• Meet Conservatory Instructor Diana Burbano

    Beth Fhaner & Danielle Bliss
     | May 25, 2018
    William Steig


    SCR isn’t just a great place to see live theatre; it’s also a great place to learn about different aspects of theatre. On a year-round basis, SCR’s Theatre Conservatory offers acting classes for kids, teens and adults in the safe environment of our Tony Award-winning theatre. Led by experienced professional artists, students engage in lively instruction and deepen their understanding of the craft of acting, all while developing important life skills. Students can select from various classes including the summer acting workshop, musical theatre, playwriting, acting for the camera, Improv and much more. In this ongoing series, we’re introducing some of the instructors. Meet Diana Burbano.

    During Diana's tenure in the Conservatory, Diana has taught beginning youth and adult acting classes, musical theatre and acting for camera.

    Who was the teacher that inspired you in your acting studies―and in what way?

    I went to the American Academy and studied with Karen Hensel. Her warm teaching style resonated with me as a pretty lost 17-year old. She was kind, firm and pushed me to work hard and be better. I can still hear her whispers in my ear as I did my Joan of Arc monologue and she became the other voices—completely inspiring. It was a beautiful circle to complete when I came to teach for her at the Conservatory, these many years later.

    What should students expect when they walk into class?

    My adult Acting Basics students come in usually nervous and apprehensive. I promise, you will have fun, make good friends and get to be 10 years old again, while learning acting techniques that will serve you in your daily life—or as a professional, if that is what you wish to pursue.

    What’s your best class memory of an “aha!” moment for a student?

    It was Eddie Villa Lobos in a scene from Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune. I saw him “get” it, find the moment and be very truthful. And he has become a professional colleague! He started in my basics class and went on to play my husband in The Long Road Today for SCR!

    What do you learn from your students?

    I am a better actor for teaching them. It forces me to reevaluate my own technique, tricks and fall-back methods. Also, the audience can tell when you are not being honest, in my case the audience is my class. They expect me to tell them the truth, and I can’t fake or hide when I am working with them.

    Are acting classes (improv classes, playwriting, etc.) only for folks interested in acting?

    I have people from all walks of life in my class. We have some pros, but we also have people looking for something fun to do, or who want to learn to improve their speaking skills, or just to meet new people. Ask my students. They all hang out together long after class is over.

    How would your students describe your teaching style?

    Stick on a funny hat and trust to luck. No! I am encouraging and warm, but I do push them out of their comfort zones.

    Why might acting classes be scary for some folks and how can they overcome that fear?

    Don’t be scared! It’s called a “play” for a reason.

    What’s your favorite dessert?

    I don’t eat a lot of sugar, but I wouldn’t push away a Nutella and banana crepe!

    Learn more about year-round acting classes at SCR's Theatre Conservatory.

  • Meet William Steig, Author of "Amos & Boris"

    SCR Staff
     | May 23, 2018
    William Steig

    ​Author William Steig

    William Steig (1907-2003) was a cartoonist, illustrator and author of award-winning books for children, including Shrek!, on which the DreamWorks movies are based, and Amos & Boris (featured in a stage adaptation as part of SCR's Theatre for Young Audiences series). Steig was born in New York City, where every member of his family was involved in the arts, and so it was no surprise when he decided to become an artist. He attended City College and the National Academy of Design. In 1930, Steig’s work began appearing in The New Yorker, where his drawings have been a popular fixture ever since.

    Steig published his first children’s book, Roland the Minstrel Pit, in 1968. In 1970, he received the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. In 1971, Amos ​& Boris was published and became a National Book Award Finalist. His books for children also include Dominic; The Real Thief; The Amazing Bone; and Doctor De Soto, A Newbery Honor Book. On the basis of his entire body of work, Steig was selected as the 1982 U.S. candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Illustration and subsequently as the 1988 U.S. candidate for writing. Steig also published 13 collections of drawings for adults, beginning with About People in 1939, and including The Lonely Ones; Male/Female; The Agony in The Kindergarten; and Our Miserable Life. He died in Boston at the age of 95.

