• SCR Partners With OC Food Bank For Holiday Food Drive

    Brian Robin
     | Nov 22, 2021
    OC Food Bank

    This holiday season, SCR is holding a food drive to benefit the Orange County Food Bank, a program of the Community Action Partnership of Orange County. In a typical year, the food bank distributes more than 23 million pounds of food. They served 1 million people throughout the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and anticipate the need will continue to grow. SCR’s goal is to collect 300 pounds of food, donated by our staff and audiences.

    The food drive runs during SCR’s production of A Christmas Carol Nov. 27-Dec.26. For every two items donated in the food donation barrel in the lobby, you receive one discount coupon for an SCR production. Take $10 off A Christmas Carol (Dec. 26 performance) and preview performances of Last Stop on Market StreetWhat I Learned In Paris and Clean.

    All non-perishables are welcome, but particular items needed are canned meat/fish, canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, dried beans, pasta, rice and cereal.

    Learn about the OC Food Bank.

  • Inside the Costume Shop for "A Christmas Carol"

    Brian Robin
     | Nov 15, 2021

    When it comes to sartorial splendor, A Christmas Carol is in a class by itself. It’s Victorian London-meets-a-large-cast of all ages. And everything that comes with creating, maintaining and fitting the show’s costumes starts in the SCR Costume Shop with Costume Supervisor Amy Hutto.

    A 24-year SCR veteran, Hutto manages the creative chaos that comes with building, fitting and maintaining costumes for 45 roles played by 17 adult actors and 16 children. Some actors play multiple roles and the children's roles are double-cast. For example, Daniel Blinkoff’s Bob Cratchit requires only one costume. But Tommy Beck’s Undertaker/Ebenezer Scrooge As A Young Man requires six. Each costume demands its own fitting and must be built to accommodate all the quick changes, which can happen in as fast as 45 seconds.

    And, because this is Victorian London, each costume often requires upwards of six-plus pieces of clothing. Per role. It takes roughly 40-50 hours to make one suit or one of the ghost costumes from scratch.

    A Christmas Carol is its own special beast,” Hutto said. “It’s challenging and heartbreaking and rewarding all at the same time because our costume designer who designed it 41 years ago (Dwight Richard Odle) died. We’re still using his designs. Almost everyone who works here knew Richard and loved Richard and it’s very important for us to keep his vision going. We can make small changes, but every design decision comes with the conscious decision of wanting to respect Richard’s work and his memory.”

    Hutto oversees a staff of 10, including people brought in just to work on A Christmas Carol—many of them know they’ll return to work on SCR’s holiday tradition next year. Because most of the costumes and accessories will return. Hutto and her staff turned this into a verb: to “Christmas Carol” a garment means making minor adjustments to an existing garment. But at the same time, new faces arrive, the returning child actors grow and the parts never stop moving.

    A Christmas Carol has its own designated room at SCR’s Production Center. Patterns, shoes, scarves, hats and extra fabrics that await their turn on stage are all stored there.

    Hutto and her staff never stop working on A Christmas Carol. She said there’s always a costume or adjustment on the table for whenever there’s a down period during the year. But the heavy work begins in October, which is when the “Bible” is pulled out yet again. That document lists every garment worn in the play, with directions on taking them off and putting them on in a seamless fashion. Every garment is pictured and tracking sheets with the documents outline costume changes, so newcomers to the performance, like Wardrobe Supervisor Kendall Dayton, have a battle-tested reference guide.

    Making and fitting the costumes happen in stages. The men, women and children each have their own table in the costume shop. Full Charge Costumer Laurie Donati, who has been fitting SCR actors for 35 years, oversees fitting/alerting all the men in the play. Lalena Hutton comes in and oversees the women’s costumes. Cutter/Draper Catherine Esera handles the children’s costumes, meaning she is responsible for outfitting 14 of the 16 children and handling upwards of 350 costume pieces.

    “It’s herding cats, but we're a well-oiled machine,” Hutto said. “We try working smart because there are only so many hours in the day. … We’re doing this huge show with 10 people, which I think is really impressive. We put this show together a little differently than other theatrical pieces because we know we’re putting it back together again next year.”

    See that sartorial artistry for yourself. Tickets are on sale for SCR’s 41st annual production of A Christmas Carol, which runs Nov. 27-Dec. 26.

    Learn more and buy tickets to A Christmas Carol.
  • Director Hisa Takakuwa Discusses "A Christmas Carol"

    Brian Robin
     | Nov 12, 2021
    Hisa Takakuwa and A Christmas Carol
    A Christmas Carol Director ​Hisa Takakuwa.

