A Preview of San Diego Rep’s 2019 Seasonby Jacqueline Bull November 27, 2018
San Diego Repertory Theatre is “consciously and by design, purpose, intent and mission at the center of downtown,” according to Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse. And even with the shakeup at Horton Plaza (which was sold in August), the theater is there to stay. And while it continues to thrive, why not have a few shows?
The Rep ends 2018 with “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” that plays until Dec. 16. The play is inspired by the original “A Doll’s House,” but as a unique sequel written over 100 years later. It has been nominated for eight Tony awards and is the most produced play in American regional theater this year.
“It is a sequel to the original ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen, which was first presented in 1879, which became a very scandalous and notorious piece because it presented in what some call the first feminine heroine who was looked at as either a hero or demon. Because in her mid-twenties she was married to a banker and had three children and she walked out and said goodbye to them all and went out on her own. This sequel imagines what happened to her. ‘A Doll’s House,’ Part 1 ended with her slamming the door, a sound that was called the [door slam] heard round the world. And this piece, ‘Part 2’ is a sequel, which imagines what happened to Nora after she walked out that door and what it imagines is extraordinary,” Sam said.
In ‘Part 2,’ Nora lives alone for many years, trying to quiet the voice of her father and the voice of her husband in her head, so that she can hear herself. She later becomes an author and sets a precedent for other women to do as she did.
“She is an extraordinary woman, based on what I just said and her accomplishments, and her fiery, inspired and extremely eloquent case that she makes for independence and freedom and her smart and savvy critique of marriage as an institution,” Sam said.
Nora returns to her family that she left to ask for help and discord follows.
“In the play is a essentially a boxing match between these very passionate, opinionated characters speaking about independence versus commitment and versus partnership and what it means to be an independent woman and the joys and triumphs and challenges that that leads to,” Sam said.
Next in the season is “Winter Schminter: A Hanukkah & Winter Solstice Celebration,” a one night show on Dec. 21. It will feature klezmer favorites Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi and some music from “Yale Strom’s Broken Consort: Shimmering Lights.”
And into January and February is “Aubergine,” which Sam dubbed “a very unusual and delicious play,” running Jan. 24-Feb. 17.
“It is a Korean-American play about food and how food provides hope and healing and can transcend borders and boundaries. It is a gentle, loving meditation, if you will, on hope and family.”
Main character Ray takes on the duty of preparing a family soup recipe to keep his father alive, but it is not science fiction, rather the perspective of “food as a healer and as a magnet for the heart and a comfort for the soul.”
Following “Aubergine,” is long-time San Diego Rep favorite Hershey Felder taking on Beethoven, his life and his music Feb. 21-March 24. The Rep and Hershey have had a symbiotic relationship for many years.
Hershey’s world premiere performance of “Our Great Tchaikovsky,” at the Rep surpassed his own previous record production and became the highest-grossing production at the Rep.
“They are both geniuses – a one of a kind pairing,” Sam said.
“Well I’ve known the Rep for years. They’ve been very supportive of the things I do,” Hershey said. “And if I can bring them any kind of interesting thing and be helpful to them, of course I will be. And I’ve done in various ways over the years. It is pretty much natural for me to do something with them and for them … It’s a nice group of people, so it makes it easy.”
“Hershey Felder, Beethoven” will be a revisit of an earlier version of the show initially at the Globe, but according to him, it won’t resemble that production.
“I played that one eight or nine times… and ‘I think I’m going to leave this for eight years and I think I’ll come back to it.’ And when I came back to it, a year ago, I was able to discover new things that I was just not ready to be able to portray earlier on. I guess that makes growing as an artist fun … Stuff that I wasn’t sure how to approach theatrically, that I became more savvy about as time went on, things like that. Things that made it easier for me to demonstrate what I wanted to demonstrate as I got older,” he said.
With the Composer Suite having a similar format, he said he tries to invent something new with each one.
“Of course there is the basics: I’ve got a piano, I’ve got music, I’ve got a composer, but I try to invent a different style of storytelling with each one. This one has a different style of storytelling in that through it all I’m playing three distinct characters. I think that makes it fun for the audience. It tells the story in a different way than one would expect,” he said.
This telling of Beethoven shows a true story from a person that knew him personally and uses his own words.
“I find that to be touching because it really is Beethoven in his time, from the perspective of one individual, and I think that what it does is really humanizes the person. Because you know we think of them as great composers and great artists, but they are all people. The art is not that it is separate from who they are, but that the art comes from a real person and the art, of course, makes the icon … but people are all people and they largely suffer and endure and enjoy the same things that all humans do,” he said.
“And, in the case of Beethoven, he was a genius – not to mention that he had a disability in terms that he couldn’t hear – so that made things really wildly interesting. And I think people sort of don’t understand that he really was deaf and sort of being confronted with that, to understand what that is is really moving for the audience. We get a sense of what it means to be disabled in that way and yet at the same time produce some of the world’s greatest beauty and I think there is something to be said about it,” he said.
Into the spring is “Sweat,” which in addition to “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is being directed by Sam Woodhouse.
“Sweat is one of the most dramatic and insightful plays I have read in a very long time,” Sam said.
The playwright, Lynn Nottage, is the first woman to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. At the end of the recession, she went to the poorest town in Pennsylvania to try and figure out what happened to the citizens.
“She went to Reading, Pennsylvania with a director and interviewed scores and scores of residents about what happened to their town during the Great Recession. And wrote a play set in both 2000 and 2008, on either sides of that recession, about what happened to this manufacturing town in Pennsylvania that was a thriving middle class community that the recession led to the jobs being shifted out of the country and the traumatic, in essence, loss of the American dream of the people in this community faced,” he said.
The play takes place in a bar and follows a group of friends and the conversations they had and is all based off of the interviews that the playwright conducted.
For full information on the 2019 season, visit their website at