• Becoming “Dorothy”

    by 
    Lauren & Alyssa Dong
     | Jul 15, 2019
    Lauren Dong

    ​A young Lauren Dong (in the blue and green) as a munchkin in a community theatre production of The Wizard of OZ.

    Ruby Slippers

    Four-year-old Lauren's first pair of Ruby Slippers.

    Lauren Dong is one of 34 Theatre Conservatory students cast in the Summer Players’ production, The Wizard of Oz (Aug. 10-18, Julianne Argyros Stage). She portrays Dorothy Gale. Lauren, who is entering her senior year in high school, has been taking acting classes at SCR for eight years, since fourth grade. Donning Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and singing classic songs like “Over the Rainbow” have been part of a long-held dream for Lauren. In this blog article, she and her mom, Alyssa, talk about the path to this iconic role.

    Lauren Dong started acting and singing at seven years old at a local community theatre, her mom, Alyssa Dong, says. She even performed in a production of The Wizard of Oz—but not as Dorothy.

    “She quickly developed a love for it, and I started noticing she could sing,” says Alyssa.

    Lauren studied with different vocal and, at age nine, was introduced to the song “Over the Rainbow” by one of her former vocal coaches who taught Lauren how to sing it. Lauren quickly became interested in seeing the movie and watching Judy Garland sing “Over the Rainbow.”

    The movie wowed her, Lauren says, “It stood out just because of the colors alone. And it struck a chord with me because of the unique story it told. There was something really magical about seeing the Emerald City for the first time and watching that horse change colors throughout the song. I thought ‘how are they doing that?’ ”

    But the most significant takeaway for Lauren was watching Judy Garland "sing the beloved ballad with a voice that was very mature for her age; Garland was only a teenager when she filmed The Wizard of Oz" in 1938. Lauren had started classical vocal training at the age of nine.

    Alyssa says that Lauren has always had a special place in her heart for "Over the Rainbow," even as she continued her vocal lessons through the years.

    “Here was a young girl who was kind of like me,” ​Lauren says. She has had the movie poster hanging on the back of her bedroom door since she bought it during a trip to Hollywood at the age of 10. “It was a film I absolutely found charming and that was very dear to my heart.”

    She recently re-watched the video of her childhood performance.

    “A part of me thought ‘yikes, my voice was pitchy,’ but I found myself smiling by the end of the video,” she says. “I don’t give myself a lot of credit for the things I do, but I think looking back on that day I can now say I was proud of myself for getting up there, even though it wasn’t perfect. I loved singing that song no matter how it sounded and still do.”

    Alyssa and Lauren never thought the dream role—to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz—would happen.

    "She feels so honored to be cast in the part for the Summer Players’ 2019 production at SCR,” Alyssa says.

    After watching the MGM movie again and getting into ​L. Frank Baum's novel, Lauren stripped away all previous versions of Dorothy, to create an original character. Lauren says the most important word she’d use to describe Dorothy is “curious.”

    “She is a young woman seeking adventure and something greater than herself,” she says. “Throughout the story, she never ceases to display both her ambition and kindness. Eventually, she realizes that she has always had everything she needed and wanted right at home and, of course, that ‘there’s no place like home’."

    For Lauren, Dorothy is ultimately a symbol for dreams and imagination, yet a reminder that no matter how simple it may be, happiness is enough.

    Alyssa will be among the audience members to cheer Lauren—and the rest of the cast—on during performances in August.

    Learn more about The Wizard of Oz and buy tickets.

  • Meet the Chairs of the 2019 Gala, “Play Your Part”

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 24, 2019
    Gala Ball
    Steve and Laurie Duncan

    201​​9 Gala Chairs ​Steve and Laurie Duncan.

    The Gala Committee

    Bette Aitken • Sally Anderson • Julianne Argyros • Kathryn Cenci • Sophia Hall Cripe • Carla Furuno • Maralou Harrington • Olivia Johnson • Deirdre Kelly • Sarah McElroy • Stacey Nicholas • Talya Nevo-Hacohen • Bill Schenker • Susan Shieldkret • Tammy Tang • Elaine Weinberg

    Sept. 7 Event Raises Funds to Support SCR

    Steve and Laurie Duncan had already been seeing shows at South Coast Repertory when they attended the theatre’s annual Gala; it was roughly a decade ago and they were guests of another couple.