    When it comes to South Coast Repertory’s A Christmas Carol, Hisa Takakuwa defines knowledge. Before taking over as director, she spent 14 years as assistant director to John-David Keller on Orange County’s annual holiday tradition. Prior to that, she performed for 14 years in a variety of roles, including Sally.

    The bona-fides are there. So is Takakuwa’s extensive and celebrated work with young cast members in not only A Christmas Carol, but across many SCR plays. This dovetails with her “regular” duties directing SCR’s award-winning Theatre Conservatory, which she and her staff helped build into a vibrant teaching facility across the acting spectrum.

    Takakuwa understands the storied role A Christmas Carol plays in Orange County. She sat down recently and discussed why A Christmas Carol resonates so much with audiences.

    Tell us about your background with A Christmas Carol and why this is so special for you: 

    Hisa Takakuwa: “I have such a long history with this show and with SCR. I love the original novella, I love the story and I love (Charles) Dickens. I think it’s such an important bridge to welcoming people back into the theatre. It’s an open door to people who might not otherwise enjoy theatre. To be trusted with that responsibility of telling that story is a great gift.”

    What is it like for you to connect with A Christmas Carol’s audience as a director, compared to when you were a performer? 

    HT: “Of all the shows I ever performed, the warmth of the audience and their response to A Christmas Carol is a special feeling. The connection to the audience is really special. It’s great as an audience member and it’s great as a cast member to share in that. I love that we’re part of their Christmas tradition. It’s a big responsibility and an honor and I know we won’t take it for granted this year.”

    You come into the director’s chair with a new Scrooge: Richard Doyle. Tell us what Richard brings to this role

    HT: When we got a chance to work on the audio version last year (due to the pandemic), we had the opportunity to start a conversation on the story itself. Getting to know Richard through the conversations we had, he really views himself as a storyteller. Most actors I know do see themselves as storytellers, but he really puts the story at the center of everything he does. Every decision he makes here connects back to the story and what he wants to communicate to the audience. … Certainly his talent and his range of experience as an artist is exciting. To work with these (SCR) founding members is so moving. That’s an inadequate word here, but it’s so important. … He has wonderful presence, charisma and talent. He’ll be lovely in this role and I think we’ll have some fun.”

    Learn more and buy tickets to A Christmas Carol.
  • From The Director’s Chair: Tony Taccone and "A Shot Rang Out"

    Brian Robin
     | Oct 20, 2021
    Tony Taccone
    Director Tony Taccone. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs
    David Ivers
    ​David Ivers in A Shot Rang Out. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    Along with being one of the most acclaimed theatre directors in the country, Tony Taccone is renowned for his work with one-person plays. For reference, see Latin History for Morons with John Leguizamo, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, Sarah Jones’ Bridge & Tunnel and Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, which Taccone co-wrote. During his acclaimed 33-year-tenure as the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory, Taccone oversaw more than 70 world, American and West Coast premieres. He sent 24 shows to New York and two to London.

    Yes, it was Taccone who commissioned and co-directed Tony Kushner’s pioneering Angels in America.

    Taccone was set to make his South Coast Repertory directorial debut in the spring of 2020 with Caroline V. McGraw’s I Get Restless. But the pandemic shelved those plans, postponing Taccone’s SCR debut to A Shot Rang Out, which welcomed audiences back to live theatre. Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain) wrote A Shot Rang Out specifically for SCR Artistic Director David Ivers to perform. And the A-list trio of Greenberg, Taccone and Ivers creates a dynamic play that already has audiences enraptured.

    Taccone sat down last month and talked about what went into bringing A Shot Rang Out to audiences and why it’s the perfect vehicle for the times we live in.

    What makes A Shot Rang Out such a poignant and timely play?
    “Well, it doesn’t get any more topical. It’s about a guy who’s emerging from a pandemic. A guy who’s emerging from a place of great isolation for a very long time. A person who’s emerging from a place where his habits have been broken and new ones have had to take their place. … There are beautiful, long passages in this play where the character articulates his experience in a way that feels existentially, very, very immediate and relatable to everybody. Everybody. We’ve all gone through this thing for better and for worse. This struggle, which has brought up different things for different folks. But the struggle is there for everybody.”

    What are the directorial challenges and nuances in directing a one-man play?
    “Directing a solo show is different than directing a multi-cast play. The relationship with the actor is different. It’s more intimate. You’re more privy to a single individual’s personal habits, nuances, behaviors, defense mechanisms and strengths. You get a front-row seat to this person and you are the audience. You’re sort of sitting in for another character in the play. … One person shows in general tend to be more intense. You have to understand who the individual is and what they need. ... What David (Ivers) needs isn’t what John Leguizamo needs and what John Leguizamo needs isn’t what Sarah Jones needs and certainly not what Carrie Fisher needed. There’s a very wide range of adaptive mechanisms that come into play when you engage with a particular person and the story they’re trying to tell.”

