Who needs Broadway?
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on January 5, 2001
Here in San Diego, we are incredibly spoiled when it comes to live theater. In the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Rep, we have three of the best regional theaters in the world. As a matter of fact, both the Globe and the Playhouse have won Tony Awards as the best regional theater in the nation. And between these three theaters, San Diego has sent Broadway some of its biggest recent hits. "Ain't Nothin' But the Blues," "Full Monty," "The Who's Tommy" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" all began life in San Diego before moving on to New York and the Playhouse's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is set to follow suit.
We also have more than a dozen community and underground theater companies in our county, ranging from the delightfully experimental Sledgehammer to the reliably wholesome Lamb's Players.
All in all, if you like live theater, there's no reason to stay home and watch television.
The Old Globe is San Diego's crown jewel of local theater. Which is no knock on the others, but it's darn hard to compete with the Globe's gorgeous quarters in Balboa Park. Named after Shakespeare's own Globe theater, San Diego's Globe consists of three theaters: The main Globe stage, the Cassius Carter Center Stage (theater in the round), and the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theater (which serves up at least one Shakespeare production per year).
Originally founded by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer in 1947 as a place to keep their live theater skills up to date, the Playhouse later underwent a quarter-century hiatus while funds were raised to build a more modern facility. Reopening in 1983 in a facility shared with UCSD, the Playhouse quickly established itself as a major regional theater to be dealt with.
The youngest of San Diego's three major theaters, the Rep is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Once San Diego's major avant-garde company, the Rep remains more experimental than the Globe, but has also developed some top-flight mainstream productions as well sending shows to Broadway. And the Rep's annual presentation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a San Diego holiday tradition.
Broadway San Diego
Broadway San Diego is the outfit that brings all those big-name Broadway productions to the San Diego Civic Theatre shows like "Cats" and "Cabaret" and "Stomp." Unlike most every other theater outfit in town, Broadway San Diego is a for-profit operation although they are bringing the La Jolla Playhouse's "The Who's Tommy" back to town next year, which will help the nonprofit Playhouse.
Broadway San Diego's site not only lists all their upcoming productions, but also allows you to purchase tickets online through TicketMaster something the Globe and Playhouse don't (but that the Rep also does).
Sledgehammer started life as an angry young theater one of those pretentious companies that think nothing is real "art" unless it's aggressive if not offensive. Which works fine in women's studies departments, but the rest of the world gets tired of such juvenile antics after awhile and fortunately, so did the folks at Sledgehammer. Still edgy, still experimental, Sledgehammer remains the theater most likely to showcase the new, the avant-garde even the occasional angry piece. (It's also the one theater in town where you most likely to find former ComputorEdge editors and current best-selling authors Andy and Tina Rathbone in the audience.)
Diversionary Theatre is dedicated to presenting productions focused on the gay community. That seems sort of limiting, but they've built a loyal audience and are still thriving 15 years later no small feat in the tumultuous world of the arts.
Once just another community theater group where amateurs could try their hand on stage, the Lamb's Players is a top-flight small company devoted to Christian values. That might seem as limiting as Diversionary's mission, but Lamb's Players has been just as successful at finding an audience feeling left out of mainstream productions.
Located adjacent to the Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park, Starlight is the outdoor company famous for having to freeze during performances when jetliners scream overhead on their way in to Lindbergh Field. They mostly do revivals of famous musicals from Broadway's Golden Age, and are another community theater group.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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