    Learn more about Steig and his work in the following articles:

    Learn more about Amos & Boris and buy tickets.

  • Meet the Cast: "Amos & Boris"

    Tania Thompson
     | May 18, 2018
    The Cast of Amos & Boris

    THE CAST (clockwise from left): Daisuke Tsuji, Michael Manuel, Doug Harvey, Carina Morales, Aviva Pressman, Klarissa Mesee and Matthew Hancock.

    The brand new young audiences musical, Amos & Boris, is fun and funny—and the actors who portray the critter characters (including Amos the Mouse, Boris the Whale, an elephant, sea creatures and others) are having a grand time of it. Most of the cast members are making their SCR debuts, but we welcome back some alumni and all are diving into their roles. They recently took some time during rehearsals to answer some of our questions.

    Hancock Matthew

    ​Matthew Hancock
    Name: Matthew Hancock (Philip, Ensemble Member) is making his SCR debut.
    But wait: He did a workshop for Amos & Boris here.
    Other cool stuff: He’s been in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Stuart Little and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His honors include awards from The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Stage Raw, as well as nominations for NAACP Theatre Awards and LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards.
    Favorite book as a kid: The Little Engine That Could. It’s a story of determination and still inspires me now.
    Favorite stuffed animal: A “pooch patrol” dog. He was really cool ‘cause you could turn his face and make him growl, or make him mild and sweet. He was the first thing I can remember earning by doing my chores. I never game him a name but he went with me everywhere. I recently gave him to my niece who was excited to get her “dog”.
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: All the characters and costumes I get to play and wear. It has been so much fun building the world and characters of this musical. I really think this is a fun and enlightening story for children.

    Harvey Doug

    Douglas Harvey
    Name: Douglas Harvey (Amos) is making his SCR debut.
    Oh, but: He did a workshop for Amos & Boris here.
    Other cool stuff: His favorite young audiences roles have been Flat Stanley, from Roald Dahl's The Witches, and Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth. He also performs the live planetarium shows at Griffith Observatory.
    Favorite book as a kid: My favorite childhood book was The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The images of fluffy, colorful trees being chopped down were so visceral and scary to me, as was the mystery of the green-armed Once-ler who lived alone in a funky house that looked like it could fall down at any moment. I memorized the page turns before I even knew how to read. It's the first story I remember knowing by heart.
    Favorite stuffed animal: My family got a Welsh corgi dog named Phoebe when I was 6. She was small like me, and very protective of our house (and her food bowl.) I also had a stuffed Kermit the Frog puppet who would sleep in my bunk bed with me. I liked to imitate his voice.
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: To work with the creators! The playwright and musical composer have been in the room with us during rehearsals, and to have their thoughts on the world we are building is special, because it feels like we are creating a brand new story together.

    Manuel Michael

    Michael Manuel
    Name: Michael Manuel (Boris)
    Last time at SCR: A reading of Love & Contracts by Julia Doolittle at the Pacific Playwrights Festival in April. Before that, Tartuffe, Eurydice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
    Favorite book as a kid: Actually, two of my favorite books are Frederick by Leo Lionni and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I loved them when my mom and dad first read them to me and I love and appreciate them even more today. Frederick (who coincidentally is a mouse!) taught me the importance of community, being there for your friends and the value of being an artist. One of the many lessons I learned from The Giving Tree is how important it is to be there for the ones you love.
    Favorite stuffed animal: My first pet was my dog Brandy. She was a rescue and I loved her so much. Some of my friends thought she was chunky, but I thought she looked like a cute soup can.
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: Working alongside my fellow actors, with Jessica's help (director Jessica Kubzansky), to create a town of mice, an ocean of sea creatures and getting to listen to the beautiful music and lyrics that Dan (Tierney, composer) and Sofia (Alvarez, playwright) have imagined.