    “It was refreshingly different from other organization’s Galas that we had attended over the years because there was no financial ask—no silent or live auction,” Steve recalls. “It was just a chance to celebrate the success of SCR in a special context with people who appreciate and respect good theatre.”

    The couple is actively involved in the life and work of SCR—they have underwritten six productions over the past six years (including Once and The Siegel), they subscribe to First Nights (what SCR calls its opening nights) and are Platinum Circle donors. Steve is also a member of the theatre’s Board of Trustees.

    They’re excited for the opportunity to chair the Gala this year, with a theme of "Play Your Part" (Sept. 7, The Westin South Coast Plaza). In this Q&A, they talk about the Gala and what they enjoy most about SCR.

    What are you bringing to the creation and development of this year’s Gala?
    We are simply trying to uphold the standards and quality of past SCR Galas. We have incredible staff and Gala Committee volunteers making it happen. We have the advantage of it being the first time many of the Gala attendees will get to meet and hear the passion and enthusiasm that resonate within new Artistic Director David Ivers. We simply want people to come, relax and have fun!

    What does the theme “Play Your Part” mean to you—and how will we see it come alive?
    Everyone has a role in ensuring we continue to have the finest theatre in America here in Orange County. The cast, crew and staff, of course, are required, but volunteers and patrons are also necessary. When we all join together, doing our part as individuals, something magical and extraordinary happens! All nonprofit theatres are experiencing significant changes in subscription purchases and corporate giving. And, while we are blessed to have a strong base of supporters, we want to help the future stay bright by paying attention, attending plays and supporting the theatre. “Play Your Part”, whether on or off stage, means it takes the positive contribution of each individual for a successful group production.

    What is it about SCR that keeps you both so engaged?
    We appreciate the chance to have a shared experience with other theatre fans and get an up-close look at what it takes to create great art and the finest theatre in America. Each night in the theatre, we get to have an experience that cannot be exactly replicated. In a world that increasingly values having new and great experiences, we think everyone will benefit by embracing live theatre, in general, and SCR, in particular.

    Also, the chance to experience fantastic set and lighting designs, costumes, acting, often times singing and dancing, and directing is always exciting. Even ​if the play is less to our taste, we always walk away impressed with several of the components required to produce the show.

    Let’s come back to the Gala. What will the experience be and why should people plan on attending?
    If you’ve attended ​SCR's Gala in the past, many things will feel the same: a great venue, good food and wine, and entertainment. We will have people from in and around the area attending what feels like a party with cocktails, dinner and dancing. Also, as in the past, there will be no auction or programmatic “ask” for support. We will hear from Artistic Director David Ivers about his vision for the theatre and we hope you will find his enthusiasm as contagious and exciting as we do.

    Whether it’s your first Gala, or your 41st, plan to dress up a bit—this is an evening of celebration, with family and friends, food and fun! We want this night to be about supporting all that is good about SCR and extending appreciation for everyone’s contributions, on and off stage, and being thankful that SCR is here, in our very own Orange County.

    Thank you for joining us, thank you for supporting SCR and thank you to everyone for PLAYING YOUR PART!


    Learn more about 2019’s “Play Your Part” Gala.

  • Celebrating Pride Month

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 21, 2019
    Blue Window

    Alice and Boo (Barbara Tarbuck and Jane Galloway, center) talk about their relationship after a party, whose guests can also be seen in their homes (l-r, Chris Mulkey, Lisa Pelikan, Brad O'Hare, Maureen Silliman and Tuck Milligan) in SCR's West Coast premiere of Craig Lucas's Blue Window in 1985. Photo: T. Taylor Browne.

    Raised in Captivity

    ​Julie Hagerty and Steven Culp in ​SCR's 1995 West Coast premiere of Nicky Silver's Raised in Captivity. Photo by: Mark Jordan.

    Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune

    ​Karen Hensel and Richard Doyle in SCR's 1989 production of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.

    Red

    Mark Harelik and Paul David Story in SCR's 2016 production of John Logan's Red.

    A recent Pride Month feature in Entertainment Weekly focused on playwright Craig Lucas and his groundbreaking movie, Longtime Companion.  Lucas has a long relationship with South Coast Repertory—most recently, we enjoyed the concert reading of a new musical adapted from his SCR-commissioned play, Prelude to a Kiss, at the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival, known as PPF (Lucas’ original 1988 play went on to enjoy numerous productions around the country and was adapted for the big screen).

    Next season, works by two playwrights who identify as LGBTQIA+ are featured in the Julianne Argyros Stage series.

    • The Canadians (Adam Bock, 2020; also as a 2018 NewSCRipts reading and 2019 PPF reading)
    • Fireflies (Donje R. Love, 2020)

    Here are some of the plays with LGBTQIA+ characters or story lines produced at SCR since the late 1960s.

    • A Taste of Honey (Sheilagh Delaney, 1968)
    • Breaking the Code (Hugh Whitmore, 1989)
    • Raised in Captivity (Nicky Silver, 1995)
    • Six Degrees of Separation (John Guare, 1996)
    • God of Vengeance (Donald Margulies, 1999 PPF reading)
    • Doctor Cerberus (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2010; also a 2009 PPF reading)
    • The Whale (Samuel D. Hunter, 2013)
    • Reunion (Gregory S Moss, 2014)
    • Going to a Place where you Already Are (Bekah Brunstetter, 2016; also as a 2014 NewSCRipts reading and a 2015 PPF reading)
    • Curve of Departure (Rachel Bonds, 2017)
    • The Roommate (Jen Silverman, 2017)
    • Kings (Sarah Burgess, 2018)
    • Mask Only (Ana Nogueira, 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading)
    • M. Butterfly (David Henry Hwang, 2019)

    Here are some playwrights who identify as LGBTQIA+ whose works have been produced by SCR:

    • Edward Albee (A Delicate Balance, 2001)
    • Bertolt Brecht (Baal, 1966; The Threepenny Opera, 1969; Galileo, 1985; Happy End, 1991; The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 2005)
    • Noël Coward (Private Lives, 1977, 1998; Hay Fever, 1993); Blithe Spirit, 1995​)
    • Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days, 2010; Cloudlands, 2012, original music)
    • John Logan (Red, 2016)
    • Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man, 2015)
    • Craig Lucas (Reckless, 1985; Blue Window, 1985; Three Postcards, 1987; Prelude to a Kiss, 1988; Marry Me a Little, 1988, writer; The Light in the Piazza, 2014)
    • W. Somerset Maugham (The Circle, 2001)
    • Terrance McNally (Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, 1989; Lips Together, Teeth Apart, 1994)
    • Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, 1995; The Altruists, a PPF reading, 1999)
    • Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2019; Putting It Together, 2009; Little Night Music, 2007; Sunday in the Park With George, 1989; Marry Me a Little, 1988; Side by Side by Sondheim, 1983; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, 1969)
    • Michel Tremblay (Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, 1980)
    • Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie, 1965, 1970, 1980; A Streetcar Named Desire, 1968, 1994)
    Stephen Caffrey

    Lucas Verbrugghe​ and Stephen Caffrey in ​M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang. Photo by Jordan Kubat/SCR.

    Actor From Early Lucas Film With SCR Ties

    Actor Stephen Caffrey had one of the lead roles in Craig Lucas’ film, Longtime Companion. Caffrey has been in three shows at SCR—Bach at Leipzig (2006), Shakespeare in Love (2018) and this season in M. Butterfly (2019).

  • Designing a Magical Set for "The Velveteen Rabbit"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | Jun 03, 2019
    The Velveteen Rabbit Production Photo

    Paul Culos, Nicole Cowans, Joseph Abrego, ​Amielynn Abellera, Carina Morales and Nicole Erb in​ SCR's Theatre for Young Audiences ​production of ​The Velveteen Rabbit ​with sets by Keith Mitchell.

