Nov 10, 2011
I Interview Artistic Directors Part 1: Marc Masterson
Hometown: Houston, TX, with stops in New York, Pittsburgh, and Louisville
Current Town: Huntington Beach, CA
Q: Tell me about South Coast Rep.
A: A Dramatic History The 47-year Odyssey from Beachfront to Broadway
In 1964, "South Coast Repertory" was a band of untested former theatre students launching an artistic odyssey on little more than raw talent and enthusiasm. Led by David Emmes and Martin Benson, they had emerged from college into the crossfire of a revolution in American theatre. Young theatre artists were out to break Broadway's hold over America's stages by founding independent professional theatres. They called theirs a "resident theatre movement," and by the early 1960s it was taking root in cities across America.
Emmes and Benson had attended San Francisco State College, where two of its faculty — Jules Irving and Herbert Blau — also ran the Actor's Workshop, a model for resident theatre advocates. Having gone separate ways after graduation, and holding jobs in academia, the social services and the peripheries of entertainment, Emmes and Benson gathered a few San Francisco friends in summer 1963 to stage Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde at the "Off-Broadway Theatre" in Long Beach. The chemistry worked. The theatre's board invited the troupe back to mount a series of plays the next summer.
They returned with The Hostage, Major Barbara and The Alchemist. The process of staging these three productions was transforming for the talented friends. The pressure they put themselves under to excel, and the creativity that emerged, marked the 1964 summer in Long Beach as a crucible. The band of hopefuls was fused into a company.
(Editor's Note: It does not end there but I'm stopping there so you can hear more about Marc. You can read the rest of the fascinating history of SCR here.)
Q: How do you create your season? Or how have you created seasons in the past before coming to SCR?
A: I look for work that inspires me and that reflects the variety and energy of the world I live in. Of course, there are also practical matters such as expense and physical requirements of a work that are kept in mind as a season comes together. But passion is essential and it can come from anywhere.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as an artist or as a person.
A: When I was a kid I was part of a children's theatre program in Houston called Studio 7 run by Chris Wilson. The family of people that existed around that place and her leadership as the head of it inspired me to want to build a life in the theatre. I am still in touch with a number of people from that time and will be working with my friend Charlie Robinson in Jitney later this season.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Everyone would make a living wage.
Q: If you could change one thing about your theater, what would it be?
A: We should always be changing and evolving.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Anything that is inherently theatrical.
Q: What do you aspire to in your work?
A: Integrity and inspiration.
Q: Has your practice changed in the last ten years? Do you see changes in technology and culture changing how you work in the next ten years?*
A: I have embraced the use of technology in my work. I believe that we are just at the beginning of affordable new tools opening up for use in our story telling- but believe also that they are only tools- theatre should remain a live expreience with actors at the center.
Q: What advice do you have for theater artists wishing to work at your theater?
A: The barricades are not nearly as high as you think. Take charge and communicate.
*Thanks to Polly Carl for this question.