My favorite design work for 2011? An unfair call: the San Diego Botanic Garden is one of the Seven Wonders of San Diego County. The La Jolla Playhouse “staged” David Leddy’s Susurrus as a walking tour of the garden: vegetation from all over the world, waterfalls, soft ocean breezes (a “susurrus” is wind whistling through trees), and a story that unfolded like different versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this pastoral setting.
The behind-the-scenes news of 2011: Louis Spisto stepped down as CEO of the Old Globe Theatre. As a fundraiser, Spisto had few peers. The Globe’s physical plant was much improved during his tenure.
As a selector of plays, Spisto favored safe, pretested, almost wholly commercial fare (August: Osage County being a huge exception). And world-premiere musicals were another matter. They arrived here hype-first: just one small step from Broadway. But most were, at best, about half-thought-out — Whisper House, First Wives’ Club, the recent Some Lovers (with a Burt Bacharach score but no book) — and left in no better shape. Some suffered drastic changes during rehearsals: Rocky Horror and Whisper House lost key personnel, including the original directors.
The Old Globe Theatre needs an artistic director, not a CEO, making artistic decisions. And it needs to be purged of the Broadway-bound fever that has infected it for years and brought in so many half-baked projects. We are here. We are not a stepping stone. Speak to us.
Years ago, when the fever first appeared, Craig Noel, the father of San Diego theater, was puzzled by all the talk of this or that show headed for Broadway and names in lights. Forget all that, I heard him say. “Just do good work.” ■