    Mesee Klarisa

    Klarissa Mesee
    Name: Klarissa Mesee (Stacey, Ensemble Member)
    Last time at SCR: 4000 Miles and the Amos & Boris workshop.
    Where she learned things: She’s an alumna of Orange County School of the Arts and UCLA.
    Other cool stuff: She works as an entertainment vocalist at Disneyland (painting maps and hanging with Mulan, in Mickey and the Magical Map) .
    Favorite book as a kid: I had a bunch! Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because MAGIC! Oh, and I loved all the games in the TriWizard tournament! I loved the poetry books by Shel Silverstein, like Falling Up, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. The poems were so whimsical and funny and I LOVED the illustrations.
    Favorite stuffed animal: A yellow teddy bear named Sunshine who I told all my secrets to and who snuggled with me at night. I still have him today!
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: The puppets and characters I get to play with!! The whole world is so creative and colorful because we’re seeing it through the eyes of a mouse—it’s eye candy!

    Morales Carina

    Carina Morales
    Name: Carina Morales (Minden, Ensemble Member) is making her SCR debut.
    Where she learned things: She’s an alumna of UC Irvine.
    Other cool stuff: She has worked in New York and performed as a singer on board Silversea and Seabourn, as well as Holland America cruise ships. She was a friend of Belle in The Golden Mickeys at Hong Kong Disneyland, The Mummy in Monster Rock at Universal Studios Singapore and Lucille in the national tour of Junie B. Jones.
    Favorite book as a kid: A Wrinkle In Time. It's clever, exciting, endlessly entertaining and delivers beautiful messages about embracing individuality—and the ultimate triumph of love.
    Favorite stuffed animal: When I was a child, I had two cats, Princess and Misty. I also had an adorable hamster named Precious. Now I have a little orange cat named Giselle, who loves music and comes running when I sing!
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: This musical lives in two very different, but equally fascinating worlds—Mouse Town on land, and the world of the sea. It's been really fun to get to know the many different characters who come together to tell this story, explore who they are, what they want and what they mean to each other. We have had a lot of fun figuring out how these creatures move (a mouse moves across the stage very differently than a fish, or an ocean wave!). It is always a wonderful, exciting privilege to be part of a new show.

    Pressman Aviva

    Aviva Pressman
    Name: Aviva Pressman (Gretchen, Ensemble Member) is making her SCR debut.
    Other work for young audiences: 5 Little Monkeys and Rudolph the Musical and she is a voice-actor for anime, commercials and toys.
    Other cool stuff: She’s an artistic director at Sacred Fools Theater Company.
    Favorite book as a kid: Shrek, which is by William Steig, the same author as Amos & Boris. I still have most of it memorized. I loved it because it was about being scary and ugly, but loving that about yourself (It’s very different than the Shrek movie). I was a weird kid and I just thought the book was hilarious.
    Favorite stuffed animal: I had a doll named Fester, after the Addams Family. Told you I was a weird kid.
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: Creating this world of crazy characters and seeing the cool puppets we’re going to use. But, I suspect seeing the reactions of the kids will be even better.

    Tsuji Daisuke -2

    Daisuke Tsuji
    Name: Daisuke Tsuji (Carl, Ensemble Member)
    Last time at SCR: Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band (both the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading and the production), and the playwrights festival reading of I Get Restless by Caroline V. McGraw .
    Other places: He’s been in Cirque du Solei’s Dralion; onstage at The Theatre @ Boston Court, Antaeus Theatre Company and Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and in the TV shows “Brockmire” and “The Man in the High Castle.”
    Favorite book as a kid: Guli and Gula. It’s about twin mice brothers who go on many different adventures. I liked it because it made me think of me and my brother.
    Favorite stuffed animal: I had a big bear and lion stuffed animals. They were aptly named Mr. Bear and Mr. Lion. They had a show called “Mr. Bear and Mr. Lion,” which I used to make with my parents’ camcorder.
    Most fun thing about Amos & Boris: All the snacks (cheese!) I get to eat backstage!

