Alumnus’ ‘Pain’ to be performed for San Dieguito Academy fundraiser


Pain. Everyone feels it, and seldom is it considered entertainment.

For Paul Coates, however, pain proved the spark for a “thrilling, intense, thought-provoking play” that will take the audience through the highs and lows of comedy, drama, tragedy and fear, according to Theresa Beauchamp, chair for the San Dieguito Academy Theatre Arts Council supporting the world premiere of Coates’ play, “Pain.”

The performance — a series of connected monologues — will be staged in SDA’s Clayton E. Liggett Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25, and is a fundraiser for the theater arts.

For this one-night event, Coates has cast San Dieguito Union High School and SDA theater arts alumni from the 1970s through to current students.

Coates — an SDUHS alumnus from 1976, now a playwright and a talent and literary manager in Los Angeles — became fascinated by pain while undergoing dental work.

“For the months of being operated on, I thought to myself, ‘I have to meditate somewhere else because I can’t go through this every month.’ So I started to think of the concept of pain and what people go through and the thresholds they reach,” said Coates.

“It went from the concept of physical pain, then got into emotional pain, the baggage that people never let go of, and then it got into psychological pain,” he explained. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I realize how universal pain is.”

This is the second time that Coates has offered his talents and a star cast to perform at SDA. Two years ago, he wrote “The End of It,” which was also staged as a fundraiser, said SDA Theater Director Stephanie Siers.

“It was absolutely incredible and was picked up in the Los Angeles circuit,” she said.

Siers wrote to Coates and asked whether he could incorporate former and current students in a second SDA project.

Using technology, he was able to direct school rehearsals remotely through Skype.

“We’re getting everyone where they should be so that when we do meet on April 18, for the first time, they’ll have a strong sense of where we’re headed, and we will be able to take care of a lot of the fine elements,” said Coates, who looked to Siers to help with casting.

SDA cast members include senior Caleb Gibson and juniors Jessica Morilak and Maggie Lombard. Recent SDA graduates in the cast are Jesse Trout, Hannah Dohrer, Dakota Speas and Trevor LaPlante.

Tony Maggio is co-directing, with Mary Jeffries, Sylvia Lindsay Lange, Mike Ball, Kirsten Anderson, Mark Liggett (son of Clayton E. Liggett), Sharon Corbett-Parry, Bill Barker, Lisa Lippman, and co-directors Sheri Galan and David Youse rounding out the cast.

“Stephanie did a fantastic job in casting. Every single student is perfectly suited to the role, and they are really good,” said Coates. “I was a bit nervous about them because they are young and not so nervous about the old folks like us, but now it’s the opposite because I’m dealing with actors who may not have been on the stage for 35, 45 years,” he joked.

During the first rehearsal, Coates and two colleagues will lead master classes for theater students.

The common denominator for all involved is Clayton E. Liggett. Theater students know him as the namesake for SDA’s state-of-the-art theater, and former theater students know him as their instructor.

For Coates, Liggett was so much more than his theater teacher. “My father died when I was in high school and he (Liggett) took over that role. We never discussed it and I never realized that he knew my father had died, but he did know,” recalled Coates. “He was that kind of a guy, and he is the glue that keeps bringing us back together.”

One of Liggett’s students was Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. The night that he heard Liggett had died, he wrote a song about his relationship with his teacher — “The Long Road” — which is the theme song to the film, “Dead Man Walking.”

“The song is in memory of Clayton, a man who left a legacy that was incredibly widespread,” said Coates. “Every single person from my years walks into this theater with a sense of profound respect and love for him.”

That emotion will be translated into Coates’ production. Despite a minimal set with just chairs on stage — its focus is to convey emotion to the audience, said Siers. “There will be lighter elements and darker elements that most of the audience will relate to,” she explained. “It will be a fascinating raw piece.”

The show is sold out, but rush tickets are still available for students.

SDA’s Theatre Arts Council is part of SDA’s Foundation. Visit for information or to donate.