San Diego is noted for its weather, its oceanside locale, its federal military machine, its downtown development and its phenomenal growth (it’s the eight largest city in the United States, having expanded its population by about 500,000 — the equivalent of one Seattle — over the last 30 years alone). Live theater has a major place among its many legends; it’s home to the acclaimed La Jolla Playhouse and the nearly 80-year-old Old Globe Theatre, two of the few remaining American venues that produce their own seasons.
The city’s approximately 45 remaining groups are perhaps lesser known by name—but their seasons include all manner of genre and scope, featuring work from two major universities, a Broadway-style touring producer, a nationally renowned young playwrights group, one of the country’s only artist-directed companies and a generous sprinkling of small venues with big ideas and a bigger social consciousness. And three new facilities opened in the area in the last month, one of which features a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater.
There’s a sweeping diversity to all this, fueled by San Diego theater’s greatest virtue—balance. Perhaps except for Shakespeare, local theater is remarkably unsaturated, with room for newer groups to grow and thrive alongside the efforts of seasoned professionals. The play selections offer everything from the radically avant garde to traditional modern and pre-modern fare, presented by a theater community that in its busiest seasons numbers around 20,000.
Tourists and new residents don’t have to look far for generous discounts on virtually all theater admissions (sdasrtstix.com). They’ll learn what the natives already know—that theater holds as formidable a place as any local attraction you’ll find. (Martin Jones Westlin)