Solana Beach’s North Coast Repertory Theatre still going strong after 29 years

By Marlena Chavira-Medford
Staff Writer

The North Coast Repertory Theatre, now its 29th season, has a longstanding tradition of raising the performing arts bar locally and throughout the region. In fact, this season features a whopping seven San Diego premiers, like the current show “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” a comic recital about the would-be careers of two concert pianists.

The theater’s continued success is thanks in large part to its artist director David Ellenstein, who has been at the helm for eight years.

“The whole reason I got into theater was to use this art to have a positive impact on audiences,” said Ellenstein, who has been on the stage since he was 4 and is the son of the late Robert Ellenstein, a well-respected director, teacher and artistic director.

Because he began working as a paid actor by 17, one of Ellenstein’s first goals was to see to it that the North Coast Repertory Theatre become a professional-grade operation, offering fair pay, working conditions and benefits — something that is not a given in this industry.

“My other goal was to build a new home, but that one is still on the horizon,” he said.

North Coast Repertory Theatre is currently housed in a 194-seat venue at Lomas Santa Fe Shopping Plaza, which Ellenstein described as “great for watching live theatre in because it’s so intimate that there isn’t a bad seat in the house, but less than ideal for performing in.”

“We have outgrown this space,” he said of the building that only has one dressing room for all its actors. “The quality of art we create is hindered by our lack of space,” he explained and then added that the limited square footage means larger-scale performances with two-story sets or trap doors are out of the question.

American Assets Inc., which owns the shopping center, has offered the theatre a ground lease on which to build a new home as part of a major renovation of the entire plaza. The vision for that new theatre includes an approximately 30,000-square-foot complex with two theaters and multiple classrooms for its acting classes, workshops and children’s summer camps. Those plans, however, are on hold indefinitely until the economy picks up.

In the meantime, Ellenstein is pushing forward artistically, continuing to find ways to do more with less. He’s got big plans for the theater’s upcoming 30th season, and though he couldn’t reveal the details just yet, he encouraged everyone to “stay tuned for some exciting announcements.”
No doubt, the small theater continues to make a big name for itself, attracting more than 40,000 people per year with its year-round performances — but Ellenstein said he’d like to see more of that audience be Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe residents.

“I think because we’re hidden back in the corner we tend to be out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for me to bump into people who have lived or worked down the street from this theater for years and never set foot inside this place, which is a shame.

“Our world has become so electric, everyone’s plugged into a Bluetooth or iPhone. We’ve become so separated from each other. Live theater is a great way to reconnect. It’s a chance to breathe the same air, watch the same story unfold before your eyes, and share that experience of live performance. It’s important for that outlet to exist in a community, and we have it right here. So to anyone who hasn’t stepped inside this place, I’d say come check us out: We’re right here in your back yard, and we’re performing some really great theater.”

North Coast Repertory Theatre is located at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., # D. For more information, please call (858) 481-2155 or visit

Related posts:

  1. North Coast Rep’s new theatre complex to be built at current site
  2. North Coast Rep Theatre ready for new season
  3. North Coast Rep co-founder Tom Blakistone remembered
  4. North Coast Rep Theatre to hold play festival
  5. North Coast Rep holds tropical-themed gala

Short URL:

Posted by Marlena Chavira-Medford on Jan 11, 2011. Filed under Featured Story, Solana Beach. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6





  • New Rancho Santa Fe Library Branch Manager welcomes community input
    Rancho Santa Fe Library’s new Branch Manager Haley Kwon has been charmed by the village’s “sweet, down-home” character, the simple pleasure of visiting the local library and people’s enjoyment of a slower speed of time. “It’s a small town and the library is a place for people to connect,” Kwon said. “People have a different sense of time here, they come in t […]
  • Robotics booming at Rancho Santa Fe School
    By Karen Billing At R. Roger Rowe School, 44 percent of first graders are participating in the robotics program this year. The school is fielding 44 robotics teams, including 31 percent of second grade, 23 percent of third grade, 35 percent of fourth grade and 39 percent of fifth grade. In the middle school, there are two FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and fi […]
  • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices honored with Stevie Gold Award
    Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices was recently named Startup of the Year in the 2014 American Business Awards, earning the brokerage the Stevie Gold award. The award was presented at the Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is among a select few organizations to be entrusted with the Berkshire Hathaway name,” co […]