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South Coast Repertory honors founders David Emmes, Martin Benson

South Coast Repertory honors founders David Emmes, Martin Benson
South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. (Lance Gordon / McLarand Vasquez Emsiek & Partners Inc.)

During their long tenure as artistic directors of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, David Emmes and Martin Benson nurtured numerous plays that have gone on to national prominence, including "Wit" by Margaret Edson, "Three Days of Rain" by Richard Greenberg, "Rabbit Hole" by David Lindsay-Abaire and "Collected Stories" by Donald Margulies.

The duo stepped down from their joint post in 2011 but remain active at the company, regularly directing stage productions.

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SCR, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, announced Saturday that it is honoring its artistic co-founders by renaming its main venue, the Folino Theatre Center, after Emmes and Benson. The new name will be the David Emmes and Martin Benson Theatre Center.

The company inaugurated its present venue in Costa Mesa in 2002. It was named after then-board Chairman Paul Folino, whose family donated $10 million to the company.

The name change came with Folino's blessing, he said in a statement: "These two men truly are legends in repertory theatre history."

The venue houses three stages -- the Segerstrom, Julianne Argyros and the Nicholas Studio. It also features classrooms and administrative offices.

Marc Masterson, who came from the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky., succeeded Emmes and Benson as the artistic director of SCR in 2011.

Saturday's announcement took place at a fundraising gala for the company. A spokeswoman said the event netted $1 million. She said an additional $2-million surprise gift came Saturday from the Argyros Family Foundation.

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