Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hot Off the Press—Gala Entertainment Update

Tracy Kirwan and Sarah McElroy
SCR Associate Artistic Director John Glore and Gala Executive Chair Sally J. Anderson
Audrey Greenfield and Barbara Cline
Cuisine, Decor & Entertainment and Hospitality Committee member Jane Taylor shows off a dinner napkin.
There’ll be music galore during SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala at The Westin South Coast Plaza on Sept. 10. Here’s the scoop from the Gala Committee’s June luncheon meeting.
  • A lively ensemble … to provide the beat for the Galleria reception.
  • A big band … to entice guests into the ballroom.
  • A hip DJ … to select dinner tracks
Later, the band will be back—for dancing the evening away. And for those who linger into the wee hours, the DJ won’t leave until the last note has sounded.

Musical names are still under wraps, but the Gala Committee is ready to announce the big entertainment news—SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala headliner will be Nicole Parker, “MADtv” and Wicked star (and SCR Theatre Conservatory grad).

She’ll sing, of course, do a little standup, as is her wont, and reminisce about the years at South Coast Repertory, where she got her start as a member of the Young Conservatory Players.

“I believe my entire childhood was shaped by SCR,” Parker says, “starting with classes when I was seven years old until my last show at age 12. Those were truly formative years.” And they are years filled with fascinating memories that Parker will share when she headlines the SCR Gala.

Meanwhile, SCR Associate Artistic Director John Glore joined the Gala luncheon to fill everyone in on Nicole’s career and share some memories of his own. They include the first time he saw her in rehearsal for Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places, which Glore wrote for the Young Conservatory’s 10th anniversary.

“I had limited expectations for a nine-year-old actress, especially one who hadn’t even completed SCR’s Young Conservatory training, so I was astonished when Nicole took on the lead role in my play," Glore relates. "She was like this pint-sized professional, entirely natural on-stage while also projecting a huge personality and heart in the role. What a gift she was to me in my first venture as a playwright, and again in the follow-up a year later. I certainly wasn’t surprised when she went on to stardom on television and on Broadway.”

Learn all about Parker here.


From Kimberly Kay to Elphaba to Fanny Brice—Nicole Parker Comes Home to SCR as Gala Headliner

Parker gets a lift in Wind of a Thousand Tales
Nicole Parker, who will headline SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala on Sept. 10, was nine years old when she wowed audiences as Kimberly Kay in the Young Conservatory Players production of Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places. She was a dynamo then, and she hasn’t stopped for a minute. That talent, energy and pizzazz is what made Parker a hit on the wildly popular "MADtv," where she was a regular and contributing writer for six years.

More recently, she won the coveted Ovation Award for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at 3-D Theatricals and portrayed Bea in Rolin Jones’ These Paper Bullets! at Atlantic Theater Company off-Broadway and L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse.

If you traveled to New York City during the Wicked phenomenon, you may have seen her as Elphaba in that hit musical, but if you didn’t catch her then, she repeated the role in Wicked’s first national tour.

But let’s go back to where it all began, during her first year of training, at the Young Conservatory recital. According to Parker, “That’s when I decided I wanted to do this for a living. The moment happened when I sang a song as the comic character Little Lulu. I remember hearing the audience laughing and thinking, ‘Oh, I definitely want this for the rest of my life. Done.’”

In the late ’80s, Parker was on every stage at SCR, playing Belinda Cratchit in A Christmas Carol; a Russian boy scout (!) in Highest Standard of Living; and Reverend Parris’ daughter, Betty, in The Crucible.

“That play really was life changing,” Parker says. “Even though I was only in the first scene (and spent most of it in bed, because supposedly Betty has been ‘touched’), the scene was long, and it was amazing to listen to those incredible actors every night. At only 10 years old, I was aware of The Crucible’s success. It felt special, and it was crucial for me to witness what it was to be a professional working actor.”

After her scene, Parker could have gone home, but she stayed every night, sitting in a little chair near the tech booth to watch the courtroom scene.

