Hocus Focus – Chipper Lowell talks Magic, Comedy, and Growing Up in a Circus Tent

March 2019

Twenty years ago, comedian and magician Chipper Lowell performed his first solo show. Since then, he’s brought his signature blend of edgy-but-clean comedy magic to fans around the world, and TV appearances including The Tonight show and CW’s Masters of Illusion.

Chipper returns to the Curtis Theatre stage April 6 and 7, for three performances of The Chipper Experience! – Where Comedy and Magic Collide! sure to entertain and amaze . Tickets are available at curtistheatre.com. 

In anticipation of his homecoming, Chipper took some time out of his busy tour schedule to answer some of our questions. 

CT: How did you first get interested in magic?

CL: Well, around age 12 or 13, I discovered one of my Dad’s discarded prop cases in the back of the garage It was filled to the brim with various magic apparatus and silks, even a fake spring rabbit.  I immediately claimed them all as my own, dragged the trunk into my bedroom, and practiced with them nonstop for a few months.  Some time later, I did my very first “Magic show” for the neighborhood kids and I charged them 35 cents each.  Made a little over $3 bucks, and I was hooked! 

CT: I understand you came from a family of performers. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

CL: Yes, my mother and father met when they were both working on Ringling Bros. Circus in the 50s and 60s.  My father is literally one of two remaining Ringling clowns who performed “Under canvas” (tent) before the show started touring arenas. My mother was a dancer and aerialist.  She performed “Iron Jaw” where she hung several stories up in the air, only by her teeth! They got married, and I was born in Massachusetts, and two weeks later we were all back on the road, performing with various circuses and stage shows, including Disney on Parade, which was a gigantic arena show which played all throughout the U.S. and even Australia and New Zealand.  My ‘backyard’ was quite literally the entire world, with a new town to explore every 2-3 days.  I loved it!

“The One. The Only. The Stupid.”
Chipper’s Solo show premiered at the Curtis Theatre 20 years ago.

CT: What impact do you think your family experience had on you as a performer?

CL: My parents followed their dreams, and growing up with them, watching them live out their own dreams and goals, I sort of thought that was what one was supposed to do.  I loved comedy, both live on stage and in the movies and TV.  I wanted to either be a performer or maybe a writer/director.  I’ve been lucky to do both, but performing is definitely my first love.

CT: You’re a veteran performer – your first show at the Curtis Theatre was 20 years ago, and you’ve since performed for audiences all over the world. What’s special about performing for a live audience?

CL: For me it’s all about being, as they say, “In the moment”.  Performing ‘LIVE’ you NEVER know what may happen or who you may get from the audience to help you onstage.  I love that each and every show is an adventure, in that even though you’re delivering a well-thought-out show, there are plenty of opportunities to ad lib and improvise along the way.  In my 20’s I was taking classes at the Groundlings Theatre, in the hope that I could create a sort of ‘comedy jazz’ when it came to performing my comedy magic shows… I wanted people to say that they not only enjoyed the show, but also say, “And the night WE saw it, THIS happened!…”  That each show is different in certain ways depending upon the fun we all have as an audience and the volunteers who step up to participate in the magic routines.  It’s a great rollercoaster ride, and people love it, as I do performing it.

CT: You’ve also have an impressive list of TV and film credits, including performances on The Tonight Show, Discovery’s Don’t Blink, and you regularly appear on the CW’s Masters of Illusion. Are there any differences between performing magic for an audience versus performing for the screen?

CL: Oh, definitely.  The magic I’ve created for television has to look good for the camera even though you’re still performing for a studio audience.  You have to be aware of what the camera sees with every step and turn and blocking of each routine.  And cameras can really close in tight, and in hi-def, so you have to be on your toes to make sure it doesn’t pick up on something it shouldn’t see and spoil the surprise or reveal the trick.  I’m grateful to be involved with Masters Of Illusion for all six seasons now, and every year I rack my brain to come up with new and visual magic pieces to present on the show.  It’s a challenge, but a very fun one!

CT: In addition to your magic experience, you have some serious comedy credentials – you’re a Groundlings Theatre-trained improviser, you worked the comedy club circuit full time for nearly a decade, and shared a stage with people like Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, and Sarah Silverman.
Are there any parallels between Comedy and Magic?

CL: Ooh, interesting question!  —  I believe there actually is, in that with both magic and a joke, you’re leading your audience down a path but then surpriseing them with an alternate ending/switch, or punch-line.   In magic we are trying to catch our audiences off-guard, and in comedy we are derailing the ‘joke train’ and suddenly switching to another parallel track that seems funny but yet makes perfect sense.  Both arts require a beginning, middle and an end.  I think of magic needing a basic through-line or storyline and the same goes for long form jokes and comedy routines.

CT: Magic is often presented in a way that seems incredibly choreographed and deliberate. Watching some of your material, I was struck by how quick and playful you are on stage – whether it was riffing bits with volunteers, tossing cards carelessly over your shoulder, or shredding props and littering the stage with confetti. Who or what inspired this carefree style?

CL: Awe, thanks!  I agree with you that some magic and magicians out there can come off as rather stiff, deliberate and, to be honest, no sense of real awe or surprise.  My goal has always been to keep my performances as off-the-cuff and chaotic as possible.  I want the audience to be wondering, “where is he going next??”  I want surprise and astonishment.  Don’t get me wrong – It takes a lot of practice to make it look like you’re, well, as I said before, “in the moment” rather than overly staged.   If you’re laughing hard, you ARE going to be surprised when the magic happens, and if you’re studying me really hard, you won’t realize you’re being set up for a joke or a gag.   I’m always striving for a sense of spontaneity and ‘anything goes’.

Chipper takes a "hands off:" approach to magic.

My goal has always been to keep my performances as off-the-cuff and chaotic as possible.

Chipper Lowell

CT: Do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?

CL: I tend to warm up like I’m a dancer or a bad 80s aerobics instructor…Lots of stretches and jumping around, shaking my arms to loosen up.  And I often recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” at the top of my lungs as if it’s Shakespeare just to get my voice ready.  Anything for me to become unfiltered and open and ready for whatever may be in store when I hit the stage.

CT: What do you hope an audience will walk away from the show feeling?

CL: It’s my job for them to have a very fun and memorable evening.  For the people to laugh loudly and often, together with their friends and loved one, and to really connect with each other and the audience as a whole.  And after the laughs have subsided and they’re leaving the theatre, I want them to think back and say, “Hey, wait a minute….How the heck DID he do THOSE tricks?!?”

CT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CL: I get very nostalgic looking back 20 years ago, at the first performance of my solo show, and that it started right here, at the Curtis Theatre.  Sincere thanks to Christian Wolf, who ran the venue back then, and trusted me to put on a quality show.  The last two decades since then have been a whirlwind, with dozens of television appearances, some awards and honors, and opportunities to tour in theatres and performing arts centers ranging from 600 to 3,000 seats.  I’ve even had the privilege of entertaining arena crowds of 7-9,000 people 20 to 30 times now.  So much fun!  This return to the Curtis is a bit of a welcome home for me, as I also live here in Orange County, and also deep gratitude of where it all began.  And the main reason for coming back is that this wonderful theatre continues to be run by people who really care about the arts and what it brings to the community.  It will always spark joy and creativity, and bring people closer together, and that’s a great, great thing to me.

