Friday, April 24, 2015

Pacific Playwrights Festival 2015: New Play Starter Kit

South Coast Repertory’s annual Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) is a major national showcase for new plays and it's this weekend—April 24-26. The three-day festival attracts theatre professionals and new play lovers from across the nation, who are drawn by the chance to be the first to see some of the best new plays in the country. Here is our PPF New Play Starter Kit—your guide to getting the most out of your PPF weekend.

Get PPF Updates and Join the Conversation
  • Follow SCR on Twitter at @SouthCoastRep for updates throughout the weekend.
  • Connect with us and other PPF attendees, tweet with us using #PPF15.

Go Behind-The-Scenes of PPF
PPF rehearsal photos
  • Follow us on Instagram at @SouthCoastRep for behind-the-scenes photos of the festival.
  • Follow our PPF story on Snapchat at @SouthCoastRep. Get a look at the PPF weekend through the eyes of SCR Communications Associate Nicholas Pilapil (of "Nicholas in the Nicholas" video fame!).

The SCR New Play Map
SCR has presented 137 world premieres—the number continues to climb. Most of those plays have gone on to other productions across the country. Check out the SCR New Play Map in our lobby to see where some of them have gone.

The South Coast Repertory Podcast

Episode One: Why New Plays Matter

Episode Two: Interview with Mr. Wolf Playwright Rajiv Joseph

PPF Playwrights Panel
Sunday, April 26, at 9 a.m., Julie Marie Myatt, SCR’s Mellon Playwright in Residence, will moderate a conversation with a number of the 2015 festival playwrights, including Richard Alger, Bekah Brunstetter, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Itamar Moses, Qui Nguyen and Melissa Ross.

Join us for a conversation about the playwright and the audience in the Julianne Argyros Stage. Do playwrights think of audiences as they write? Are these playwrights wrestling with a burning personal question—or is there a more global question at hand? Who or what were they thinking of when they wrote these plays? Admission is free or you can live stream the panel via HowlRound.

Experience a PPF Play—and Save!
There's no better way to experience PPF than by seeing a new play. Use code "ppf15" to get $15 tickets to the PPF staged readings.
  • Going to a Place where you Already Are by Bekah Brunstetter
    directed by Marc Masterson
    Friday, April 24, at 1 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
    Roberta thinks she’s been to heaven and back. Now what?
  • The Whistleblower by Itamar Moses
    directed by Casey Stangl
    Friday, April 24, at 3:30 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
    Eli tries to rewrite the life he left behind—but the truth could ruin everything.
  • Orange: an illustrated play by Aditi Brennan Kapil
    directed by Jessica Kubzansky
    Saturday, April 25, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
    The fantastic Orange County adventures of an exceptional girl named Leela—as illustrated by herself.
  • Vietgone by Qui Nguyen
    directed by May Adrales
    Sunday, April 26, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
    Qui Nguyen’s personal epic Vietnamese-American hip-hop road-trip buddy-movie rom-com!
Buy tickets

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Mr. Wolf" Dramatically Closes the Season on the Julianne Argyros Stage

After the applause died down on April 17, First Night of Mr. Wolf, everyone walked quietly out to Ela's Terrace, sharing thoughts about the moving psychological drama by Rajiv Joseph.

Carl Neisser, SCR emeritus trustee and member of the Playwrights Circle (the group of underwriters who helped produce the world premiere), summed up his feelings. "When the first act of this marvelous drama was ending, you could hear a pin drop, because we were all on our chair's edge. Mr. Wolf was one of the best plays in the 51 years I have attended SCR."

During the evening, First Nighters and their guests gathered at tables draped with white linen to sup late night fare by Crème de la Crème. White lights, wrapped around trees and twinkling overhead, created an atmosphere reminiscent of the play's celestial sphere. Soon, the actors and other artists joined the party to accept the playgoers' heartfelt praise, which was echoed through the weekend by reviewers.

"Tears at the fabric of deep emotions—and of the universe." — OC Register

"Joseph's script...possesses a multilayered dimensionality which matches the brilliance of the actors." — LA Splash

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Student By Day, Actor By Night

Tessa Auberjonois, Jon Tenney, Emily James and John de Lancie in Mr. Wolf.
Emily James
By day, Emily Ruth James is just like any other college student: working on final projects for the semester, attending classes and getting ready to graduate. She’s on track to earn a bachelor of fine arts in acting from California State University, Fullerton’s acting program. By night (and on weekends), she’s making her professional stage debut in the world premiere of Mr. Wolf by Rajiv Joseph. While there’s a lot going on for James, she’s up for the challenge and excited to be part of the cast for this SCR-commissioned play. We caught up with her as the play was set to open. 

