Production crews are on a mission to build a temporary outdoor stage within the walls of Mission San Juan Capistrano, a popular landmark.

"We were facing furloughs and layoffs, and I was trying to figure out how do we think about gathering again safely," said David Ivers, South Coast Repertory artistic director.  

What You Need To Know

  • South Coast Repertory partnered with Mission San Juan Capistrano to put on 12 outdoor performances for audiences to safely enjoy

  • Starting July 15, the shows will rotate nightly between "American Mariachi" and "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" through Aug. 1

  • Tickets range from $10-$35, and SCR said it's a chance to make theatre accessible to new audiences

  • Indoor shows will resume in October at SCR in Costa Mesa

He said he began working with the mission about a year ago to figure out how to hold shows outside for the first time.

"Being under the stars and returning a little bit of magic to our lives is something that so far based on the response, many people are looking forward to," he said.

South Coast Rep will open with "American Mariachi" on July 15 and rotate nightly with the family-friendly musical, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." 

It is all part of its new series "Outside SCR."

"There is a sort of illusion and a reality about it being a space, even though there's tons of open-air, that can hold the framework of the theater," Ivers said.

The seating will be divided into quadrants and fit up to 650 people. The front two sections will include chairs. In the back, people can bring their folding chairs or put down a blanket. A family fun zone will allow kids to run around if they get antsy during the performance.

"This is unlike anything I've worked in before," said Matt Chandler, SCR's production manager.

But he's enjoyed the challenge. The crews could not dig into the ground or attach anything to the mission itself.

"It's a lot of we're putting things up next to things that are several hundred years old," Chandler said.

Ivers spent years doing Shakespeare festivals in Oregon and Utah, so the thought of an outdoor theater was exciting.

"The actor really needs to use the power of voice, the power of body to really convey in a very large space," Ivers said.

With tickets ranging from $10-$35, he said the shows are not designed to be moneymakers, but rather a chance to invest in new communities beyond the walls of Costa Mesa and make theatre accessible to fresh audiences.

"Most not-for-profits understandably have their hand out. At some point, as a not-for-profit, we also have to put a hand in," Ivers said.  

He acknowledges investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce these kinds of experiences is a risky experiment.

"Part of it's like, 'Well, I hope it works,'" he said.

But as he anxiously awaits his first opening night since the pandemic, he hopes theatergoers will enjoy not just what's on stage, but the unique backdrop, a mix of old and new with artists at the center.

SCR plans to resume indoor productions at its home in Costa Mesa this October.

Click the arrow above to watch the conversation.

Let "Inside the Issues" know your thoughts and watch at 8 and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.