It’s great to us too, Chipper.

Thank you to Chipper Lowell for taking the time to answer some questions.

You can read more about Chipper on his website: www.chipper.tv

To purchase tickets to his April 6 & 7 shows at the Curtis Theatre, visit www.curtistheatre.com

See you at the show!

“Understand Your Man”: An Interview with James Garner

James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash celebrates the life and music of the legendary “Man in Black”. Garner and his band faithfully recreate Cash’s biggest hits and presents historical accounts and personal anecdotes about Cash’s life.

JamesGarner's JohnnyCash by Kial James color
James Garner – Photo by Kial James

Since 2008, Garner and his band have performed more than 350 shows, including a special show at Folsom State Prison in 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Cash’s infamous live album recorded behind prison walls. The band then returned to Folsom, California, in January 2018 to perform two sold-out concerts on the 50th anniversary of the prison concert.

We sat down with Garner to talk about the show, and what makes Johnny Cash America’s most beloved singing storyteller

Tell us about what first drew you to Johnny Cash.

I discovered Johnny Cash when I was 11 years old. The first song I heard was “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” a musically sparse ballad about a young cowboy “who grew restless on the farm.” It contained many of the signature elements found in most of Cash’s recordings. The vocals were big, powerful and right in your face. The instrumentation was sparse and rhythmic, supportive of those vocals. The song, based on an old Irish Folk tune, was a story told in two-and-a-half minutes. For me, it was so different than any 1990s contemporary music – country or pop. As I devoured more Cash material through my teenage years, everything about it just resonated with me. Growing up on a California cotton farm myself – and by no means, working nearly as hard as he and his family did in northeast Arkansas –  his songs about agrarian, rural life spoke to me.

How did this show develop?

Little did I know at the time, the show developed in my teenage years. I had dozens of Johnny Cash tapes and CDs that I pretty much listened to exclusively. When my peers were listening to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Weezer, etc., I was jamming “Big River,” “I Got Stripes,” and “Hey Porter” on my Sony Walkman. I had VHS tapes of Cash’s television shows and concerts. I read his autobiographies and other biographical works, studying his career and life. Simply put, I was a big fan. I sang his songs in the car, at school, and at home. When I started playing guitar, I wanted to learn the Johnny Cash songs that I had fallen in love with, so I played along with his music, learning chords and trying to figure out how his thumb seemed to be everywhere at the same time.

Fast forward to my 20s. I was singing Johnny Cash songs one night at a karaoke bar and met some musicians who said we should do something together. Long story short, we put a band together (my first and only) and I applied all the information I had read, listened to, and watched over the years into this show. It’s hard to believe we are in our 11th year and have played more than 500 shows across the country.

Johnny Cash is definitely a larger-than-life figure. What do you do capture that energy when you perform?

No doubt, and so the first thing I do is not pretend to be Johnny Cash. Our show is not an impersonation, but truly a tribute to the “Man in Black” with songs and stories. Never once, have I said “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” or presented the show from a first-person perspective. The energy is in the music and we work very hard and take very seriously presenting his music the way he and The Tennessee Three performed it, especially during their live performances.

CashTribute-JamesGarner+band by Mike Melnyk
Left to Right: Denny Colleret, James Garner, Rick Duncan, Nick Auriemmo – Photo by Mike Melnyk

What’s the rehearsal process like before you go on tour?

Good question! I don’t have an answer because there isn’t one. We’ve been doing this so long together, that it’s just part of us. Every now and then we add some new songs, but we don’t get together ahead of time to rehearse. We each know what we must do on the song and we’ll run through it a few times during sound check before some shows. When we feel good about it, we’ll add it to the show.

What’s your favorite part of performing for a live audience?

It’s hard to pin down one favorite thing. I love the fact there are people in the audience every night who grew up listening to Johnny Cash and saw him live in concert, perhaps as early as 1955. Folks have said that it takes them back to that time or a special moment in their life –  their first love, military service, riding in the car with their dad, a date-night to a Johnny Cash show, etc. I love when the audience recognizes and applauds the first notes to “I Walk the Line” or “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” They’re not applauding us. They’re expressing their love for Johnny Cash and the impact his music had in their lives. I can relate and I’m right there with them.

Do you have any pre-show superstitions or rituals before going on stage?

I don’t think have any superstitions. The closest thing to rituals would be drinking warm tea, liberal applications of hairspray and pacing backstage a few minutes before going on.

If your show was an animal, what animal would it be?

I don’t really know… I like researching and learning and have tried to apply that to our show. Maybe a hound dog with a good nose. Or to borrow a Cash lyric, “gone as a wild goose in winter.” We usually do about 25-30 songs in a 2-hour show and it just seems to fly by when we’re on stage.

What do you hope we walk away from the show feeling?

My big hope is that people leave feeling a love for Johnny Cash and his music. I hope that when folks get home, they pull out their Johnny Cash records, CDs or tapes and fall in love with his music all over again. And if they don’t have any of his material, I hope they download it on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Then I have different hopes for different people. For the Johnny Cash super fans, I hope they notice the attention to detail in the music – the two different leads we play in “Folsom Prison Blues,” one in the style of Luther Perkins (pre-1968) and the other as Bob Wootton played it (post-1968), the Carl Perkins style picking in “A Boy Named Sue,” the W.S. Holland “Ring of Fire” drum fills of the 1980s, and the Marshall Grant tone from the 1965 Epiphone Newport “Batwing” our bass player uses.

For those less familiar with Cash’s music, I hope they recognize just how impactful it was – and still is – for people in this country and worldwide. His songs speak to themes endemic to the human condition: Love, pain, humor, struggle, triumph and redemption.

I also want folks to know that Cash was a powerful force in music and the arts. I think people know that, but I don’t think it can be overstated. His impact and reach transcended the “country music” genre. He supported up-and-coming songwriters and performers, provided inspiration to some of the greats, was a guardian-like figure tasked with preserving the relevance of music icons who came before him, and gave a voice to underrepresented social causes. It’s evident in his musical relationships with Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash, Shel Silverstein, Rodney Crowell, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Tom Petty, Lead Belly, Ervin T. Rouse, The Carter Family, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Carl Perkins, Peter La Farge, and many more.

Thank you for your time.

My pleasure! We look forward to the shows at the Curtis Theatre!

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James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash performs May 19-20. Saturday at 3pm and 8pm. Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM.

Have questions? Contact us! 

Comedy, Magic, And Mischief with Eric Buss

You might have seen him on America’s Got Talent, David Letterman, or at the Magic Castle…Eric Buss’ innovative and high-energy brand of comedy magic has entertained and amazed audiences worldwide.

