San Diego Reader 2019 Arts issue

Dance, classical music, galleries, street art, movies, theater

Kafkiana, choreographed by Rosario Verea, will be performed on April 13 at the
Live Arts Fest in Liberty Station
  • Kafkiana, choreographed by Rosario Verea, will be performed on April 13 at the Live Arts Fest in Liberty Station
  • Photograph by Gloria Minauro

Magician by Christine Shields at A Ship in the Woods.

Magician by Christine Shields at A Ship in the Woods.

Photograph by Matthew Suárez.

Birds sing, elephants dance, and monkeys paint, but only humans turn those activities into art. And only humans evince a bottomless hunger for it: hence the endless parade of pictures on Instagram, stories on Netflix, music on Spotify. And, as our movie critic Scott Marks notes, San Diego holds up just fine when it comes to what F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the more glittering, grosser power” of movies, the art form that mixes those pictures, stories, and music into a grand immersive experience courtesy of a giant screen and a cavern of sound. But if your artistic heart craves immediacy, our splendid city offers an abundance in the way of live music, theater, galleries, even dance (if no dancing elephants). Enjoy!

Past Event

Live Arts Fest

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
  • White Box Theater, 2590 Truxtun Road, Studio 205, Building 176, San Diego
  • $20 - $150

Breathe in the dance

  • Live Arts Fest 2019
  • White Box Live Arts Theatre
  • 2590 Truxtun Road
  • Liberty Station

A “celebration of multidisciplinary arts with a focus on dance,” Live Arts Fest consists of nine nights of dance spread out over the course of 12 days. Curated by San Diego Dance Theater’s Artistic Director Jean Isaacs, past fests have showcased modern to post-modern dance numbers choreographed by local and international artists, while also giving an opportunity to newer faces. This year is no exception, with performances from, to name a few, bkSoul, Mexico City’s Nemian Danza Escénica, Maria Naidu from Sweden, and the 2018 Young Choreographers Showcase & Prize winner Chelsea Zeffiro. Runs April 3 to 7 and April 11 to 14. Single-night tickets are a steal at $20, while a festival pass for all nine days is $150.

  • San Diego International Fringe Festival
  • Various venues
  • San Diego-Tijuana

Labeled as “an inspirational environment to showcase [the artists’] work”, the award-winning, binational San Diego International Fringe Festival is for the independent artist who wants to cultivate a sense of community while presenting their works in a unique, diverse environment. Although it showcases performances from all different modalities of the arts, many well-known and talented local, national, and international choreographers have taken advantage of the festival’s format in order to present their dance pieces. The format? Hour-long uncensored and unjuried performances, presented at over 10 venues and outdoor site-specific locations in San Diego and Tijuana, with all ticket sales going to the artist. This year’s fest, in its 7th year, runs from June 6 to June 16.

Balboa Theatre

868 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • UCSD’s ArtPower
  • Balboa Theatre - 868 Fourth Avenue
  • Downtown
  • Mandell Weiss Theatre - 2910 La Jolla Village Drive
  • La Jolla

Mandell Weiss Forum

2910 La Jolla Village Drive, UCSD

Every year, UCSD’s ArtPower program gives bountiful opportunities for its students and the community to engage in quality artistic performances of all genres. Now in its 15th year, their 2018-2019 season provides four opportunities to experience world-class dance. Two have passed, but two options still remain: Ephrat Asherie Dance from Israel and NYC’s Dorance Dance. Making its west coast debut, Ephrat Asherie Dance’s original piece Odeon mixes dance with live music and explores “what happens when you bring together the extended family of street and club dances.” Dorance Dance’s ETM: Double Down, on the other hand, delves into the history of tap through a contemporary lens – utilizing eight dancers, six musicians, and electronic trigger boards.

Raised by Gods, choreographed by Diego Mur, was a finalist at 4x4 TJ Night in April 2018.

Raised by Gods, choreographed by Diego Mur, was a finalist at 4x4 TJ Night in April 2018.