In Wind of a Thousand Tales—Folk Tales From Far-Away Places, Parker had more than one scene; in fact, as Kimberly Kay, she was in all of them. SCR Literary Manager John Glore (now associate artistic director) wrote the play—his first—and isn’t paltry with his praise, saying, “The first time I saw Nicole onstage, I knew she was going to be a star.”

That sentiment was recently echoed by Kris Hagen, who served for many years as SCR’s Conservatory manager. Hagen played Gramma in Wind of a Thousand Tales and remembers the first day of rehearsal—for good reason. “Nicole came to rehearsal knowing all of her lines,” Hagen says. “And the lines of all the other characters! She wasn’t being boastful, just natural, as if that’s what everyone did. She was a little girl with a big voice and a charming personality. And, yes, she exuded energy!”

In those days, newspapers reviewed all the shows, even those “for kids, by kids,” as the Players deemed their productions. Los Angeles Times critic Lynne Heffley gave Wind of a Thousand Tales a rave review and called Parker “irresistible.”

Years later, StageSceneLA called her performance in Funny Girl, “Dazzling…(She’s) a comedienne who can sing, dance and act every bit as spectacularly as she can make you laugh.”

Her next stop? (Well, maybe not the next stop; she’ll no doubt be onstage or on TV between now and then.) But count on her appearance Sept. 10 at SCR’s “Stagestruck!” Gala. She’ll sing, for sure. And maybe she’ll also talk about how she got her start—here at SCR.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Special Guests at Summer Acting Workshop

Sara Guerrero, one of the Summer Acting Workshops daily instructors, leads students in movement exercises.
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Want to give your kids something fun to do this summer? Looking for arts camp options at family-friendly prices?  SCR’s Summer Acting Workshop is a theatre camp for young people, primarily those who are new to SCR’s Conservatory. We work with many experience levels and age groups, from 8-18, grades 3-12. The purpose of the camp is to learn the process of making theatre in a challenging and fun environment. Students work on acting tools—voice, body, imagination—to improve their individual creativity, confidence, and ability to work and communicate effectively with others.

Instructor Diana Burbano works with a student
on musical theatre.
Each day of the 10-day session starts with a quick camp-wide warm up to promote energy and focus.  Then, for two hours, students break into peer groups (grades 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12) of no more than 18 students for interactive instruction in voice, movement, character development and more, led by SCR’s veteran staff of theatre professionals. The final hour is spent with special guests who bring to life various aspects of theatre, like improvisation, combat, singing and playwriting—something different every day.  Finally, at the end of the two weeks, there is an open classroom presentation of what’s been learned.

Here's a look at the special guests who will visit visit the class throughout the week. All these experienced teaching artists have links to SCR, both past and present. Here’s a little bit about them, what they’ll be teaching, and how they’re connected to SCR:

  • Playwriting will be taught by award-winning playwright Kristina Leach, who worked at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. SCR Connection: Kristina was formerly on SCR’s literary staff and is current Conservatory faculty member.

  • Putting it Together (the process of putting together a show: casting, theatrical design, rehearsal, performance) will be taught by Patrick Williams. SCR Connection: Patrick was once a stage management intern here at SCR.

  • Mask & Physical Acting will be taught by Emily Heebner, who received her MFA from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and has acted in many national tours and regional theatres.  SCR connections: Heebner has performed in The Diviners and is an Adult Conservatory faculty memeber.

  • Improvisation will be taught by two familiar SCR faculty members. Chris Sullivan is one of the founding artists of the Modjeska Playhouse, as well as a trained clown, competitive improviser and ship captain (who appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean, thanks to his skills). Amy-Louise Sebelius received her MFA from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and currently teaches at Lakewood High School, while staying active as a director and performer in Long Beach. SCR Connections: Sullivan is a graduate of SCR’s Acting Intensive Program, and Sebelius regularly teaches in the Conservatory.

  • Musical Theatre will be taught by SCR regulars Tom Shelton and Diana Burbano. SCR Connection: Both Tom and Diana have regularly graced SCR’s stages: Burbano in Theatre for Young Audiences productions, and Shelton in more than 15 productions.

