The History of the La Jolla Playhouse

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Theater aficionados from San Diego to San Francisco, from scenic La Jolla to the cities across the contiguous United States, as well as international cities, have visited and enjoyed any of a number of theatrical plays at the La Jolla Playhouse. Founded in 1947 by La Jolla native Gregory Peck, stage and film star Dorothy McGuire, and film director and producer Mel Ferrer, the La Jolla Playhouse was subsequently reborn under the direction of artistic director Des McAnuff in 1983 and has garnered international acclaim for over three decades.

The Playhouse’s vast repertoire includes eighty-four world premieres, thirty-two West Coast premieres, and eight American premieres, and has won in excess of three hundred honors, including the 1993 Tony Award as America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. La Jolla Playhouse owes its acclaim to Des McAnuff, Michael Greif, Anne Hamburger, and current artistic director, Christopher Ashley, who assumed the helm in April of 2007, as well as a multitude of up-and-coming as well as well-known actors and actresses.

The La Jolla Playhouse is located on the University of California San Diego campus. Support for the Playhouse stems in part from grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the City of San Diego, and the County of San Diego.

Some of the theatrical productions that began at the Playhouse before eventually finding success on Broadway consist of such notable hits as The Who’s Tommy, Matthew Broderick’s revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Jane Eyre, Dracula, the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cry Baby, Bonnie and Clyde, and Des McAnuff’s revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and Zhivago. In addition, it would remiss not to mention the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife.

The internationally-renowned La Jolla Playhouse is also responsible for reaching out to the community and beyond to provide a number of learning opportunities for kids, teenagers, and adults interested in theatre arts, both as actors and behind-the-scenes support staff. Furthermore, the Performance Outreach Program (POP Tour) brings a professional, world-premiere production to various schools, libraries, and community centers throughout the greater San Diego area each and every year. Moreover, there are supplementary summer theater opportunities through the La Jolla Playhouse Conservatory, YP@LJP summer camps, student matinees, and a host of other in-school workshops and classes.

In 2001, La Jolla Playhouse began the Page to Stage Play Development Program to enable and advance the development of new plays and musicals, extending to various audiences an uncommon occasion to take part in the “birth” of a play and experience its progress and fruition. Page to Stage workshops feature nominal sets and costumes. After a performance, spectator feedback sessions offer insight and suggestions for the creative team and actors. Since the impressive program began, a couple of Page to Stage productions have won Tony Awards. In fact, Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Leading Actor in a Play (Jefferson Mays). Additionally, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, a 2004 Page to Stage Production, won the 2005 Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event. It comes as no surprise then that La Jolla Playhouse is world-renowned for producing some of the more exhilarating and exploratory work in American theatre, all through the auspices of its new play development initiatives, its pioneering Without Walls series, artist residencies and commissions.

Finally, La Jolla Playhouse not only continues its 2017 season with exceptional theater, but additionally hosts several audience engagement events. These consist of Talkback Tuesday’s, where theatregoers can participate in a discussion with actors and artistic staff immediately subsequent to performances in order to share thoughts and learn more about a specific show; Insider Events, where an audience can connect with the Playhouse staff some 45 minutes prior to a performance for an insider’s view of the production; and Discovery Sunday’s, where theatregoers may join special guest speakers post-performance, as they take part with audience members in a moderated discussion that delves into the issues and themes of a play.

The La Jolla Playhouse offers an internship program available to current undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of departments. As a result of innovative plays and various outreach programs and opportunities, the La Jolla Playhouse will continue to add to its rich theatrical history.


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