Eric Buss Live Variety Show Shenanigans Curtis Theatre
Eric Buss

His latest project is a variety show that feels more like a party.  Shenanigans features a live DJ, along with a variety of guest entertainers, and Eric Buss himself. It’s magic in a fun and modern format that aims to blow your mind and tickle your funny bones.

We sat down with Buss and got some answers on all things magic, comedy, and Shenanigans.

How did you first get interested in magic?

I’ve loved magic since I was young. But at age 16 I was working at a small Italian restaurant near my house in Tucson, AZ. There was another busboy working there that was already into magic. He showed me tricks on our breaks, and I was blown away. He also proved to me that you could make money doing magic, without being famous like David Copperfield. He also told me about the magic shop in Tucson, which wasn’t far, and I was hooked. I began hanging out there every weekend, meeting all the magicians that came in. The busboy also told me about the Society of American Magicians’ local chapter. I quickly became a member and started attending meetings once a month. From then on, I never looked back.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration for the work that you create?

As a kid, I always loved watching Doug Henning. I thought David Copperfield wasted too much time dancing with pretty girls, instead of doing more tricks. Henning was a bit more kid-friendly. However, when I got seriously into magic, I started studying Copperfield as well. They were both huge inspirations.

I also loved comedy. My dad used to do a lot of Steve Martin impressions, which I thought were hilarious. I had no idea he was doing Steve Martin. I thought he was just being funny. When I found out they were Steve’s jokes, I started watching him as well.

What’s your favorite part of performing for a live audience?

My favorite part of performing for a live audience is the unpredictability. I have a direction I’m going, but based on the audience, it could change at any time. Also hearing the laughter is almost, if not, more satisfying than the “oohs” and “ahs” from the magic.

Eric Buss Live Variety Show Shenanigans Curtis Theatre
Eric Buss performing in Shenanigans

Tell us more about the Bubble Wrap Bike. What was the process like from initial idea to finished product?

When my wife and I had our baby in 2012, we were both sleep-deprived. But I was still getting out to my workshop for an hour or two a day to work and create. I happen to have a big roll of bubble wrap and a bike. In a sleep-deprived daze, I thought, I want to ride over that bubble wrap!!! Then I thought, ‘NO, I want to attach the bubble wrap so it’s a continuous popping noise.’ I quickly grabbed some duct tape and set to work. A day or two later, I had built a better version and had a friend come over to film it in the street.

I put it on YouTube almost as a joke, and it went viral immediately. I had over 1 million views in a week. It got a lot of publicity for me; the bike in the video is the exact one I still use. The footage on YouTube has also been seen on many TV shows all over the world.

What is one of your favorite props to work with?

I love performing my looping routine. It’s a musical piece, which is fun, and because I’m making the music live it’s like a concert. It’s also the most difficult routine I do which I also think makes it fun. It’s a challenge every time. I get to live out my fantasy of being a rock star or DJ, all while doing magic. It’s a blast every time!

Do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?

Eric Buss Live Variety Show Shenanigans Curtis Theatre
Eric Buss performing in Shenanigans

I’m not superstitious, but it doesn’t stop me from doing certain things before EVERY show. I usually jump up and down in one place RIGHT before going on. This gets my blood pumping. There are lots of little rituals with my props while setting up… certain things need to be set up certain ways. My OCD really shines through while I’m setting up. While getting dressed, I hate dropping hangers on the floor. For some reason, I think it’s bad luck.  Even though I don’t believe that I get frustrated when I drop hangers. If there is someone backstage with me, I like to tell them that I’m going to go back to my hotel real quick, right when I’m being introduced. They always look at me like I’m crazy. It helps me relax and have fun.

If your show was an animal, what animal would it be?

If my show was an animal, it would be a Golden Retriever – playful, yet intelligent.

What do you hope we walk away from the show feeling?

I hope the audience walks away with a smile on their face, maybe even with sore face muscles from laughing.

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Eric Buss in Shenanigans performs April 21, 2018, at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 

An Interview with Click, Clack, Moo Actor Liana Costable

Fun. Educational. Theatrical.

TheatreworksUSA is all this and more. They deliver incredible theatre productions around the nation for young audiences and their families. With each literary- and historically-based show, they spark dialogue on cultural and social issues. Theatreworks instills a lifelong appreciation for the arts in children that often aren’t receiving that education and exposure in school. Their current touring production of Click, Clack, Moo, based on the popular children’s book by Doreen Cronin, is a hilariously “mooooo-ving” musical about negotiation and compromise. When Jenny visits her grandpa, he declares the farm a tech-free zone and confiscates her laptop. The cows type and send their demands via email; the hens go on strike — what will happen next?!

Cast of Click, Clack, Moo - TheatreworksUSA
Cast of “Click, Clack, Moo” (Top Left – Liana Costable) Source: TheatreworksUSA

Before their tour arrives in Brea for Click, Clack, Moo, Liana Costable, the actor who plays Jenny, typed up her thoughts on the show and emailed them on over (just like those cows!)

Who or what is your biggest inspiration for the theatre you create?

I am definitely most inspired by our young audiences. In Click Clack Moo I play Jenny, a 12-year-old girl visiting her granddad at his farm. As an adult actor playing a child, I was excited to create a character that the children could relate and connect to. In particular their vivid imagination, creativity, and ability to stand up for what’s right motivated my choices in this role.

What’s the rehearsal process like before you go on tour?

The rehearsal process flew by! Over the course of two weeks, we learned the hour-long musical as well as our duties as assistant stage managers. We worked with a fantastic creative and production team at Theatreworks USA who taught us the keys to success on the road- providing guidance and tips on staying healthy, safe, and energized for our daily morning shows.


Click Clack Coo - Farmer Brown & Animals
Source: TheatreworksUSA

I hope audiences leave feeling a little more connected to the people around them, more willing to speak up and in return, more open to listening to differing views.  

What’s your favorite part of performing for a live audience?

I love hearing the audience’s reactions! Every audience is different and seeing how people react in different parts of the country is really exciting!

Do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?

Click Clack Moo cows - TheatreworksUSA
Source: TheatreworksUSA

Before every show, I rub a locket that my boyfriend in the US Army gave me a few years ago. While we are apart and pursuing our own careers at the moment, having the locket reminds me of him and his support for not only my career but also for protecting this country and the people we are performing for.  

If your show was an animal, what animal would it be?

A cow of course!

What do you hope we walk away from the show feeling?

Click Clack Moo focuses on teamwork, compromise, and standing up for what you believe in. I hope audiences leave feeling a little more connected to the people around them, more willing to speak up and in return, more open to listening to differing views.  


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TheatreworksUSA in Click, Clack, Moo performs April 8, 2018, at 3pm and 5pm. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 

An Actor’s Take: ‘Sister Act’ Rehearsal Journal

One of the cast members of Sister Act took some time to share their rehearsal journal (and some backstage secrets) with us. 

