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Theatre Group at SBCC to Present BECKY'S NEW CAR, 4/24-5/11

The Theatre Group at SBCC will present the new comedy BECKY'S NEW CAR by Steven Dietz as the final play in the 2012/2013 season. Directed by Katie Laris, Becky's New Car will run April 24-May 11, 2013 in the intimate Jurkowitz Theatre.

Have you ever been tempted to flee your own life? Becky Foster is caught in middle age, middle management and in a middling marriage-with no prospects for change on the horizon. Then one night a recently widowed millionaire stumbles into the car dealership where Becky works and she is offered nothing short of a new life... and the audience is offered a chance to ride shotgun in a play that is as memorable as it is enthralling.

THE DIRECTOR'S NOTE: Becky Foster, the central character in Steven Dietz's play Becky's New Car has a life filled with everyday chaos. Between trying to keep minimal order in her home, take care of her family, tackle some part of the pile of papers on her desk at work and just get through the day cheerfully despite the economic downturn her family has experienced, there just doesn't seem to be time in her life to relish anything or anyone. From the moment I read the play, which Rick Mokler had recommended, I found her character very real and her story to be compelling and relevant to the moment in which we live. As we began to explore the play in rehearsal, not just Becky, but each of the characters emerged as believable and complex.

The generosity of spirit as epitomized by the warmth of the characters may have its roots in the play origins: Becky's New Car was commissioned by a Seattle man who wanted to give his theatre-loving wife a very special present for her 60th birthday. Dietz had no restrictions placed on him but it seems that the love which inspired the play may have guided the playwright in crafting characters that all share a level of compassion which manages to imbue the play with an enduring sweetness despite its central theme of a life and a marriage in, to quote Becky, "flux."

Also notable about the play is the manner in which the playwright explicitly involves, in this theatre, about 100 other characters: the audience. From the moment the play begins, each of you is invited along as a backseat driver for Becky's adventure. Accessing a tradition of storytelling in which the narrator gets to shape the story for her own ends, Dietz allows Becky to involve the audience to gain support, assistance and friendship. This involvement, I think, compels the audience to directly experience one of the plays major themes: transformation. Specifically, to be involved in the transformation of the characters each of whom change over the course of the play.

While every one of the characters evolves over time, it is Becky's relationship with the audience that particularly changes and Becky who especially is affected by the events of the play. Although certainly one of the messages of the play is that what you were looking for just might be in your own home or your own heart, the playwright also reminds us that a lot of detours may need to occur before we can get to our final destination and really appreciate what we had all along.

THE PLAYWRIGHT: Steven Dietz is one of America's most widely-produced and published contemporary playwrights. Since 1983, his thirty-plus plays have been seen at over one hundred regional theatres in the United States, as well as Off-Broadway. International productions have been seen all over the world. Mr. Dietz is a two-time winner of the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, for Fiction (produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, Off-Broadway), and Still Life with Iris; as well as a two-time finalist for the Steinberg New Play Award, for Last of the Boys (produced by Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago), and Becky's New Car. He received the PEN USA West Award in Drama for Lonely Planet; the 2007 Edgar Award for Drama for his widely-produced Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure; and the Yomuiri Shimbun Award (the Japanese "Tony") for his adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. His acclaimed conspiracy thriller, Yankee Tavern, was a National New Play Network featured play. Mr. Dietz was the 2011-12 Ingram New Works Fellow at Tennessee Repertory Theatre, following previous recipients David Auburn and John Patrick Shanley. He has received new play commissions from the Guthrie Theater, Steppenwolf Theater, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, McCarter Theatre (Princeton), ACT Theatre (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and the Denver Center Theatre Company, among others.

THE CAST: Becky's New Car will feature Leslie Gangl Howe, Martin Bell, Tom Hinshaw, Josh Jenkins, Jon Koons, Melissa Morgan Squire and Bre Piantanida.

