The North Coast Repertory Theatre's (NCR) new season is packed with a diverse selection of plays. Everything from season favorites such as "A Christmas Carol" to adding music to the classic "Little Women" and the funny and very popular show "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" are all part of the lineup. The new season begins Sept. 2.
For NCR Artistic and Producing Director David Ellenstein and his production team - Production Manager Aaron Rumley, Marketing Director Sandra Schwarzmann, Patron Service/ Box Office Manager Jeff Needham and Theatre School Director Matt Thompson - setting a season schedule is no easy task. Ellenstein begins with a search of new shows that can take him across the country to theaters he's worked at or touching base with colleagues in New York or Los Angeles. The next step is acquiring the cast for the productions.
"We look to San Diego first as there are really good actors in San Diego; but sometimes they are already committed," Ellenstein said. "If we can't find the right person for the role locally, then I need to broaden the search to other areas. Of course, this cost us more because then we have to house the actors, but I want to fulfill the artistic vision of the show."
Ellenstein is a veteran of more than 150 theatrical productions at the NCR, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Papermill Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Phoenix and more. He is thrilled by this season's lineup, and admits it's exciting to find new shows or acquire ones he didn't expect they could get.
"This is going to be a great season," he said. "I wanted Rick Simas to direct our opening show, "I Love You Because." "It made me laugh right out of the barrel because it's so zany and different.
I've known about "Tally's Folly" for a long time. It's a romance with kind of a dark twist but has a happy ending. I directed it before and wanted to play the part. "Glorious" is really over the top fun and you will never hear a voice like this at Carnegie Hall again. Getting the rights to "Putnam County Spelling Bee" was a great feat. Our shows this season offer something for everyone."
Timing can be everything and in a down economy entertainment is often the first sacrifice, but NCR has seen just the opposite. Under Ellenstein's leadership, last season was the most successful season to date in ticket sales and critically.
"The theater is coming into its own as an organization," Ellenstein said. "It's gone through some growing pains, but we have finally arrived. We are a small professional theater putting on top quality productions. That's what we're known for, and I'm hoping to continue to build on that reputation."
The success of NCR is due to a great lineup of plays, but also to great production values. Ellenstein knows this encompasses many things that encourage patrons to support them.
"One is that we spend money to hire good people, and that was not always the case when it was not a professional theater," he said. "We use a majority of equity actors, and we pay the nonprofessionals as well. It doesn't matter how good a play is if you don't have quality actors. The intent of the actors, designers and the organization is to put on a top quality production. We're willing to commit resources to make sure that happens and do that consistently, so that's now the perception people have of us."
Ellenstein and his team continue to stage incredible productions in the small intimate theater in Solana Beach, but he still has his eye on the big picture - a new venue.
"We are now turning some crowds away as tickets sell out, so we need this desperately," he said. "We look forward to that day but meanwhile will continue to turn out great shows where we're at."
North Coast Repertory Theatre
- 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
- Tickets or info at (858) 481-1055 or
- More information about the season's plays is available online