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'Studio SCR' series includes O.C.'s leading theater outsider

December 7, 2011 |  7:02 am

Orange County’s leading outsider stage director, Dave Barton, will work inside the county’s theatrical Big House –- South Coast Repertory -– for the first time in spring as part of SCR’s second annual Studio SCR series spotlighting off-center artists and companies in the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.

Barton’s Fullerton-based Monkey Wrench Collective will revive his staging of “pool (no water)” by the edgy British playwright Mark Ravenhill, one of a series of often-confrontational English and American writers who’ve found a regular outlet in Orange County during Barton’s 15-year run as leader of Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, then Monkey Wrench. 

Studio SCR, with seven productions from January to June, will feature other artists known for experimental work, including plays previously staged at REDCAT, the RADAR LA festival, and Fringe Fests in Hollywood and Edinburgh, Scotland.

The schedule:

“The Word Begins” (Jan. 19-21), which is also part of the Segerstrom Center’s recently announced Off-Center Festival, features spoken-word/hip-hop writer-performers Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews, directed by Robert Egan, the former Center Theatre Group new-play specialist who’s artistic director and producer of the annual Ojai Playwrights Conference.

“Four Clowns” (Feb. 17-19), a troupe of archetypal clown performers working with writer-director Jeremy Aluma and featuring audience interaction.

“SCRamble” (Feb. 18), a late-show revue comprised of 10-minute vignettes by an assortment of alternative theater, comedy, dance and musical artists.

“The Internationalists” (March 2-4), a show about the 1950s and 1960s space race by L.A.’s experimental Poor Dog Group .

“pool (no water)” (May 4-6), Monkey Wrench Collective’s production of Mark Ravenhill’s drama about a famous artist whose jealous friends turn the aftermath of his crippling accidental dive into a waterless pool into an art project of their own. 

“Anton’s Uncles” (June 8-10), an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” by L.A.’s Theatre Movement Bazaar.

“Cattywampus” (June 22-24), Robert Cucuzza and Transit Authority’s darkly comic reworking, set in contemporary Pittsburgh, of August Strindberg’s sexual politics/class warfare tragedy, “Miss Julie.”

  Barton, who over the years has sometimes complained that South Coast Repertory tended to play it too safe, said he’s “ecstatic” at the chance to work there, adding that when he first talked with new artistic director Marc Masterson and realized he was familiar with some of the hard-edged contemporary playwrights Barton has showcased, “it made me very emotional.”

The booking comes just as Monkey Wrench Collective bids adieu to Orange County. Barton said it will close its Fullerton theater after “Theatre Uncut,” the U.S. premiere of eight short plays by British writers, including Ravenhill, ends its run Dec. 18. The cost and psychic wear and tear of running and programming a venue have gotten to be too much, Barton said, and from now on he and producing partner Bryan Jennings will concentrate on mounting rental-engagement productions in L.A. theaters –- starting with the current transfer of Monkey Wrench’s U.S. premiere of Sam Holcroft’s “Cockroach,” which runs through Dec. 18 at the Hudson Guild Theatre.

Barton said that he has almost completed “Snuff,” a feature film about a man left reeling after his partner dies of AIDS. He financed it with Jennings and Dawn Hess, who co-founded the Rude Guerrilla company with Barton in the late 1990s.


Honesty that isn't for the squeamish

Marc Masterson brings new possibilities as SCR leader

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

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Dave Barton in 2000 outside the Rude Guerrilla Theater in Santa Ana. Credit: Los Angeles Times