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  San Diego Theater

THEATER -  If you agree with Shakespeare that "The play’s the thing …" you’re going to love San Diego with its vibrant and varied theater scene.

The pride of the San Diego theater community is the Tony-award winning Old Globe in Balboa Park (photo on right). At least I 2 plays a year are presented on its three stages. There’s the 581-seat Old Globe, patterned after the bard’s own playhouse. The intimate 225-seat Cassius Carter Center Stage is next door. 

The nearby 612-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre is an outdoor stage for summer productions. The Old Globe first gained fame for its Shakespearean performances but today is equally renowned for its contemporary plays.

Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, the La Jolla Playhouse has grown into one of the most respected regional theater in California, San Diego (UCSD). The center is also the site of productions by UCSD’s Theater and Dance Department.

The San Diego Repertory Theatre has been hailed both for its many critically acclaimed productions and for launching two-time Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg on her career. The Repertory’s home is the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego.

Here is a look at some of the performing arts centers and community theaters in and around the city:

San Diego Civic Theatre

Third Ave. and B St., San Diego  619-570-1100;

A visit to the Civic Theatre with its opulent decor and great acoustics is indeed a memorable experience. This is where the curtain goes up on touring productions of Broadway hits like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon." The 2,992-seat downtown theater is also home to the San Diego Opera, the La Jolla Chamber

Music Society and California Ballet Company

Copley Symphony Hall

1245 Seventh Ave., San Diego 619-235-0804;

A cultural landmark known for its exceptional architecture and acoustics, Copley Symphony Hall first opened its door as the Fox Theatre in 1929. It is the site for the performance season of the San Diego Symphony which runs from January to July.

California Center for the Arts, Escondido

340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido  760-839-4138;

Acclaimed for its design, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, is nestled in the northern reaches of San Diego County. The 1,524-seat concert hall and 408 seat theatre offer an annual performing arts season including dance, classical music, theatre, Broadway shows and world music. It’s the North County site for concerts performed by the San Diego Symphony. Approximately 60 shows are scheduled each season. In addition, the museum hosts several educational outreach programs including lectures, slide shows, workshops and museum tours for school groups.

Coronado Playhouse

1775 Strand Way, Coronado  619-435-4856;

The Coronado Playhouse has been an important cultural outlet for Coronado residents for more than 50 years. Supported by an all-volunteer staff, the 104-seat, cabaret-style playhouse is community theater in the purest sense.

Culy Theatre

344 Seventh Ave., San Diego; 619-338-0526

One of the Gaslamp District’s newest playhouses, the Culy Theatre offers top performances in an intimate, cabaret-style setting.

Diversionary Theatre

4545 Park Blvd., San Diego; 619-220-0097

The 106-seat Diversionary Theatre is located in University Heights, and is best known for productions that discuss gay and lesbian issues.

East County Performing Arts Center

210 E. Main St., El Cajon  619-440-2277;

The East County Performing Arts Center features a mixed bag of entertainment ranging from comedy revues to country music and the sound of big bands in a 1,184-seat theater with a state-of-the art sound system.

Fritz Theatre

420 Third Ave., San Diego; 619-233-7505

A showcase for up-and-coming actors and directors, the storefront theater near the Gaslamp Quarter will almost remind you of a neighborhood corner store. Inside, it seats 70 to 90 patrons, depending on set design.

Horton Grand Theatre

444 Fourth Ave., San Diego; 619-234-9583

Home of "Triple Espresso," a goofball hit that has returned after a brief tour of the country

Lamb’s Players Theatre

1142 orange Ave., Coronado  619-437-0600;

Based at Coronado’s Resident Theatre, the group annually stages five productions from February through November and attracts audiences from all over Southern California. This theater group has grown steadily in stature since the days when it performed in an old church.

Lamplighters Community Theatre

8053 University Ave., La Mesa; 619-464-459

This 125-seat playhouse has been a San Diego institution for half a century.

