Doo Wop in time for Mother’s Day

18221931_10155088588041263_6842608261233703530_nAudience favorites, The Alley Cats, are back with more Doo Wop hits, & even more personality! They’re just returning from the Moscow Spring A Capella Festival in Russia where they competed with over 167 a capella groups to bring home the 2nd place prize.

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When asked by FloVoice how it feels to be a part of such a huge festival, the Alley Cats shared:

“We believe music has no borders and the opportunity to perform in Russia right now is unique and we will savor every moment. It is also a feeling of gratitude and respect for what we have done as a group over the last 30 years it’s a real honor to be chosen to attend.”

The Alley Cats got their start right here in Orange County when founding members, Mando Fonseca & Royce Reynolds, started an a capella group at Fullerton College. They’ve gained new performers since then, opened for Jay Leno and Joan Rivers, and performed at the White House.

Even with all their success this past weekend and their continuous touring, they made some time to share some thoughts with us before their upcoming performance on our stage for Mother’s Day weekend.

Curtis Theatre: How did you get interested in Doo Wop?

Mando Fonseca: My parents listened to this music and I lends itself well to A Cappella and our humor.

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

Our audience. We listen to their request and choose new material based on what we are asked for!Alley Cats - Dressing Room

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

Making people laugh!

Do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?Alley Cats - Backstage2

We all circle up our our hands in and say “don’t suck” on three. Then we pat each other’s backs and say “I got your back”. We even have t-shirts that say “I’ve got your back”.

How do you involve the audience in what you do on stage?

We get them laughing and break down that wall.

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

Chimp since we tend to Monkey around…..

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

Joyful and inspired. And hopefully you leave all your worries for a couple of hours!AC-Shoot-1-358


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The Alley Cats perform May 13 & 14, 2017. Saturday at 4PM & 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! 

“Rock Legends”: the (re)quest to find the most air guitar worthy song

This weekend, we fell back in love with all the rock classics as we listened to Elvis, the Beatles, the Eagles, the Stones, Patsy Cline and more! We started the three-show weekend off by welcoming in the entire Rock Legends team into the theatre to get started on set up & sound check.IMG_6528.JPGBefore each show, audience members were invited to share their first rock concert as well as fill out request cards in the lobby. The lobby was abuzz with shared stories of first live music experiences & discussions of Beatles vs. Stones (one of the questions on the request card). Billy McGuigan admitted in the show that while his father was Team Beatles, he had learned that you can, in fact, love both rock legends.

IMG_6516.JPGIMG_6519.JPGIMG_6541Once the concert began, audience members were on their feet, dancing and cheering on Billy McGuigan & the band.  It’s easy to fall into that warm nostalgia feeling when you’ve got musicians as talented as these ones. IMG_6579.JPGIMG_6571.JPG

 

Picking playlists with Billy McGuigan

Whether you’re hitting skip on Spotify or jumping channel to channel on the radio, you know the frustrating journey of trying to hear what YOU want to hear. In the age of shuffle, sometimes you just want to hear THAT song or THIS artist. Billy McGuigan from the hit show, Rock Legends, is here to give you that customized experience where you pick the set list.

Now if you’re wondering where you’ve heard the name Billy McGuigan before, you might have seen him on our stage for the national hit show, Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience where he pays homage to Buddy Holly.  

The unique experience of Rock Legends is in its song-picking process: McGuigan & the band take audience suggestions to shape the music they play. Each performance delivers a new creative collision of the rock music you love.  Rock Legends Cover

We sat down with McGuigan to get the low-down on all things rock and roll. 

Curtis TheatreWho or what is your biggest inspiration for the music that you create?

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Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan: My dad always had music on and taught my brothers and I how to play instruments. He loved groups like the Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Elton John, but his favorite, was the Beatles. Every show or performance I put together has been influenced by him.

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

I love that first moment when I come out on stage and can immediately feel the audience. Sometimes, right from the start, the audience is hooked and you can feel that they are ready for a good time. Other times, I can feel that it’ll take a little more work to hook the crowd. How I perform depends on that feeling, and it never gets old for me!

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

I really don’t have any pre-show rituals. I do try and take a moment to feel the energy on and off stage, but that’s about it!

How do you involve the audience in what you do on stage?

Rock Legends set list, each night, is based on, what I call, audience personality tests. The cards are filled out in the lobby before the show and asks questions like; Favorite decade of music, Favorite Female Singer, First Rock Concert… their answers shape the set list, so it’s unique and different each night.