    Let’s take this another step. Tell us about the experience of directing ‘A Shot Rang Out’.
    “It’s a particularly unique challenge. The piece doesn’t have a lot of physical fireworks. It doesn’t have a lot of magic tricks. It doesn’t have a lot of aces up its sleeve. It’s going to mean the act of watching this guy process the material, process his story and be both courageous and vulnerable enough to tell it. That’s the event. … This is one of the few solo shows I’ve done, maybe the only one, where the performer did not write the material. David is an actor, but he’s still interpreting Richard’s work. That’s fun, because there’s a distance mechanism that we can both analyze and address. But he’s creating a character and that character has to appear to be him.”

    Talk about your relationship with David Ivers and what he brings to this challenging role:
    “It feels special because (he) is a longtime colleague and pal and associate. That feels like a really solid foundation to re-emerge into something approaching normalcy, if you can use that word anymore. … David has a long and illustrious and rich career as an actor. He came at this from the opposite way (I did). He was an actor for many years and then started to direct. … For him, this is about actually using muscles crying to be used.

    How do you think audiences will respond to such a powerful, engaging work?
    “That’s a big question mark. Nobody knows what people are used to now. Are they so used to Netflix melodramas that they won’t have the nervous system to sit back and watch this thing roll out? Watching David, it’s going to be pretty impressive. It’s going to be pretty impressive. There won’t be any doubt when he opens this about his ability, his talent or his desire. I think that will be on full display and I think that will be exciting.”

    Learn more and buy tickets to A Shot Rang Out.

  • Greenberg at a Glance

    Jerry Patch
     | Oct 14, 2021
    Richard Greenberg
    Playwright Richard Greenberg

    ​Did You Know?

    Playwright Richard Greenberg has received 13 SCR commissions, 13 SCR productions and 10 SCR world premieres?

    Commissions and NewSCRipts are among the nine initiatives in South Coast Repertory’s comprehensive new play development program, The [email protected]Learn more about the program here.

    Richard Greenberg is a bona-fide New Yorker. Born and raised just east of Manhattan on Long Island, he settled in the Chelsea district after graduating from Princeton and Yale Universities, with a year of grad work at Harvard in between. 

    His roommate for his first years in the city was the actress Patricia Clarkson, a fellow New Yorker who’s still a close friend. He’s moved once in 40 years, from W. 23rd St. to W. 22nd, a block away. He hates leaving town, and hates traveling even more. 

    His favorite writer is Dawn Powell, a slick, satirical stylist and contemporary and friend of Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos, James Thurber, and her editor, Maxwell Perkins. Originally from Ohio, she chronicled New York life and its people, writing novels and plays from the 1930s to her death in 1965 at 69. 

    She was known as a “writer’s writer,” a tag that is often put on Greenberg. There has been no more “literate” playwright in America over the last 40 years than he, having been compared to writers from Noel Coward to Henry James. His Tony winner, Take Me Out, is being revived on Broadway this fall, and has been optioned for a television series. 

    He has written well over 30 plays, most of which were set in or around New York City and produced on and off-Broadway. He has won every playwriting prize in New York, most of them more than once. 

    All of which makes his 33-year association with South Coast Repertory something of an anomaly. A Shot Rang Out is the 13th play by Greenberg to be produced here, 10 of which were world premieres. 

    Most of these productions required Greenberg to be on site for development and rehearsals of his texts—which meant enduring travel he loathes. But surprise! The native New Yorker enjoyed Orange County, long enough over the years to find local favorites still abiding here and rue the losses of those now gone.

    Greenberg loves our temperate climate; loved staying near SCR in the Marriott Suites. He mourned the loss of the flagship El Torito Grill on Anton Blvd., and breakfasts at Jerry’s Deli around the corner. The typewriter on which he wrote until he could no longer justify not using a computer sits in place of honor: a bookshelf in the office of his pal, Joanne DeNaut, SCR’s casting director for decades. 

    In 2020, the onset of the pandemic and the unresolved restrictions placed on assembling creatives and audiences prompted Artistic Director David Ivers to ask Greenberg for a solo play—one that could be performed by a single actor and streamed if audiences could not gather in person. A Shot Rang Out is the result. It was Greenberg’s idea that Ivers be cast in the role, a part he wrote with Ivers in mind. 

    As usual, Greenberg has been a periodic presence during the development and rehearsal of his text—but this time over Zoom. A true man of the theatre, Richard’s play is both a celebration of returning to the art form, and the tale of one man’s odyssey—one taken by many of us—before, during and after a period of great stress. And a welcome back. 

    Learn more about A Shot Rang Out and buy tickets.