  • Instructor Richard Soto works with a student on stage combat.
  • Stage Combat will be taught by Richard Soto, an actor, producer, writer, stunt performer and stage manager.  SCR Connection: Soto spent 11 seasons at SCR as Young Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol!

  • Movement will be taught by Mercy Vasquez, who received her dramatic training at UCLA, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and King’s College in London. For several years, she served as the program director for Voices Unheard at Greenway Arts Alliance in LA. SCR Connection: Vasquez is the Junior Players director (she recently directed The Witches), an actor in previous SCR productions (Our Town), and a graduate of the Acting Intensive Program.

  • Mime will be taught by Deborah Marley, who has experience teaching dance and movement all over the country, including at Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and at Vanguard University. SCR Connection: She started in SCR’s Conservatory classes when she was 8 years old and went all the way through until she graduated at 16! 

Sound like fun? Make sure your kids don’t miss out. There are four sessions this summer: July 30 - August 11 and August 13 - August 25, each with a morning and afternoon option. Enroll online now or call (714) 708-5577 to enroll now!

Friday, May 20, 2016

SCR Artisans: Building a Little Structure

South Coast Repertory's Cutter/Drapper, Catherine Esera

Amadeus rendering by costume designer Alex Jaeger
When a costume designer meets with the show's director, they talk about the concept, look and needs for the production. When the final costume designs are turned in and approved, renderings are made and sent to South Coast Repertory's Costume Shop.And then, the next phase of building costumes happens.

So, how does an illustration go from page to fully realized and functional costume on stage? Catherine J. Esera, South Coast Repertory's cutter/draper, is a part of the team that makes it all happen. Esera first joined SCR as an overhire for the Costume Shop in 2003. Eventually, she was hired full-time as the cutter/draper in 2009.

"When I explain to people about what I do, my first step is to correct them: I am not a costume designer," explains Esera. "Then I tell them that once the designer draws the costume renderings and selects the fabrics, I am given those, along with the actors' measurements, and am told, 'Make it happen!'"

Marco Barricelli with Camille Thornton-Alson in a different pannier.
Over seven seasons, Esera has worked with numerous designers, crafted clothing spanning multiple eras and even built costumes that transformed actors into bugs and animals. A few shows have stood out over the years for her.

"In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play was a huge costume show and my first big build on staff," says Esera. "Pride and Prejudice was fun to work on because of the huge fan base behind that title and because Paloma Young's designs were beautiful! Most of our Theatre for Young Audiences shows are a blast to work on. They're fast builds, but to pull off the fantastical with such unique materials is very challenging and fun."

For Amadeus, structure rules the designs, because many characters wear corsets, bum rolls and panniers. Esera was tasked with creating a pannier hoop skirt, which is a structure worn underneath women's skirts during late 18th century to create the overall shape and silhouette popular during that time. The pannier hoop is distinctive for its oval shape, rather than being formed in a circle.

Esera takes us inside her process with a step-by-step guide to building a pannier hoop.

Step 4
Step 1
"It's important to use several different sources for period research. I use  research as a guideline, rather than a law book. Since modern bodies are shaped differently than those of the past eras, putting all of the period seams in all the same spots just won't work. I also have to consider all the actor's physical needs, quick changes and maintenance for the performers' costumes. One of my sources was a book in our Costume Shop about Colonial Williamsburg clothing, which had photos and a pattern for a pannier hoop skirt. I read the description many times and scrutinized each photo. Then, I looked in other books and online for more photos and paintings of the same type of structure."

Step 2
"I scaled up the pattern from the book. Then, I took the "original" pattern and made it the proper size for the actor. I also made a few changes so it would be more theatre friendly—alteration points, added length, etc. I can never make anything just the way the books show. There's always some hot-rodding to be done!"