Photograph by Eduardo Gómez

  • Nations of San Diego
  • International Dance Festival
  • Spreckles Theatre -121 Broadway
  • Downtown
Past Event

Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival

Touted as the largest ethnic dance festival in Southern California, the annual Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival puts the traditional dances of San Diego’s many cultures on center stage. A project of non-profit contACT ARTS, Nations dance Festival falls in line with their mission statement of “enriching the community while contributing to the professional advancement of artists through performance, exhibition, and education.” In a single previous season, Nations featured 32 dance companies utilizing over 300 dancers and musicians from around the world, resulting in a beautiful celebration of movement. Currently in its 28th year, four public performances are scheduled between June 8 and June 16.

  • 4x4 TJ Night
  • Various venues
  • Tijuana

A contemporary dance and interdisciplinary scenic arts choreography competition, 4x4 TJ Night is unique in that it offers the audience a 360-degree viewing experience, with all the pieces designed to be performed on a 4’x4’ platform that is one foot tall. This concept was first born in San Diego — by now-defunct Sushi Performance and Visual Art — as a monthly event held at Bluefoot Bar between 2006 and 2008. Resurrected eight years ago by award-winning,Tijuana-based contemporary dance company Lux Boreal, it’s now a yearly event that draws applicants from all across the globe. Semifinals run between April 4 and April 11 at various bars, nightclubs and/or “alternative venues,” paying homage to the concept’s roots.

Tango Del Rey

3567 Del Rey Street, Pacific Beach

  • Tango Del Rey
  • 3567 Del Rey Street
  • Pacific Beach

If you’d rather participate instead of merely watch, Tango del Rey has you covered every night of the week with Salsa and Bachata, West Coast Swing, Kizomba, or Tango events. There’s plenty of eye candy, though, as dancers of all levels come together under one roof to turn, dip, and shake their tail feathers. Built in 1984 as an ode to flamenco, it now operates as an event center-slash-bar-slash-restaurant-slash-dance school. The castle-like quality of the Spanish-style building alone, both inside and out, is worth the price of admission — especially if you take one of the free tango classes offered Sunday (for first-timers only), Monday, or Wednesday.

– E.V. Hepworth

Che-Yen Chen and Reiko Uchida play with Camera Lucida, known for its thoughtful concert programs

Che-Yen Chen and Reiko Uchida play with Camera Lucida, known for its thoughtful concert programs

Jacobs Music Center/Copley Symphony Hall

750 B Street, Downtown San Diego

The immortal beauty of classical music

  • San Diego Symphony
  • 1245 Seventh Avenue
  • Downtown

The San Diego Symphony continues to ascend in both artistic and community status. The naming of conducting sensation Rafael Payare as music director established our symphony as a major orchestra not only in Southern California but on the entire West Coast. The 2019-2020 season will be Payare’s first full season at the helm. The Bayside Summer Nights concerts have started to become a traditional pastime for a growing community of concert attendees. The series increases the organization’s visibility amongst music-loving San Diegans and those visiting during the summer months. The symphony’s masterworks season ends on May 26 and features top-notch programs such as Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 on March 1 and 2 and Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 on April 27 and 28. Not to be missed is Camille Saint-Saëns’ mighty Organ Symphony on May 3, 4, and 5.

San Diego Civic Theatre

1100 Third Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • San Diego Opera
  • 233 A Street
  • Downtown

Today’s leaner San Diego Opera is still doing quality work by producing three mainstage productions per season along with two to three productions of the smaller-scale “Detour Series.” The final installation of this year’s Detour Series is Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, which stars opera legend Frederica von Stade. Heggie has previously had success at San Diego Opera on the mainstage with Moby Dick and Great Scott. The Detour Series is designed to help establish a new audience for opera, and Heggie just might be the composer to accomplish the task. The ever-popular Carmen completes the mainstage productions for 2019. The 2019-2020 San Diego Opera season has yet to be announced.

Past Event

Echo Chamber Music Series: Fauré Quartet

  • Monday, March 18, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
  • Cuyamaca College, 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway, El Cajon
  • $5 - $10
  • Echo Chamber Music Series
  • 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway
  • Rancho San Diego

This new endeavor is focused on world-class chamber music and is backed by the generous Sam Ersan. Mr. Ersan is a lifelong devotee to classical music. He reportedly attends close to 170 concerts per year up and down the West Coast. In 2008, he helped found both the Camera Lucida Piano Quintet and the Myriad Trio. Ersan also financially supports the Meccore String Quartet, the Modigliani String Quartet, the Smetana Trio, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and individual musicians such as Augustin Hadelich and Conrad Tao, both of whom frequent San Diego. The first season of the Echo Chamber Music Series features many of the artists Mr. Ersan supports. Concerts take places at the Samuel M. Ciccati Theatre on the campus of Cuyamaca College. One to mark on your calendar is Monday, March 18, when the Fauré Piano Quartet performs an excellent program of Mahler, Fauré, and Schubert’s brilliant Trout Quintet.

