By LOU PONSI     7/5/2023

A partnership forged two years ago out of necessity between two established Orange County nonprofits, both heralded for the quality of their offerings, created a new and unique entertainment experience.

When the musical “La Havana Madrid” opens in the central courtyard of Mission San Juan Capistrano on July 15, it will mark the third consecutive year the Mission has joined with South Coast Repertory (SCR) for live theater under the stars.


La Havana Madrid celebrates Chicago’s legendary nightclub of the same name, where newly arriving Latino immigrants dined, danced and found community during the 1960s amid the joyous rhythms of salsa and mambo.

The recipient of numerous high-level honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and multiple awards for playwriting, Costa Mesa-based SCR has been producing live theatre at its multi-theatre complex for 60 years.

Known as the “Jewel of the California Missions,” Mission San Juan Capistrano (SJC) draws 300,000 visitors annually, is home to the state’s oldest Catholic chapel and has served the Catholic community for nearly 250 years.

Dubbed “Outside SCR,” the partnership between the two cultural icons formed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when SCR artistic director David Ivers recalled spending many sleepless nights cultivating ways to safely draw theatre goers when inside performances were not taking place.

“A few months in, literally, in the middle of the night, I said I know what we need to do,” Ivers said. “The first thing was the name, Outside SCR.”

The name is meant to be construed in two ways: performances staged outdoors, and performances staged at locations away from the theatre.

The Mission has been holding events outdoors for years, according to the Mission’s executive director, Mechelle Lawrence Adams.

Lawrence Adams is always open to offering new programming to bring new audiences into the sacred space, but of utmost importance is hosting performances while preserving the sanctity of the Mission.

“First, it has to be family-friendly programming and educational programming,” Lawrence Adams said. “We have to make sure the programming we give supports the historic and religious significance of the site.”
South Coast Repertory and the Mission share reputations of maintaining high standards in their service to the public, the executive director said.

“SCR has an incredible legacy of 60 years of being a centerpiece to the theatre community of Orange County,” Lawrence Adams said. “And we have our legacy of nearly 250 years. So together, we have 330 years of doing what we do, and it is a lot of fun, and what we provide to the public should be something that people really enjoy.”

Before visiting the Mission, Ivers visited several potential sites suitable for Outside SCR performances.

Then he toured the Mission with Lawrence Adams.

“I knew there had been other performances at the Mission but what I was really looking for was a contained area, unlike parks or open spaces,” Ivers said. “Then I saw the courtyard and I was overwhelmed by an incredible feeling of home. I could just see it. I loved the idea that we would be in a historic, important space with meaning, and we’d be partnering with another cultural touchstone for our community.”
Outside SCR debuted at Mission SCR in 2021 with performances of “American Mariachi” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

More than half of the audience members who attended the performance of “Million Dollar Quarter” in 2022 had never been to SCR in Costa Mesa, Ivers said.

Ivers and Lawrence Adams agree that the partnership has greatly benefitted both institutions.

“It is absolutely a synchronistic relationship that has allowed us to grow independently and together,” Ivers said. “I feel like we have definitely introduced people to the wonders of the Mission and folks that attend the Mission … The Mission has exposed those folks to what we do back in Costa Mesa at SCR.

“It’s not just about selling tickets and having a good time. It is largely about that, but it is also about the partnership and who we are together in Orange County and I love that.”
For more information, visit https://www.missionsjc.com/scr/