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

It’s a platypus! There’s nothing else out there like it.

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

I hope the show brings back memories for the audience, and for those 90 minutes, makes them have the most fun they’ll have that day.BillyAug2016-4

Screenshot 2017-04-20 at 6.55.51 PMStart thinking about which songs you want to hear at this customized concert & while you’re at the show, stop by our audience board to share with us your first rock concert experience. 


lets-playRock Legends performs April 29 & 30, 2017. Saturday at 3PM & 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! 

 

Piecing together the world of Forum, one prop at a time

Stepping into a new world is one of the largest appeals of seeing a theatrical production, a movie, etc.  Objects and items the actors use throughout help develop the type of world we’re experiencing. Creating this world to explore and escape into is a crucial part of the prop master’s job. They shape the reality we’re living in for the next two and a half hours.

For our current production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Amber Caras built, borrowed, and gathered all props needed to fill in this world of Ancient Rome.  We were lucky enough to hear all about the props process from Caras herself.

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Amber Caras

Curtis Theatre: Give us some info on your background — how did you get into theatre, & specifically working with props?

Amber Caras: I got into theatre in 8th grade when all of my friends were taking Drama but I was a band geek. I really got into technical theatre at Saddleback College after High School because there are amazing people there. I graduated from CSULB with a BA in Technical Theatre, magna cum laude. I now currently work at South Coast Repertory as  Production Assistant (Non Union ASM) and Entertainment Design Corporation as  Production Assistant. I first got into props at Saddleback during a production of Urinetown when I was asked to build the water filtration device. I was told I could use anything in the shop and I could do what ever I wanted to make it work. I really like the creativity and problem solving that comes with Props and I have tried to do it as much as possible since then.


What is your inspiration/ vision for this particular show?

This show is a Vaudevillian troop that is telling you about Rome. So the props should look like this Troop had these things available to them to tell this story. So we will be using things like a Trunk and Carpet Bags and other thing that we wouldn’t be using if this were a “true to the time period” performance.

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Caras takes us through her creative process, guiding us step-by-step through gathering & building props.

Step 1 – Read the Script & Make a List

“I read the script and make a list with my own notes about the props I found. Like ‘Is it edible?’ ‘Do we need more than one?'”

Step 2 – Vision Meeting with the Director & Scenic Designer

“I take that list to the Director and Scenic Designer and have them tell me what they want to use from that list and what they don’t. They tell me other things they have thought of for their vision and I add it to the list. Then I ask a million questions about each item on my list and try to get the best description I can of what they want to see.”

Step 3 – Gather from Producing Theatre’s Prop Storage

“I then would look through the prop storage at the theatre and pull out everything I already have that will work.”

Step 4 – Ask Friends & other Theaters

“I call up friends at other theaters and schools and see if I can look through their prop storage. Saddleback has been a huge help in this respect for this show. Most of our “normal” props came from there.”

Step 5 – Create Plans

“After I found everything I can, I start making Buying plans and Building Plans to complete the list. As I find things, I will try to show them to the director or the designer to get approved so I know that I am 100% done with that item.”

Step 6 – Give Props to Stage Management

“I make sure that Stage Management gets all of the props I have acquired and help them in the maintenance of all items throughout the shows.”

Step 7 – Return Props

“After the show is over, I put everything away where it came from, and make sure all borrowed items are returned.”


lets-playA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs March 25-April 9, 2017.  Friday & 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! Let us know your thoughts.

From concept to creation: the Design of Dance in Forum

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In musical theatre, the movement has many functions and effects: it attracts the eye, expands on intricacies heard in the music, and shows us the inner life of the characters’ emotions and thoughts. So how do we go from the page to the stage? Following the words in the script, the choreographers are able to write in their own way — the actors on stage are the pens that compose meaning through movement. The beauty of the language of movement is that it is universal and this marks the true craft of a choreographer.

For our upcoming production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the choreography is imagined and crafted by Tanya Thompson and Tara Pitt. We jumped at the opportunity to catch up with them and hear their process & journey from concept to creation.

Curtis Theatre: Give us some info on your background — how did you get into theatre, & specifically choreography.