Past Event

Camera Lucida

  • Camera Lucida
  • Conrad Prebys Music Center
  • UCSD

Camera Lucida has been a going concern for 11 seasons; it is is a project of friendship and personal exploration. Its members include San Diego Symphony concertmaster Jeff Thayer, international pianist Reiko Uchida, former principal violist of the San Diego Symphony and Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Che-Yen Che, and world-renowned cellist Charles Curtis. Camera Lucida is known for its thoughtful concert programs, such as the upcoming “portrait of late nineteenth century melancholy and decadence: the music of Mahler, Dvorak, Bruch, Berg, and Webern.” The concert is Monday, April 1, at the Conrad Prebys Music Center on the campus of UCSD.

Balboa Theatre

868 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • The San Diego Mainly Mozart Festival
  • Balboa Theatre - 868 Fourth Avenue
  • Downtown

The San Diego Mainly Mozart Festival is in its 31st year, and is the home of and all-star orchestra. The band, which gathers in June, is a remarkable group of concertmasters and principal players from across North America. As one member of the orchestra commented, “every single musician in this orchestra plays on the leading edge.” Music director Michael Francis is guiding the orchestra on a six-year journey through the music of Mozart. The 2019 Festival is the fourth year and focuses on Mozart in Vienna, at the height of his compositional powers. In addition to the festival orchestra, Mainly Mozart is presenting the Mozart and the Mind symposium, which bears the theme, “Autism and Music: Empowering the Mozart in Us All.” Headlining the event is the remarkable Temple Grandin, who is the subject of a Golden Globe-winning movie starring Claire Danes. Don’t-miss highlights of the 2019 Mainly Mozart Festival include Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music on June 8, Mozart’s cantata Davide Penitente on June 15 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6: Pastoral on June 22. All three concerts are at the Balboa Theatre.

– Garrett Harris

The Friesen family owns Re-Animated Records in the heart of downtown La Mesa

The Friesen family owns Re-Animated Records in the heart of downtown La Mesa

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Re-Animated Records

8320 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

The giant recliner treatment

  • Re-Animated Records
  • 8320 La Mesa Boulevard
  • La Mesa

“Long live physical media!” It’s the rallying cry of Nick Friesen and his wife Lynn, owners and operators of Re-Animated Records, located in the heart of downtown La Mesa. Expect more than the vinyl and CDs their name implies: this lively two-year-old pop culture boutique also doubles as a film maven’s haven. (The couple’s wedding reception was held in the Ken Cinema. It doesn’t get more devotional than that.) In addition to DVDs and blu-rays, expect to find shelves lined with books on the subject, as well as walls covered with original movie posters. Friendly customer service is also a plus. Unlike other stores of this kind, the Friesens know their stock and are competitively priced. I was originally a tad reluctant to drop $75 on Kino’s three-volume set of avant-garde shorts until a visit to Amazon revealed an asking price of over $200. And that was for Volume 1. Open six days from 11 am - 7 pm, 5 pm on Sundays.

Theatre Box

701 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • Theatre Box
  • 701 Fifth Avenue
  • Gaslamp

The Gaslamp Quarter needed a movie theatre, what with the UA Horton Plaza finally shuttering its doors for good. (No great loss, especially when one considers that ushers were known to furnish patrons with bullhorns and cellphones in hope of encouraging audience participation.) Over at 5th and G, where the mighty (and mightily underused) Gaslamp 15 once prevailed, now stands Theatre Box, the latest luxury movie complex to hit town. A sugar rush greets you from the colorful confectionery that takes up most of the lobby. The seven downstairs theatres, including the big house, once baptized in these pages as our town’s finest screening venue, now play home to a cavernous restaurant. The eight upstairs screens have all been given the giant recliner treatment. The top ticket price is $14, but the real bargain can be found on Tuesdays when $5 buys you a picture. Food will be brought to your seat in mid-movie, but please don’t encourage that behavior.

