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Regional Theatre Of The Week: South Coast Repertory Theatre in Orange County, CA

By: David Green, the largest theatre site on the Internet, is excited to announce a new feature to its comprehensive regional coverage - the Featured Regional Theater of the Week! Each week, BWW will introduce its readers to a regional theater located in one of our (over 130!) coverage cities. By exploring these different venues, their history and showcasing the production seasons, BWW continues its commitment to expand our presence in communities and cities across the United States.

This Week's Featured Regional Theater: South Coast Repertory Theatre in Orange County, CA.

South Coast Repertory was founded 49 years ago in Orange County with the belief that theatre is an art form with a unique power to illuminate the human experience, the commitment to advance the art of theatre in the service of their community, and the aim to extend that service through educational, intercultural, and outreach programs that harmonize with their artistic mission. Over the past five decades they have become one of the most celebrated and honored regional theatre companies in America. Their string of awards include 83 Distinguished Achievement Awards from The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (including a Special Award for Continued Excellence on their 30th Anniversary in 1994), 470 Drama-Logue Awards, 19 BackStage West Garland Awards, 29 OC Weekly Awards, a 1995 Theatre LA Lifetime Achievement Award for Founders David Emmes and Martin Benson, and The 1998 Tony Award for Distinguished Achievement by a Regional Theatre.

In 1964, "South Coast Repertory" was a band of untested former theatre students launching an artistic odyssey on little more than raw talent and enthusiasm. Led by David Emmes and Martin Benson, they had emerged from college into the crossfire of a revolution in American theatre. Young theatre artists were out to break Broadway's hold over America's stages by founding independent professional theatres. They called theirs a "resident theatre movement," and by the early 1960s it was taking root in cities across America.

For years, everyone involved maintained full-time day jobs and worked nights and weekends without pay at SCR. They designed and built their scenery, sold the tickets, ushered, and — of course — acted. Among the first Acting Company members were Don Took, Martha McFarland and Art Koustik, joined over the next seasons by Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr. and Ron Boussom. These six became the theatre's Founding Artists.

Within two years, artistic and financial momentum had picked up and SCR converted a  5,000-square-foot Sprouse-Reitz Variety Store in Costa Mesa into a 217 seat theatre, moving from a local group to a regional force, maturing both artistically and organizationally. The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) gave SCR its first award in 1970 for "consistent achievement in production." In 1976, SCR joined the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and was able to contract members of Actors' Equity, the union of professional stage actors and stage managers.

Emmes and Benson formed a new board of community leaders to address the realities of funding, designing and building Orange County's first resident theatre facility. A gift of land on which the theatre would be built was made by the Segerstrom family. By 1979 the large rehearsal hall had been converted into the 161-seat Second Stage. South Coast Repertory had reached its long-sought goal: a two-theatre complex, owned and operated by the company itself.

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