Meet your backstage guide, Terry Dopson

Terry is a Brea resident and he has been having a blast in his first Southgate Production. Terry DopsonHowever, Terry is no stranger to the Curtis Theatre as he has performed in over 10 productions at the Curtis. Most recently, he played The Company Man in Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story. Terry holds a BA in Music from the University of La Verne where he was heavily involved in choral music, barbershop singing, and musical theatre. Some of Terry’s favorite roles include Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Boys From Syracuse, and Fagin in Oliver!. In addition to his theatrical and musical pursuits, Terry works as the Coordinator of Finance Administration and University Business Travel at the University of La Verne.

Wednesday, February 7th

Tonight was our first dress rehearsal with all of the lighting, audio, projections, costumes, make-up, wigs, set pieces, and props.

Something that I have loved about working with Southgate is the high level of production value. All of the technical elements are visually stunning. However, it makes things very busy backstage.


Above is our scene change chart for the show. If we are not performing on stage or changing costumes, then we are moving the set pieces. There is not much time to “hang out” backstage. Even if you have the luxury to “hang out” in between scenes, Jonathan Infante, our director, urged the cast to help everyone out as much as possible. He said, “If you have nothing to do, go over choreography with your cast members, help someone with a quick change, ask Stage Management if there is something you can do.”

Fortunately, I think that sentiment paid off. Tonight’s rehearsal went smoothly. However, we still have a few details that need to be polished. Southgate Productions has a reputation for putting on high-quality shows. Therefore, the hard work comes with the territory. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, February 8th

Last night we were told that we would have a small audience for our invited dress rehearsal. However, it turned out we would have an audience of 70 people for our dress rehearsal. Everything became a lot more real after that announcement. Fortunately, it was an amazing run of the show. Having the audience gave us an extra boost of energy that we needed. 

I have to admit that backstage there was not much to report on. But for good reason; everyone in the cast and crew was really focused on doing their job. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has a lot of responsibilities on and off the stage. We like to chat and hang out while getting ready for the show. However, once places are called, everyone is “in the zone.” 

My favorite part about Sister Act is the energy of the show. It feels like one big dance party from start to finish, with some really tender and funny moments weaved throughout. I can’t help but have the biggest smile on my face.

Performing this show is a blast…and I think the audience is going to have a blast too!

Opening Weekend: Friday, February 9th – Sunday, February 11th

I consider myself a very lucky actor. I have performed in many shows and I have had many memorable experiences on stage. However, opening weekend of Sister Act was one of the best show weekends I have ever experienced.

On Friday night, all of the cast, crew, and creative team got together in the green room just a few minutes before places. The creative team gave a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved. I definitely felt the love and camaraderie in the room. Jonathan once again reminded everyone to make sure we do everything in our power to help one another.


It feels like one big dance party from start to finish, with some really tender and funny moments weaved throughout.

All of our shows this weekend were sold out and the audience was super responsive. Offstage we were buzzing with excitement because the audience was so engaged with the story. Not only did we love what we were doing, but also we got the message that we were doing it right.

The last 3 weeks of rehearsal went by in a flash. It is fulfilling to know that we put together a challenging show in a short amount of time. This would not have been possible if it were not for the level of professionalism that the cast, crew, creative team, and theater staff have exhibited. 

Thank you so much to the Curtis Theatre staff for letting me share my perspective on production week for Sister Act. If you attended our opening weekend, thank you so much for your support. We still have two more weekends of shows. “Boogie” on down to the Curtis Theatre before we sell out for the rest of the run!


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You can catch up with Terry and see what else he’s writing on his own blog.

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Sister Act: the Musical performs February 10-25, 2018. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 

Meet the Cast of Sister Act

The cast of Sister Act: the Musical features actors from all over Orange and Los Angeles County and they’ve been making us laugh non-stop the past month of rehearsals. Based on the 1992 hit film, this high-energy musical comedy features music by Tony- and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken. It’s inspiring, upbeat, and hilarious!

A quick synopsis of the show: When disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found; a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community.

Our producing partnership with Southgate Productions continues with Jonathan Infante & Rovin Jay directing. Get to know the cast that might just take you to heaven —

Summer Greer

Summer Greer | Deloris Van Cartier

Summer is more than excited to bring the fun of Sister Act to life with such an incredible company! Her most recent performance was in the Ovation Award-nominated production of Parade at the Chance Theater and she also spends time as a member of both the world-renowned Mt. Sac Chamber Singers and the Downbeat Award-winning jazz ensemble, Singcopation.  Having been a performer throughout her entire life, Summer is thrilled to be a part of an exciting and spirited show like this and would love to thank all that have helped and supported in creating this fabulous production!



Amy Glinkas

Amy Glinskas| Mother Superior

Amy is excited to make her debut with Southgate Productions in Sister Act!  Since receiving her Music degree in Vocal Performance from CSUF, each Xmas season Amy music directs for Mixed Company, a caroling group based in OC and performs with The Mistletones, a musical comedy quartet.  In 2016, she got to perform her dream role of Mrs. Potts in Beauty & the Beast. Amy also looks forward to traveling to Florida this spring to reprise her role of Iowa Housewife in Menopause, the Musical.  When not performing, Amy teaches private voice and piano from her home studio in Orange.


Anthony Cloyd

Anthony Cloyd | Eddie

Anthony is thrilled to be a part of his first show with Southgate Productions and the Curtis Theatre! An alumni of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine, Anthony thanks his professors for their invaluable insight and relentless push for excellence. He has performed off-Broadway (Hesitation Waltz), internationally (Festival of The Lion King), and currently can be seen on tour as T.K. in The Amazing Food Detective: Game On!




Enrique Munoz

Enrique Munoz | Curtis

Enrique owns a comic book store in downtown Fullerton called Comic Hero University. He loves performing and wishes he could do more.







Brian J. Cook | Joey/Monsignor O’Hara

Mr. Cook is delighted to return to Southgate Productions after portraying Senex in last season’s production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  He was recently seen as George Hay in Moon Over Buffalo at STAGEStheatre in Fullerton (named Best Theatrical Ensemble of 2017 by OC Weekly). Other credits include Mrs. Bumbrake & Teacher in Peter and the Starcatcher, Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors, The Baker in Into the Woods and the titular character of Queeny Todd: The Demon Beautician of Texas.



Evan Pascual

Evan Pascual | TJ

Evan is thrilled to be performing in Sister Act for Southgate Production. His recent credits include Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors), Duane (Hairspray), and Ensemble (Catch Me If You Can). He is a student at Cal State Long Beach, majoring in Computer Science, but hopes to pursue theater as well in the future. He wishes his cast a great show and hopes to work with them in other shows down the road.




Jake BurnettJake Burnett | Pablo

Jake is thrilled to be working with Southgate on Sister Act. Although it is his first show with this company, he has recently appeared in Catch Me If You Can at the Attic Community Theater and Secret Garden at the Chance Theater. Thanks to the cast and crew of Sister Act for a fun experience and to my family and friends for always coming to see my shows!