    Learn more and buy tickets.

  • Remembering Wendy and "The Sisters Rosensweig"

    Jerry Patch
     | May 17, 2018
    Broadway production of The Sisters Rosensweig

    Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig, starring Madeline Kahn, Jane Alexander, and Frances McDormand, played off​-Broadway in 1992.

    Wendy Wasserstein

    ​Playwright Wendy Wasserstein

    Daniel Sullivan

    Director Daniel Sullivan.

    Off Broadway Title Page

    ​The program title page for the off-Broadway production of The Sisters Rosensweig.

    Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan, a college classmate of SCR Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson and helmer of several SCR productions dating back to 1972, had been the artistic director at Seattle Repertory Theatre for 17 seasons, during which time he and playwright Wendy Wasserstein began a collaboration that endured until her death in 2006.

    The first big success that Daniel Sullivan and Wendy Wasserstein had was The Heidi Chronicles, beginning off-Broadway in New York at Playwrights Horizons and subsequently moving to Broadway. Joan Allen played the title role.

    Wasserstein followed that one with The Sisters Rosensweig. When she had written a short ways into Act II, the play received a reading at Lincoln Center Theater, and then went west for a two-week workshop in Seattle. Sullivan engaged a dream cast for his principals: Jane Alexander as Sara, Madeline Kahn as Gorgeous, Frances McDormand as Pfeni, Robert Klein (the standup comic) as Merv, and Jon Vickery as Geoffrey. Sara seems based on Wendy's corporate pioneer sister, Sandra; Gorgeous on her sister, Georgette; and Pfeni seems sourced in Wendy herself.

    Anne Cattaneo, Wasserstein's former Yale classmate and best pal in the theatre, was her dramaturg.

    "Wendy was perceived as outgoing and jolly, but that was a cover for her social unease," said Catteneo. "Even though she was a frequent and polished guest on talk shows, like Charlie Rose, underneath that savoir-faire she was never quite sure how to 'be.' Her plays was where she spoke her mind and her best writing came out of her own life experiences."

    Sullivan recalled that in Sisters Wasserstein wrote in detail about her family, expressing profound love while also settling some grudges.

    "Wendy often wrote out of hurt, or umbrage, anger. Sometimes it was a way of getting even for her," Sullivan recalled. "As in her life, there's a great sense of 'wanting' in the play."

    Sullivan remembered it had been a long time since Robert Klein had done a play, but he had Merv's essence. "Wendy and Madeline loved him, and he went to school on those three actresses during rehearsals."

    Both Sullivan and Cattaneo recalled with glee how Wasserstein "hit the ceiling" when Fran McDormand entered as Pfeni in earth shoes. " 'Pfeni's elegant! She's a world traveler!' Wendy just couldn't see her in those shoes," Cattaneo said.

    While Wasserstein was interested in finding a shared life, she was never "called" to one.

    "I never saw her really happy with a straight guy," Sullivan said. "She loved the camaraderie she found with gay men."

    Perhaps the men closest to her were Andre Bishop (artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater and executor of her estate), legendary costumer William Ivey Long, the late director Gerald Gutierrez, and former National Theatre of Great Britain Artistic Director Nick Hytner—a theatrical quartet of incredible achievements.

    Sullivan and Wasserstein continued working together on An American Daughter, a play that began as a one-act and expanded into a full-length play. The cast in a two-week Seattle workshop under Sullivan's direction included Julianne Moore, Liev Schreiber, Adam Arkin and Yale classmate Meryl Streep. The story of a "connected" political woman who becomes a major candidate ironically felled by not having served on jury duty, the play today appears almost modeled on Hillary Clinton, even though it predated her political career by years.

