COSTA MESA — Two of South Coast Repertory's most versatile and well-regarded actors have left the resident ensemble and moved to Northern California for a combination of personal and artistic reasons.
Anni Long, who joined SCR in 1975, and her husband, Jarion Monroe, who made his SCR debut in 1988, are already working in separate stage productions elsewhere and will make their permanent home in Mill Valley outside San Francisco.
Long, in rehearsals for a starring role in Keith Reddin's "Life During Wartime" at Berkeley Repertory, said in an interview last week from Mill Valley that she and Monroe hope to retain a long-distance connection with SCR.
Monroe left Saturday for Yale Repertory in New Haven, Conn., where he will reprise a multiple role that he originated last season at SCR in the world premiere of Howard Korder's "Search and Destroy." Reddin's play opens Nov. 7.
SCR artistic director Martin Benson confirmed that Long and Monroe left on amicable terms and that SCR playgoers could expect to see "both of them back here" from time to time "working in significant roles."
"They haven't lost us," Long said. "We talked about this with Martin and David (Emmes, SCR producing artistic director), and they feel it's nothing but good for actors to work with others and come back broadened."
Long admitted that she had been miffed at not being asked to audition for the starring role of Ann Whitefield in Shaw's "Man and Superman" earlier this season on the SCR Mainstage. But, she insisted, neither that nor Benson's failure to cast her in the major supporting role of Violet--for which she was allowed to audition--had anything to do with her departure.
"The casting of 'Man and Superman' was a great disappointment to me," Long acknowledged. "I was very upset. You will have to ask Martin why he didn't cast me because I frankly do not know. But that is not why I left."
Benson said: "I had a stronger cast, and I didn't feel Anni would have been better. But in no way does that value her less. After all, I was the one who cast her as Lemon in 'Aunt Dan and Lemon.' "
A major factor that contributed to his casting decision for "Man and Superman," he said, "was making sure with a resident company that the audience doesn't get a steady diet of the same actor."
Long said that family reasons lay at the heart of her decision to leave. Monroe has a 10-year-old son from a previous marriage who lives in Northern California, she said, and they want to see him more frequently than was possible from Orange County. She also said she wanted to escape the county's "crush of development," which she said was making her "spiritually sick."
Long also cited artistic reasons.
"Other theaters have offered me work over the years, and I have not taken it because I felt so good at South Coast Rep," she said. "I felt safe, which is a part of the reason I need to work other places. For an artist to get real comfortable is to relax and maybe not play quite up to risk, maybe not go for broke every time.
"Although I feel I hadn't fallen into that trap, I wanted to protect myself from letting that happen. Why not keep myself really fresh and alive in my work and bring back new energy that I get from working in a different environment with new people for a totally different audience? It's very exciting."
Long said Berkeley Rep had asked her last spring--well before she decided to leave--to read the script of "Life During Wartime." She said she felt "a special affinity" for Reddin's work, having been in SCR's world premieres of his "Highest Standard of Living" and "Rum and Coke."
"I have a history with this writer," she said. "I also enjoy doing multiple roles, and in this play I get to do three characters."
Because Long ultimately was cast in "Man and Superman" as Miss Ramsden, a tiny role, she said she felt that it would not be a hardship for Benson to let her out of the Shaw production two weeks before it closed earlier this month so she could begin rehearsals for Reddin's latest play. "I told Martin that doing it meant a lot to me, and he graciously agreed to find a replacement and let me go," she said.
In 16 seasons with SCR, Long has appeared in more than 50 productions, beginning with "Jumpers" and including "Benefactors," "As You Like It," "The Time of Your Life," "Equus," "A Doll's House" and "The Ruling Class." She starred as Lemon in "Aunt Dan and Lemon" on the Mainstage three seasons ago, as Sally Talley in "Talley's Folly" on the Second Stage two seasons ago and as Kate in "Emerald City" on the Second Stage last season.
But that is only a fraction of what she has done recently. Long also played multiple roles in productions as different as "Hard Times" and "Search and Destroy," and she lent key support in productions from "A Chorus of Disapproval" to "A Christmas Carol" to "The Crucible."