Old Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein Talks 2019-2020 Season

by Alex Wehrung June 5, 2019


almostfamous-printThe Old Globe theatre has announced its shows for the upcoming 2019-2020 season, featuring three world premieres as headliners to its slate of twelve plays. In addition to the world premieres, the Globe will also be showing five plays making their west coast debuts.

The Journal spoke with the Globe’s Erni Finci Viterbi Artistic Director, Barry Edelstein, about the theater’s upcoming season. Barry discussed how, when deciding on what plays to produce, the production in question must be able to fit the standard of excellence the Globe has set for itself. “We want to make sure it offers entertainment value at the highest level, opportunities for the finest artists in the United States to come to San Diego and make this work. We know there’s a long history in San Diego of…let’s call it rigor in the literary caliber of the work that the Globe does. We want to make sure that it meets that. We also know that people expect of the Globe a wide range of emotional experiences, from joy and comedy to provocative contemporary drama. There’s no one category that makes us say, ‘Well, that’s [an] Old Globe show.’ It’s a combination of things that have to do with the long reputation of the place, and also a sense of what we think is the most exciting work out there that will resonate with San Diego audiences in an exciting way.”

As part of its mission to preserve, strengthen and advance American theatre, the Old Globe also commits itself to putting on diverse, balanced programming. “We’re telling stories from a whole lot of American cultures and American perspectives. We’re telling a story of the Iraqi-Christian refugee community in “Noura” (Sept. 20-Oct. 20, 2019). We’re telling a great African-American story in “[August Wilson’s] Jitney” (Jan. 18-Feb. 23, 2020). We’re telling a Jewish-American story in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” (May 28-Jun. 28, 2020). We’re really trying to reflect the widest range of cultures here in San Diego by inviting writers whose life experiences reflect those cultures, and artists from those cultures to come and make the work. So I certainly think it’s as diverse and broad-based season as we’ve presented. I think it’s both tremendously entertaining and tremendously exciting at the same time as really reflecting the widest range of cultural experiences in our region.”

“ALMOST FAMOUS” SEPT. 13-OCT. 20, 2019,


is being adapted by Cameron Crowe–a San Diego native–from his film of the same name, which itself was based on Crowe’s own experiences writing as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone. Barry called Crowe “a truly brilliant man and an eminent artist.”

“[Crowe’s] figured out a way to translate that great movie to the stage in a way that makes it seem like it was written for that medium. It’s really wonderful and exciting. There’s a lot of music from the movie in the show; sometimes full-length pieces, sometimes just snippets and quotes here and there. Tom Kitt, who’s written original songs for the show—Pulitzer Prize winner, one of the finest composers in the contemporary American theatre—he’s found a way to write material that sounds both like it’s legitimately of the contemporary musical theatre and also belongs in the 70s, when the movie’s story is set. I think it’s just a triumph, and I think our audience is going to find it completely delightful.”



is also something of an autobiographical work, being based on the life and experiences of its own director and choreographer, Graciela Daniele. Barry described her and Michael John Lachiusa as “gigantic figures.”

“Michael John is one of the most prominent composers of the stage of his generation, one of the heirs to Stephen Sondheim and one of the people who’s really pushing the boundaries to perform with every single one of his musicals. He’s got a home at the Globe; we produced his musical, ‘Rain,’ four years ago to great success, and people loved it, as did I. Any time Michael John has a new idea, the Globe’s ears are open. He came to me with this idea he had for a new piece, based on the life of Graciela Danielle, who’s another legend of the Broadway theatre and many-time Tony Award nominee, Tony winner; she’s worked with absolutely everybody. She’s a woman of a certain age now, with a decades-long career that’s truly storied. I mean, people who are not in the musical theatre don’t recognize that name, but for those of us who do this work, she’s absolutely royalty. The combination of these two artists automatically is noteworthy and demands attention.”

“Graciela’s life story [is about] growing up in Argentina in a time of tremendous political upheaval, and with a group of women who raised her. Because the men in the family’s life were away for one reason or another; having to do with making money, or politics, or various other dynamics in the world at the time. It’s really about women coming together to take care of this young woman and nurture her artistic sensibility and help her discover her identity as an artist. It’s a story about women, it’s a story about Latin America, it’s a story by these two major artists. It just seemed that everything about it was worthy and important–and also, by the way, it’s just a very beautiful piece–in that sense it was kind of an obvious choice for the Globe, since we knew about it. As soon as got involved with Michael John and commissioned him into writing it, we said, ‘Yeah, this is something we’ve gotta do.’”

The last of the three,



is based on Nathan Englander’s second collection of short stories. The title story is so named after a game the characters play, where they speculate which of their non-Jewish friends would try to protect them in the event of a second Holocaust. This play’s director is none other than Barry Edelstein.

“Nathan is a writer of uncommon gifts. He is able to make even the simplest observations somehow reach beyond itself because his linguistic gifts are so extraordinary. To put that more simply, he just happens to write very, very beautiful sentences. When you read him, it’s pleasurable, both at a sentence at a time and for the overall impact of the story. The characters are very vivid, the episodes that take place are very vivid, and the words themselves are very captivating. What he’s figured out how to do is transform his literary voice for the stage in a way that is kind of like candy. A lot of people try to do that: adapt literary material for the stage. It’s very hard to do because something essential gets lost. But with the writer of the story actually translating it for the theatre, you get everything that’s special about the piece–Nathan’s idiosyncratic voice–preserved, even if it’s moved into this other form. It’s a very special thing, to be in front of that work.”

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” will be Barry Edelstein’s second collaboration with Englander, having already worked on the author’s adaptation of “The Twenty-Seventh Man” three years ago. “I just thought, ‘It’s time to bring him back out here,’ and for us to have another fun and exciting collaboration. [“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”] is much, much more of a comedy. “The Twenty-Seventh Man” was very much a drama, about an episode in the Soviet Union when Stalin liquidated Yiddish culture in 1952–[a] true, but little-known story.”

“This is a completely fictional work from Nathan’s fertile imagination about contemporary Jewish identity. It’s got the difference between American Jews and Israeli Jews. It’s about how Jewish tradition is transmitted from parents to their children, and it’s about how Jews managed to keep themselves ever-vigilant about threats to our community, and at the same time celebrate the vibrancy of our community, despite threats from outside. It’s a wonderful, witty, surprising, creative piece that I’m just hugely excited to have in San Diego.”

“Almost Famous” will kick the season off in September.

The rest of the season will include: “Hurricane Diane” (Feb. 8-Mar. 8, 2020) “Faceless” (Mar. 28-Apr. 26, 2020), “Ebeneezer Scrooge’s Big San Diego Christmas Show” (Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2019), “Little Women” (Mar. 14-Apr. 19, 2020), “August Wilson’s Jitney” (Jan. 18-Feb. 23, 2020), “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Nov. 3-Dec. 29, 2019), “The Winter’s Tale” (Oct. 29-Nov. 17, 2019), and “Twelfth Night” (Nov. 2-10, 2019).


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