    Velveteen Rabbit production photo

    ​Amielynn Abellera and​ Ricky Abilez in The Velveteen Rabbit.

    scale model tree

    ​Designer Kieth Mitchell's scale model tree for the set of The Velveteen Rabbit.

    Set designer Keith Mitchell is drawn to designing shows that are based on books—such as Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience, Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

    For The Velveteen Rabbit, he found a lot of joy in making the magical world in which the story about the Boy and his stuffed velveteen rabbit doll unfolds. Although he didn't read the book as a child, he did as a teenager and also saw an animated film version of the story in the 1980s. It’s possible that rabbits are special to him because he grew up in the Conejo Valley—which means “rabbit” valley—and saw cottontail rabbits all the time.

    We caught up with Mitchell while he was designing the set for The Velveteen Rabbit (May 24-June 9, 2019), Theatre for Young Audiences) and asked him about the inspiration for his designs and more.

    What was the first play you remember seeing?
    It was Tales From the Arabian Nights at the Indio Date Festival. It was outside and had live camels and I remember the genie disappearing in a puff of colored smoke.

    When did you become a designer?
    I think that happened at a very young age. I remember moving my parents’ furniture around when I was about 6 years old; I'd do that every time they’d leave me alone. I’d get on the floor and push the sofa around.  But, I also made my own movies with friends and I think my favorite part was making the world of the story.

    Do you find a lot of creative freedom in designing shows for young people?
    Oh, there's a bit of radical freedom to be had designing for young audiences! There’s often a level of naturalism in adult plays that is rarely utilized in children’s shows. Adults should see what they’re missing! I would love to approach a play for adults the way I approach a children’s show. It would be exciting.

    What draws you to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit?
    I’m a fan of classic British children’s stories and the golden era of illustrations. I studied those things when I dreamt of being an artist and my favorite color palette comes from those old illustrations. I think the strength of The Velveteen Rabbit story is the power of a child’s imagination.

    How did you go about designing the set?
    The world of play, which is still where I go when I design, can be a very richly detailed emotional place. I remember spending a summer at my grandmother’s house and, to me, it was a place of pure adventure. But the river pirates were all in my head. As I designed this show, I thought about the wall in the Boy's garden as the edge of childhood. The gap in the wall leads to the woods and adulthood. The wall is broken by some unseen cataclysmic event. The woods are sort of vague, like adulthood from a child’s perspective, and maybe a little scary. The nursery feels very bright and safe, but its walls are made of scrim and when the lights are right it becomes transparent and can transport us to the world beyond. We also had to play with scale, since the toys are bigger than the Boy. I wanted to evoke the feeling that you have when you are looking at a blade of grass close up, or you close one eye to play with perspective, to make your toys look bigger than life.

    What was your favorite childhood toy?
    It was a little stuffed bear—his name was Rufus.

    Learn more about The Velveteen Rabbit and buy tickets.

  • Meet the Cast of "The Velveteen Rabbit"

    by 
    Tania Thompson
     | May 23, 2019
    The Cast of the Velveteen Rabbit

    THE CAST: clockwise from top left: Joseph Abrego, Nicole Erb, Paul Culos, Amielynn Abellera, Ricky Abilez, Nicole Cowans and Carina Morales. 

    Do you remember the childhood toy that you loved the most? The seven actors who bring the beloved tale of The Velveteen Rabbit (May 24-June 9, Theatre for Young Audiences) to life do. In addition to dishing on that kid memory, they talk about their favorite childhood books and more. They’re all excited to bring this show to life—and are moved by the story of the transformational power of love.