Martin Bell (Walter Flood) SAG-AFTRA. Martin is pleased to appear, once again, with The Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College since last appearing in their productions of Rumors and All My Sons. Other stage credits include: Minnie's Boys; Santa Barbara Actor's Theater presentations of I Am A Camera and True West; Panto Productions' Goldilocks, 3 Bears...and Then Some at the Lobero Theatre; To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday for Seaside Theatre Company; Ensemble Theatre Company's Golf With Allan Shepard; The Last Liberal for Dramatic Women; and The Victoria Hall Theatre Group in both The Country Girl and Cole & Will: Together Again. In addition to film appearances, Martin provides voice-over, dialogue and narration for television and radio. He has appearances in many television commercials, as well as past roles in TLC television network's Mostly True Stories:Urban Legends Revealed; Cartoon Network's The Tim & Eric Awesome Show; and the NBC Television soap opera Passions.

LESLIE GANGL HOWE (Becky Foster) "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid": Sir Anthony Hopkins. With that quote Leslie takes on the challenge of bringing the world of Becky Foster to life. This marks her third and most exciting collaboration with director, Katie Laris. Last season she was honored to be a part of Through The Fire, a docudrama concerning the catastrophic fires that hit the hearts of our community, and she debuted in The English Bride, her first outing with Dijo Productions. No stranger to the Santa Barbara stage Leslie has built a repertoire of strong if not maladjusted female and male characters. From the independently minded feminist Heidi in The Heidi Chronicles, the hapless professor in Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet, to the tragic love of C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands, and the forgiving wife in The Goat or Who is Sylvia, whether she was the drug induced heroine in the crazed Bug, the old RussIan Male master in Anton in Show Business, or Queen Elizabeth the first in The Beard of Avon, being bold is all part of the process. She has been awarded 7 Independent Awards for her work.

Tom Hinshaw (Joe Foster) returns to The Theatre Group at SBCC having appeared at the Garvin Theatre in The Beard of Avon and Fortinbras and at the interim theater in Solid Gold Cadillac. Tom is a member of the Genesis West ensemble, with which he has appeared in Endgame, A Number, Curse of the Starving Class, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, LaTerrasse, The Pillowman, The God of Hell, Blue Heart and Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia (see Tom is a regular with Speaking of Stories and appeared with Shakespeare Santa Barbara in As You Like It and Comedy of Errors. He was honored to play in Bob Potter's The Last Days of the Empire and The Space Between the Stars.

JOSH JENKINS (Chris Foster) is absolutely elated to be back on the Jurkowitz stage and working with The Theatre Group at SBCC once more. Originally from Santa Barbara, he recently graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. Past productions Josh has been a part of include: The Lounge,Blithe Spirit, Man of La Mancha, Time of My Life, The World Goes 'Round, Omnium Gatherum, All In The Timing, Our Town, Kiss Me Kate, and more.

Jon Koons (Steve) has acted in many venues from L.A. to Alaska, where for nine summers he served as artistic director of the Liarsville Hippodrome Theater. He has performed at the Comedy Store and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times. He is currently working on a book titled If It's Tourist Season, Why Can't We Shoot Them? Jon previously appeared with The Theatre Group at SBCC in August: Osage County, Time of My Life, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Omnium Gatherum, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Enchanted April, Fortinbras, Expecting Isabel, The Lady and the Clarinet, Fuddy Meers, Wild Oats, Taking Steps, Resident Alien, The Complete History of America (abridged), The Waiting Room, and The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged).

Melissa Morgan SQUIRE (Ginger) began her life in acting by studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City . After that, she moved on to the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. She then moved to Los Angeles, where she was invited to join Ana Strasberg's master class. Soon thereafter, she joined the cast of CBS The Young and the Restless. Since then she has done a lot if traveling, moved back to NYC for a while, and now is back in Santa Barbara, where she has studied and worked with Katie Laris on other projects, Machinal to name just one.

BRE PIANTANIDA (Kenni Flood) has been actively involved in various theatre communities since she was 11 years old. A current student at SBCC, Bre is transferring in the fall to Concordia University, Irvine where she will continue to pursue a major in theatre and public relations. Becky's New Car marks her debut with The Theatre Group at SBCC.


KATIE LARIS (Director) is the Co-Chair of the Theatre Arts Department, a stage director and an instructor of acting at SBCC. Recent productions include August: Osage County, Through the Fire (co-written with Alice Scharper and Philip Laris),The Solid Gold Cadillac, Love, Santa Barbara, Machinal, The Suicide, Moonchildren,Stirring the Pot, Twelve Angry Men, Over the Tavern, Seascape, The Physicists, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Lola Goes to Roma, Gunfighter: A Gulf War Chronicle,Real Women Have Curves, Ghosts, Fortinbras and Baby with the Bathwater. Previously she directed Fuente Ovejuna, All's Well That Ends Well and The Birds in New York City and The Trial, The Ride Across Lake Constance and Danger Cave in Portland, Oregon. She also produced and wrote TV programs for Animal Planet, Discovery Health Channel and PBS. Katie received her B.A. in Theatre/Literature from Reed College and her M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Columbia University.

