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With new venues, San Diego regains some pre-recessionary momentum

The Performing Arts Center opened in Encinitas last fall. (Google image, credit San Dieguito Academy)

Sean Cox, co-artistic director of Encinitas’ Intrepid Shakespeare Company, took a second’s stock from the lobby of the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre, the stage wing of the city’s new Performing Arts Center on the San Dieguito Academy high school campus. It’s enough that Intrepid, known for its quality shows and its Shakespeare-intensive work in county schools, is the venue’s anchor troupe. And it’s enough that it opened Arthur Miller’s adaptation of An Enemy of the People to positive reviews at the venue earlier in February.


But, man, there’s something about that new-theater smell that fuels the excitement about everything else. “How often do you get that,” Cox breezily asked as the odor of fresh paints and adhesives hung in the air.


Actually, if you’ve lived in San Diego County lately, you’ve gotten it three times.


Just as San Diego had lost three important companies (the Fritz and Sledgehammer troupes and The Theatre, Inc.) between 2006 and 2010, it’s suddenly mounting shows at three new or recycled venues, all in the space of the last half-year. The Liggett opened in September of 2011 as the high school’s new performing arts facility, while Golden Hill’s Victory Theatre (built in 1927 and seeing service as a movie house and then a church) unlocked its doors for live techno and performance of newer local works at about the same time.


The 4th Avenue Cabaret, a secondary performance space above downtown’s Tenth Avenue Theatre, opened for performance on Feb. 5, with the goal of revitalizing San Diego’s Asian-American theater scene.


In one swoop, the city has reclaimed the theatrical momentum it lost during the Great Recession’s darkest days, at least in terms of playing space. Let’s see if public acceptance of the companies follows suit.