Although the second largest city in California, San Diego is often passed over by tourists in favor of its more glamorous neighbors, San Francisco and LA. The average visitor would be satisfied sojourning at a downtown hotel and visiting the top 10 attractions, such as the 1200-acre Balboa Park or the 4000-animal Zoo. More upscale guests, however, house at corporate housing in San Diego for longer periods, dine at Cucina Urbana and The Kebab Shop, and watch some of the best plays in America staged at San Diego’s premium theatres and playhouses.
San Diego, the Broadway of the West Coast?
Just like its obscure status as a tourist destination, San Diego’s outstanding achievements in producing highly popular plays have also been hugely understated. Not many people might know that San Diego has sent more plays to Broadway than any other city in America. The City boasts a mindboggling 150 stages including two that have won the coveted “Tony Award”. With such numbers, with the kind of history that San Diego has for creating great plays, and for the sheer variety of performances that it produces, San Diego should have long become the Broadway of the West Coast.
The history of San Diego as the epicenter of theater on the West Coast goes back by almost a century. It was in 1935 that curtains were lifted from the legendary Old Globe Theater, the venue that won the second-ever Tony Award in California in 1984 for Kiss Me Kate, directed by the famous San Diego director O’Brien. This was followed by 1992 remake ofÂ Damn Yankees, a play that spiraled to success and headed straight for New York. The spate of success continued with the 1998 classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and in 2000 The Full Monty: The Musical. O’Brien won his first Tony for best direction for his 2003 musical Hairspray, winning his second and third such awards in quick succession for his plays Henri IV and The Coast of Utopia. Finally, his 2007 win for the puppet musical Avenue Q placed O’Brien in so much national and international demand that he decided to quit Old Globe and San Diego, but not before turning the City into a theatrical paradise.
And yet, the Globe is just one of the theaters boasting noteworthy achievements. Take La Jolla Playhouse, for instance, the experimental theater that keeps pushing the envelope of theatrical performances with innovations such as “Without Walls Series” that turns viewers into characters in the play. The 2013 play Accomplice: San Diego, sent theatergoers on a 2-hour tour of Little Italy’s streets, hotels, restaurants, bars and galleries, with the aim to help a crooked Internet billionaire avert an FBI sting operation and escape to his private island. The trail is full of clues and strange characters who guide the players on by sharing clues, maps, etc. In 2012, the theater sent its play Hands on a Hardbody to Broadway after hosting it successfully for four long years. Contrary to what the name might suggest, the play is based on the East Texan real-life competition, in which the players place one hand on a truck and keep standing there for hours. The play puts an actual truck on stage throughout the show.
Apart from winning Tony Awards and sending plays to Broadway, San Diego has a sizzling local community of theatergoers and critics. Just last week, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle gave out the Craig Noel Awards, which have been named after the Old Globe’s founder Craig Noel, who was awarded the National Medal of Arts, Americas highest honor for artistic excellence. This year, the playful dark comedy A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder leads San Diego’s play scene with 5 Craig Noel Awards, and is already trending big at Broadway.
1. “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, the 2013 Noel Award winning San Diego play features an eccentrict British man who would kill for love.
The City is home to the prestigious San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), a magnet school where students from grades 6â€“12 take specialized classes in theater, dance, music, and stagecraft. Run by a notable faculty of award-winning, highly reputed, and qualified professionals and performers, the SCPA has produced talents such as the 2005 Tony-winning Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez; Christian Hoff, who won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical; TV personality Amanda Lewis; Nickelodeon actor James Maslow; and many others. Historically, the San Diego stage has produced national stars such as Faye Emerson, Marion Ross, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Robert Hays and Victor Buono.
Theatre Locations and Long stay Accommodations
With a strong and vibrant community of theatergoers and stage critics, and a history of sending plays on national tour via Broadway, San Diego is a prolific place for plays. Most of the high-end theatres including Tenth Avenue, Cygnet Theatre, and Culture Clash are located downtown, and feature versatile and diverse stage-plays including musicals and comedy, modern and classical, experimental and romantic, and more.Â However, you might not fully enjoy watching a play if you are in San Diego on a short trip. The Zoo is a better option for a one-week family vacation or a weekend hop. You’ll enjoy the plays the most, Â if you are staying in the serene and elegant Chula Vista area in one of those classy long stay accommodations. Driving along the coastline, you’ll find plenty of mysterious theatres and playhouses to remind you of Paris, if you’ve ever been there.
Despite the City’s excellent track record for producing great performances and talents, plays are not the reason most people come to San Diego for. By contrast, Broadway sold a jaw-dropping $1.193 billion worth of tickets in the year 2013. This is despite the fact that San Diego boasts more luxurious vacation accommodations, a better climate, and is more peaceful as an art venue. There’s no organized information available online from the government to guide the tourists to the theaters and plays; not even a decent list of playhouses exists with maps and directions, other than these helpful links. It appears that apart from the theatres, artists, performers, fans, and critics, no one has really tried to channelize this phenomenal talent that San Diego possesses into a competitive advantage for the City. Showcasing San Diego’s rich theatrical history might not sell $1 billion worth of tickets, but might just provide the much needed tax revenues to the government and relief to the people.