Pamela Shaw (Costume Designer) was Assistant Costume Designer for The Artist, the 2011 Academy Award winner: Best Picture & Best Costume Design, designer Mark Bridges. Credits include Present Laughter, A Midsummer Night's Dream, August: Osage County, Avenue Q, Through the Fire (SBCC), Ghosts, Lion In Winter, Crime & Punishment, The Liar (Ensemble Theatre Company), Home Siege Home (Ghost Road Ensemble at Inside the Ford), Doubt, Lonesome Traveler,Steel Magnolias, (The Rubicon Theatre), The Elephant Man, Children's Hour, The Rocky Horror Show, Lope De Vega's Lo vingido ferdadero (Loyola Marymount University), Camping with Henry and Tom (McCoy Rigby Entertainment), and the annual Holiday Parade for Universal Studios Theme Park. She is co-author of the definitive costume resource guide, Shopping LA: The Insiders' Sourcebook for Film & Fashion, 3rd edition. Ms. Shaw served two terms as Vice President of the Costume Designers Guild, Local 892 and is currently a Trustee for the Western Region Board of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.

FRANÇOIS-PIERRE COUTURE (Lighting & Scenic Designer) moved from Montréal to Los Angeles where he attended UCLA to complete his Masters degree in scenic and lighting design in 2006. Mr. Couture has had the privilege of working across the United States for the last years. Some of his designs include Bad Applesat Circle X, Death of a Salesgirl at the Bootleg, The Children and Dinosaur Within at the Boston Court Theatre; The Language Archive at East West Players; A Picassoand the Quality of Life at the Geffen Playhouse; Médée and Teseo for the Chicago Opera Theatre; Maestro, the Life of Leonard Bernstein and Beethoven as I knew Him, currently touring the United States; Opus and Underneath the Lintel at the Santa Barbara Ensemble Theatre.

BARBARA HIRSCH (Sound Designer) owns Opus 1 mobile recording, a classical and acoustic music recording business. In a previous life, she loved working in theatre in various capacities: box office, sound, playing in the pit, composing music for theatre and sound design. She won a Dramalogue Sound Design award for Singin' in the Rain, an SBCLO production that helped to end a year's long drought. Rain soaked the ground shortly after it rained on stage. After years of theatre drought, she is glad to have joined the ranks of the fantastic Theatre Group at SBCC, and has since done sound design for their very satisfying productions of Machinal, Through the Fire and August: Osage County.

CATHRYN H. BETZ (Production Stage Manager) is a student at Santa Barbara City College, where she is studying English and Theatre with hopes of becoming a playwright and working in all aspects of theatre. Cathryn recently worked as the Production Manager with the Plaza Playhouse's David and Lisa, as Assistant Stage Manager for August: Osage County with the Theatre Group at SBCC, and worked as properties head for SBCC's Present Laughter, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Plaza Playhouse's The Gazebo. Cathryn credits her involvement with BYU-Idaho's production of Waiting for Godot as introducing her to the magic of technical theatre.

Performances are April 26-May 11, previews on April 24 & 25. Wednesday through Saturday @ 7:30pm, Sundays @ 2pm, Saturday matinees on May 4 & May 11 @ 2pm, @ 7:30pm. Ticket prices: Previews $16 general/$13 seniors/$8 students, Friday and Saturday evenings $23 general/$18 seniors/$15 students, Wednesday, Thursday evenings, Saturday and Sunday matinees $21 general/$16 seniors/$12 students. Seating is general admission and no late seating is permitted. The Jurkowitz Theatre is located on the West Campus of Santa Barbara City College, is wheelchair accessible and has assisted listening. Parking is free and near the theatres. Call the Garvin Theatre Box Office at 965-5935 for reservations and information or purchase tickets online at

Pictured: Leslie Gangl Howe as Becky. Photo Credit: Bec Crop.

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