SCR Chooses ‘Once in Arden,’ 4 Other Plays for Next Season

Times Staff Writer

South Coast Repertory has penciled in five of the 11 plays it will stage for its 1989-90 season, artistic director Martin Benson said Tuesday.

The Tony-winning company in Costa Mesa will mount Mainstage productions of Richard Hellesen’s “Once in Arden” and Howard Korder’s “Search and Destroy"--both world premieres--and Hugh Whitemore’s “Breaking the Code,” a Southern California premiere.

On the Second Stage, Benson said, SCR will produce the American premiere of Sharman MacDonald’s “When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout” and the previously reported “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” by Terrence McNally.

Three productions for the 507-seat Mainstage and three for the 161-seat Second Stage have yet to be decided. For the Mainstage, Benson and producing artistic director David Emmes are considering Moliere’s “The Miser,” Noel Coward’s “Design for Living,” Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage” and, more remotely, Alan Ayckbourn’s “Woman in Mind.”


“There are other possibilities as well,” Benson said, but he declined to disclose them.

Korder’s “Search and Destroy,” which was commissioned by SCR, is about a Florida businessman who encounters tax troubles and decides to seek meaning in his life. It was read at SCR earlier this year.

“Breaking the Code” chronicles the life of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped decide the outcome of World War II by cracking the German secret code “enigma.” It opened in London in 1986 and on Broadway in 1987, both times starring Derek Jacobi.

“When I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shout,” a Scottish play, takes place at the beach and tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship. It opened in London in 1988.


“Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” is a bittersweet love story about two people who find themselves alone in the world. It will be a vehicle for two SCR veteran players, Richard Doyle and Karen Hensel. The play originated in New York in 1987 and ran in a limited engagement at the Mark Taper Forum last fall in Los Angeles.

“Once in Arden” is about Polish-born Helena Modjeska, the renowned Shakespearean actress who retired to Orange County around the turn of the century after touring the country for three decades. The play received a staged reading earlier this month at SCR’s California Play Festival.

Nan Martin played Modjeska in the reading and will probably star in the full production. “She wants it, and we want to give it to her,” Benson said. “The only thing that could upset that is a change in her schedule.”

The actress, who starred in Athol Fugard’s “The Road to Mecca” on the Mainstage in February, also has been invited to reprise that role at Kennedy Center in Washington, where the play will be revived in August.

“Fugard told her a number of people had written to him about her performance here,” said Benson, who directed the SCR production. “We’re real pleased. He will be in the play himself, along with Kathy Bates, who did it with him previously. And he has asked Nan to bring all the ideas we used. The production in Washington will be a ‘re-examination’ of the play, to use his word.”

Meanwhile, Benson said, current negotiations for a new contract between the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and the League of Regional Theaters, of which SCR is a member, will not affect the opening of the season in September but could alter SCR’s choice of the opening play. The union’s contract ran out, after an extension, last Friday.

“I’m confident the issues will get resolved,” he said. “The (wage) scale they want won’t affect us because it is already consonant with what we pay. The only thing that will affect us is the timing--in other words, which directors we can approach first to begin rehearsals. And that could affect which play we open with.”