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Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety Page 1 of 5 Feeding the Soul of Stage APRIL 25, 2013 | 03:00PM PT Im...

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Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety

Page 1 of 5

Feeding the Soul of Stage APRIL 25, 2013 | 03:00PM PT

Immersive theater mixes food, drink and environmental staging to lure auds that eschew Broadwway Gordon Cox ( Legit Editor @GCoxVariety (


Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety

Page 2 of 5

Call it experiential; call it immersive; call it event theater. It’s usually a snarl of logistical challenges. There’s no set financial model for making it viable. The work itself is often impossible to describe.

SEE MORE: From the April 23, 2013 issue of Variety (

And a growing number of legiters think it’s the next big thing.

Often staged in unorthodox locations and already commonplace overseas, the shows typically feature long runs, lower margins, purpose-built venues and added revenue streams — such as food and drink.

“It’s really on the cutting edge of what people want theater to become,” says producer Howard Kagan of his upcoming commercial transfer of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” a rock opera that improbably mixes Tolstoy, contempo musical idioms and an environmental staging in a Russian supper-club setting that serves pierogis and vodka. “It becomes relevant and desirable and fun for a huge array of demographics that don’t necessarily think they’ll turn out for a Broadway show.”

Adds La Jolla Playhouse a.d. Christopher Ashley, “I think this kind of work is the next huge wave of growth in the American theater.”


Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety

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(Cross Section: 100% San Diego, which plays as part of California’s Without Walls Festival, is performed by 100 actors that represent the city’s exact demographic makeup.) The La Jolla exec recently programmed the multishow Without Walls festival for later this year, following notable success for the org’s prior forays into site -specific, immersive theater. And Without Walls is far from the only indicator that such work is all the rage (see sidebar (


Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety

Page 4 of 5

Among its highest-profile Stateside evangelists are Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner. Paulus (“Hair”; “Porgy and Bess”) is a.d. of Cambridge, Mass., nonprofit ART, which has had luck drawing younger crowds and promoting institutional sales with club-theater Oberon; she’s also the helmer of the current cirque-inflected Broadway revival of “Pippin” and the director of “The Donkey Show,” the discotheque “Midsummer Night’s Dream” that was an early event-theater success story. Her husband, Weiner, a co-creator of “Donkey Show” and one of the principals of entertainment event company Variety Worldwide, is a partner in “Great Comet” as well as in Gotham’s buzzy dance-theater-installation hybrid “Sleep No More.”

Still, it’s one thing for a nonprofit like ART or La Jolla to rally the funding for nontraditional work (sometimes by teaming with other nonprofits, as La Jolla did for Without Walls with the Museum of Contemporary Art and the U. of California, San Diego). It’s another thing to try to make these shows work commercially

“As you get farther and farther from a traditional theater, that’s when you have get more creative with the business model,” says Jujamcyn Theaters prexy Jordan Roth, who launched his producing career in 1999 with the sixyear Gotham run of “The Donkey Show.”

Because intimacy plays a vital role in so many of these shows’ creative concepts, ticket inventory is greatly reduced compared with, say, a Broadway production. “Sleep No More,” for instance, is capped at 300 patrons a night; the new incarnation of “Comet” has a capacity of 199, up from around 80 at Ars Nova, the Off Broadway nonprofit that developed and initially produced the show in fall 2012. (Ars Nova leadership estimates the total cost for their staging, from commission through to production, was around $300,000.)

Nontraditional venues such as nightclubs can lead to real estate savings, but they come with their own set of problems. “To rent a theater is a lot of money, so in theory, alternate spaces should cost you less,” says David Binder, the Broadway producer (“33 Variations”; “A Raisin in the Sun”) whose event-theater resume includes the acrobatics-all-around show “De La Guarda” and the New Island Festival, a 2009 Gotham summer fest of hybrid


Theater: Immersive theater mixes food, drink, environmental staging | Variety

Page 5 of 5

arts events. “The problem is that landlords at alternate venues don’t understand what you need to make a show happen there, like a box office that’s open on a regular basis.”