What drew you to acting?
I was drawn to acting as a kid, but it took me until I was 17 to figure out that’s what I wanted to do. I have always had a big imagination and was always creating my own stories and dramatic worlds as a child. Once it clicked—that I could do this for a living—I never considered any other path.

Who would you say is your mentor—and how has that person helped shape your development as an actor?
My acting teacher at Cal State Fullerton, Svetlana Efremova, has made—and continues to make—a huge impression on my acting. She does not let her students get away with any untruthful acting. She pushes us past what we think we are capable of achieving. It's quite amazing actually; I have no idea where I would be without her.

What have you learned about yourself through working on Mr. Wolf?
The most exciting part about this process is working with the amazing actors of this cast. I'm so lucky to share the stage with these professionals. They have taken me under their wing and helped my process immensely. Never once did I feel like the new kid on the block, and that was huge for me in my exploration during rehearsal. From this process, I have learned to build a reverence for this character. Even if I am feeling wiped out from the week or emotionally disconnected, I know I have to “suck it up” and honor Theresa's story.

It has also taught me to trust myself and Rajiv's BRILLIANT script. Once I can let go of expectations and certain pressures, the creativity starts flowing and the real magic happens.

What have you found the most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me is dealing with the realizations of Theresa's mental state. It was very hard to understand at first. Also, it is hard to conceive her naïveté and the fact that everything is new…and scary…and jarring.

What’s next for you once the play closes?
I plan to jump on the acting wave in Los Angeles and continue to do theatre in the area. I don't know what is next, but I'm very excited to find out!

Buy tickets and learn more about Mr. Wolf, on the Julianne Argyros Stage through May 3.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How the Universe of "Mr. Wolf" Was Formed

Emily James and John de Lancie in Mr. Wolf.  Scenic design by Nephelie Andonyadis.

Nephelie Andonyadis previously designed scenery at SCR for The Summer Moon and The BFG (Big Friendly Giant); costumes for Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Saturn Returns, Emilie, The Importance of Being Earnest, Safe in Hell, The Dazzle; and both costumes and scenery for Relatively Speaking and The Stinky Cheese Man. Andonyadis designs frequently with Cornerstone Theater Company where she is an ensemble member. Her recent projects there include scenic designs for Bliss Point, Café Vida, Flor, The Unrequited (Between Two Worlds), Three Truths, Jason in Eureka, Los Illegals; and California: The Tempest; and costume designs for Plumas Negras, Order My Steps and Boda de Luna Nueva. Her scenic and costume designs at other regional theatres include Intersection for the Arts, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Center Theatre Group, Guthrie Lab, Court Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, The Acting Company, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Berkshire Theatre Festival and Yale Repertory Theatre. Andonyadis is a professor in the theatre arts department at the University of Redlands. She is a graduate of Yale University School of Drama and Cornell University School of Architecture, and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group design fellowship.
“…if the universe is infinite, it means there is no end to possibility,” theorizes young Theresa in Rajiv Joseph’s new work, Mr. Wolf. The show runs through May 3 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

The possibilities on stage can be endless, especially when a designer is tasked with creating the “universe” of a play. How does the space of the stage relate to the story, the characters and the themes? What does the world on stage express to the audience?

Scenic designer Nephelie Andonyadis previously designed scenery and costumes for SCR shows as diverse as Charlotte’s Web and The Motherf**ker with the Hat (sets) and Absurd Person Singular and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (costumes). She has a lot of expertise to draw upon and was thrilled with the opportunity to create the universe of Mr. Wolf.

While she grew up around theatre, Andonyadis began her career in scenic design when she studied architecture as an undergraduate at Cornell University. She was fascinated by how humans relate to the spaces around them. Although, as she delved deeper into architecture, she felt something was missing.

Mr. Wolf set rendering by Nephelie Andonyadis
“Architecture felt too far removed, in material and texture, in space and in time, from my own experience as a young artist,” she recalls. “I missed the poetry of language, the presence of the temporal human dimension, and the impact of movement in the spaces I was designing.”

In short, what was missing was the energy that live theatre exuded. Once Adonyadis completed her undergraduate studies, she moved to New York City and apprenticed in theatre, taking on jobs that gave her the opportunity to learn something new.

“I worked as an assistant scenic designer, a draftsperson, painter, milliner, sculptor, stitcher and learned a great deal about the craft of theatre,” she says. “Then, I went back to school to earn my MFA in design from the Yale School of Drama.”

Happy in her return to theatre, she continued her work in New York. Eventually, she found her way to Southern California where she continues to find inspiration in her designs.

