South Coast Repertory starts off the New Year with the World Premiere of You, Nero, a comedy by Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Freed. Commissioned by SCR, You, Nero imagines a meeting during the declining years of the Roman Empire between Scribonius, a put-upon playwright, and Emperor Nero, the all-powerful, narcissistic arbiter of art. The Roman romp stars Danny Scheie as Nero and John Vickery as Scribonius. Produced in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and directed by Sharon Ott,You, Nero will run from Jan. 4 through Jan. 25, 2009 on the Julianne Argyros Stage. Low-priced previews are available from Jan. 4 through Jan. 8. Opening night is Jan. 9. Press night is Saturday, Jan. 10 at 7:45 p.m. Tickets to You, Nero may be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or in person at the SCR box office.
Nero, the Emperor of Rome, has an epic public relations problem. He summons Scribonius, last of the great tragedians, to write a play that will turn public opinion in his favor when it is presented at the Neronia Festival of the Arts. Although Scribonius is terrified of displeasing the Emperor, who has the habit of torturing and/or killing anyone who makes that mistake, he recognizes the opportunity to use the power of art to turn Nero's life around. As the two men work through each draft, Nero continually misinterprets Scribonius' meanings, finding justifications for even more tyranny and murder. Scribonius' last effort, having Nero portray himself in the play, backfires completely. Intoxicated by his own creativity, Nero decides he doesn't need a playwright at all - he's going to go onstage, unscripted, at the Neronia Festival himself. And the Colosseum will never be the same.
In his coverage of You, Nero in its staged reading at South Coast Repertory's 2008 Pacific Playwrights Festival, The New York Times' Charles Isherwood wrote: "A spoof of theater through the ages - from Sophocles to A Chorus Line - You, Nero makes lively sport of contemporary American culture, as Ms. Freed imagines the mincing Nero (a magnificent Danny Scheie) commissioning an image-primping pageant from a down-on-his-luck dramatist. ... Ms. Freed's gloriously funny play is its own argument for the continued viability of an endangered species, the stage comedy. ... I'll just report that the audience staggered out into the sunny spring afternoon with stomachs sore from laughter...."
You, Nero is Amy Freed's fourth commission from South Coast Repertory. The previous three are Freedomland (Pulitzer Prize finalist), The Beard of Avon and Safe in Hell. Her other plays include The Psychic Life of Savages and, most recently, Restoration Comedy. Her work has been produced at theaters around the country including Seattle Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Goodman Theatre, The Old Globe, Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons and New York Theatre Workshop. Freed has been the recipient of the Joseph Kesselring Prize, the Charles MacArthur Award and is a several times winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award. Freed is an Artist-in-Residence at Stanford University, where she teaches in the Department of Drama and is also currently serving as Playwright-in-Residence for San Diego's Old Globe Theater.
Sharon Ott directed Beth Henley's Ridiculous Fraud at the Pacific Playwrights Festival and later as part of SCR's season. You, Nero is her third project with Amy Freed. She directed the second production of The Beard of Avon following its SCR premiere, and directed the world premiere of Restoration Comedy at Seattle Repertory Theatre and later at the California Shakespeare Theater. Ott was the artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre for 13 years and Seattle Repertory Theatre for eight years. Her work at Berkeley Rep resulted in the Tony Award to that company in the final year of her artistic direction. She has directed at theaters throughout the country including the Huntington Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Kansas City Repertory, ALLIANCE THEATRE, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons and The Public Theater.
Danny Scheie returns to SCR as Nero after creating the role at the 2008 Pacific Playwrights Festival staged reading. His theater credits include Amy Freed'sRestoration Comedy at both The Old Globe and California Shakespeare Theater, where he played Feste, Mercutio, and Harlequin among many other roles over five seasons; Cloud Nine at Trinity Repertory Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre (where he also appeared in the world premiere of Charles Mee's Fetes de La Nuit);Star Quality at Pasadena Playhouse; The Comedy of Errors at A Noise Within; The Last Hairdresser at Zephyr Theater and Theater Rhinoceros; Tartuffe at LATC; Yale Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Magic Theatre, TheaterWorks, San Jose Repertory Theatre and 13 seasons at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (Artistic Director 1992-95).
