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South Coast Repertory to host smaller theater, dance companies in Studio Series

January 27, 2011 |  4:02 pm

SouthCoastRepBartletti A  symbiotic spirit continues to spread on the Southern California arts scene, with South Coast Repertory’s announcement on Thursday that it’s hosting a series of engagements by smaller Orange County performance companies as the latest example of desperate times calling for collaborative measures.

The Studio Series will bring productions by five other theater troupes and dance companies, plus one solo performer, to the 94-seat Nicholas Studio from March 4 to June 19. South Coast will chime in with a production of its own, a staging of “Between Us Chickens,” a play by Sofia Alvarez that SCR previously presented as a reading at last year's Pacific Playwrights Festival.

The aim, John Glore, SCR’s associate artistic director, said in a release announcing the Studio Series, is to acquaint the Costa Mesa theater’s sizeable and well-established audience –- 133,000 ticket buyers in 2009-10 -- with other groups, while also introducing the host theater to newcomers who are fans of the smaller companies.

The productions are “Against Oblivion,” three one-man, one-act musicals by the hip-hop influenced poet and performer Steven Connell, with a backing trio of musicians (March 4-6); “Ganga…life as a river,” in which Arpana Dance Company explores five centuries of dance from India (March 11-13); “Between Us Chickens” (March 25-April 3); “Variete Risque,” a revue from the Orange County Underground Burlesque Society, whose regular base is the Hunger Artists Theater in Fullerton  (May 5-8); “Angel of the Desert,” a magical-realist play about the aftermath of a civil war in Mexico by Janine Salinas, staged by Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble (May 13-15); “Backhausdance: Re-imagined,” four modern dance pieces, one of them a world premiere, choreographed by company leader Jennifer Backhaus (June 10-12); and “D is for Dog” by Rogue Artists Ensemble, featuring the company’s trademark blend of live acting, dance and puppetry in a script inspired by 1950s TV sitcoms (June 17-19).

The series is one in a number of recent arts initiatives that honor a spirit of togetherness: Los Angeles Opera organizing the Ring Festival around its 2010 production of Wagner’s “Der Ring Des Nibelungen”; the upcoming “Pacific Standard Time” array of art exhibitions organized by the Getty Museum; the Geffen Playhouse turning in 2009 to “Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara,” an acclaimed product of L.A.’s small-theater scene, when a cash shortage threatened to darken its second stage; Center Theatre Group’s embrace of co-productions with smaller companies, especially at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; the Getty's Villa Theater Lab series, focused on L.A. companies' reworkings of ancient classics (next up, Feb. 4-5, is "Satyr Atlas" by Poor Dog Group; and bids by the previously more or less self-contained  Laguna Playhouse and Pasadena Playhouse to transform themselves into all-purpose performing arts centers anchored by the host theater company.

OanhNguyenRobertLachman Oanh Nguyen, who is overseeing SCR’s Studio Series, knows the collaborative drill as well as anybody on the area arts scene. Currently a producing associate at South Coast under an 18-month mentorship program funded by Theatre Communications Group to foster a new generation of leaders on the nonprofit theater scene, Nguyen has led the storefront Chance Theater in Anaheim since its founding in 1998.

In 2003, he shepherded the Chance’s first collaboration with a major player when its world premiere production of Antony Penrose’s biographical drama about his mother, “Lee Miller: the Angel and the Fiend,” premiered at the Getty Museum in conjunction with its “Surrealist Muse” exhibition on Miller’s photography and her role as a famous beauty who captivated and inspired the likes of Man Ray and Pablo Picasso. Last year, the Chance revived its 2009 production of Wayne Lemon’s play, “Jesus Hates Me,” at the Nicholas Studio, and from that has arisen SCR’s Studio Series. Meanwhile, the Chance’s revival of “The Who’s Tommy” will open across the plaza from SCR on Feb. 10 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Founders Hall, part of the big venue’s Off Center series.


RogueArtists2008KenHively Chance Theater's 'The Who's Tommy' to transfer to OCPAC

Pacific Standard Time expands

Ring Festival passes event baton' to Getty for 'Pacific Standard Time'

Laguna Playhouse to give up set-building workshop to shave annual expenses

Intimate Opera in residence at Pasadena Playhouse

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: South Coast Repertory, Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times; Chance Theater artistic director Oanh Nguyen, Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times.