Reading Cinemas Grossmont with TITAN XC

5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa

  • Reading Grossmont Cinemas
  • 5500 Grossmont Center Drive
  • La Mesa

As much as one may embrace the programming work being done at the Digital Gym, size matters. When it comes to viewing art and independent offerings, Landmark’s Ken Cinema is still the way to go. Best-tasting popcorn in town, a decent-sized screen, and buttonless stationary seats make one regret the recent glut of celebrity documentaries that have clogged its artistic arteries. (Thank heaven for the occasional Classics Week throwbacks.) When it comes to watching mainstream fare writ large, move over IMAX and make room for the two big houses at Reading Cinemas Grossmont 15. Raked stadium seating offers perfect sightlines and with screens stretching almost 60 feet, the Grossmont #1 and #10 are the closest San Diego gets to an old school moviegoing experience. And in the words of Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, their toilets are nicer (and sweeter smelling) than most people’s homes. Tickets run $8.50, with a $1.50 surcharge for 3D and/or Titan XC.

Digital Gym Cinema

2921 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park

  • The Digital Gym
  • 2921 El Cajon Boulevard
  • North Park

Last year’s letter began, “Dear Santa, would it be too much to ask that the deed to the Ken Cinema be placed in the hands of the Media Arts Center’s Ethan van Thillo?” Why not? Roma, long thought to be this year’s front-runner to take home Best Picture honors, held its local premier at a 48-seat art house that’s barely a blip on most moviegoers’ radar. Admittedly, a lot of it hinged on Netflix, an outlet that tends to release films to theatres when looking to garner awards attention. Their unwillingness to work with major theatre chains — they have a streaming TV pond to stock — provided the Digital Gym with its biggest hit since The Interview, a title theatres were reluctant to book in fear that it might plunge us into war with North Korea. Give credit to Moises Esparza, the man responsible for booking the room. From documentaries and indie and foreign releases to programming series of classic films, Moises is killing the competition.

Trinity Presbyterian Church

3902 Kenwood Drive, Spring Valley

  • Saps at Sea
  • 3902 Kenwood Drive
  • Spring Valley

I tend to enjoy my laughs with an R-rated edge; still, it's hard to disagree with John Fields' assertion that "Somewhere out there amid the vast array of choices in entertainment, clean comedy still exists." John is the group leader of The Saps at Sea Tent, the local chapter of the Laurel and Hardy Fan Club. The organization has lasted over four decades — John joined in 1978 — and shows no signs of slowing down. Fittingly enough, the congregants gather on holy ground: in Williams Hall, located next to Trinity Church in Spring Valley. The next meeting will be called to order on April 27, and as always, the show kicks off with a classic cartoon, followed by a trio of L&H shorts. All are welcome: members range in age from 10 to over 90. The shorts may be over 70 years old, but as one devotee recently put it, "Funny is funny, and Laurel and Hardy deliver the goods."

– Scott Marks

A mural by artist in residence Karl Ranson at A Ship in the Woods

A mural by artist in residence Karl Ranson at A Ship in the Woods

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Must-visit galleries

  • La Caja Galería
  • Callejón de las Moras 118-B Col. 20 de Noviembre
  • Tijuana

According to Arturo Rodríguez, “Buying art is buying pleasure.” Supported by his belief that a work of art is not complete until it’s brought home by a buyer with whom it resonates, Rodriguez is determined to educate the next generation of collectors at La Caja. In 2011, he developed a course for teaching the Appreciation of Visual Arts, the diploma for which is certified by Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts. Despite representing some internationally renowned artists, including Hugo Crosthwaite and Florencia Guillén (whose works command higher prices), Rodríguez continues to support emerging artists, whose work ranges between $100 and $1000. This gives new collectors an affordable opportunity to purchase a work of art that, whether or not it appreciates in monetary value, will continue to bring joy to its owner.

