SCR's Teen Players Set To Present Charles Dickens' HARD TIMES 5/23-5/24 & 5/29-5/31

South Coast Repertory’s Teen Players will present Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, adapted by Stephen Jeffreys, directed by Hisa Takakuwa in the Nicholas Studio May 23-24 and 29-31.

Hard Times was first produced to great acclaim during SCR’s 1988-89 Season.  Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa has condensed the original script to 90 minutes for her cast, but it remains a challenging piece for young actors.

“Dickens wrote Hard Times as a novel of social protest, and the Jeffreys adaptation was meant for professional adult actors,” Takakuwa said.  “But our Teen Players have proven their mettle in past seasons, and I chose this play because I’m confident of their commitment—and their talent.”  Last season, the Teen Players presented a stage version of the Ovid poem, Metamorphoses.  The original adaptation had played to great acclaim on Broadway, and their version was very well received by children and adults alike. 

Takakuwa had another reason for choosing this play.  “Actors in the Teen Players have studied with us for several years and have reached this ensemble group through talent, hard work and dedication.  Along the way, most of them auditioned for and were cast in SCR’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Before they graduate from high school and from our program, I wanted them to have the experience of working in another Dickens play as a cap to their training.”

The Teen Players (grades 9-12) are the oldest of two ensemble groups — acting students who have been chosen through audition after at least two years in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory.  They attend classes twice weekly during the school year with additional rehearsal time prior to their annual performance.

Hard Times is set in the aptly-named Coketown, England’s industrial heartland.    Among its villains, Gradgrind employs misguided ideas about education that lead to many woes for himself and his family.  His villainous equal, Bounderby, is a bombastic merchant who believes he’s right simply because he’s rich.  Both learn their lessons and find that there is a wisdom of the heart as well as the head.

The lisping circus owner, Sleary, espouses Dickens’ motto, declaring, “Make the betht of uth, not the wurtht.”  Sleary also suggests, “People must be amuthed.”  The talented young Players will inform as well as amuse the audience in this production in which the 15 Teen Players portray numerous characters.

The Teen Players are: Chase Anderson-Shaw (Josiah Bounderby), Brianna Beach (Louisa Gradgrind 3), Ellis Beardsley (Emma Gordon, Mrs Blackpool, Slackbridge, Station Master, Rescuer), Jordan Bellow (James Harthouse), Lauren Gardner (Mrs Gradgrind, Mrs Pegler), Valentina Gehley (Sleary, Chairwoman, Hauler), Courtney Kato (Sissy Jupe), Becky King (Mrs Sparsit), Julia Ostmann (Louisa Gradgrind 1), Steve Quinn (Stephen Blackpool), Julian Sharifi (Mr. Gradgrind), Akshay Sharma (Tom Gradgrind), Lauren Speakman (Bitzer, Mary Stokes, Waiter), Rachel Teague (Louisa Gradgrind 2) and Sanaz Toossi (Mrs. M’Choakumchild, Rachael).

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