Lauren Louis

Lauen Louis | Sister Mary Robert

Lauren is a Musical Theatre student at CSUF. She spends her extra time as an AGVA performer at Disneyland Resort playing Pocahontas in Mickey and the Magical Map, Elena in Princess Elena’s Musical Grand Arrival, and works as a dancer for Teatro Martini. Her favorite credits include Sally Bowles (Cabaret), Extraordinary Girl (American Idiot), and Dorothy (the Wizard of Oz). She is so excited to get the opportunity to play Mary Robert! She’d like to thank her family, Jo, Jon Infante, Rovin and her friends for all of the endless love and support!



Tanya ThompsonTanya Thompson | Sister Mary Patrick

Tanya is beyond excited to have the opportunity to work with the magical folks of Southgate Productions and the Curtis Theatre again! Recent productions include A Funny Thing Happened…Forum (co-choreographer); How to Succeed…Trying (choreographer); Bonnie and Clyde (Stella); Into the Woods (Stepmother); Piano Party 2 (Tanya); Assassins (Sarah Jane Moore). Tanya would like to thank her family for their love and the nurturing of her passion as well as the F.E. for the joy and positivity they contribute to her life. You are amazing humans and are so loved.



Megan Cherry

Megan Cherry | Sister Mary Lazarus

Megan is excited to have the opportunity to work with Southgate Productions again having last been seen in their production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Domina. Previous theater credits include: Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast (Performance    Riverside), Mrs. Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady (Musical Theater West), M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias (NTAC) and Golde in Fiddler On The Roof (HBPH).  Megan has also done a national tour of Around the World in 80 Days as well as a European tour of West Side Story as Anita (understudy). Megan would like to thank her husband Steve for his love and support and dedicates her performance to her beloved Henry.



Allison Aoun | Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours

Allison Aoun (Mary Martin-of-Tours) is an OCSA  alum, USC graduate, and finalist in LA’s Next Great Stage Star 2017. Regional: The Christians– Mark  Taper Forum at CTG; Two Gentleman of Verona (Lucetta)- Looseleaf Theatre Co.; A Little Night  Music; A Connecticut Yankee (Evelyn) and     Wonderful Town– Berkshire Theatre Group. Other favorites: How to Succeed… (Smitty); Nunsense (Leo/Dance Captain); …Charlie Brown (Lucy); Bye, Bye Birdie (Gloria Rasputin); Grand Hotel and The Most Happy Fella (dir. John Rubinstein). Allison was previously seen on the Curtis stage as a      Protean in Southgate’s …Forum and as Mary in The Olinda Story. Proud EMC. Visit http://www.allisonaoun.com for more!


Dahna Lane

Dahna Lane | Sister Mary Theresa

Dahna is quite jubilant to again be part of Southgate Productions at the Curtis Theatre.   Some of her favorite past shows include:  Brigadoon (Meg),  Nunsense (Sister Hubert), and the raucous The Toxic Avenger (Mayor Babs/Ma Ferd).  Fun fact: this show marks her 10th “religious part” in a musical, of which 8 were in a habit. (insert penguin joke here)  Finally in a quick note to Dave, “Nothing!!”




Kailey Hewitt | Tina/Nun/Ensemble

Kailey is so excited to be performing with Southgate Productions again!  Some favorite past roles include Miss Mouse in Aesop’s Fables (Enrichment Works), Geminae in A Funny Thing Happened… (Southgate Productions), Elizabeth in Frankenstein the  Musical (Art in Relation), Belle/Glinda in Celebrate You! (Musical Theatre West), Beth in Little Women (Spreckels Theater), The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods (Marin Summer Theater), Chloe in Arcadia (Cinnabar Theater), First Woman in Metamorphoses (Rider University), and Tricia in Dog Sees God (Boxcar Theatre). She is a graduate of Rider University where she received a Bachelors of Music in Musical Theater.


Lily Bryson

Lily Bryson | Michelle/Nun/Ensemble

Lily Bryson, a Southern California native, is very excited to be making her Curtis Theatre debut in Sister Act. Lily recently graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre in May of 2017 from Cal State University Fullerton. She is grateful to have met many hardworking and amazing people in the cast and crew as well as have the love and support from family and close friends. Lily would also love to thank Jonathan Infante and Jo Monteleone for this wonderful opportunity and welcoming her into the Southgate family.  www.lilybryson.com


Megan Ferry - HeadshotMegan Ferry | Rapping Nun/Ensemble

Megan Ferry is no stranger to the worlds of theatre and music. Classically trained by prestigious vocal instructors in Los Angeles and Manhattan, Megan also received her BA in  Theatre Arts from CSUF. Her favorite credits include: Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Out of the Frying Pan, Once Upon a Mattress, Little Women, and Oklahoma! Megan starred in her own concert entitled It’s Grand to Be Singing, and recently collaborated in a benefit concert raising over $45,000 for a musician’s battle with cancer. Megan is thrilled to be returning for her third production here at the Curtis Theatre.


Alexandria Marshall

Alexandria Marshall | Nun/Ensemble

Alexandria is very excited to be making her first debut on the Curtis Theatre stage. After graduating from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theatre, Alexandria has been focusing on building a  career in Orange County, California. This is her first time on stage since graduating from TCU. Some of her favorite past theatrical productions include; Spring Awakening, Seussical, The Pajama Game, High School Musical and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Alexandria would like to thank the entire cast and crew for this FABULOUS experience and her loving family for their support.


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Kelly Martin | Nun/Ensemble

Kelly is so excited to be joining Southgate for another great production! She has been performing for 20 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. Some of her favorite shows have been High Fidelity (Liz), Side Show (u/s Violet), Into the Woods (Florinda), and The Last 5 Years (Cathy).  She doesn’t want to make a bad “habit” of nun puns, but she does “Pope” you enjoy the show!




Zoe-Raven Stevens

Zoe-Raven Stevens | Nun/Ensemble

Zoe-Raven is delighted to make her Southgate debut in Sister Act with this fantastic cast and crew. Some of her favorite roles include Aida in Aida, Chiffon in Little Shop of Horrors, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Dionne in Hair. She wants to thank her family and friends and especially her love, Spencer, for all of their support!




Leena Fritz

Leena Fritz | Nun/Ensemble

Leena has been performing in the city of Brea for many years and is ecstatic to be a part of her first Southgate production. She has been classically trained in voice and involved in musical theater for more than 8 years. She has held principal roles in community theater as well as Hope International University’s musical productions. These roles include Ursula in The Little Mermaid and Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie along with many others. She thanks the never-ending support of her mother, sister, and grandparents, to them she is forever grateful.