BasileIE Gallery

2070 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan

  • BasileIE + CM Curatorial
  • 2070 Logan Avenue
  • Barrio Logan

BasileIE (ideas and experiments) and CM Curatorial are two galleries in one, helmed by two old friends and collaborators — designer Paul Basile and artist/curator Chris Martino. Shows here focus on mostly local artists whose works speak to contemporary issues. Muralist Guillermo Hoffman presented a “post-apocalyptic visual fiesta” with selected friends for a recent show titled Casual Acts of Violence. In another show, fiber artist Ashley Gibbons presented “Her Medium is Herself,” featuring her large-scale pieces comprising embroidery and lingerie, through which she is “striving to uncover truths about our roles and ourselves in the most intimate ways.” All openings coincide with the Barrio Art Crawl, which is the second Saturday of every month.

SDSU Downtown Gallery

725 West Broadway, Downtown San Diego

  • SDSU Downtown Gallery
  • 725 West Broadway
  • Downtown

The on-campus gallery for San Diego State’s School of Art + Design has always been a challenge for the general public to access. With the Downtown Gallery, students and faculty (whose works are often prized by museums and collections around the world) participate in organizing and programming lectures and performances. Though artwork by faculty and students is exhibited (as with the show running through April 7, Futures Past & Present), this gallery also showcases national and internationally recognized artists such as designer/maker Tom Loeser, who is famous for his “one-of-a-kind functional and dysfunctional objects.”

Ali Silverstein’s The Fantastical Reconstruction of The Epine GY7 is being shown during Deviate/Landscape at SDAI

Ali Silverstein’s The Fantastical Reconstruction of The Epine GY7 is being shown during Deviate/Landscape at SDAI

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

San Diego Art Institute

1439 El Prado, Balboa Park

  • San Diego Art Institute (SDAI)
  • 1439 El Prado
  • Balboa Park

Surrounded by history-centric museums, San Diego Art Institute prides itself on being the “only contemporary arts institution in Balboa Park.” The space showcases regional artists from San Diego and Baja. Here you’ll often find group shows displaying works which speak to a central theme — a great way to get a sense of many artists’ voices in one space. The most recent show, titled Deviate/Landscape, features 21 artists tasked with “pushing the boundaries of landscape depiction.” Another fun element with group shows is that they are largely multimedia. In this show, artists use fabric, books, painting, paper, photography, sculpture, video, and even bacteria. As the Institute says, “No media is off limits.”

Quint Gallery

5171 Santa Fe Street, Bay Ho

  • Quint Gallery
  • 5171 Santa Fe Street
  • Bay Ho

Named for its owner Mark Quint, this gallery has been operating at various locations in San Diego since 1981. Quint’s sophisticated, internationally renowned cache of artists includes Ryan McGinness, whose paintings can be found in esteemed collections such as the Museum of Modern Art; and Gisela Colon, whose sculptures are known for their “organic minimalism,” and whose work can also be found in the permanent collections of multiple museums. Other artists include photographer Lee Materazzi and abstract painter Kelsey Brookes. In addition to established notables and mid-career artists, Quint features contemporary art exhibits featuring emerging artists.

A Ship in the Woods

3007 Felicita Road, Escondido

  • A Ship in the Woods
  • 3007 Felicita Road
  • Escondido

Unlike any traditional gallery experience, a visit to A Ship in the Woods is an immersive experience, with collaborative works that feature interactive installations, new media, experimental films, live music, performance art, and even comedy. Interactivity, especially where science meets art, is a central theme here. An “incubator for the arts and culture scene,” the unique location (2 acres adjacent to 50-acre Felicita Park) provides ample inspiration for artists in residence. Though there is a gallery space inside the main building, at events you can often find site-specific installations deeper into the woods.

– Barbarella Fokos

Phoebe Cornog is the creator of the Smile mural which is located on a large parking lot wall north of Broadway on First Avenue.

Phoebe Cornog is the creator of the Smile mural which is located on a large parking lot wall north of Broadway on First Avenue.

Photograph Courtesy Pandr Design Co.

Azalea Park Recreation Center

2596 Violet Street, City Heights

Living breathing art

  • Azalea Community Park
  • 2596 Violet Street
  • Azalea Park

Over the last couple of years Azalea Park, located in southeast San Diego, has become an art hub, thanks largely to the Azalea Park Artist’s Organization. Within Azalea Community Park is a water conservation garden created by residents. The park is sprinkled with large-scale sculptures and unique gardens. A tree in the garden holds a woven nest created by local artist Karena Velikan. Velikan regularly fills the nest with treasures and poems for visitors to find and examine. Also located inside Azalea Community Park is a wall covered in bright murals painted by local artists.

