Last year, San Diego Theatre Week was a bit of an experiment.
“We were all saying, ‘Gosh, I hope this works out well,’ ” recalls D. Candis Paule, president of the San Diego Performing Arts League, which launched the project.
“‘We think it’s a great idea. We hope it’s a great idea.’ ”
This year, Theatre Week returns as a success story. And, Paule and the other organizers hope, the beginning of an institution.
The idea behind Theatre Week, which runs this Sunday (Feb. 26) through March 5, is to spotlight the depth and diversity of San Diego County’s performing arts offerings.
To that end, the nonprofit PAL has brought aboard more than 40 theaters, dance companies, comedy troupes and others to offer discounts and additional incentives for audiences.
San Diego Theatre Week
When: Sunday (Feb. 26) through March 5 (with additional discounts and incentives for events later in the year).
Where: Locations around San Diego County
Tickets: Ticket prices/discounts vary; check individual listings
Phone: (858) 381-5595
Most prominently, a total of about 10,000 specially priced tickets are being made available for performances during Theatre Week (as well as for some shows that are happening later but are being ticketed at a discount now).
That makes the 2017 Theatre Week about the same size, if not slightly larger than, last year’s event - which Paule, an actor turned administrator and advocate, counts as a win.
As she puts it: “If you do the first time and there are 40 (organizations), and the second time there are 30, then you’re done. There won’t be a third time.”
By contrast, Paule says, the 2016 event created enough of a buzz that some companies have timed their productions to this year’s Theatre Week dates.
The area’s biggest theater companies - including the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Rep and Lamb’s Players - are all represented in Theatre Week’s roster of shows.
But Paule says it’s the smaller, less publicized companies that perhaps can benefit the most from the project.
The hope is that potential patrons will “look on the map or look up (the organizations) on the Theatre Week website, and go, ‘Omigosh, that’s five minutes away and I’ve never heard of them. Let’s try them out!’ ”
Paule added that Theatre Week and the Performing Arts League (which runs the new ArtsTix Ticket Center in downtown’s Horton Plaza Park) have listened closely to the cultural organizations’ needs in planning the event - for example, by making it a Sunday-to-Sunday affair in order to better accommodate shows’ closing schedules.
Theatre Week’s discounts and talk-backs and other incentives are all meant to be good for business, if that term can be fairly applied to the labor-of-love creation of performing arts - not necessarily the most lucrative game in town.
“But I really think the bigger picture, especially now, is how important the arts are as an expression of what makes us human,” Paule says. “In these uncertain times, it’s just important to support and celebrate the arts - to take a risk, to try something new.
“We all know the arts celebrate cultures and share stories, promote empathy, create a common ground from where ideas and connections arise. All that good stuff.
“I think now it’s important to step back and take a big-picture view, and say that it’s not just, ‘Support San Diego theater.’ It’s: ‘The arts are important.’”
Taste of Theatre Week
A sampling of shows from each day of San Diego Theatre Week.
SUNDAY (Feb. 26): “An Iliad,” New Village Arts Theatre, Carlsbad, 2 p.m.
MONDAY: “Introducing the Roustabouts” (new theater company), Diversionary Theatre, University Heights, 6 p.m.
TUESDAY: “Freaky Friday,” La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, 7:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” and “The Blameless” (two-show package), Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park (times vary)
THURSDAY: The Kron Repertory (“2.5 Minute Ride” and “Well”), Diversionary Theatre, University Heights, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY: “The Illusion,” North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach, 8 p.m.; National Comedy Theatre improv, Middletown, 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY: “Hope: An Original Sci-Fi Thriller,” Tenth Avenue Arts Center, downtown, 8 p.m.; “Shadowlands,” Lamb’s Players Theatre, Coronado, 8 p.m.