John Vickery has appeared at SCR in the NewSCRipts reading of New York is Bleeding; the Pacific Playwrights Festival readings of Singing Forest and Amy Freed's Safe in Hell; and in the productions of Nothing Sacred, Princess Marjorie, The Cherry Orchard, The Misanthrope and Heartbreak House. On Broadway he appeared in The Lion King, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Real Thing, Eminent Domain, Ned and Jack and Macbeth. Off-Broadway appearances include The Vampires, The Death of Von Richthofen, Henry IV, Part I, American Days and Looking Glass. Regional theater credits include The Lion King at the Pantages Theatre; The Black Rider at Ahmanson Theatre; Singing Forest at Long Wharf Theatre; Arcadia, Richard II, Aristocrats, Made in Bangkok and Stuff Happens at Mark Taper Forum; The Royal Family at McCarter Theatre Center; Richard II at Yale Repertory Theatre; I Hate Hamlet at the Royal George Theatre;Tartuffe and Don Juan at Huntington Theatre Company; Romeo & Juliet, The Seagull and Macbeth at La Jolla Playhouse; The Caretaker at Los Angeles Theatre Center; and Julius Caesar at The Old Globe.
Rounding out the cast of You, Nero are Richard Doyle (Seneca/Zippo), Caralyn Kozlowski (Poppaea), Hal Landon Jr. (Burrus/Batheticus), Lori Larsen (Agrippina) and Kasey Mahaffy (Fabiolo/Young Nero/Others) with Christopher Crawford, Angelle Buffett and Marissa Hampton.
The creative team includes Erik Flatmo (set design), Paloma H. Young (costume design), Peter Maradudin (lighting design), Stephen LeGrand (music composition/sound design), Eric Drew Feldman (music composition/sound design), John Glore (dramaturg) and Julie Haber (stage manager).
Elaine J. Weinberg is the Honorary Producer of You, Nero. 944 Magazine is the Media Partner.
Associated events taking place during the run of You, Nero include:
POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS: Tuesday, Jan. 13 & Wednesday, Jan. 14
Discuss the play with members of the You, Nero cast during free post-show discussions led by South Coast Repertory's literary team after the 7:45 p.m. performances on Jan. 13 & 14.
INSIDE THE SEASON: You, Nero Saturday, Jan. 17, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. $12
Inside the Season is a series of interactive classes that provide a comprehensive inside look at the theatrical production process. Each two-hour class is led by Literary and Education Associate Linda Sullivan Baity and features creative personnel from South Coast Repertory's current production. Inside the Season is offered on select Saturday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 each and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (714) 708-5555. (Tickets to You, Nero are sold separately.)
TICKETS to You, Nero can be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the box office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Performances begin on Jan. 4 and continue through Jan. 25. Ticket prices range from $20 to $64. Low-priced preview performances are available from Jan. 4-8. Performance times: Previews: Sunday, Jan. 4 at 2:00 p.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 6, Wednesday, Jan. 7 and Thursday, Jan. 8 at 7:45 p.m. Regular Performances: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7:45 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 25 years of age and under, educators, seniors and groups of 15 or more. There will be a "Pay-What-You-Will" performance on Saturday, Jan. 10 at 2:00 p.m. (Suggested Price: $10; $7 minimum) and an ASL-interpreted performance on Saturday, Jan. 10 at 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION: South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in theFolino TheaterCenter, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Parking is available off Anton Blvd. on Park Center Drive.
CALENDAR: A Christmas Carol (11/29-12/27), La Posada Mágica (The Magical Journey) (12/11-23), You, Nero (1/4-25), Noises Off (2/6-3/8), A Year with Frog and Toad (2/13-3/1), Goldfish (3/15-4/5), Our Mother's Brief Affair (4/3-5/3),Emilie - The Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life at the Petit Théâtre at Cirey Tonight (4/19-5/10).
