Rhythm and Music, Drama and Comedy Right at Our Doorstep

by Brie Stimson November 27, 2017


Group of people clapping hands in the theater, close up of hands. Dark tone.

It’s safe to say in the six years I’ve lived in San Diego I’ve fallen in love with our local theater scene. San Diego is known to outsiders for many things: great weather, beautiful beaches, a world-class zoo, but I would say our world-class theater is a little bit more of a secret.

Every time I have out of town friends or relatives come see a show with me they always inevitably go on about the quality and professionalism of the production. I always remind them of our proximity to LA, but I think San Diego’s theater scene is great in its own right – not just because we’re getting writers, actors and directors straight from Hollywood who are just tired of the traffic.

I think anyone who enjoys theater in San Diego must have noted how lucky we are to live in a moderately sized city (without many big cities hassles) and yet still have productions on par with anything I’ve seen on Broadway or the West End.

And it’s not just the quality of the productions but the amount of them. There are so many theaters and acting troupes in San Diego! There are still theaters in San Diego I haven’t been to after six years, and there are still great groups I’m just now hearing about for the first time. Currently I have a lineup of at least three shows I plan to see in the next month – and I’m hoping to add more to the list.

Some tourists, I believe, think that San Diegans are always surfing or running a marathon (what’s wrong with that?), but they don’t realize we have extremely vibrant theater with professional actors who make their living with their craft, museums with priceless art and musicians who are among the best at what they do.

We have institutions like the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse who send shows to Broadway and win Tony awards and exceptional smaller theaters like San Diego Rep, Lamb’s Players and Ocean Beach Playhouse. There’s San Diego Musical Theater at the Spreckels and the Horton Grand and unmatched classical musicians at the San Diego Symphony and the La Jolla Music Society. I know I’m leaving out about a million great companies, but that’s what this issue is for. In the next 100 or so pages we’ve tried to include as much art as is magazinely possible (and we’re still having to leave out people).

In fact, I believe I can actually pinpoint the moment I fell in love with theater in San Diego. During my first year here I felt a little overwhelmed and lost and hadn’t made many friends yet. I had started volunteering as an usher for several of the local theaters, which allowed me to learn more about possibly working for a theater. And I was also able to see shows for free, which was the only way I could have afforded to see one.

I happened to usher for the Cygnet’s last production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” one cold (well, coolish) Dec. night. At the end of the show, which was still, in my mind, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen here, after the applause from the standing crowd had died down, Tom Andrew, the actor who played do-gooder George Bailey, asked everyone in the audience to hold hands and sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Truthfully, I am given to sentimentality, but in the place I was in my life it was the exact moment I needed. It made me feel part of a community of people and it made me feel like maybe San Diego wasn’t such a big, scary city after all.

A lot has changed in my life since we all sang that song in Old Town, but it’s an important moment I’ll never forget. And maybe that’s the reason I go back to the Cygnet as much as possible.

And now it’s your turn. Go out and find your moment. Find a play that inspires you. Find a piece of classical music that reminds you of a time gone by. See an art show that takes your breath away.

Many people in this world have to travel to experience world-class cultural institutions, but in San Diego it’s all around us.  


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