FullSizeRenderTanya Thompson: I have actually been dancing since I was 5 years old. My parents recognized pretty early on that I was an entertainer and I was fortunate enough that they enrolled me in dance and in a local baton twirling organization called the Saco Jets. It was twirling that gave me my first experience with choreography when I was a coach and creating routines for competitive teams. My mentor, Linda Ladakakos, was a huge musical theater fan (hence the West Side Story reference in the organization’s name) and she was a large part of shaping and influencing my love of the art as well. Once I realized in middle school that Theater was something I could pursue as a viable career, I was pretty much inseparable from all things music, theater and dance.

 

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The choreography team – Tanya Thompson (left) & Tara Pitt (right)

Tara Pitt:  I grew up performing. My dad was a singer and made sure we sang as well. My
family was always performing. I started dance lessons when I was three and loved that as well. I was mainly performing in church productions growing up. We had no drama program at my high school so I was on the dance/drill team. That helped to really shape my dance and leadership skills. After high school I began doing a lot of theater. When an actor friend of mine decided to start directing he asked if I’d be interested in choreographing for him. It sounded like a fun, new experience so I jumped on board. I’ve been choreographing ever since.

 

What is your inspiration/ vision for the style of movement for this particular show?

TTForum is an old school, classic musical in many ways. Choreographically, we don’t think of it as a huge “dance show” but it definitely has its share of larger scale dance numbers. Some numbers require more pedestrian movements, while others have more jazz and some modern influences. Jon’s ideas for some of the numbers allow Tara and I to really have some fun with scenes that aren’t typically choreographed too. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are certainly a wide variety of influences.

TPThe style of this show is a great throwback to vaudeville. We all wanted to stay true to the show’s intent so our vision is aligned to that. It’s a very fun style to work with and allows for a lot of humor within the movement.

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Inspiration images for Forum choreography

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Thompson and Pitt take us inside their creative process, showing us step-by-step how they choreograph a show.

Step 1: Read the Script

TT: I want to make sure I understand the story and nuance that the piece will require on a basic level.

TP: I make sure to get familiar with the material.  I’ll read the script, listen to cast recordings, etc.

Step 2Conversation on Vision

TT: There is always a conversation between myself and the director and other members of the creative team to understand what the director’s vision for the piece is. This allows me to really lock into where the director sees the piece going, where the characters are emotionally at the moment when the choreography is taking place, what purpose the choreography serves to move the show forward at that moment, and the style and aesthetic of the show and individual scenes.

TP: I’ll talk to the director and creative team about the vision of the show.

Step 3: Research

TT: If I’m unfamiliar with the show I’ll try to get my hands on a copy to view to see if there are any iconic moments that should/could be utilized. (I usually enjoy throwing in a movement or small combination as a nod to productions past if possible.) I also usually will research popular dance of the time periods that the show takes place, and when the show was written/first produced.

TP:  Once the vision is in place, I’ll start researching dance in that style/era. This may be one of my favorite things about the prepping for a show. I love getting more familiar with different styles of dance.

Step 4: Work on Movement & Solidify

20170305_222053TT:  It is time to really get to work. My process is strange for creating. I usually have to be in a quiet space, with no distractions (if I’m working at home and my apartment isn’t clean or my laundry isn’t done, its hard for me to focus.) I will play a recording of the music for the particular number I’m tackling on repeat and lay on the floor and close my eyes. After a few times, I begin to visualize the movement. Then I get up, and move to solidify it and clean transitions and record it on paper (and sometimes on video) so it’s ready to teach!

TP: I start putting all the elements together. I listen to the music and start brainstorming ideas using the research I’ve done to put everything together.


lets-playA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs March 25-April 9, 2017. Half-off Preview Friday, March 24 at 8PM; Opening with Pre-show Reception & Post-show Toast Saturday, March 25. Runs Friday & 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! Let us know your thoughts.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Rehearsal: An Interview with Jonathan Infante

What do you get when you combine Ancient Rome + mistake identity + togas? Comedy tonight! Southgate Productions & the Curtis are bringing just that to the stage this March with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Stephen Sondheim delivers again with this witty & riotous farce filled with plot twists at every turn. 

Our team got together with Southgate Productions’ Artistic Director as well as Producer, Set Designer, and Director of the upcoming production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Jonathan Infante, to chat about the show and his many roles in the creative process.

Curtis Theatre: To start off, tell us a little about yourself and give some background on your work as a director.