Terry Dopson

Terry Dopson | Ernie/Ensemble

Terry Dopson has performed in over 30            productions in Southern California. Highlights include Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, Antipholus of Syracuse in The Boys From Syracuse, Fagin in Oliver!, and The Company Man in Tales From The Canyon: The Olinda Story. Terry holds a BA in Music from the University of La Verne. Terry also works full time at the University of La Verne as the Coordinator of Finance Administration and University Business Travel.



Francis Gacad

Francis Gacad | Cab Driver/Ensemble

Francis Gacad is grateful, excited, and beyond thrilled to be in his third Southgate Production. After graduating from Cal State Fullerton, he has spent his spare time dabbling in photography with numerous freelance projects and playing video games. He likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. He would like to extend his thanks to his family for their never-ending support. Last but not least, he hopes you enjoy the show!



Jeff Mempin

Jeff Mempin | Drag Queen/Ensemble

Jeff was recently seen at the Curtis Theatre for Southgate Production with A Funny Thing Happened … Forum. Favorite past performances include the part of Linus in the Camino Real Playhouse production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and as the Sergeant in Pirates of Penzance at the Star Theater in Oceanside. Other notable performances include Miss Saigon for the Fullerton Civic Light Opera, Hello Dolly for Downey CLO, Joseph … Dreamcoat, My Fair Lady, and Peter Pan for Saddleback CLO, West Side Story for the Poway Center for the Performing Arts, and countless productions (9) for the Tustin Area Council for the Fine Arts’ Broadway in the Park. Daytime work includes office work for Myers-Stevens & Toohey in Mission Viejo. Jeff wishes to thank his family and friends for coming to see the show, and to JC for the love and support.

Derick Taylor-White 1

Derick Taylor-White | News Reporter/Ensemble

A native of Southern Missouri, Derick Taylor-White is ready to “Spread the Love Around” with this talented cast! He was most recently seen in the Off-Broadway cult favorite Spandex: The Musical (Male Swing) in  Minneapolis with original NYC choreographer /director, Liz Piccoli. Other past favorites include Ragtime (Younger Brother), Footloose (Ren McCormack), The Little Mermaid (Chef Louis), and Bare: A Pop Opera (Zack). Much love to family and caring husband, Brad.



Arcadio Vasquez

Arcadio Vazquez | Cop/Ensemble

Arcadio is excited to be in his first professional theater production! When he’s not dancing like a bum, Arcadio is working as a Math Intervention Specialist at Options for Youth. It has been quite an experience transitioning from math problems to singing and dancing almost every day, but it has also been incredibly rewarding. Arcadio would like to thank his friend Zoe for telling him about the auditions and his girlfriend Cristina for holding him accountable and making sure he practiced! Keep an eye out because this won’t be Arcadio’s last time on stage.



New Logo Color

Sister Act: the Musical performs February 10-25, 2018. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 


An Actor’s Take: ‘Olinda’ Rehearsal Journal

Last week, one of our actors from The Olinda Story took some time to share her rehearsal journal with us.

Meet your backstage guide, Jennifer Siglin

‘Olinda Story’ actor Jennifer Siglin

Jennifer is a proud Brea resident and is excited to be appearing in The Olinda Story alongside her son, Owen. She has appeared in several local area productions including multiple productions of It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play and The Twilight Zone, plus the premiere of Fledgling, a new play by local writer Colleen McCandless, all at STAGESTheatre in Fullerton; as well as War of the Worlds and Bye Bye Birdie here at the Curtis Theatre. She is the proud mother of three children (all of whom have been bitten by the acting bug). In her day job, Jennifer is a graphic designer at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. She is also a calligrapher and sometime artist; you can see her work on instagram as @laughingbeagle.

Rehearsal Journal:
Monday, October 16

We spent the first half of tonight’s rehearsal working through the second of our two choral music selections for the show, a brief cut of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I think most of us in the show are not trained musicians, though a handful of us (myself included) can read music. Even so, the level of dedication that these awesome fellow actors are showing to this, to stepping outside their comfort level to try and learn harmonies together, is impressive. I’ve never been super comfortable singing in front of other people (though goodness knows I sing enough in my car and in my house to more than make up for this deficiency), but already this group of people feels like a welcoming, supportive family—I don’t think anyone feels like they’re being judged, and everyone is just incredibly supportive of one another. There’s a lot of joy and laughter here, and I think our music director, Anthony, can see the potential in us. We’re going to get this, I just know it, and it’s going to sound awesome.

Or, if not, as Anthony tells us, if we’re going to fail, fail spectacularly. In other words, own it.

The second half of rehearsal was blocking a few final scenes in act two. As a minor ensemble actor, I don’t have many lines in this production, but I still get to do some other fun things onstage throughout the show, and tonight was no different. The thing that strikes me the most is how much fun we all seem to be having. In particular, I think what’s most exciting about this show is that we have so many actors of so many age groups—the young kids are bright-eyed and eager to learn (and quite professional little actors, to boot!), and there’s a really nice sense of camaraderie building here, among everyone, even though we perhaps still don’t know each other ALL that well yet. That’s the beauty of spending time together putting on a production like this; in a very short space of time it begins to feel like its own little community… kind of how I imagine those original inhabitants of the tiny town of Olinda must have felt. Already it feels like we are all rooting for each other.

‘Olinda Story’ actors working on music during rehearsal

Tuesday, October 17

Tonight we did our first full run-through of Act 2. It’s fun to see this piece coming together as we go along. Because until now we’ve been blocking scenes sporadically and out of sequence, it’s been difficult to wrap my head around the order of things. Seeing the second act come together this evening was a bit like watching the dust settle. The pieces are in place; now it’s about finessing them.

Jennifer with her son & fellow actor, Owen

This is the first time I’ve performed on stage with my son, Owen, and I have to say it’s so much fun to watch him play his parts with gusto and enthusiasm. As for myself, having been bitten by the acting bug fairly late in life, I love watching Owen and all these other young people do their thing with such an amazing amount of confidence—something I certainly didn’t have at their age!

Wednesday, October 18

Tonight was our first full run-through of the entire show! There are so many different scenes in this play, with such a large number of actors, that up until now we’ve been working with smaller groups of people in their individual scenes. It was fun to see the entire thing come together, even with the hiccups one expects from a full run-through. And since this was the first time we’ve run the entire show in order, we extras were all in the wings scanning the scenes to figure out when and where we need to position ourselves for our next scene. It’s a kind of beautiful, chaotic mess (if I’m allowed to use that term for a show that I have no doubt is going to be fantastic when all is said and done), and it seems like everyone is having a lot of fun.

Jesse, our director, is wonderfully fluid and willing to let us as actors make choices about our characters and our placement onstage and try things out.

I will say, our first go at singing the two songs onstage—cold, with no accompaniment or pitch pipe to start us off— was rough. Good thing tomorrow night is music night!

That’s the beauty of spending time together putting on a production like this; in a very short space of time it begins to feel like its own little community… kind of how I imagine those original inhabitants of the tiny town of Olinda must have felt.

Thursday, October 19

Jennifer sneaks a photo from the wings of the cast blocking a scene.

