discounts are available. Tickets are available now through the SCR Box Office at (714) 708-5555 and online at

ABOUT SOUTH COAST REPERTORY: Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, founded in 1964 by David Emmes and Martin Benson, is widely recognized as one of the leading professional theatres in the United States. While its productions represent a balance of classic and modern theatre, SCR is renowned for its extensive new-play development program, which includes the nation’s largest commissioning program for emerging and established writers. One-quarter of SCR’s 525 productions have been world premieres. SCR-developed works have garnered two Pulitzer Prizes and eight Pulitzer nominations, several Obie Awards and scores of major new-play awards. Located in Costa Mesa, Calif., SCR is home to the 507-seat Segerstrom Stage, the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage and the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.