Over, Under, Through

In about ten seconds, often less, she became the person she portrayed.

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.” ■

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And why did Mr. Smith never have the courage to speak his piece about the Globe's leadership before so much damage was done? Mr. Spisto's lack of qualifications for making artistic decisions (both short term, and - more disastrously - long term) was certainly no secret in the SD theatre community; it was openly discussed on many occasions. Nor was Mr. Noel's dismay at the theatre's artistic aimlessness unknown to a wide circle that included not only close friends but many professional colleagues who did not know him personally as well. Mr. Smith, you might have done your community an important service by raising these topics for serious discussion in your pages. Why did you fail to do so? What, or whom, were you scared of?

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