Tony Award-winning SouthCoast Repertory, under the artistic direction of David Emmes and Martin Benson, is widely recognized as one of the leading professional theaters in the United States. Founded in 1964, SCR is committed to theater that illuminates the compelling personal and social issues of our time, not only on its stages but through its education and outreach programs. While its productions represent a balance of classic and modern theater, SCR is renowned for its extensive new play development program, including the Pacific Playwrights Festival. Of SCR's more than 400 productions, 108 have been world premieres with subsequent stagings achieving enormous success across America and around the world. SCR-developed works have garnered eight Pulitzer Prize nominations with Margaret Edson's Wit winning the prize in 1999 and David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole in 2007. Located in Costa Mesa, California, in 2002 SCR opened the Folino Theater Center, an expanded three-theater complex that includes the 507-seat Segerstrom Stage, the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage and the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.
Richard Doyle (Seneca/Zippo)is an SCR Founding Artist. He appeared most recently in A Christmas Carol, An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudevilleand last season's The Importance of Being Earnest. Other credits include Hamlet, My Wandering Boy, Life is a Dream, Nothing Sacred, The Adventures of Pør Quinly, Born Yesterday, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Habeas Corpus, as Eddie in A View from the Bridge, Intimate Exchanges (1993), The Last Night of Ballyhoo and the world premieres of The Beard of Avon, On the Jump, But Not for Me, BAFO, The Interrogation of Nathan Hale, She Stoops to Folly, Wit, Hospitality Suite, Highest Standard of Living, Relatively Speaking, Proof, Major Barbara, Much Ado about Nothing, A Delicate Balance andIntimate Exchanges (2004), for which he earned a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) Award nomination. He won an LADCC Award for his role in Sally Nemeth's Holy Days and was nominated for his role as Reverend Hale in The Crucible. He was a guest artist at Pasadena Playhouse in the world premiere of Matter of Honor playing Gen. John M. Schofield. "Cheers" fans will remember him as Woody's snooty father-in-law Walter Gaines. He has many other film and television credits. As a voice-actor, Doyle has become a familiar voice in commercial advertisements, CD-ROM games (i.e. MGS-4), documentaries and animated series. His voice can be heard as Senator Kelly on "Wolverine," the new X-Men series and theholographic host in the Union Theatre at the new Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL.
Caralyn Kozlowski (Poppaea) is making her SCR debut. Theater credits include Secrets of a Soccer Mom, The Milliner and Fair Game Off-Broadway; Restoration Comedy at The Old Globe, California Shakespeare Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre; Private Lives, The Play's The Thing,Macbeth, Three Sisters, Othello, The Importance of Being Earnest and Twelfth Night among others at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; Three Viewings and The Shape of Things at Barrington Stage Company; As You Like It at Connecticut Repertory Theatre; and Love's Fire at Berkshire Theatre Festival. Film and television credits include Practical Magic, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Law and Order," "Six Degrees," "Numb3rs," "Third Watch," "Guiding Light" and "All My Children."
Hal Landon Jr. (Burrus/Batheticus) is an SCR Founding Artist who recently appeared in Hamlet, Nothing Sacred, Man from Nebraska, Born Yesterday, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, A View from the Bridge, Habeas Corpus, Cyrano de Bergerac, Safe in Hell, Antigone, The Drawer Boy (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination), Major Barbara and The School for Wives. Other credits include Arcadia, Our Town, Sidney Bechet Killed a Man, BAFO, Six Degrees of Separation, An Ideal Husband, A Mess of Plays by Chris Durang, Play Strindberg, Faith Healer, Ghost in the Machine, Green Icebergs, Morning's at Seven, The Miser, Our Country's Good and Waiting for Godot. He created the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in SCR's A Christmas Carol, and has performed it in all 29 annual productions. He appeared in Leander Stillwell at Mark Taper Forum and in Henry V at The Old Globe in San Diego. Other resident theatre roles include Salieri in Amadeus, Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Gordon Miller in Room Service. Among his film credits are Trespass, Pacific Heights, Almost an Angel, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Playing by Heart.
