Wagner New Play Festival a wellspring of theater talent at UCSD


If you want to know what’s happening in American theater, San Diego is a pretty good place to start looking, with innovative and often nationally buzzed plays and musicals germinating at the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Rep and some smaller companies around town.

If you want to know what will be happening in American theater a few years from now, you might want to check into the Wagner New Play Festival, the annual showcase of the University of California San Diego’s esteemed MFA theater program.

Consider that Lauren Yee, a 2012 graduate whose student plays were featured in the fest, is now one of the most-watched young American playwrights — particularly since the recent success of her plays “King of the Yees” and the music-laced “Cambodian Rock Band.”

U-T rewind: Our 2012 story on Lauren Yee

Or consider that a current first-year student, Mara Nelson-Greenberg, and a UCSD faculty member, Deborah Stein, both had plays selected for the renowned Humana Festival in Louisville, Ky., this year.

Or that two years ago, 2014 grad Jeff Augustin became the first UCSD MFA alumnus to have a piece land in La Jolla Playhouse’s subscription season, with the theater’s world-premiere production of “The Last Tiger in Haiti,” a work he conceived while still in the program. (The Playhouse and UCSD have a longtime working partnership.)

The festival — named in honor of two major benefactors, Molli Wagner and her late husband, Arthur, the founding chairman of UCSD’s theater program — will offer performances of four full-length plays plus three one-acts over its 11-day 2018 run, which starts Tuesday.

The productions also will serve to spotlight the work of the program’s acting, design and direction students.

And you can bet the fest won’t be the last time these upstart artists make some noise.

The lineup

“Mothers,” by Anna Moench, directed by Bea Basso: 7:30 p.m. May 9, 12, 15 and 18; 7 p.m. May 19. Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

“How to Defend Yourself,” by Lily Padilla, directed by Kim Rubinstein: 7:30 p.m. May 11, 14, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. May 12. Potiker Theatre.

“53% Of,” by Steph Del Rosso, directed by Jennifer Chang: 7:30 p.m. May 8, 11, 15, 16, 18. Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre.

“SERE,” by Ava Geyer, directed by Dylan Key: 7:30 p.m. May 10 and 17; 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 12; 2 p.m. May 19. Shank Theatre.

MFA One Acts: “Tambo and Bones,” by Dave Harris, directed by Joseph Hendel; “The Clitorish,” by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, directed by Nicholas Rapp; and “Joshua,” by Ali Viterbi, directed by Vanessa Stalling. 7:30 p.m. May 12, 16, 17, 18; 10:30 a.m. May 19. Arthur Wagner Theatre.

‘Wagner New Play Festival 2018’

When: May 8-19

Where: La Jolla Playhouse/University of California San Diego Theatre District, UCSD campus.

Tickets: $20 (discounts available)

Phone: (858) 534-4574


Twitter: @jimhebert