La Jolla Playhouse

2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla  858-550-1010;

Under the leadership of Director-in-Residence Des McAnuff and Artistic Director Michael Greif, the group has won recognition for the staging of new plays, musicals and classics, and is the 1993 Tony Award recipient for Outstanding Regional Theater. Many of the group’s projects have moved to productions on Broadway The 1999 season featured Tennessee William’s "Sweet Bird of youth" and the musical "Jane Eyre." while highlights of 2000 include "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Lifegame."

Lyceum Theatre

79 Horton Plaza, San Diego  619-544-1000;

The Lyceum Theatre is located at Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. It has two stages and is the home to the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

Balboa Park, San Diego; 619-685-5045

The 230-seat theater operates year-round, five days a week. Performers are San Diego Guild of Puppetry amateurs and professionals who use marionettes and ventriloquist puppets, as well as hand puppets. Shows change every week. The box office opens half an hour before each show.

Moonlight Amphitheatre

1200 Vale Terrace Dr., Vista  760-724-2110;

The beautiful 2,200-seat Moonlight Amphitheatre is known for its summer season, which is performed under the stars in the picturesque hills of Vista. The winter season’s productions include dramas, comedies and musicals.

Mystery Cafe

121 Broadway, San Diego  619-544-1600;

Mystery Cafe is San Diego’s premier interactive theater. Each play is performed in four hilarious acts. Between each act a delicious four-course meal is served by the suspects themselves. Toward the end of the evening, the audience attempts to solve the mystery — and guess whodunit!

North Coast Repertory Theatre

987-D Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach  858-481-1055;

In addition to seven major productions staged year-round, the celebrated theater group also offers classes in acting and singing for children.

Old Globe Theatre

Balboa Park, San Diego  619-239-2255;

The Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatre stages productions spanning many genres and time periods. Founded in 1935 to stage Shakespearean plays at the California Pacific International Exposition, the Globe has grown to include three stages — Old Globe Theatre, Cassius Carter Centre Stage and the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. One of the highlights of the Old Globe’s season is the annual San Diego Shakespeare Festival.

Patio Playhouse

201 E. Grand, Escondido; 760-746-6669

Patio Playhouse has provided affordable, quality entertainment to the community since 1967. Operated by an all-volunteer staff, the theater group was established for the purpose of providing a venue where people from school-age to seniors can participate in live drama, learn new skills, and enrich the quality of life in the community. The youth theater provides in-school performances to introduce school children to live theater.

Poway Center for the Performing Arts

15498 Espola Rd., Poway; 858-748-0505

Located in North County inland, the 815-seat facility hosts symphonies, ballets, children’s theater, dance and musicals.

Spreckels Theatre

121 Broadway, San Diego; 619-235-9500

This theater in downtown San Diego first opened in 1912. It is known for its great acoustics and ornate décor

Starlight Musical Theatre

2005 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego  619-544-7827;

The Starlight, which kicks off the season in May has been staging outdoor musicals in Balboa Park since the 1940s.

Sushi Performance arid Visual Art

320 Eleventh Ave., San Diego; 619-235-8466

Founded in 1980, the group brings experimental theater and performance art to prominence through more than 20 productions that are staged annually at their 100-seat facility.

The Theatre in Old Town

4040 Twiggs St., San Diego  619-688-2494;

"Forever Plaid" is into its third smash year This clever revue is a "Critics Choice" production and a definite must-see. The 244-seat theater is located in Old Town State Historic Park.

San Diego Comic Opera Company

Casa Del Prado Theatre, Balboa Park


The San Diego Comic Opera Company presents operas and operettas from the European and American traditions, ranging from early Opera Buffo to modern Broadway classics.

Welk Resort Theatre

8860 Lawrence Welk Dr., Escondido  760-749-3448;

This theater presents favorite Broadway musicals throughout the year.

Other Types of Theater

Combining a show with dinner is a fun way to spend an evening. San Diego has several murder mystery groups that give dinner guests, including undercover cast members, a chance to solve a whodunit while enjoying a full meal. The Comedy Club in La Jolla features both aspiring and top-name comedic entertainers. A number of San Diego restaurants offer dinner entertainment ranging from flamenco and belly dancing to full theatrical productions.


Copyright 2002 - 2016
Peter Toner, San Diego Realtor

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