And how does she draw out that inspiration? When tackling the world premiere of Mr. Wolf—and any play she works on—she looks to the language first. The words on every page serve as her creative muse as she begins her design work.

“I look for the patterns that the playwright has embedded in the text in my effort to tease out its structure and discover its physical form,” she explains. “I love tightly structured dialogue and long pauses filled with tension. I am inspired to create spaces in which the action can unfold and the poetry can sing.”

Mr. Wolf set rendering by Nephelie Andonyadis
She met with Founding Artistic Director David Emmes, who is directing Mr. Wolf, and incorporated his feedback. He had a very specific vision that went beyond the needs of multiple locations called for in the script. As Andonyadis recalls, “He had a strong impulse to see the action against an expanse of space. Given the themes of inquiry, infinite love, faith and hope, we explored this sense of space in terms of the deep space of the universe.”

This sense of physical space, in relation to the universe, also is explored on a more human level. As Andonyadis analyzed the themes behind Mr. Wolf, she found an interesting connection between the heart and universe. To her, the play examines the dimensions of the human heart through the idea of deep space, infinity and alternate universes. Taking all this into account, she hopes her work suggests “the interconnectedness of both the expanse of deep space and the deep feelings of the heart” through her design.

As the production approaches its opening night, she’ll continue to fine tune and adjust the design to help reinforce her concepts. During this critical time, she keeps a philosophy in mind.

“I believe that the design must serve the play, this play, here and now. That means that each production and each design is specific to its time and place, to its community of artist-makers and to its audience, to its creators and to our aspirations.”

Learn more and buy tickets.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How It All Comes Together

The third time’s a charm for Theatre Movement Bazaar (TMB) as they return to South Coast Repertory with BIG SHOT: a.k.a this is not The Godfather to kick off the 2015 Studio SCR season.

Theatre Movement Bazaar's Track 3
TMB previously presented Track 3 (2013) and Anton’s Uncle’s (2012) in Studio SCR and—like their Like their previous shows—BIG SHOT takes inspiration from another source—The Godfather films. So, how does TMB turn their inspiration into a full-fledged play? According to TMB co-founder Richard Alger, it all starts with text.

“We typically begin with a source material that interests us,” he says. “It may be a myth, a play or a novel. We then deconstruct this source, looking for threads and themes that interest us and then reconstruct this material into a text and songs, prepared and infused with many unwritten ideas.”

Sometimes text leads the action, Alger relates. Other times it is created to support or augment movement. The movement score is as important as the text.  This movement score is created during the rigorous physical exploration of rehearsal with the director and the actors.

This kind of approach to theatre is what TMB is known for—creating shows that are collage-like with a structure that is more musical than narrative. TMB founders Tina Kronis and Alger created BIG SHOT, which merges their collage-like structure with a more traditional story driven narrative.
“We bill it as a ‘vaudevillian collage,’” he explains. “We have freed our structure to be built rhythmically, referring obliquely to vaudeville acts, while at the same time allowing The Godfather’s narrative to inspire and echo throughout the piece. We are trying to create a space for something new to emerge, inspired by the original but injected with our sensibilities, interests, and themes that may only be touched on in the original.”

In BIG SHOT, the American gangster genre is flipped and told through a vaudevillian style with theatrics, dynamic movement, song and dance, exploring themes of family and crime.

“It is an homage to [The Godfather] and the people who came together to make it.”

BIG SHOT is a new work still in development that was originally workshopped in 2014. The play makes its world premiere at SCR—in Studio SCR and the 2015 Pacific Playwrights Festival. Alger, along with co-creator Kronis and the cast are currently in rehearsals and continue to develop the play.

“The production that is developing is very funny, provocative, energetic and surprising,” says Alger. “It utilizes the many talents of our performers and challenges them to find fresh and unexpected approaches to theatricality.”

About Theatre Movement Bazaar
Theatre Movement Bazaar is a company dedicated to creating original performance works with an emphasis on physical action. The company merges elements of dance, text, cinema, and media from diverse sources into a complex performance. It investigate these elements, modifying or neutralizing them, de-contextualizing them from their sources. Liberated from their contexts, TMB’s elements are free to be structured in new and surprising ways, creating a connotative network of echoed and reverberant meanings. In this multifarious approach, the company strives to reinvigorate theatre for a contemporary audience.

TMB began in New York City as collaboration between choreographer/director/performer Tina Kronis, and mechanical engineer/writer, Richard Alger. In 1999, the company relocated its base to Los Angeles, and has produced original works, garnering critical attention and presenting its work across the United States and in the U.K.
Learn more and buy tickets.