Spring is a very fertile time at La Jolla Playhouse. Known for its innovative and adventurous programming, the prestigious theater continues that trend with a new play development initiative, the DNA New Work Series, running through March 3. The series offers audiences the chance to see the birth of a new work while giving playwrights and directors the opportunity to develop a script by providing rehearsal time, space and resources, culminating in a workshop production or public reading.
“As the place to look for what’s next in American theatre, it’s not only a major tenet of our mission to cultivate and develop the work of emerging and established artists, it’s in our DNA,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. “The Playhouse’s commitment to these artists and their work is the lifeblood of our theatre, and it is our hope that we can create an annual series to shine a spotlight on the development of the eclectic and diverse theatre that has become a hallmark on our stages.”
Upcoming DNA offerings include a workshop production of Brahman/i: a One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy, by Aditi Brennan Kapil, plus a series of six free readings presented over five days. Earlier in the series the Playhouse presented a workshop production of Meg Miroshnik’s The Tall Girls and a concert reading of a new musical, Chasing the Song, directed by Ashley and written by the creators of the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis: Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, founding member of the band Bon Jovi.
On March 9, the Playhouse will host its annual star-studded Gala, featuring entertainment by the iconic rock band The Flaming Lips, composers of the Playhouse’s acclaimed 2012 world-premiere musical Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The Gala raises funds to support the institution’s award-winning education initiatives, such as the Performance Outreach Program (POP) Tour that brings a Playhouse-commissioned, world-premiere production to elementary schools throughout San Diego; summer theater programs like the Young Performers Workshop; and numerous others that reach over 30,000 children each year. The Gala also helps support the Playhouse’s play development programs, including the DNA New Work Series, Page To Stage, and readings and workshops throughout the season.
Later in March, the Playhouse will bring back the internationally-renowned comedy troupe The Second City for a return engagement March 20 – 23 in the cabaret-style performance space in the Potiker Theatre. The company’s Laughing Matters tour features some of the best sketches, songs and improvisations in The Second City’s 53-year history. Having launched the careers of Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray – among many others – The Second City now presents the next generation of the comedy world’s
best and brightest in an evening of hilarious sketch comedy.
Following The Second City, the Playhouse will present Steppin’ Out with Ben Vereen March 29 - 31. This one-man show highlights Mr. Vereen’s unique artistry, combining a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra and a very special homage to Sammy Davis Jr. The New York Times dubbed him, “an old-school song and dance man who never lets up. He wins you over with his sheer energy… and showbiz know-how.”
These are just a few of the amazing artists taking up residence at the Playhouse this spring. Because of the relationships built by Christopher Ashley, as well as the theater’s mission to provide a safe harbor for playwrights, directors, designers and actors to develop their work, the theater’s upcoming season will feature some of the most anticipated productions in the region. Works will include John Guare’s delightful and insightful adaptation of His Girl Friday, which Ashley will direct; Rex Pickett’s Sideways, based on his own novel that was adapted into the popular 2011 indie movie; Nina Raine’s Olivier Award-winning play, Tribes, about the ways we communicate; and a re-imagining of the hit Broadway musical Side Show, written by the creative team behind Dreamgirls and helmed by The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2 director Bill Condon.
These world-class artists choose the Playhouse for a reason: they know that their work will receive the theater’s one-of-a-kind support on all levels. It’s the reason the Playhouse has been home to the birth of 24 world-premiere productions that later transferred to Broadway, winning some 35 Tony Awards. This season alone the Playhouse will open its acclaimed commissioned musical Hands on a Hardbody on Broadway; celebrate the 8th year of Jersey Boys on the Great White Way, and witness the launch of the national tours of Chaplin: The Musical and Peter and the Starcatcher. Fertile ground, indeed.