Rashelico Winery and Art Garden

17948 Highway 67, Ramona

  • Rashelico Winery and Art Garden
  • 17948 Highway 67
  • Ramona

Located off the beaten path down winding highway 67 in Ramona is the Rashelico Winery and Art Garden. The property looks more like the set of a Tim Burton film than a winery. Here and there throughout the property stand over 100 sculptures from the owner Jaime Chaljon’s private collection. There is a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is one of only 112 authorized by the Vatican in 2009 and cast from the original work. The garden holds everything from contemporary pieces, nudes, busts, sculptures with a traditional mexican influence, and whimsical abstracts and curiosities. The winery and art garden is open to the public from noon to sunset on Fridays, and from 11 am to sunset Saturday and Sundays.

  • Smile mural
  • First Avenue and C street
  • Gaslamp

In downtown San Diego, surrounded by concrete sidewalks and gray and beige buildings, is an unexpected pop of color. On a rainbow colored backdrop and written in a bigger-than-life font, are the hospitable words, “Smile, you’re in San Diego!” The mural is a fun and fanciful photo-op and cheerful message for locals and visitor. Phoebe Cornog is the creator of the mural, which is located on a large parking lot wall north of Broadway on First Avenue.

  • Stuart Collection of UCSD
  • 9500 Gilman Drive
  • La Jolla

UC San Diego is home to 19 commissioned sculptures, displayed throughout its campus. They’re collectively known as the Stuart Collection. The most notable and the most instagrammed of these pieces is the “Fallen Star” created by Korean artist Do Ho Suh. The sculpture resembles a whimsical pale blue beach cottage. It looms precariously seven stories up, atop the Jacobs Engineering building. Another must see is the 23-foot concrete bear constructed by artist Tim Hawkinson. The bear sits in the Academic Courtyard formed by Atkinson Hall, the Computer Science and Engineering Building, and the Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall. In a small eucalyptus grove near the Geisel library, you may hear whispering. You have not lost your mind. The trees are in fact talking. Artist Terry Allen stripped three trees, filled them with lead, and wired them with sound. They emit poetry and music. Weekends are the best time to visit these works of art, because parking is free and the campus is quiet. On weekdays, parking costs $20 a day or $2 an hour.


755 1/2 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad

  • Lhooq/Exrealism Vintage Bookstore
  • 755 1/2ND Carlsbad Village Drive
  • Carlsbad

Lhooq’s eclectic collection of used books intermingled with vivid graffiti-style art makes it a thrilling departure from the more cookie-cutter establishments located on Carlsbad Village Drive. The store is a living, breathing piece of art: from the building itself, which is covered in murals, to the intricate displays inside, the hodge-podge patio layout, and the unique, one-of-a-kind dusty books located inside and outside of the store.

Chicano Park

Between National and Logan Avenues under the Coronado Bridge, Barrio Logan

  • Chicano Park
  • National Avenue and South Evans Street
  • Barrio Logan

The Coronado Bay Bridge offers a breathtaking view of the San Diego skyline, sail boats dotting the bay below, and the iconic Hotel Del. What isn’t visible from your car window as you make over the bridge may be even more remarkable. On the underside of the Coronado Bay Bridge, 80 individual murals adorn the massive pylons supporting the elevated road bed at it’s eastern terminus. The first murals were painted in 1973 and have grown to the massive collection we see today. Though the level of artistry on display isn’t always high, the sense of community pride is. In 2017, Chicano Park was designated as a historic landmark.

– Siobhan Braun

Often when cast in a show, actors will request Peter Herman to design wigs and make-up. “When I wear your wig,” one told him, ”when I look in the mirror, I see the character I imagined myself to be.”

Often when cast in a show, actors will request Peter Herman to design wigs and make-up. “When I wear your wig,” one told him, ”when I look in the mirror, I see the character I imagined myself to be.”

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

The voodoo priestess and other backstage stars

Often, when cast in a show, actors will request Herman to design wigs and make-up. “When I wear your wig,” one told him, “when I look in the mirror, I see the character I imagined myself to be.”

There are still times when he must audition. “A director said the theater didn’t want wigs because other designers’ were always ‘too wiggy.’ They would give mine a chance. But if they didn’t like them they’d cut them from the show.

