By Allie Davis | Special to the Newport Beach Indy
Almost five months since the pandemic forced live gatherings and performances to come to an abrupt pause, South Coast Repertory has continued to create opportunities to strengthen community engagement and creativity.
While the theater initially launched a variety of online summer acting workshops and virtual arts courses, SCR has since created a multitude of virtual readings, interviews, events, fun challenges, and other activities.
The first of SCR’s upcoming events is a new series titled SCR Community made up of online readings, interviews, and events to engage the community with the power of live theater despite the denied access to in-person performances.
The first of the three part series will kick off on August 17 at 5:30 p.m. with MASA, an online fiesta that will include virtual live readings of four stories that illuminate the historical and cultural importance of masa, a corn flour used to make tortillas, tamales, and many more dishes.
The readings will be directed by Juliette Carrillo and include works from the LatinX playwrights Luis Alfaro, Amilcar Juaregui, Lisa Loomer and Diane Rodriguez. Each story is centered around the lives and cultures within reach of South Coast Repertory. The second of the three-part series will include an interview with a soon-to-be-announced legacy playwright, and the series will conclude with a commissioned radio play written by Juliette Carillo based on the Southern California community.
As far as the remainder of the 2020 season goes, there are already two live virtual readings of productions that were set to go up at SCR with the possibility for more. While many were anticipating the December production of “A Christmas Carol” with SCR Founding Artist Richard Doyle replacing Hal Landon, Jr. as Scrooge, the theatre recently announced the delay of the show until next winter. Full refunds are available for those who may have already purchased tickets.
While the 2020 season may have been cut short, SCR’s Artistic Director David Ivers recently announced that he is optimistic they will be able to resume live performances come the next calendar year. And with plans for the much awaited return to live theater, SCR has also announced ideas for the launch of what may become an all new tradition, Outside SCR. Outside SCR will bring two productions in repertory with each other to go up under the stars. They plan to launch this new tradition in July 2021 where families and friends can gather outside in picturesque locations around Orange County with blankets, food, and wine to once again rejoice in the communal effect of live theater.
While SCR’s 2020 season may be cancelled, the theater’s creative commitment to strengthening community engagement certainly isn’t. SCR has paired with Second Harvest Food Bank to host a food drive where the community can come together to help families who have insufficient access to nutritious foods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of Second Harvest’s buying power, a donation of simply one dollar manifests into three meals for families who are struggling to provide food for their household.
South Coast Rep has also partnered with Mission San Juan Capistrano for their MASA event, and for VIP socially distanced tours of the mission where groups of four to eight people can tour the wine vat, the private Sacristy of the Ruins of the Great Stone Church, touch the historic Mission bells (normally roped off to the public), and conclude the day with a special picnic on the picturesque grounds of the mission. For a limited time only, the mission is offering South Coast Repertory patrons a deal of general admission for four people for only $45.
Amid the special partnered events, food banks, and special virtual series, SCR continues to engage the social community via their social media channels on Instagram and Facebook. To encourage constant involvement with the community, their social channels are constantly active with things such as special challenges, games, fun facts about past productions, and throwback Thursdays with special directors.
A few of the highlights from their social media include Theatre Game Fact or Fiction where people can test their knowledge about SCR playwrights, Storytime Video where they read excerpts from plays, Name that Tune where people can guess Broadway tunes, and Spot the Difference where members can point out differences in photos from past productions.
Another fun and interactive challenge found on their Facebook page is 4 Words where individuals can come together to craft a cohesive story woven together by the continuous four word add-ons contributed in the comments.
While South Coast Repertory continues to work hard to offer the community as much help, opportunities, and special artistic events as they can, they need the community’s support to ensure they can continue to do so.
With most of their revenue provided by ticket sales for live performances, their main source of income has essentially stopped. With a commitment to serve the community with the power of live theater in the future, South Coast Repertory can greatly use the help of the community.
With “The Show Must Go On” campaign, SCR’s Board of Trustees has promised to match funds raised between now and August 31. Along with the new campaign, they also plan to hold their annual fundraising gala online this year on October 15.
As South Coast Repertory continues to support the community, please do the same for them. Raise a glass and offer a theatrical toast to a wonderful rest of the virtual season and an optimistic future for live theater and communal gatherings.
For details on South Coast Repertory’s programs and events, visit www.SCR.org.