Press Release - ​​​​The Phantom Tollbooth

South Coast Repertory Junior Players Present The Phantom Tollbooth

COSTA MESA, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2018)—The Phantom Tollbooth, adapted by Susan Nanus and based on the book by Norton Juster, will be presented by South Coast Repertory’s Junior Players in the Nicholas Studio, March 17–25. The show is directed by Mercy Vasquez. Tickets are available at  

The story follows Milo, who is bored and restless. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he finds himself transported to a strange world called the Land of Wisdom. In this contemporary take that brings the children’s classic from page to stage, one young man’s quest to rescue the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason leads to a fantastical adventure—and endless possibilities.

“This production is deeply personal to me,” said Vasquez. “Having suffered tremendous challenges last year, the way I look at time is different than it once was. As no one knows how much we have been allotted, it seems tragic to waste any of it—let alone on mindless things. I take inspiration from the song, Once in a Lifetime, by the Talking Heads. As I direct this production, these two lines in particular resonate with me: ‘Time isn’t holding us. Time isn’t after us.’ Through this piece, I am committed to convey how precious time is. It is neither friend, nor foe, and it owes us nothing. Time is simply what you make of it, and each of us is responsible for our own.”

The cast members come from SCR’s Junior Players, who are chosen through audition after a minimum of two years in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. The young actors attend class twice weekly during the school year, with additional rehearsal time prior to their annual performance.

 “Spending so much time working with young people, I have often heard the word, ‘bored’ bandied about. I consider it the word of people who choose not to engage their imagination or take responsibility for their own time,” Vasquez said. “I believe The Phantom Tollbooth has the potential to be a powerful message to those who always sit back and demand stimulation, gratification and entertainment from those around them, without first seeking it from within themselves, or making a contribution towards change.”

Vasquez, who teaches the Junior Players during the school year and directs their productions, graduated from UCLA with majors in English literature and theatre. She received dramatic training in London at King’s College, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and in the Acting Intensive Program in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. She has performed on stages including SCR, Garden Grove Playhouse and Heritage Square Theater.

Juster’s first book, The Phantom Tollbooth, was published in 1961. Winner of the George C. Stone Centre for Children’s Books Award, it is recognized as a classic and continues to be loved by children and adults throughout the world. The Phantom Tollbooth was made into a feature film by MGM in 1969 and later adapted for the stage.

The design and creative team includes Yuri Okahana, set design; Kathryn Poppen, costume design; Kristin Neu-Drum, lighting design; Jordan Masami Tani, sound design; Janay Sukkarieh, production manager; and Anna Klevit, stage manager.

Related Information for ​​​​The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth
by Susan Nanus
based on the book by Norton Juster 
directed by Mercy Vasquez

Dates: Saturday, March 17, at 5 p.m.; Sunday, March 18, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Sunday, March 25, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Tickets: $12 general admission tickets may be purchased through the SCR Box Office at (714) 708-5555 or online at

Cast List:
Sean Kato: Milo
Jacqueline Vellandi: Tock
Aoife McEvoy: The Humbug
Preston Veravanich: Azaz the Unabridged
Colin Root: The Mathmagician
Natalie Dien:  Spelling Bee, Miner, Demon
Sunaya Patel: Lethargian 1, Word Merchant 1, Chorus 1, Princess Rhyme
Olivia Marley: Lethargian 2, Word Merchant 2, A Page, Miner, Demon, Chorus 5
Sophia Madrigal: Lethargian 3, Word Merchant 3, Chorus 2, Princess Reason
Kennedy Haynes: Lethargian 4, Word Merchant 4, Terrible Trivium, Chorus 3
Emma Tomblin Marca: Lethargian 5, Gatekeeper, Miner, Demon, Chorus 4
Tess Abedi: Lethargian 6, Minister 1 (Duke of Definition), Miner, Senses Taker
PJ Giglia: Whetherman, Minister 2 (Earl of Essence), Miner, Demon
Madeline Miller: Minister 3 (Minister of Meaning), Miner, Demon of Insincerity
Grady Farman: Minister 4 (Count of Connotation), Miner, Awful Dynne, Demon
Maggie Moland: Minister 5 (Undersecretary of Understanding), Miner, Dischord, Demon

Actor Hometowns:
Costa Mesa: Kennedy Haynes, Olivia Marley, Emma Tomblin Marca
Fountain Valley: Natalie Dien
Fullerton: Maggie Moland
Huntington Beach: Grady Farman, Sean Kato, Colin Root
Irvine: PJ Giglia, Madeline Miller
Ladera Ranch: Jacqueline Vellandi
Mission Viejo: Tess Abedi, Preston Veravanich
Newport Beach, Aoife McEvoy
Temecula: Sophia Madrigal
Tustin: Sunaya Patel

Written by Danielle Bliss

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.