By David L. Coddon
With its theaters that send productions to Broadway, and classical music showcased in a stately downtown hall or within a stone's throw of the sea, San Diego's burgeoning performing arts scene is enjoying momentum and a long-dreamed of identity. No longer in the shadow of the city's touristy theme parks and Gaslamp glitter, artists and producers of theater, dance and music are imprinting their bold creativity on San Diego's cultural fabric. Here are but a dozen of the many gifted difference-makers:
This adventurous Hillcrest-based theater led by Executive Artistic Director Claudio Raygoza and Producing Artistic Director Glenn Paris is marking its 10-year anniversary in 2014. Ion consistently presents works that are bold and challenging on both a cerebral and emotional level, staged in a black-box venue in which you're so close you can practically touch the actors. Next up: "Passion" begins previews April 19.
Broadway San Diego
Part of the Nederlander Producing Company of America, Broadway San Diego has brought national touring shows (mostly Broadway musicals) to town since 1976, and since '86 primarily to the 2,900-seat Civic Theatre downtown. They include the likes of Disney's The Lion King, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. Next up: "The Book of Mormon," a religious satire musical from the creators of South Park, opens May 27.
La Jolla Music Society
Though this venerable organization, now in its 45th year, presents a wide variety of classical and chamber music concerts year-round, its signature annual event is SummerFest. That multi-week chamber music festival brings to La Jolla world-class performers who share their craft and their wisdom with audiences in intimate settings. Next up: Variety of performances April 4, 6, 12, 25 and 26.
La Jolla Playhouse
The Who's Tommy and Jersey Boys are just two Broadway hits that began life at La Jolla Playhouse, which has been staging dynamic theater since 1983. (It was revived that year, after having been founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy Maguire and Mel Ferrer.) The Playhouse is also a champion for new artists and new works of the highest caliber. Next up: "Chasing the Song" opens May 13.
Following his career performing with the famed Twyla Tharp in New York, dancer/choreographer John Malashock formed this company 26 years ago. In the interim, Malashock Dance has established itself as an uncompromising, multidisciplinary organization, playing a significant role in the arts community as collaborators and educators in the craft. Next up: "Lifeblood Harmony," April 17-19.
"Moxie," defined as "spirited determination," is an apt name for this theater founded in 2005 with the goal of empowering women artists and, in doing so, shattering stereotypes. Artistic Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg leads Moxie's team of female professionals, offering productions that enlighten and tell stories that need to be told. Next up: "Mud Blue Sky" begins previews May 2.
The Old Globe Theater
The Old Globe is a San Diego institution and a cultural icon with 75 years worth of stellar productions to its credit. Its legacy speaks, as with the wit of brevity, for itself: Craig Noel, father of San Diego theater; Shakespeare in the summertime; The Grinch at Christmastime. It is beloved by artists and audiences here and from afar. Next up: "Time and the Conways" opens April 3; "Water by the Spoonful" opens April 12.
San Diego Ballet
Artistic Directors Javier Velasco and Robin Sheretz Morgan head up the 23-year-old San Diego Ballet, which proudly occupies studios in Point Loma's Liberty Station. In addition to performing traditional and intrepid works on its own, the company has teamed up with other local institutions, such as the San Diego Symphony, with impressive results. Next up: Choreographer's Concert April 5.
San Diego Dance Theater
On its website, San Diego Dance Theater (SDDT) bills itself as "sexy smart art," and who can argue with a company that, for more than 40 years, has made dance a breathless sight to behold? Jean Isaacs has directed the company since '97, during which time SDDT began its site-specific Trolley Dances, an event that has become one of San Diego arts-lovers' favorites. Next up: Live Arts Fest, April 15-27.
San Diego Opera
San Diego Opera, which had plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015, announced March 19 that 2014 will be its final season. After its April showings of "Don Quixote," the opera will close its doors for good. Luminaries who have performed for the opera during its distinguished history include Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Richard Leech and Luciano Pavarotti. Final acts: "Don Quixote," April 5, 8, 11 and 13.
San Diego Repertory Theatre
Since Sam Woodhouse (still the Artistic Director) and Doug Jacobs founded "The Rep" in 1976, its multicultural sensibilities have introduced audiences on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to the likes of Culture Clash, Luis Valdez and Octavio Solis. The Rep also nurtures young talent in collaboration with the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. Currently: "Red" continues through April 27.
San Diego Symphony
In existence since 1910, the San Diego Symphony is a survivor, forging ahead with its artistic vision even in times of crisis, like its mid-'90s bankruptcy. Today, the symphony is making sweet music inside stately Copley Symphony Hall under the direction of conductor Jahja Ling, who oversees 82 full-time musicians. Next up: Variety of performances throughout April.