    Abellera,-Amielynn

    Amielynn Abellera
    Character:
    Velveteen Rabbit
    Acting: I wanted to be an actress since forever—when I was 5—because my parents took me to see lots of plays and musicals.
    SCR credits: I’m making my debut!
    Other things I’ve done include the TV shows “Just Add Magic,” “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” and “NCIS.” I also narrate fun middle school and teen audio books at Audible.com.
    A big adventure from childhood: We had a large living room and my big brother and I would pretend the carpeted floor was a shark-infested ocean. The game was that we'd have to travel from one side of the room to the other without getting eaten by a shark. We would use furniture to build an adventure course through the large ocean. Tables became floating towers, the couch became an island, pillows became boulders, chairs turned into safety towers, the fireplace mantle became a rocky ledge to perch upon. We would take turns hopping and jumping from one thing to another and make scary shark sounds for each other when it wasn't our turn.
    A book I loved:  I gravitated toward The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It was a complicated book for me and I would feel different emotions every time I would read it as I grew older. Sometimes, the tree's unconditional love inspired and moved me, and relieved me of my fear of hurting someone with mistakes or bad choices. Other times, I felt that the boy was incredibly selfish, taking and taking from the tree until the tree had nothing else to give but his remaining stump, which still provided relief for the boy. Regardless, it was a story that I always wanted to read over and over. It encouraged me to know that when you love someone unconditionally, you love them and they love you—through the good, the bad, the easy, the hard and everything in between.
    My favorite stuffed animal: When I was five, my favorite stuffed animal was my Baby Fozzie Bear. He had a Christmas outfit on—a red and green scarf with a matching red hat and green holly. This particular stuffed animal was a limited time offer at McDonald’s and was very hard to find. It was Christmas Eve and every McDonald's was sold out. I was so sad; I remember my Dad driving me around one night to five different McDonald's before finding the very last Fozzie available in our town. That made me so happy and every time I see a Fozzie Bear, I remember my Dad's love, determination and how he didn't give up on finding me that stuffed animal.


    Abilez,-Ricky

    Ricky Abilez
    Character:
    Boy
    SCR credits: My last show here was on the big stage, Shakespeare in Love.
    Other things I’ve done include Frederick at MainStreet Theatre Company.
    A big adventure from childhood:  My brother, my aunt and I would use chairs and blankets to build a fort to help protect us from Big Foot and other creatures of the woods! It always worked. Then we’d take down the fort using our magic wands! We were in training to become powerful wizards. This was before we went to Hogwarts.
    A book I loved: Oh, Green Eggs and Ham—I think mainly because I love the color green and I was obsessed with the idea of green eggs. But, as I've grown older, the story, to me, is about embracing the unknown. Sam-I-Am teaches us that being open to things that seem foreign or different is essential to living a happy, full life and that a simple meal can be commonly shared among creatures of all shapes, colors and sizes.
    My favorite stuffed animal: I've had so many special stuffed animals. My turtle, Franklin, and my dog, Pups, really helped me overcome bullying in elementary school. Sometimes they were the only things that could make me feel better—when it wasn't a hug from my Mom, it was a cuddle from one of them! My Dad gave me Pups and my Mom gave me Franklin so, when my parents divorced, the stuffed animals reminded me of them when I spent weekends away. They were very real to me and I still have them!


    Abrego,-Joseph

    Joseph Abrego
    Characters:
    Wooden Lion, Furry Rabbit and Sam the Gardener
    SCR credits:  I was in Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.
    Other things I’ve done include: Evita, Man of La Mancha, Carousel and In the Heights
    A big adventure from childhood: I loved dressing up with dresses and heels.
    A book I loved: My favorite childhood book was called Milk and Cookies. It was a story about a little boy who was afraid of the sounds that came from his basement. He spent lots of time speculating and worrying about the types of monsters that lived down there. When his Grandfather discovered the boy was afraid of the basement sounds, he took him down there to show him it was just the water heater! They laughed over it with milk and cookies. This book helped me realize that we create a lot of the fears we have—and we can overcome fear by confronting it.
    My favorite toy:
    Barbie dolls.