One solution is to purchase or construct your own space, as producers of “Great Comet” are doing. The commercial incarnation of the show is set to play May 1-Sept. 1 in a custom-built, temporary space called Kazino in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. SEE ALSO:A Roundup of the Top Immersive Shows, and Where to See Them (

© Copyright 2013 Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. Variety and the Flying V logos are trademarks of Variety Media, LLC.


The U-T San Diego 10/03/2013

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Weekly Entertainment Guide

From the beach to the basement, La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival takes playgoers out of the theater and into everyday environments


DAY: NEW LOOK AT MIRAMAR 28 THE FEW By Samuel D. Hunter Directed by Davis McCallum


A world premiere by a writer hailed by the Los Angeles Times as a “Face to Watch in 2013.”

NOW PLAYING! Michael Laurence.

Eva Kaminsky.

Gideon Glick. Photos by Jim Cox.

Tickets Start at $29 (619) 23-GLOBE (234-5623)

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The U-T San Diego 10/03/2013

Night + Day | U-T SAN DIEGO | THURSDAY • OCTOBER 3, 2013

2 D E PA RT M E N TS RADAR ....................................... 4 COVER STORY........................... 6 DINING ..................................... 11 SAN DIEGO CENTRIC ............. 22 POP MUSIC.............................. 23 CLASSICAL MUSIC ............... 26 FAMILY .................................... 28 MOVIES ................................... 32

L I ST I N G S THEATER ....................................9 BEST BITES ..............................13 MUSIC..................................... 25 ART/CLASSICAL MUSIC........ 27 EVENTS ................................... 29 MOVIES.................................... 33 MOVIE TIMES ......................... 34

I N FO R M AT I O N DIRECTOR, LIFESTYLE & ENTERTAINMENT Chris Cantore, (619) 293-1749 [email protected] NIGHT&DAY SECTION EDITOR Jay Posner, (619) 293-1297 [email protected] ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR Michael Rocha, (619) 293-1724 [email protected]



SOMETHING DIFFERENT La Jolla Playhouse this weekend offers its first Without Walls Festival, which, as James Hebert explains, is an alternativetheater explosion. Check out his story for highlights of what’s in store.

> AT Co

MAILING ADDRESS: Night&Day, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191


FAX & EMAIL: (619) 260-5082; [email protected]

NIGHT & DAY is published each Thursday. ON THE COVER Photo illustration by Adam Vieyra • U-T


H a

ADVERTISING: Jody Vanden Heuvel, General Manager, (619) 293-1400

GETTING LISTED Event information should be submitted to our online calendar at utsandiego. com/news/entertainment/thingsto-do at least three weeks before publication. Limited space prevents printing all submissions, but we attempt to publish a representative sample.




James Twitter Facebo

Michel Twitter Facebo

Nina G Twitter Facebo

James Twitter Facebo



John Mayer. Maroon 5. Kelly Clarkson. Pet Shop Boys. All will be performing here in the next week.

The MCAS Miramar Air Show won’t look the same this year, but there are still many reasons to attend.

George Twitter Facebo

5 Off


“The Pinnacle of Pancakes” - San Diego Magazine

with purchase of $15 o

520 Front Street, Downtown San Diego (Just South of Market St.)

Available Tuesdays, Wednesdays Not valid Mondays, Fridays, Satu Must present coupon at time of o One coupon per table. Dine-in o Offer expires October 10, 2013.

(619) 231-7777 | Open 7 days a week - 6:30am-2:30pm |

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The U-T San Diego 10/03/2013

