A Chat with David Ivers, the New Leader of South Coast Repertory

Photo courtesy SCR

David Ivers

On Thursday, Sept. 20, South Coast Repertory announced that David Ivers would be its new artistic director. Ivers, 49, replaces Marc Masterson, who arrived in 2011 and left the Costa Mesa theater last spring.

Ivers served more than 20 years as an actor and director at Utah Shakespeare Festival; for the final six years he was the company’s co-artistic director. More recently, he has been the artistic director of Arizona Theatre Company for the last 15 months.

Today we asked Ivers some questions about his background, his new position and his dreams for SCR.

Voice of OC: How long did the negotiations last for the SCR job?

David Ivers: The first interview was about 10 weeks ago or so. I had had intermittent talks with (the search agency). They flew me out to Costa Mesa and I went in front of the search committee for a full day of intensive interviews. They were very thorough, which says a lot about them.

VOC: What attracted you to this position?

Ivers: South Coast Repertory is the pioneering model of what I believe is the most impactful model in American theater, which is (combining) new emerging voices with established playwrights. I love that mix of new work, modern classics and (older) classics. There’s something so dynamic about … those stories creating a dialogue with each other. As far as curation and process go, SCR is at the top of its game.

VOC: You’re working at a theater where the founders are still active. Are you worried about the baggage that comes with this job?

Ivers: I would change the word “baggage” to “asset.” Knowledge is power. And I am a person that relies on a vigorous and opinionated staff that all support the three letters above our heads: S-C-R. For me it’s an asset to have that legacy in the building. There’s nothing in the contract that says anything about this, but I have their counsel, which I wholeheartedly embrace. I want to know about everyone’s concerns. What does it cost me to listen? To be honest, the best way to reduce my concerns about people’s level of involvement is to give them a voice. That way, people don’t feel compelled to have a quiet conversation in the hallway under their breath.

VOC: Do you think there’s an obligation for a regional theater to reflect the demographic makeup of its audience and its market?

Ivers: I don’t think the obligation is just with the theater, but our collective humanity. I have two young boys, and as a father and an arts leader I certainly don’t want the world they grow up in to reflect only what I look like. For me, it’s pretty simple: the community needs to see itself in the work. One thing I’m very interested in is having this campus come alive with stuff that’s not just what’s on stage. Pre- and post-play activity — the outside space can be a lively community. There are plenty of prolific educators and speakers and writers in our region. For me, it’s all about early exposure to the arts. The greatest news is this challenge doesn’t rest just on my shoulders. I have a literary staff and I can say, “We need a kaleidoscope of plays that speak to the human condition in all its form and rich diversity. Bring me those and we’ll start looking.”

VOC: What have your big career accomplishments been so far?

Ivers: I was part of the team at Utah Shakespeare that built the $40-million expansion that included two new theaters, a rehearsal hall, costume shops and other stuff. We raised a lot of money and gave the company a new home. I’m extremely proud of that. I’m also proud of the new development wing that takes new plays to full production. That’s still at the beginning of its trajectory. In Arizona, I’ve been there less than 18 months … a brief tenure, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done there.

Paul Hodgins is the senior editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at phodgins@voiceofoc.org.