Jonathan Infante:  I started directing for theater fairly early. Around my junior year of high school, I got the bug to be in control of a show.  I was also still really interested in being a performer, but I knew I wanted to do both.  In 2000 at age 19, STAGEStheatre in Fullerton gave me a shot to direct a show in their season. It was Picasso at The Lapin Agile.  I had done some shows as an actor and they took a chance on me and helped me achieve an amazing show that we were all proud of. Throughout my career, I have jumped back and forth as a designer and director. I spend most of the year as a designer, but the two shows a year I get to direct really help me get even more creativity out.

 

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Jonathan Infante of Southgate

What inspired you to direct Forum?I was inspired to come back to this show because it was the first LEAD role I ever played. I got to play Pseudolous twice in my early acting career and it has always been one of my favorite roles.  I truly believe that it is one of the most perfect Books for a musical and if you listen carefully to Sondheim’s lyrics, they’re not only brilliant but there is so much hidden comedy in it. Truly, the show has so many layers and I wanted to do something closer to a classic show.

 

Can you explain your overall vision/concept for this production of Forum?

My vision for this show is to remain as true to it as I can be.  This show has been produced many times and directors often take a lot of creative license with it and add and remove scenes. Again, I think the book is flawless and I want to stay true to it.

What do think will be the biggest challenge in this process?

The biggest challenge for this show will be time. It’s a lot of running around and dancing on top of a lot of words. We only rehearse for three weeks. This is something Southgate has always adopted because we know it’s hard to give up a lot of time for rehearsal when you’re not being paid large amounts of money. The chase scene is 25 pages of non-stop movement and dialogue. That will definitely be a challenge for all!

Sounds like fun! How does your role as Artistic Director of Southgate tie into your work on Forum? With this show, you’re juggling a lot of different roles –how do they all fit together?

My main job as Artistic Director of Southgate is to ensure that our productions meet a certain standard.  My job as director is to deliver a solid show.  These two jobs can go hand in hand at many times.  I fit it all together by surrounding myself with amazingly talented staff that help me meet the expectations of both jobs.  

 

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Set drawings & inspiration

You also did the set design; give us some insight on what the space will look like and the meaning behind it.

We always try to reimagine shows when we mount them. For this show, we’re going the classic way. Three houses on a street in Rome. The entire show takes place on a single standing set. Tall structures with columns, wacky angles, and vivid colors. The whole show is a nod to vaudeville and our set will be as well.

What do you hope the audience walks away from this production with? What’s the main takeaway?

I have one goal with this show. That the everyone remembers that we need to laugh and this show is a great way to remember that.


lets-play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs March 25-April 9, 2017. Half-off Preview Friday, March 24 at 8PM; Opening with Pre-show Reception & Post-show Toast Saturday, March 25. Runs Friday & 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! Let us know your thoughts.

 

Meet John Carney: the man behind the magic

When you buy a ticket to a theater production, you’re hoping you’ll encounter some sort of magic.  You wish to be swept away, to believe in a new or different reality, to believe in the impossible. With John Carney, you get just that and a little more. It’s more than a magic show, it’s more than a theatre show — it’s theatre magic. 

Now what makes Carney so adept at marrying these two art forms? He’s certainly not new to either scene. As an accomplished actor, he’s participated in a multitude of sketch comedy shows, plays, and even landed roles on TV shows such as Spin City and Two and a Half Men. As a magician, he’s acknowledged by his peers as one of the finest sleight of hand performers in the world with many awards to go along with that. He’s no stranger to Hollywood’s The Magic Castle where he performs often and has been given more awards there than anyone in their history. He’s even shown off his magic tricks on the Late Show with David Letterman!2

What makes John Carney so special is his passion for creating original material. He dazzles us with his ability to make us laugh during an illusion. Maybe it’s so magical because he’s done the prep work — but every time it feels brand new. 

Our operations assistant, Lottie Frick, sat down with John to get some insight on his art, life, magic and everything in between.

LF: How did you first get interested in magic?

JCI started when I was a teenager. I think it helped a lot that I had the benefit of a few mentors who were willing to take me beyond the initial infatuation. Close-up magic was a way for me to perform for small groups without stepping foot on a stage. I would perform for friends after dinner or at parties.

LF: Who or what is your biggest inspiration for the art that you create?

JC: My greatest influence in magic was a man named Dai Vernon, probably the greatest sleight-of-hand master of the last century. He was a real artist, in the truest sense of the word. He taught me that good sleight-of-hand is more than just fast hands. Ideally, it’s more intellectual in nature. It’s about psychology, problem solving, choreography of movement…and it has elegant simplicity. Dai Vernon taught me so much. There were never any formal lessons, and no money ever changed hands. We would just sit and talk about magic for hours. We were kindred spirits, even if we were generations apart.

