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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

As the late afternoon turned to night, audience members sat in their chairs and enjoyed live performances at Mission San Juan Capistrano on Friday, July 16.

South Coast Repertory performed You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown for those in attendance, earning applause and laughter for their take on the “Peanuts” comic strip characters. The return of live theater in South Orange County was a long time coming after the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to in-person entertainment in 2020 and earlier this year.

The Mission’s partnership with SCR is a new collaboration—the historic San Juan site has not hosted live theater in the past, excluding a pageant held nearly 100 years ago. Mechelle Lawrence Adams, the executive director for the Mission, said the partnership was born “from the challenges of COVID” and that they want to continue to provide the community a chance to safely gather and experience theatre outdoors.

“The Mission as the venue came about out of both the need and recognition that with COVID, our operations and offerings were greatly restricted,” Adams said. “The Mission closed not once, but twice in a single year, and with that canceled all of its festivals, on-site education programming, tours, concerts and more. It was devastating for the 245-year-old landmark that was in the business of being inspirational, educational and celebratory nearly every day of the year.”

Mission San Juan Capistrano is a host venue for theatrical performances by South Coast Repertory this summer. Photo: Collin Breaux

Adams further said SCR is a “solid partner” with a “proven track record” and admirable reputation. The collaboration means SCR brings theater fans to the Mission, the Mission introduces their own supporters to the performing arts, and the two organizations can have a positive impact, Adams said.

“South Coast Repertory’s leadership, from their staff to their board members, understood the need to ensure the care and stewardship of the Mission, and it shows in the incredible staging and production of the two plays we are showcasing here,” Adams said.

An American Mariachi is a musical comedy also being performed on select dates through July 31.

David Ivers, South Coast Repertory’s artistic director, said audiences engaging with artists in live performances after a 16-month hiatus “felt electric.”

“Each night you can feel the excitement in the air,” Ivers said. “It is a testament to the audiences’ triumph over a pandemic, their determination and their resilience.”

The Mission’s location allows people to safely enjoy live theater outside, Ivers said.

“The beauty and historical significance of the Mission, combined with two professionally produced plays performed under the stars, creates such a memorable and special experience—perfect summer entertainment for the family,” Ivers said.

South Coast Repertory Managing Director Paula Tomei said that Adams and the Mission’s staff have been “tremendously helpful, providing expertise, sage advice and unwavering enthusiasm.”

Economic benefits from the performances can include new customers in downtown restaurants, shops, and hotels, Adams said.

“I believe that in addition to the positive economic development impact, there is also a spiritual effect, and that is the one where children and parents, friends and family, can come to Mission San Juan Capistrano and, for just an evening, leave their worries behind, experiencing the beauty of live theatre at accessible pricing in a venue that means so much,” Adams said.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is afamily-friendly show and features many familiar moments from the franchise—be it the title character longing for the Little Red-Haired Girl, Lucy being assertive, and Linus holding onto his security blanket. The show also has musical elements.

Additional performances will be held July 24, July 30 and Aug. 1. Tickets can be purchased at scr.org.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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