“As each actor walked on stage, I kept getting thumbs up from the director and comments about how the wigs looked like real hair and the style was perfect for the character.”

“One said, ‘You have the knack to know what hair color and style flatters me.’

“My reaction every time usually is a smug ‘told you so’ under my breath, but I’m glad I succeeded in helping create the character/tell the story…and gained another convert.”

  • Ben Thoron
  • Old Globe
  • 1363 Old Globe Way
  • Balboa Park

In his own words: “As production manager, I supervise and support the physical production process of all shows at the Old Globe. That means managing budgets, setting calendars and production schedules, and attending meetings. Functionally, it means working with the incredibly talented production department to make sure we can keep attaining the world-class costumes, scenery, lighting, sound, and properties audiences have come to expect. It’s most exciting not at opening night but weeks earlier, when the director or a designer presents a seemingly unresolvable problem. Using the resources and ingenuity of the team, we get to create magical solutions.”

“I’ve worked as a scenic designer/builder, scenic artist, properties designer, multimedia/video designer, and stage manager. Each job has its rewards and drawbacks. However all have prepared me for one of the best parts of my life: teaching [at Grossmont College] and giving back to students eager to learn something new or different. Seeing them succeed in professional theater thrills me.”

Favorite scenic design: Trying at Lamb’s Players Theatre. He recreated the office of Judge Francis Biddle with shelves of glassed-in books, old photos turning beige, and sturdy, lived-in furniture.

Favorite prop (also for Lamb’s Players): for Harvey, he did a painting of David Cochran Heath with a large white rabbit. “It brought the house down. The laughter was awesome to hear.”

  • Peggy Crunican
  • Usher

She began as a volunteer 20 years ago, enjoyed it, and has since ushered for dozens of theaters, among them the San Diego Rep, Old Globe, Cygnet, and La Jolla Playhouse.

“As well as the opportunity to do public service, we are able to see the performance. Some theaters also have a volunteer appreciation event.”

She arrives, wearing a “variation of black or white,” about an hour before curtain. Ushers are briefed on the rules of the theater and anything special pertaining to that performance.

“As an usher I represent the theater, often one of the first persons with whom the patron interacts. Efficiency and mindfulness are most important. If a situation develops, rapid communication avoids escalation of the problem.”

When she recognizes returning patrons, she welcomes them back. “They are really the life blood of the theater, and should be made to feel they are coming home.”

“Producing non-profit theatre from scratch means foreseeing what show you should do, in a time whose climate you can only guess, with money you don’t know where to find. As executive director, I am primarily an administrative voodoo priestess, spiriting productions from thin air: venues, rights, sponsors, volunteers, promos, copy, tickets, being surprised, not being surprised, making lists that don’t get shorter, cursing the program (last minute formatting), cheering on successes, kissing away failures, loving every minute, and inevitably breaking everything down and hiring a truck to take it away into thin air again.”

  • Commitment to new works

Noel Coward boasted he wrote Blithe Spirit in six days, lolling in a bathtub, sipping arid martinis. Just about every other play ever written requires a lengthier process: many drafts, readings, and supportive guidance to get them right.

Ten years ago, San Diego theater had a glaring flaw: other than the Scripteasers, begun in 1948, we had few outlets for new works. Today almost every company, from the Playwright’s Project to the La Jolla Playhouse (now producing world premieres almost exclusively) has a script doctor program. Plus, staged readings abound. They are usually free and give audiences the chance to take part in the creative process by giving feedback. They might even inspire you to write that play that’s been banging around in your brain for lo these many years.

Every year, the San Diego Performing Arts League praises the behind-the-scenes heroes of local theater with a Star Award. The evening concludes with the highest acclaim, the “Standing Ovation Award.” This year’s recipients, Dea and Osborn Hurston, have been indefatigable supporters of the arts for decades.

“One of the best decisions my husband and I ever made was to make San Diego our home,” says Dea, who is also a playwright of note. “We quickly became involved as patrons, then advocates and philanthropists. Our agenda is diversity. We feel fortunate to donate our time, talent, and treasure to this community.”

In April, Diversionary Theatre will award them the prestigious Fritz Klein Award “for promoting diversity and inclusion in the arts, specifically for including LGBT voices and artists.”

– Jeff Smith

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