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6 OCTOBER 3 – 9, 2013





hink of La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival as a happening that opens new doors onto theater. More specifically: car doors. Or elevator doors. Or doors to imitation suburban homes. Or slightly more imaginary doors, such as the ones leading from street to beach. That’s just a hint of what’s going into this mass celebration of site-specific theater — a phrase that essentially means plays that don’t happen in a theater at all. The first-ever fest is bringing together some 20 such works over the course of four very busy days today through Sunday, at sites mostly in and around the joint Playhouse/UC San Diego Theatre District. The event includes productions going up not only in autos (“The Car Plays: San Diego”), in elevators (Moxie Theatre’s “Counterweight”) and at nearby La Jolla Shores (“Seafoam Sleepwalk”), but at the UC San Diego power plant (“Cornerstone”), in the basement of a campus building (“A Willow Grows Aslant”), even roaming all over San Diego (“Kamchatka”). It’s an alternative-theater explosion that began with a notion Christopher Ashley had when he arrived at the Playhouse as its new artistic director in 2007. At the time, the James Irvine Foundation, now a major WoW supporter (along with the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of San Diego and DonorNation), was looking to make grants for theater innovation. “(So we) went to Irvine and said site-specific theater is really a growth thing that’s going to be huge in American theater,” says Ashley. The theater then set out to prove it by launching “Without Walls” with a series of one-off productions in locations from botanic gardens to martini bars. Now, with the festival’s debut, “I think the Playhouse is really enjoying being in the right place at the right time,” Ashley says. “It feels as if (we’re) really cresting the wave of this kind of programming in modern theater.” Almost literally, in the case of “Seafoam Sleepwalk,” the beach-based piece by master puppeteer Basil Twist. Here, a closer look at that and a few other works that should prove highlights of the festival:



When: All day, today through Sunday (check with theater for specific performance dates and times). Where: La Jolla Playhouse/ UC San Diego Theatre District and environs Tickets: Free to $25 Phone: (858) 550-1010 Online: or

Rimini Protokoll’s “100 Percent Berlin.” The German theater troupe will stage a localized version titled “100 Percent San Diego” at the Mandell Weiss Forum.

1 “100% San Diego” The German theater troupe Rimini Protokoll has been busy recruiting San Diegans over the past few weeks and months to be part of this sprawling, reality-based

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The U-T San Diego 10/03/2013

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7 THURSDAY • OCTOBER 3, 2013 | U-T SAN DIEGO | Night + Day


Revelle Plaza



Galbraith Hall


Galbraith Lawn


Mandell Weiss Forum



Shank Theatre Wagner Dance Building

Theatre District


Potiker Theatre


Mandell Weiss Theatre LA




500 feet

Above: “We Built This City” 2000 feet








Sources: ESRI; SanGIS





La Jolla Shores




Pacific Ocean


Right: “Platonov, or The Disinherited”


‘Platonov’ takes place inside a custom-built house at UC San Diego piece. The idea is to distill the precise demographic makeup of our county down to a group of 100 residents. Performances of the piece will involve some improv and surprises, as the creators have the “actors” answer questions and move about according to their responses. (The piece is the rare WoW event that actually takes final form inside a theater — the Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum.) The work, Rimini Protokoll says, may “tell the truth of modern San Diego life in a way graphs or pie charts never could.”

2 “Platonov, or The Disinherited” MIT professor and multimedia-theater pioneer Jay Scheib created this cinematic adaptation of a lesserknown work by Anton Chekhov (a play, in fact, whose manuscript Chekhov tried to burn). The show takes place inside a custom-built one-bed-

room house at UC San Diego’s “Stonehenge” sculpture garden, with a small schoolhouse and bar (yes, bar) next door. Towering overhead is a 35-foot drive-in movie screen; the audience watches from bleachers, the grass or cafe tables. All the action is filmed from inside the house, with Scheib himself operating the main camera. The action focuses on an unhappily married protagonist living in a society that’s “teetering on the edge of foreclosure,” Scheib says. “It being Chekhov, there’s a lot of humor. But it’s humor with really sharp teeth sometimes.”

3 “We Built This City” Anchoring the festival’s family events is this project by the Australian group Polyglot. The whole purpose of the piece — a construction site made up of thousands of cardboard boxes — is to build structures with the full

intention of trampling, pummeling and otherwise tearing them down. On Saturday, “City” is joined by free, artist-led workshops under the umbrella of Mass Creativity Day; the Playhouse is teaming with The New Children’s Museum for those happenings.

