La Jolla Playhouse’s WoW series taps new work by UCSD playwright Naomi Iizuka


A work by the longtime head of the University of California San Diego’s graduate playwriting program will receive its world premiere next month as the next project in La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls program.

Naomi Iizuka’s “What Happens Next” will run April 19-29 at the Challenged Athletes Foundation in Sorrento Valley.

The Playhouse-commissioned piece, produced in association with L.A.’s Cornerstone Theater Company, will feature San Diego-based actors as well as military veterans in its cast.

“What Happens Next” is directed by Cornerstone artistic chief Michael John Garcés. Here’s how the Playhouse describes the work:

“In ‘What Happens Next,’ Bonnie, an idealistic but inexperienced acting teacher, finds herself paired with a group of veterans as part of a drama therapy program. As she is confronted with the reality of her reluctant new students, Bonnie struggles to find a way to build trust and find common ground.

“Inspired by stories shared by the military community, this riveting new play mixes professional actors and San Diego veterans in an exploration of the complexities of sacrifice and resilience of those who have served.”

Iizuka has headed UC San Diego’s MFA playwriting program for a decade, and received her own graduate degree from the program.

Her plays include “36 Views,” “Polaroid Stories,” “Anon(ymous),” “Language of Angels,” “Aloha,” “Say the Pretty Girls” and “Skin.” Her play “Good Kids,” staged last October at California State University San Marcos, was commissioned by the schools of the Big Ten Conference and deals with sexual assault on campus.

The CSUSM production was directed by Judy Bauerlein, an associate professor who is now part of the cast of “What Happens Next.” She’s joined by Parnia Ayari, Nick Borrelli, Bruce A. Lemon Jr., Nico Marcolongo, Jennie McFarling and Kionte Storey.

The Playhouse’s “Without Walls” program, launched in 2011, showcases site-specific, immersive and otherwise unconventional modes of live performance, and has spawned three festivals so far.

In the show announcement, Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said the theater “has proudly expanded its outreach to San Diego’s military community in recent years, and ‘What Happens Next’ is a fantastic next step in that relationship, allowing us to perform Naomi Iizuka’s powerful, insightful new play at the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s headquarters.

“It also represents a chance to partner with Cornerstone Theater Co., whose transformative and often immersive work incorporates community members into their productions, making it a great fit for our WOW series.”

Performances of “What Happens Next” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays. The Challenged Athletes Foundation is at 9591 Waples St.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and military; call (858) 550-1010 or go to

Twitter: @jimhebert