David Green named one of the top ten reasons so many "stars" come out of Orange County by Orange Coast Magazine.
1. Because in Orange County, all the world is a stage. When you’re on your way up, more than a few O.C. venues can offer a starting—and paying—gig, from Equity houses South Coast Repertory and the Laguna Playhouse, to storefront operations such as the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills.
2. Because when David Green says, ‘You can do it,’ kids believe him. Kids with stars in their eyes often study at an O.C.-based high school arts program, and David Green has established, taught at, or set the model for many of them. The founding director of the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, co-founder of the California Conservatory of the Arts in San Juan Capistrano, and artistic director of the new McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts in Yorba Linda, Green is the region’s Johnny Appleseed of young talent. His list of former students is a veritable who’s who of Broadway actors, including Stephanie J. Block, Susan Egan, Lindsay Mendez, Matthew Morrison (star of Fox’s fall musical TV series, “Glee”), and Krysta Rodriguez.
“Twenty-five years ago, when I first started doing this, I don’t think Orange County was seen as anything more than a bedroom community,” says Green. “People didn’t take things as seriously. Nowadays, nobody pooh-poohs the arts and educational programs in Orange County.”
Green is a key reason why. After helping to grow the High School of the Arts into the largest charter arts magnet in the West, Green helped create a similar but smaller program in South County, an entity for students who want to stay in a traditional high school while getting a background in the arts.
Says Green: “I’ve been whispering in the ear of talented, passionate kids, and saying, ‘Yeah, you can do it.’ ”
3. Because Orange County isn’t such a small world after all. Disney operations here employ about 200 professional actors, and 925 others for atmosphere and parades. Many are young actors, dancers, and singers ready to take off.
4. Because sometimes the freeways actually get you to L.A. in less than three hours
5. Because Bob Cohen has been cranking out actors for 44 years. Arriving from Yale in 1965, Robert Cohen was given the opportunity to birth a drama department at the newest UC campus, in Irvine. Under Cohen, the department blossomed. Now UC Irvine’s drama department consistently ranks among the nation’s finest .
6. Because wealth breeds cultcha. Not all parents are going to pay for private schools, art classes, music lessons, college tuition, or theater tickets. But here, a lot of them will, especially those who have high hopes for their kids
7. Because life spent in Orange County gives you a wealth of comic material. It can’t be a coincidence that so many funny men and women have worked their way through Orange County on the path to Hollywood, including a not-yet wild-and-crazy Steve Martin, who spun illusions at the magic shop in Disneyland, and future NBC “Saturday Night Live” star Jon Lovitz, who earned a drama degree from UC Irvine.
8. Because when you’re from Orange County, it’s easy being green. When Stephanie J. Block was tabbed to headline the national tour of “Wicked” in 2006 (later reprising her role as the lime-skinned witch Elphaba on Broadway), she set the trend of Orange County actors in green makeup. Anaheim native Eden Espinosa did an Elphaba stint on Broadway that same year, and played the role again in 2007 in the musical’s Los Angeles engagement. When Espinosa left the L.A. company, her successor was UC Irvine graduate Teal Wicks, who later would play the role in San Francisco.**
9. Because if you’re talented enough, there’s a stage and maybe scholarship money awaiting you.
10. Because who needs ‘Fame’ when you’ve got OCHSA? New York’s LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts raised high school arts training to a new level back in the ’80s; it was the setting for the 1980 film “Fame.” In 1987, Orange County established its own as an extracurricular program on the campus of Los Alamitos High School. Now Santa Ana’s Orange County High School of the Arts is a stand-alone institution with 1,400 students. *
* * FOOTNOTES:
#8: Stephanie J. Block is one of Mr. Green's alumni.
#10: Mr. Green was a founding Director of OCHSA in 1987.
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