Music night. While Jesse worked with a couple of actors onstage for a particular scene, the rest of us spent the first hour or so of rehearsal in the theater lobby standing around an old upright piano under the gently guiding hands of Anthony, our fearless music director. He seems to have the patience of a saint, as there’s lots of chatter and singing from each of the different music sections as we work with each other on our harmonies and parts. Our first song onstage will have a guitar accompaniment, and we worked the song that way, and it’s starting to come together wellFingers crossed for us!

New Logo Color

Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story performs Nov 3-12, 2017. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 

Writing Between the Lines with Playwright William Mittler

While developing Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story, playwright William Mittler discovered both the limitations and opportunities of writing historic stories.  His narrative formed from oral histories collected by Cal State Fullerton and in those histories, he found interest in what wasn’t said.  As rehearsals continue for The Olinda Story, Mittler talks Brea connections, writing between the lines, and play incubation. 

Playwright William Mittler rehearsing the 2006 production of The Olinda Story|Credit: OC Register

There’s a line spoken by the Station Master, one of our two narrators that guides the audience through the play, where he says “I’d like to think a town is made up by the spirit of its people.” Tell us a bit about your origins and connection to Brea. What’s your Olinda Story?

Brea, was out of town.  When I used to live in Fullerton in the late 80’s, I would tell my boss at Bob’s Big Boy that I couldn’t cover someone’s shifts because I was going out of town.  Then I would head to Brea and shop at Tower Records on the corner of Imperial and St. College.   Or head over to Brea Mall to go to the bookshop.  I never really went downtown until about a year before they revitalized it, there was a famous bar there where they would give you a beer in a to go cup and if you tried to talk about your problems the bartender would go, “I know I know…”  This was before social media when the only person that would talk to you was a bartender.  But since I didn’t drink, the real reason I was in old town was there was a record store I had heard about, and I found a comic book store that had ten cent comics pretty cheap.  In those far off long ago days people went places and bought things.  If you got off after work you would head to Tower.  And driving in to Hollywood to browse records till one in the morning was not unusual.  

I also worked in the early 90’s at the Crocodile Café, I was working 3 jobs at that time trying to put myself through school, but really just buying records and VHS tapes.  At the Café, I was a waiter and the weekend bookkeeper.  My last year there I was named employee of the year by the company at Christmas and fired before June.  It happened this way,  they still had non-smoking sections in restaurants then, a party wanted to smoke, and I told them no, a certain city official who I won’t name (not that I knew who they were at the time) was waiting for a table and insisted I accommodate them, and raised Hell.  As fate would have it he then sat in my section, and because he was so rude I gave him horrible service.  I came back for my second shift that night and was told exactly who he was and was fired on the spot as he had called up corporate headquarters on a landline phone. (These were phones that were connected to the walls by wires)  Today he would have Twittered on the Twitter that I was sad like a good honest politician.  It was much harder in those days to be a jerk.  It was sad, my boss was crying as she sacked me.

Walk us through the process of building a show like this. What fueled your desire to tell this story and how has the play developed since its first production in 2006? How long did it take you to write? What challenges did you face during that process?

This show was commissioned through a grant secured by Kathie DeRobbio through the California Stories Project and a collaboration with the oral history department at Cal State Fullerton.  Stephanie George was the Historian and provided me with the details as well as fact checking my script.  One of Stephanie’s brilliant contributions to the play was the end of act 2, there was a long speech by the Old Man of The hills here, but she said it wasn’t needed.  I recall that it was some wonderful writing, so I was hesitant about changing it, but instead of cutting it I thought, what if he couldn’t finish it?  I then instructed Spider Madison, the original Old Man of The Hills, to start the speech, but whenever he felt he couldn’t continue because of the emotions of the moment to stop.  It varied every night.

The cast of Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story, 2017


The main changes to this production are minor; some lines were cut, some humor added.  Some sections cleaned up. The problem was since I was directing the original version, I never had a final script.  As a director when directing my own work, I assume the playwright was a fool and solve problems as a director.  But being both the playwright makes changes as well.  The end result was the original project kept shaping and changing, but was never written down.  To get some of that material I had to watch the original video (on sale at the Olinda Museum) and transcribe it.  To be honest, I couldn’t do a major rewrite. This play has gone through a major change however.  I spent about 6 months writing a very factual play.  A draft that no longer even exists.  The more I read, the more I learned, the more I hated writing the play.  The worst books were the historical texts that had been put out over the years, which constrained the play.  And then while poring over the oral history transcripts I began to see a pattern, not in what was talked about, but in what wasn’t talked about.  And by layering the histories on top of one another, all the lines that may have been read in between were filling in.  Suddenly there was a story in the “better left unsaid” and the “well everybody knew.”  There were a couple of very blunt histories, and I realized these people were not filtering (or filtering other things but not the darkness). Characters began to form, and the hard life that no one wanted to talk about became more than work and land but abuse and social norms.  So the play formed.  The old play vanished and in about 3 months I had a play, most of which was written in two weeks.  Unusual for me, as I tend to write my drafts in three days of intense writing after six months or so of incubation (some plays incubate for years; some are abandoned after 100 pages).

The rewrite process for this production was the rehearsals.   Things changed. Were added (now lost) or cut (for time and flow).  Music became important.  For the cast used to a structured environment it was trying, I am sure, but my structure and style changes with each project, and here I was trying to find the town.   Act two became a whirlwind of events that suddenly ends, much like the town itself.  I’m not sure if this was the right approach, as there was a lot that could have been said.  A lot of stories unfinished and characters that drifted out of the play.  Much like any town.  

What themes or questions from the play do you hope resonate with the audience?

The play was written to reflect the concerns in the present day that could be dramatized through the past.  Everything was subtle, except when it wasn’t.   I made sure, as the director, to keep it that way.  I am more likely to encode scripts than come out and state my viewpoint.  But that was 2006, I am no longer that playwright.  My concerns these days have little room for being subtle.   The harshness of our current political reality has hampered my writing to the point of inertia.  For one who likes to write between the lines, it is hard when all one wants to do is scream at the top of their lungs.  And everything else seems trivial when compared to the horror of what is or may be to come.  Dying embers of the past rekindled for a virtual reality that is no more real than the concept of innocent days past and exploited for our entertainment anyways.  I cannot write this play today.

Why do you think theatre is important?

I don’t know if theatre is important.  I don’t think it has to be. Theatre is not a training ground for Hollywood or Broadway but an experience that is shared at a moment in time. A collaboration of trust between many people including strangers who come to see it.  For me it is the medium I work in.  I don’t over think it.   

When you write a play, where do you get your ideas?

Ideas are easy, plays are hard.  I have reached a point where I have said everything I have had to say, now I only say what I want to say as a writer.  If I never write another word I am content that I created many worlds so far.  My best play is still always my next play, and hopefully that never changes.

Early in the play the Old Man of the Hills says to the Station Master, “Just tell the truth the way it is.” As an author what responsibility do you feel you have when telling this story?