Mystoimplores-1.croped.dd_.jpgLF: What’s your favorite part of performing for a live audience?

JC: I like the challenge of making a theater of wonder out of simple everyday things. The audience is focused, and I can manipulate the environment with lights and sound. I can create the kind of atmosphere where I can do almost anything, from the silly to the sentimental.

LF: How do you go about creating characters?

JC: Most are based on someone I have known, but exaggerated for effect. Others are amalgams of famous people from real life, movies, and my imagination. A script will get me started, along with a point of view, attitude, voice and speech pattern. From there, I take it on stage and improvise in that frame work, then just keep rewriting, and tweaking it technically. Generally it takes at least 100 performances of a new piece before I feel it has really taken shape. Even then, I can find new touches to add after hundreds of shows.

LF: Incredible that it can still be new after 100 performances. Now, do you have any lucky charms or pre-show rituals you always do before going on stage?

JC: Hopefully, it all looks spontaneous, but my only ritual is checking and rechecking the hundreds of small details that make it look effortless. Most of the real work comes long before, planning out tiny details that no one would ever notice, unless they were neglected. There are countless technical things that could go wrong in the show, and part of my job is making sure that if they do happen, I figure out a way to fix them so they never happen again. I’m more a believer in preparation than superstition.

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

JC: A chimpanzee: Silly, playful, and charming, but underneath it all, more clever than you think.

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

JC:  I want to affect people and give them a unique experience. I want it to be fun, with people walking away happy, perhaps with a new perspective on their own beliefs and perceptions – and what is possible.

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Carney Magic runs Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 4PM and 8PM at the Curtis Theatre. Tickets range from $16-$32. For tickets, call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 or purchase 24/7 on our website http://www.curtistheatre.com. Use code “HalfOffCarney” for 50% off tickets.

A celebration of 25 years: Brea’s Youth Theatre & the magic of theatre education

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The performers & parents of our youth theatre program themselves are our greatest advocates for how this program & theatre can truly be a life-changing experience.  One of Stagelight’s former performers from 1995, Geoff Kraemer, still talks about his time as a third grader first stepping his foot into the theatre world: “It was my favorite place to be growing up. I made lifelong friends, I gained confidence and self-esteem, and I have received countless hours of entertainment as a result of the love for theater that Stagelight provided for me”. After over 20 shows with Brea’s Youth Theatre, our partnership program with Stagelight Family Productions, he emerged a more confident person ready to take on whatever challenges the future held. Another performer, Audrey Bivens, is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre with a Dance and Arts Administration minor because of her time spent with Stagelight at the Curtis and shares “I would not be where I am without Janice, Lindsey, Katie, and this amazing company”.

At the helm of our incredible partnership production company, Stagelight Family Productions, is founder/producer/director Janice Kraus. Her journey with youth theatre began with her own daughter. Upon discovering how much her daughter was growing as an individual and truly enjoying herself in her own theatre classes, Janice decided to start her own theatre company. Thus Stagelight Family Productions was born. Out of love, curiosity, and a desire to spread the joy of theatre to more children. With Stagelight’s mission to build “a strong and rewarding future for young people in the arts”,  Janice and her team are not only having a great time putting on a theatre production, they are instilling the important values of self-confidence, individuality, and character in kids & teens alike to be built on for the rest of their lives.

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The families of Brea’s Youth Theatre celebrate founder, director, and producer Janice Kraus on 25 years of service.

It was my favorite place to be growing up. I made lifelong friends, I gained confidence and self-esteem, and I have received countless hours of entertainment as a result of the love for theater that Stagelight provided for me.

Now putting on a production with hundreds of kids each year is certainly no easy feat. It takes months of preparation, planning, and rehearsal. Janice let us in on some of the steps that go into creating a show from script to stage.

Step 1: Selection of the Production

Janice reminds us that “making the right choice for a large youth theatre production is key to the process”. The availability of the show has to be considered. Rights for the show must be obtained before it can be produced, so some shows must be thrown out during the selection process.

Step 2: Study the Script

The script is where it all begins. The director scans the script to get an overall point of view on the work and vision of the production before meeting with the creative team to discuss these choices. The creative team brings in their own ideas and a production concept is molded together.