Step 5
Step 7
Step 8
Step 3
"I washed, dried and pressed the natural linen that was chosen for our piece. I cut out all but the yoke from the linen. Since the yoke had the most changes, I cut those pieces out of muslin to make it easier for any possible adjustments during the first fitting."

Step 4
"Then, I sewed the cut fabric together, including the padded side openings and the drawstring waist."

Step 5
"Amy Hutto, our Costume Shop manager, and I bought lengths of natural round reed at a local reed and cane store. To make the frame to shape, I traced out my shapes from the scaled/graded pattern onto a piece of plywood and hammered nails into the plywood at about 1" apart. There are four hoops in the skirt: one small, two medium and one large."

Step 6
"One at a time—because I've never done this before—I soaked each reed for a minimum of three hours using a rain gutter that I borrowed from our Scene Shop."

Step 7
"I removed the reeds from the water and slowly bent it around the frame of the nails. The top hoop was the most difficult because it was the smallest and had compound curves."

Step 8
"I let the reeds dry on the frame for several days each."

Step 9
Step 11
"To join the ends of the reeds together, I had to come up with my own method. According to my research, the original period method would have not been suitable for our needs. I used lengths of bamboo that had the appropriate size hollow that would fit around the reed. Too small wouldn't fit, but too big would not be secure enough and would potentially be dangerous for the actor. Since the bamboo was a bit brittle once the reed ends were inserted, I wrapped each piece with gaff tape to help stabilize it."

Step 10
"I threaded the reeds into the linen skirt to build the structure."

Step 11
"Finally, we fit the whole piece on the actor, made the necessary changes to the yoke, cut the modified yoke pieces out of the linen, sewed them onto the skirt and voila! Pannier hoop skirt complete with reed hoops!"

Learn more and get your tickets to Amadeus.

A Very “Punny” Play: "The Light Princess"

Joel Gelman, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper and Emily Eiden in The Light Princess.
The title of The Light Princess contains a pun, a humorous play on words in which a single word has multiple meanings at once. In this example, “light” refers to both a lack of gravity (physical) and a lack of seriousness (emotional).

Here are a few other examples of puns. In each example, circle the word that is the pun. (In the first question, this word has been bolded for you.) This word has two meanings, one in each column of answers. In the blanks next to the questions, write the letters that correspond with both definitions of the circled word.
  1. What did the road say to the bridge? You make me cross. ____f____, ________
  2. Pencils could be made with erasers at both ends, but what would be the point? ________, ________
  3. The tale of the haunted refrigerator was chilling. ________, ________
  4. A giraffe is the highest form of animal life. ________, ________
  5. A man rushed into the doctor’s office and shouted, “Doctor! Doctor! I think I’m shrinking!” The doctor calmly responded, “Now, settle down. You’ll just have to be a little patient.” ________, ________ (Note: there are actually two words in this sentence that are puns—“little” can mean both small and a bit. Look for the meanings of the other pun in the sentence.)
  6. I was struggling to figure out how lightning works then it struck me. ________, ________
  7. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West and announces: “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw. “ ________, ________
  8. I saw a sign that said falling rocks, so I tried and it doesn’t. ________, ________
  9. Q: What travels faster, hot or cold? A: Hot, because you can always catch cold. ________, _________
Answers: Column 1
a. frightening, scary
b. to hit, to collide
c. willing to wait
d. a mild illness characterized by a runny nose and sore throat
e. tallest
f. to pass from one side of something to the other
g. to be exciting or awesome
h. the purpose or reason for something
i. an animal’s foot
Answers: Column 2
j. father
k. to occur to someone, to spring to mind
l. the tip or sharp end of something
m. cold, freezing
n. a lack of heat
o. most developed or complex
p. stones
q. a person receiving medical treatment
r. angry or irritated
Where do fairy tales come from? Find out in this BBC Culture article.

Answers: 1. Cross (f, r); 2. Point (h, l); 3. Chilling (a, m); 4. Highest (e, o); 5. Patient (c, q); 6. Struck (b, k); 7. Paw (i, j); 8. Rocks (g, p); 9. Cold (d, n)