    Cowans,-Nicole

    Nicole Cowans
    Characters: Wind-up Ballerina, Wild Rabbit and New Bunny
    SCR credits: This is my second show here this season—I was in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience. Oh, and I was in a concert-reading of the musical Prelude to a Kiss during the Pacific Playwrights Festival in April.
    My favorite animal (this one's not stuffed!) when I was a kid was the mythological creature called the Phoenix. I loved that it was so magical that it could be reborn from its own ashes!


    Culos,-Paul
    Paul Culos
    Character:
    Skin Horse
    SCR credits: I was in last season’s show, Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
    Other things I’ve done include the television shows “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” “Superior Donuts” and “Shameless.”
    A big adventure from childhood:  As a kid, I remember disappearing into my drawings. I would spend hours sketching images and making up stories in my head about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Batman or the American presidents, whom I had a strange fixation on.
    A book I loved: The Hobbit was one of my favorite books as a kid. My Dad gave me my first copy. It was an exciting, scary adventure and probably the first time I had delved into more advanced reading. I can’t part with it to this day.
    My favorite toys: I had a white, fluffy stuffed dog with black spots that my cousins gave me for Christmas one year. I named him Ruff. He wore a flat cap with my initials sewn into it and I held on to him for many, many years. But my most favorite toys as a child were my extensive collection of Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and super hero action figures. I would make up new stories every day with them!
    Erb,-Nicole

    Nicole Erb
    Characters:
    Model Airplane, Doctor, Nursery Magic Fairy
    SCR credits: I was here last year in Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook.
    Other things I’ve done include doing stand-up comedy with Upright Citizens Brigade and in the TV shows “Scandal,” “Big Time Rush” and “Hack My Life.”
    A big adventure from childhood: Growing up in Pennsylvania meant there was always some woodsey area to play in. I grew up near a bunch of creeks and forest areas and always liked looking for animals and fish and bugs around me. Pennsylvania is also nothing but old buildings and historic grounds so, as a kid, it feels like everywhere is haunted or you’re hunting for clues. You used to find arrow heads in the woods near my house. I also remember going to Gettysburg on a class trip and people finding civil war bullets and old buttons everywhere.
    A book I loved: The Borrowers! My Mom would read me another chapter every night before bed. I loved the family and I spent a lot of time making tiny furniture and putting it around my room so that when the Borrowers that lived in my house came out at night, they'd have furniture and gifts that were just their size (and they could even keep it if they wanted). I'm sure that I loved the book because my Mom read it to me and made it such a special part of my daily routine. I was also a big fan of Are You My Mother? 
    My favorite stuffed animal: My family had a husky-shepard mix named Frisbee while I was growing up. She looked like a wolf. So, of course, my favorite stuffed animal was a husky that I named Baby Frisbee. I loved Frisbee (the actual dog) so much that when she got older and it was time for us to say goodbye to her, it was nice to have a mini-version of her to hold on to and remember her by. Baby Frisbee still lives in my old room at my Mom's house.


    Morales,-Carina

    Carina Morales
    Characters:
    Nana and Toy Soldier
    SCR credits: The young audiences musical, Amos & Boris
    Other things I’ve done include: The national tour of Junie B. Jones ​and musicals at Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore.
    A big adventure from childhood: When I was a kid, I loved to play with my American Girl dolls. I pretended that they were my children and I would invent all kinds of dramatic situations for them to play out. Sometimes, my dolls would get in fights with each other and I would help them make up and become friends again; or they would get sick in the middle of the night and I’d have to rush them to the hospital for emergency surgery! Other times, I would take them on exciting imaginary trips to Europe or Disneyland! Much like the Velveteen Rabbit was real to the Boy, my dolls were real to me, and I spent endless happy hours playing with them.
    A book I loved: A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a thrilling story that’s full of exciting characters, and delivers beautiful messages about embracing individuality, and the ultimate triumph of love.
    My favorite stuffed animal: When I was very little, I had a stuffed leopard named Leopard. She was a large stuffed animal, actually taller than I was at the time! I used to carry her around using both hands to balance her across the top of my head. Leopard loved to sing songs and star in shows in the living room with me. She was also very soft and gave the best hugs!

    Learn more about The Velveteen Rabbit and buy tickets.