Step 3: Auditions

For the show to be cast, actors must audition! All students registered for the production are able to audition; giving them the opportunity to experience the process of showing a short snippet of their singing, dancing, etc to be considered for certain roles.

Step 4: Rehearsal Process

After the show is cast, rehearsal begins. The cast spends six weeks learning choreography and music for the show. In rehearsal, scenes are blocked and formed after much repetition and discovery. Janice also works specifically with the lead actors to develop their characters.

Step 5: Move into the theater

The sets for the show are moved into the theater and the technical work continues.  The creative team including the lighting designer, set designer, costume designer, technical director, and stage manager all work together to form the production’s full vision.

Step 6: Opening Night!

After all the fun and hard work of rehearsals and tech week, the show opens! The thrill of opening night excites everyone involved and the cast, crew, and team will continue to have a great time throughout the rest of the performances.

Next up in the journey of Brea’s Youth Theatre is its winter production of The Wizard of Oz. Our program has embarked on the magical quest to Oz before and it remains “a favorite among all ages”. With our parent meeting behind us, the excitement for starting rehearsals is building. Janice shares her favorite moment of working on this show is seeing “the faces of our performers when we introduce the special effects such as the melting witch and the flying monkeys”. Registration for The Wizard of Oz is still open and if there’s any doubt about whether or not to sign up, Janice ensures “this experience will be a memorable one for your child” and looks forward to introducing the magic of live theatre to new families.

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Registration for The Wizard of Oz closes October 26 at 5pm. Registration fee is $155 for Brea Residents (those who live, work or go to school in Brea), and $170 for Non-Brea Residents. To register, log onto www.cityofbrea.net, and connect to EZ Connect, Class number #24502

The first day of the class is Friday, October 28, 2016, at the Brea Senior Center. Production dates are January 12 – 29, 2017, Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Friday at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. at the Curtis Theatre. All professional photos of our Brea’s Youth Theatre productions are provided by Bill Warshaw.

Lights up on the ’16/’17 season: Interview with theatre manager, Tiina Mittler

The Curtis Theatre first opened back in the times of 1980 and has hosted many different types of seasons before arriving in the season you experience today. We have been home to several distinct local community theatre groups including the Young Americans and the Brea Civic Light Opera. At the start of 1991, we began the incredible partnership with Stagelight Productions that is our much-loved youth theatre program, Brea’s Youth Theatre. Flash-forward 25 years and you’ll end up here at our 36th season, where we strive to create a memorable live theatre experience and engage our community with a variety of presented and self-produced performing arts acts over the span of a year. The Curtis has certainly evolved since its inauguration and this season is no exception – with upgraded lighting, world-class performers, and more chances to engage in the before and after of the show.

On the cusp of opening its ’16/’17 season, Operations Assistant, Lottie Frick, sat down with Theatre Manager, Tiina Mittler, to get the scoop on how this season was put together and what to expect in the upcoming year.

LF:  To start off, give us a little background on what the Curtis Theatre does, and your role in that.

TM:  The Curtis connects Brea and our surrounding communities with opportunities to experience live performance — it might be a Grammy-winning concert artist or the first-time parents have taken their kids to a live musical. Everything we do leads back to connecting the audience with the artist to create a memorable experience.

LF: How do you go about putting together a season?

TM: Great question! Building the Curtis season is a collaborative process with our Cultural Arts Commissioners, our Theatre staff, and the artists and theatre production companies we work with. Our season is a mix of creative partnerships that we have formed within our vibrant Orange County Theatre community and shorter, weekend engagements with professional touring artists. We work with a network of other venues, artists, and agents to identify notable performers that would work well in the intimate setting of the Curtis. As part of the City of Brea, we present our proposed season to our Cultural Arts Commission in advance of announcing it to our community.

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The energy when the performers meet the audience is exhilarating. It is the best day at ‘the office.’ It is what our team is working toward. We want our audience to feel that same sense of excitement.

LF:  That’s one of the interesting differences between the Curtis and other theaters. Being a part of the City of Brea gives us a wonderful sense of service to our city and community. Did you set out with a theme in mind for this season? I know “Let’s Play” is the tagline this time around – how did that come about?

TM:  Let’s Play came out of a wonderful discussion with a colleague in the field of presenting, Deborah Brockus of Brockus Dance Project. We were talking about the recession, that period uneasy, the storms that were weathered. While people still bought tickets, it was such a difficult time. We both acknowledged that, yes, while there are still challenges, we sensed something had lifted among our patrons, among our colleagues, and that is was time to play and pass that feeling of fun along to our audience. I knew then that “Let’s Play” captured that energy and spirit of what we planned to present.

