South Coast Repertory to host smaller theater, dance companies in Studio Series
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).
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.
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: South Coast Repertory, Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times; Chance Theater artistic director Oanh Nguyen, Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times.