El Segundo’s own Jeff and Beth Cason have combined their engineering and artistic talents with their upbringing to create a new theater experience for the next generation.
By Maureen Kingsley
(From The El Segundo Scene May 2018)
Going into business with one’s sibling is certainly not recommended for everyone. It requires a mutual trust, respect, humility, and deference to the other’s strengths that some siblings just don’t share. El Segundo’s Jeff and Beth Cason (pictured), however, rank among the extraordinary sibling pairs who are successfully growing a business together, making big plans for the future,
and getting along just fine all the while. The brother-sister team is also contributing significantly to the city’s dynamic arts culture by combining live theater, projection mapping, and mobile-device interactivity into a novel theater-going experience based here in El Segundo called Sound Stage LIVE! The production company debuted its first interactive, high-tech theater performance, The Little Mermaid, at the El Segundo Performing Arts Center (in El Segundo High School) this past March. “It worked beautifully,” Beth shares. “We were amazed that audiences both young and old—and everyone in between—really responded to it.”
The Cason family has deep roots in El Segundo. Jeff and Beth are third-generation residents, and their grandfather Carl Cason was both an aerospace engineer and a city sports photographer for years. The siblings’ parents, Mike and Martha, were involved in local aerospace as well. And while the engineering gene runs strong throughout the Cason family line, Jeff says it is Beth who is the more science-minded engineer of the brother-sister duo, while he has always leaned more toward the arts: “Beth is incredibly smart and understands how operations and processes work, and then I was the artist.”
Growing up here in town, Jeff and Beth credit the El Segundo Recreation and Parks Youth Drama program, still going strong today decades after its inception, as allowing them to grow an interest in performing arts from a young age. “We were the beneficiaries of this wonderful program,” Jeff says, “with amazing educators and people who were passionate about students being able to discover themselves and their potential through the arts. That’s where we got our start.” Beyond Youth Drama, the siblings remember putting on shows in their parents’ garage, too. As Jeff and Beth got older, Beth says, Jeff would tinker with adding pyrotechnics to their garage-based productions, “much to the chagrin of our parents.”
Eventually, as an adult, Jeff produced six Broadway in the Park theater shows in Recreation Park, as well as the recent jaw-dropping El Segundo Centennial event “Celebrate! A Fireworks
Spectacular” (pictured). The latter was a top-quality production blending El Segundo-themed animation projected onto the high school with music, voice-over narration, and fireworks. It began as a “shower thought” Jeff had one morning six years prior, and ended up a stirring and visually stunning tribute to his hometown.
Sound Stage LIVE, begun by Jeff in November 2016 and joined by Beth full time in July 2017, found similar success with its The Little Mermaid production. Like the Centennial fireworks show, the musical dazzled audiences, and the siblings are thrilled it was so well received. “In many ways it was a proof of concept, to try out this new idea that Beth and I had,” Jeff explains, “which is that we can modernize the musical theater experience for a younger audience by combining traditional storytelling with technology.” He and Beth call their production, which married live actors with immersive projections and a mobile-device app, “a first ever, not only for us but for the industry.” Not bad for a couple of kids from
Looking forward, Jeff and Beth envision such developments as live-projection-mapping audience reactions into a theater venue in real time: picture hundreds of “angry face” emojis peppering the theater walls when the villain appears onstage. Additionally, “a big-picture vision for us is to ultimately work with new-media studios like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to develop some of their shows into live experiences. Imagine ‘Stranger Things: The Live Experience,’” Jeff proposes.
The possibilities are exciting. And as each of these visions of Jeff and Beth’s comes to fruition, the El Segundo community will very likely show up in droves to show its support.
(This story appeared in the May 2018 issue of The El Segundo Scene.)