Friday, January 15, 2010

To Orange County: A Minor Apologia

In my last post, I did something I frequently finding myself doing: ragging on Orange County, California. It is not a place I particularly like, although it is my home. The arts scene is rather small. But one thing it does have is South Coast Repertory.

Now, South Coast Repertory is, as Repertory theaters go, actually a fairly good one. It has originated a few Broadway plays in its time, it does fairly good productions of quality plays, etc. But every failing you'd like to accuse Repertory companies of, you can basically accuse SCR of.

When I worked with the Stage Managers there, briefly, they all swapped car notes because they all drove 1984 Volvo Station Wagons. I am not kidding. There were four 1984 Volvo Station Wagon owners, and all of them were fretting that their Volvos would not make the next emissions test and they had no idea if they could afford the fees or afford a new car. The actors almost all commuted from Los Angeles, and one of the actors made his primary income doing English voiceovers of Anime imports.

However, whereas SCR normally either commissions plays from prominent playwrights who've found success in New York, or they're doing standards, I do have to applaud them for this:

“South Coast Repertory is pleased to host this remounting of the Chance Theater’s acclaimed production of Jesus Hates Me,” said Associate Artistic Director John Glore. “This partnership is born of an idea that began to take shape among the members of SCR’s artistic staff almost two years ago, out of a desire to make greater use of the company’s Nicholas Studio (SCR’s former Second Stage), to create stronger ties with other performing arts organizations in Orange County and to offer alternative programming that might attract new theatergoers to both organizations. In presenting this Chance Theater production, SCR has an opportunity to try out an idea which, if successful, may well lead to further collaborations of this kind in the future.”

The Chance Theater’s Artistic Director Oanh Nguyen will again direct Jesus Hates Me, which will feature the same cast that appeared in the 2009 production. Chance Dean plays Ethan, Timothy Covington is Trane, Karen Webster is Annie, Jennifer Ruckman is Lizzy, Dimas Diaz is Boone and Ben Green is Georgie.
Now, the play itself, written by Wayne Lemon, is not indigenous to Orange County. It had its premiere in Colorado (according to his website -- it took me a bit to figure out which of the "premieres" was the first one).

But this is the first time in my personal experience or memory that South Coast Repertory has promoted the work of or partnered with another local theater company -- largely because the Chance Theater (only a decade old, billing itself as "Your Off-Broadway Theater in Orange County") is the only non-SCR theater company that I know of in the Orange County area (I may be wrong, there might be one or two others).

I hope that SCR does more of this. The Chance charges lower prices, has more experimental work--it takes more chances. So I hope that when they hit gold, they get some more transfers to SCR, and that money and respect flows back to the Chance. Maybe one day local people will get interested in the arts and find outlets for self-expression, a community to join...