Lori Larsen (Agrippina) is making her SCR debut. She has worked as an actor in Seattle every year since 1969. She was a founding member of the Empty Space Company and has performed on all the leading stages in the Northwest. In the ‘90s, she directed five operas for Seattle Opera. Larsen is a 2004 Fox Foundation Fellow and has been a proud member of Actors' Equity for 33 years. She recently appeared in All the King's Men at Intiman Theatre where last year she played in Uncle Vanya and To Kill a Mockingbird. Other recent performances include Richard III at Seattle Shakespeare Company; Private Lives, Noises Off, The Time of Your Life and Amy Freed's The Beard of Avon at Seattle Repertory Theatre; Fuddy Meers and Quills at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre; Frozen, The Psychic Life of Savages (also by Amy Freed) and Reckless at Empty Space Theatre; My Fair Lady and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at Fifth Avenue Theatre; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Tacoma Actors Guild; The Underpants at ALLIANCE THEATRE in Atlanta (Suzi Award nomination); Blithe Spirit at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco; Wit at Madison Repertory Theatre in Wisconsin; and Noises Off at Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities. Larsen also played Mrs. LeFleur on three episodes of the popular TV series "Northern Exposure." This November she acted in an independent feature, William Never Married.
Kasey Mahaffy (Fabiolo/Young Nero/Others) appeared at SCR previously in An Italian Straw Hat: A Vaudeville andTaking Steps. Theatre credits include Out Late at The Globe Theatre in Los Angeles; The Violet Hour at Ensemble Theatre Company;Metamorphoses at Pioneer Theatre Company; Little Women at Kansas City Repertory; The Miracle Worker andAssassins at Berkshire Theatre Festival; Tartuffe andMuch Ado About Nothing at Sonnet Repertory Theatre; The Merchant of Venice atPortland Center Stage; Life is a Dream and Trip to Bountiful atOregon Shakespeare Festival; The Laramie Project,The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Winter's Taleand The Servant of Two Masters at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts; Snow White and the Several Dweebs and Something's Afoot at Oregon Cabaret Theatre; and Kiss Me Kate, Evita, South Pacific and My Fair Lady atRogue Music Theatre. Film and television credits include Ocean's Thirteen, "ER," "Medium," "Girlfriends," "Veronica Mars," "Crossing Jordan," "Joey" and the new web-series "Is this Thing On?"
Danny Scheie (Nero) returns to SCR as Nero after creating the role at the 2008 Pacific Playwrights Festival staged reading. He has also appeared in The Wind in the Willows. His additional theater credits include Amy Freed's Restoration Comedy at both The Old Globe and California Shakespeare Theater, where he played Feste, Mercutio, and Harlequin among many other roles over five seasons; Cloud Nine at Trinity Repertory Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre (where he also appeared in the world premiere of Charles Mee'sFetes de La Nuit); Star Quality at Pasadena Playhouse; The Comedy of Errors at A Noise Within; The Last Hairdresser at Zephyr Theatre and Theater Rhinoceros; Tartuffe at LATC; Yale Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Magic Theatre, TheaterWorks, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and thirteen seasons at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (Artistic Director 1992-95). He has received multiple Drama-Logue, Garland, and Critics Circle awards for acting and directing.
John Vickery (Scribonius) appeared at SCR last in Nothing Sacred. He has also appeared in the NewSCRipts reading of New York is Bleeding; the Pacific Playwrights Festival readings of Singing Forest and Safe in Hell; and in the productions of Princess Marjorie, The Cherry Orchard, The Misanthrope and Heartbreak House. On Broadway he appeared in The Lion King, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Real Thing, Eminent Domain, Ned and Jack and Macbeth. Off-Broadway appearances include The Vampires, The Death of Von Richthofen, Henry IV, Part I, American Days and Looking Glass. Regional theater credits include The Lion King at the Pantages Theatre; The Black Rider at Ahmanson Theatre; Singing Forest at Long Wharf Theatre; Arcadia, Richard II, Aristocrats, Made in Bangkok and Stuff Happens at Mark Taper Forum; The Royal Family at McCarter Theatre Center; Richard II at Yale Repertory Theatre; I Hate Hamlet at the Royal George Theatre;Tartuffe and Don Juan at Huntington Theatre Company; Romeo & Juliet, The Seagull and Macbeth at La Jolla Playhouse; The Caretaker at Los Angeles Theatre Center; and Julius Caesar at The Old Globe. Film and television credits include Murder by Numbers, Dr. Giggles, Rapid Fire, Patriot Games, Big Business, "Babylon 5," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "NCIS," "Star Trek: Enterprise," "Frasier," "NYPD Blue" and "Without a Trace."
Photos by Henry DiRocco/SC