Truth.  Truth is when telling most stories I tend to take on the Russian symbolic attitude, it is not what it is that is important, but what you remember it to be.  I never allow myself to be a slave to research.  But I also try not to be a slave to the past.  A lot of my plays are historical (Punk rock 70’s, turn of the century, 1940’s, 1930’s, 1800’s) but they are not being performed in the past, but today.  With language I try and flavor the scripts, but I always keep in mind that I am writing for today’s audience. I was much more conscious on this project of what I didn’t write.  I didn’t write a cotton candy celebration, nor did I wish to cause anyone still alive any embarrassment.   Names were changed, characters created, situations invented, but always to be found between the lines or layering other research into the play.  I wanted to leave the audience with the idea that everywhere is interesting, not because of names and dates and what actually happened, but that it happened to people and how history is not dead but was of the moment and that these moment affected people and that how they acted affected others. 

Personally, what is your biggest take-away from this story?

Most of all I wanted to capture the spirit of the idea that it is all right.  That we go on living and our present becomes the past.  If anything I want to leave the audience with a conversation.  About how things were.  About how things are.  About the next 100 years being ours.  And it will be okay.  Maybe I could have written this play today, after all.

Olinda Story VISIX.jpg

New Logo Color

Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story performs Nov 3-12, 2017. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 


A Look at Brea: What’s Next

With the start of 2017, the City of Brea began its Centennial Celebration. From showcasing an immense collection of vintage film posters at the Brea Art Gallery to a parade down Birch Street and city wide picnic, it has been quite a year. How do we sum up a hundred years of history? When we talk about the past, oftentimes we separate time into specific events, memories.

page33bThis year we’ve been reminded of many significant events in our city history. Like the big game with Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth. Before Johnson became “Big Train” and joined the ranks of baseball’s all-time greatest pitchers, he moved to a small oil town named Olinda.B1Rtor3IQAAbt4H Years later he would return with “The Gambino” himself  to play a game in his old home town. We could look at the flood of 1938 and the aftermath of a town rebuilding, or the struggle of making it through the Great Depression. At the Curtis Theatre, we’ve done a lot of looking back while working on our upcoming play, Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story. When one of our narrators from the show, The Station Master, tries to describe the town of Olinda he says “I’d like to think a town is made up by the spirit of its people.” The spirit of the people that live here really has been undeniable, even all the way back at the beginning.baseball-brea-AOGHS

Before there even was a Brea, there was the once thriving oil boom town of Olinda. Olinda was nestled in the hills of North Orange County from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s. The promise of oil brought workers from all over the country, hoping to make a life for themselves and their families. Homes were built for the oil field workers and a community developed. Oil workers worked long hours in dangerous conditions; it wasn’t easy but the Olinda livelihood soon became a way of life. Schools and churches were built as workers and their families raised children among the rolling hills. Families enjoyed baseball and dances at the community hall. The first hints of Brea came as a neighboring community that began providing services to the oil companies and their workers. As technology changed, residents of Olinda saw a community dwindle and a way of life abandoned. The end of Olinda saw the beginnings of Randolph, which would eventually become the City of Brea that we know today.

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You can explore more of historic Olinda at the Olinda Oil Museum & Trail  where the community’s first oil well has been pumping since 1897. There, you can also take a historic walk down the Olinda Oil Trail and trace the footsteps of early oil pioneers. For more photos and stories of Brea through the ages, visit the Brea Museum & Historical Society. 


Although the town of Olinda is gone, the spirit of its people continues today. Brea continues the legacy of strong community, hard work, and the importance of family. Now as Brea sets its eyes on the next hundred years, we not only take a look back, but forward as well. Two years ago, the city began a project called Brea Envisions. The goal of this project was to hear from Brea residents, business owners, youth, seniors, and community leaders to share their vision and value for what Brea should be in the future. We’ve come a long way since that small town and as we close out of Centennial year celebrations, it’s reassuring to know those strong values will guide us in the future.

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This strong community of Brea is represented in many ways in Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story.  With cast members who live and work in Brea now to those who have grown up in Brea, never knowing another city to call home. The cast also features many families, bringing in a multi-generational perspective on how Brea has changed and yet still has never lost that small town feel. We hope to celebrate the spirit of Brea and how far we’ve come together over the last 100 years.

Photos courtesy of the Brea Historical Society.

New Logo Color

Tales from the Canyon: The Olinda Story performs Nov 3-12, 2017. Fridays & Saturdays at 8PM, Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! 

Take a tour through CharlesPhoenixLand

Audience favorite and showman, Charles Phoenix returns to the Curtis this October to present his Retro Disneyland Slideshow. Charles has delighted fans from coast to coast with his live performances, slideshows, food crafting & test kitchen, not to mention the numerous coffee table books he has published over the years. What connects all them all? The unique wit and flair that only Charles Phoenix can offer.charles_phoenix_header

Charles brings us back to celebrate and toast the early days of Disneyland, when the park was new and Tomorrowland represented the ‘faraway year of 1986’. Disney fans and audiences alike will delight with photographs and backstories of the theme park, along with Charles’ keen eye for detail. We were lucky enough to ask Charles a few questions about the performance, and the inspiration for his slideshows. He graciously invited us in for a tour of CharlesPhoenixLand —

How did you first get interested in slides?charlesphoenix_Ventura            I got interested in collecting other people’s old slides when I discovered a big box of them in a thrift shop in 1992. The box was  marked “Trip Across the United States, 1957.” I held a few up to the light, was hooked immediately, and have been collecting ever since.


The world is like a great big theme park, we live in a wonderland to discover, and there is something interesting around every corner no matter where you go!

Who or what is your biggest inspiration for the art that you create?
To cherish our history, look for greatness and when you find it put in on a pedestal and tell its story for the whole world to enjoy. That’s what I’m doing.

What’s your favorite part of performing for a live audience?
The immediate response. The connection. I also always enjoy the Q&A part of the show. You never know what they are going to ask …

Do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?
Not really … the only thing that I’m slightly superstitious about is that I ALWAYS keep my vintage sparkly Colonel Sanders style western bow ties rolled in the inside breast pocket of the jacket I wear them with. Other than that no … but I never take for granted what a privilege it is to be able to stand on a stage in a theater and share my passion with an audience.


If your show was an animal, what animal would it be?
Hopefully a 500-pound gorilla, or a standard poodle dyed periwinkle blue (w/ vegetable dye, of course) or a pink elephant that flies …  

What do you hope we walk away from the show feeling?

I want my audiences to walk away with a sense of local and national pride. A feeling of shared enthusiasm for the pop culture that we’ve all experienced together. Also, the joy of realizing the world is like a great big theme park, we live in a wonderland to discover, and there is something interesting around every corner no matter where you go!

Charles Phoenix FB Cover

New Logo Color

Charles Phoenix’s Retro Disneyland Slideshow performs Oct 14-15, 2017. Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us!