Have you noticed the way a few of the region's venerable nonprofit theaters have been turning into a marketing playground of star vehicles, empty-headed musicals and commercial retreads? The managers of these outfits, more impresarios than visionaries, seem to judge their own success by media buzz and box-office bumps. Connection to a community has become virtually an afterthought.
One exception to this dismal trend is South Coast Repertory, which has stayed in the business of supporting American playwrights by regularly producing new American plays. The recession and the laggard recovery have constricted the scope of this ambition, but the theater's fundamental ideals haven't changed: Smart writing, whether in the form of world premieres, contemporary plays or revivals, still holds pride of place.
Recently, it was announced that Marc Masterson will be SCR's new artistic director. He'll be more or less taking the reins from producing artistic director David Emmes and artistic director Martin Benson, who will remain as "founding advisors." For the last 11 years, Masterson has led the Actors Theatre of Louisville, another busy birthplace of world premieres.