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Arts | Culture

Meet Diversionary Theatre’s Jenny Case

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Jenny Case, sitting on stage, is the managing director of Diversionary Theatre, the third oldest LGBTQ theater in the nation and in its 34th season.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda - U-T)

She is a leader in the LGBTQ theater community

It was the 1980s and Jenny Case, then a teenager living in La Mesa, would sometimes practice saying out loud to herself “lesbian, lesbian, lesbian” while driving her VW bug. She repeated the word over and over knowing she would eventually need to get used to it.

Case was surrounded by good friends and enjoyed her teenage years, but she kept her sexual orientation a secret. “You’re not sharing your true self with your friends or family,” Case, now 46, recounted. “You’re not being authentic and that has a price. It can be alienating.”

Years later, Case openly communicated her sexual orientation, but she has never forgotten her teenage experience as she pursued a career in theater. Today, she is a leader in the LGBTQ theater community, which uses art to help open the doors of understanding and self-identity.

Case began her theater career working the box office at La Jolla Playhouse while attending UCSD. Upon graduation in 2003, she continued with the Playhouse eventually rising to associate general manager where she oversaw budgets, negotiated with agents and handled administrative matters. She helped produce New York workshops and was part of a team that brought Playhouse productions to Broadway, including such hits as Jersey Boys, Bonnie and Clyde and Come From Away.

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Working at a large and successful theater with a national reputation was professionally rewarding. But, after 16 years at La Jolla Playhouse she was ready to embrace something new. In 2017, she joined San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre, the third oldest LGBTQ theater in the nation. She was appointed managing director to partner with Executive Artistic Director Matt Morrow. Together, they would run the theater, Morrow on the artistic side and Case on the administrative, marketing and community outreach side.

Case was attracted to Morrow’s high quality of art, and Diversionary’s support of LGBTQ was important to her. “For me, it was art and social justice all in one,” Case said. “I was like, wow, I could do both things and that was inspiring.”

In its 34th season, Diversionary Theatre, located in University Heights, is about story-telling around LGBTQ themes and writers conveying the experience of that community. Case emphasizes that Diversionary shows the LGBTQ community as human beings. “Art is one of the best ways to create community and understanding,” she said.

“The fact that we have made a community out of all those letters is that we are choosing each other to stand together. It is an exciting time to be able to make a stand that the LGBTQ story is worth telling.”

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Diversionary presents five productions during its 2019-2020 season. This season’s productions include two shows on transgender relationships. Plot Points in our Sexual Development is about one partner who had transition surgery and how that affected the relationship. The other is A Kind of Weather, a comedy about a transgender son whose father moves in with him. These are transgender issues, but Case points out they are really about “relationships generally.”

Everyone is welcomed at Diversionary Theatre regardless of sexual orientation. Case says that Diversionary has a large following of LGBTQ and straight patrons and volunteers. “You will be warmly welcomed,” Case said. “Learn about people you may not have experience with. View members of the LGBTQ community as human beings. And, see a wonderful human story.”

Case is enthusiastic about Diversionary’s future. She wants to grow the theater smartly and continue to combine “good story-telling and humanity.” She hopes to put more art in the world by commissioning writers for LGBTQ plays. “It’s always wonderful to have plays that you can grow, whether it be to New York or elsewhere,” she said.

“I am so lucky to have gotten to participate in a large national community theater and also now the vibrant local community,” Case said. “San Diego is such an amazing theater town that supports both spectrums — even a small LGBTQ theater for 34 years! That is amazing!”

About this feature

Goldsmith is a member of the U-T Community Advisory Board. People San Diego Should Know is a weekly column about local people who are interesting and noteworthy because of their experiences, achievements, creativity or credentials. If you know of someone you believe San Diego should know, please send your idea to advisoryboard@sduniontribune.com


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