    Wasserstein was ill and dying as she, Sullivan and Cattaneo collaborated on her final work, Third. As Wasserstein had tracked feminism through Uncommon Women and Others, Isn't It Romantic and Heidi, she expanded into her own cultural and political background in her final three plays. Third tells of a 50-ish liberal woman professor who (not without cause) accuses a conservative male student of plagiarism, and in the process comes to face her own political and gender biases.

    Wasserstein was the leading American female playwright of her time, and we can be grateful that she left a legacy of works destined for reviving for some years to come. We can also regret having missed the insights that would have come from years she was denied.

    Learn more about SCR's current production of The Sisters Rosensweig.

  • Party Play: "The Sisters Rosensweig"

    Beth Fhaner
     | May 15, 2018

    From the opening scene, Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy The Sisters Rosensweig captured the First Night audience’s attention and never let up, delivering two-plus hours of delightful performances and witty repartee in this captivating look at the quest for love, acceptance and self-fulfillment.

    Along with generous laughter, the First Night audience showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. It was obvious that Wasserstein’s smart, funny dialogue resonated with theatregoers and they greatly enjoyed the performances of the talented cast of eight actors under the direction of Casey Stangl. Led by Amy Aquino, Betsy Brandt and Eleanor Reissa as the three Rosensweig sisters (Sara, Pfeni and Gorgeous), the entire ensemble delivered impressive performances while transporting the audience to London in the early 1990s. The cast also includes Matthew Arkin, Bill Brochtrup, Emily James, Riley Neldam and Julian Stone.

    First Night attendee and Honorary Producer Sandy Segerstrom Daniels found the play to be highly entertaining and was delighted by the camaraderie of the cast. “I thought it was fun and warm-hearted!” she said. “Throughout the entire evening, I felt like I was sitting with them in the living room!”

    “BNY Mellon Wealth Management was honored to be an associate producer of SCR’s production of The Sisters Rosensweig! In our work, we develop a deep appreciation and understanding complex family dynamics. Given that background, we found the production highlights full of so many facets of complex human dynamics including our ability for acceptance and tolerance. We are glad we could play a part in bringing that to life,” said Carla L. Furuno, Regional President.

    Guests who attended the post-show cast party on Ela’s Terrace were welcomed to an inviting scene with décor influenced by the play’s setting—a cozy, comfy sitting room in Queen Anne’s Gate, London, in August 1991. Along with periwinkle blue linens and gold Chiavari chairs, the English garden-inspired flowers—beautiful red roses and an abundance of spring greenery—added to the event’s festive ambiance.

    The Avenue of the Arts Hotel catered the celebratory soiree, and partygoers feasted on an array of delectable appetizers including mini tea sandwiches (egg salad with chives, glazed ham and English mustard, and cucumber with mint and lemon butter), Asian-style crab salad on Belgian endive, and chicken curry puffs. Other menu highlights included classic pork sausage cassoulet and artisan bread with sweet butter, as well as the smoked salmon flatbread with chopped fresh herbs, capers, thinly sliced red onions and crème fraiche.

    The evening’s signature drink was a “Pimm’s Cup,” which was comprised of Pimm’s No. 1 Liqueur, cucumber lemonade and ginger ale—a fitting libation to honor the setting of Sara’s 54th birthday celebration across the pond.

    For an ultra-sweet finish to the evening, guests indulged in a selection of tempting mini pastries such as cheesecake, tarts, brownies, cookies and more, in addition to a gourmet tea service.

    First Night guests were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and mingle with the entire cast as well as with director Casey Stangl. All the while, lively conversation, laughter and accolades continued to swirl around The Sisters Rosensweig, Wasserstein’s enthralling comedy that closes out SCR’s 2017-18 season on the Segerstrom Stage on a lovely note.

    Learn more about The Sisters Rosensweig and buy tickets.