4 “Seafoam Sleepwalk” Twist masterminded the puppet designs for last year’s hi-tech musical “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” one of several Playhouse projects he has worked on. Now he unveils this ambitious piece, which involves a huge figure emerging from the waves at La Jolla Shores. Twist says the work’s inspiration was the Greek goddess Aphrodite, “who was born from the sea foam — that’s actually what her name means, ‘sea foam.’ That’s SEE WITHOUT WALLS • PAGE 8

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The U-T San Diego 10/03/2013

Night + Day | U-T SAN DIEGO | THURSDAY • OCTOBER 3, 2013


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Above: “The Car Plays: San Diego”

A WoW tip sheet


BEGINS TODAY! Over 20 Site-Specific Performances Free Events | Family Activities Live Music | Food Trucks | Beer Garden VIP EXPERIENCES AVAILABLE

S PERFO OME RM SOLD ANCES BUY T OUT. ODAY ! Without Walls is supported by a grant from

Additional Support provided by

County of San Diego

Hotel Partner

Presented by

Media Partners

• The WoW Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. today with a special edition of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s “TNT” event, a music and art mash-up. (MCASD and UC San Diego are festival partners.) Go to for ticket info. • A beer garden will be open on festival grounds throughout most of the event; there also will be food trucks and free live music, including a Saturday performance by Sara Watkins of the Grammywinning Nickel Creek. • The Playhouse is making shuttle buses available for off-site performances; check with the theater for details. • A number of shows are virtually sold out due to limited capacity, so be sure to check on tickets ahead of time. • DonorNation is hosting drawings to award $500 cash to each of four winners at the fest; $500 also will be donated to the San Diego school of each winner’s choice. Go to for details.

Left: “Seafoam Sleepwalk”


kind of the thematic core of the piece.” He notes it’ll take a crew of 11 (all clad in wetsuits) to make the action happen. (Needless to say, “it’s very physical, what we’re doing,” Twist acknowledges.) The crew members — four from New York, seven from San Diego — are staying in a nearby beach house as they bring the concept into reality. A musician who worked on Twist’s earlier piece “Dogugaeshi” will perform on the beach as the figure emerges. The free event is not only for those in the know, Twist adds, but “also for the general public, who may not be expecting it at all. We’re just gathering to watch a sort of happening.”

5 “The Car Plays: San Diego” Staged to major success as a stand-alone WoW production last year, this work returns in a new incarnation. The show, conceived by the L.A.-based Moving Arts, consists of 10-minute playlets that take place inside actual cars. This time around, it includes works written by renowned actress-playwright Charlayne Woodard and Obie winner Kirsten Greenidge; the Playhouse’s Ashley himself will direct one play.

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Site-specific theater at its best La Jolla Playhouse WithOut Walls Festival dares to be great By David Coddon

The Car Plays is a highlight of the Without Walls Festival - Photo courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse

The inaugural WithOut Walls Festival(WOW) at La Jolla Playhouse is the coolest happening in town. Just a sampling of the nearly 20 site-specific theatrical works being offered through Sunday suggests that this is a festival that's here to stay. Not only that, the price is right: Tickets range from free (yes, free) to 25 bucks, a bargain by traditional theater-going standards. But this festival isn't about the cost—it's about the work. Take Jennifer Barclay'sCounterweight: An Elevator Love Play, presented by Moxie Theatre. The audience (a maximum of five) occupies an actual elevator inside the Potiker Theatre. With the assistance of a comely, uniformed elevator operator, we were taken up, down, up, down, up, down for half an hour, stopping intermittently at one of three floors to witness romantic scenes starring three generations of actors. Even the most claustrophobic elevator rider would be happily distracted. How about theater on the site of UCSD's noisy Central Facilities Plant? That's howCornerstone, a short play by MFA grads David Jacobi and Sarah Wansley operates. For half an hour as an audience member, you're "in" the show itself, cast as a new construction engineer on the job. While the thematic messages of this one are more muddled than in Counterweight, you can't help but feel more involved in the goings-on than you would, sitting in a traditional darkened theater. Moving Arts' The Car Plays was among the highlights of all San Diego theater in 2012. The Playhouse has smartly brought it back for WOW, and it's just as clever and as much fun. Audience members, two at a time, move from parked car to parked car in five 10-minute intervals, experiencing mini-dramas or micro-comedies that constitute theater as intimate as it can get. The Car Plays alone is worth the price of admission to the festival. Don't miss WithOut Walls. It ends tomorrow, Sunday, at La Jolla Playhouse.