LF:  How wonderful! In addition to the feeling of play, what do you hope the audience takes away from this season of shows?

TM:  Live performance is such a powerful medium. It can be thought-provoking, it can make bold statements, and it can start conversations. At the same time, it can offer escape, bring laughter, and create a memory. The energy when the performers meet the audience is exhilarating. It is the best day at ‘the office.’ It is what our team is working toward. We want our audience to feel that same sense of excitement.

LF:  Is there a particular show you’re most excited for?

TM:  Truthfully, every single show. We are continuing our partnership with Southgate Productions and opening with a reimagined, bold new staging of Sweeney Todd. Thanksgiving weekend, we are presenting The David Benoit Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown. To pair a world-class performer like David Benoit with our Brea Junior High Choir to recreate the iconic music of A Charlie Brown Christmas will bring a phenomenal energy to our stage and community. Our Brea’s Youth Theatre Program, produced by Stagelight Productions, will produce Disney’s The Little Mermaid, for the first time, this summer, which will create a great experience for our families that follow the Curtis.

In 2017, the second half of our season, we are producing two evenings of Latin Jazz that will begin with a reception on our Civic & Cultural Plaza and continue inside the Curtis with a live concert. The two concerts will feature Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban ensemble Mongorama, fronted by K-Jazz’s Jose Rizo in February and ending our season in June, the Latin Jazz supergroup Cuba L.A. We hope to craft an experience that is fun and lively.

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Live performance is such a powerful medium. It can be thought-provoking, it can make bold statements, and it can start conversations.

LF:  Exciting! How has the theatre’s partnership with Southgate Productions grown and developed over the years?

TM:  The right amount of organic and strategic. Sweeney Todd is our sixth show with Southgate. It’s been fantastic to see Jon Infante and the Southgate team grow as a producing entity. They have an appreciation for the intimate setting of the Curtis. With Jon’s talent for projections, Southgate has focused on reinvention with a twist on staging.

LF: Now we want a quick run-down of what’s to come this season, but I’m going to make it a little tricky for you. Only three words to describe each show in the season: GO!

TM:

  • Sweeney Todd – Reimagined. Bold. Sondheim!
  • John Carney in Carney Magic – Charming, engaging, magic
  • The David Benoit Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown – Christmastime is here!
  • Charles Phoenix’s Retro Holiday Slideshow – Hilarious, Retro, and Fabulous!
  • Brea’s Youth Theatre in The Wizard of Oz – Wizard of Oz
  • TheatreworksUSA in Charlotte’s Web – Perfect family outing!
  • An Evening of Latin Jazz featuring Mongorama – Sizzling, lively, beat
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – Comedy tonight! 
  • Rock Legends – Total request, live!
  • The Alley Cats Doo Wop Show – 50s & 60s hits!
  • An Evening of Latin Jazz featuring Cuba LA – Sultry, Summer, Sound
  • Brea’s Youth Theatre in The Little Mermaid – Under the sea!

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LF:   Speaking of The Little Mermaid, the youth theatre program, Brea’s Youth Theatre, produced by Stagelight Productions in association with the Curtis is celebrating its 25th year. What’s the secret that keeps this program so successful over such a long span of time?

TM:  Without question, the tireless energy and creativity of Janice Kraus (the president and producer of Stagelight Productions) is the nexus for the program’s success and longevity. Janice has cultivated an excitement, discipline, and a love for the medium of musical theatre spanning generations. Her enthusiasm never falters. Each show, be it a new production of Mary Poppins, or another staging of The Wizard of Oz, she will invest and reinvent the production elements so when the lights come up it is pure dazzle. Her approach is not just to engage the child, but the entire family. To see parents be introduced to this medium through their children, and embrace it, is just fantastic.

LF: Thank you so much for meeting with me! Before you go back to making magic happen this season, answer this final question — What has been the most rewarding part of putting together this season so far?

TM:  Going back to question 1 — the energy that occurs when the artist hits the stage and connects with the audience. It’s an intangible, but very real thing. It’s unmistakable, but amazing when it all works.

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“Let’s Play” Art by Hayden Design, Inc.

 

Tickets are on sale now for the /16/’17 season. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! Let us know your thoughts on the upcoming season by commenting below.