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La Jolla Playhouse returns with three world premieres, live Without Walls fest and new play series

An image from Blindspot Collective's "Hall Pass"in 2019.
An image from Blindspot Collective’s “Hall Pass,” presented as part of the 2019 La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls Festival.
(Courtesy La Jolla Playhouse)

Company’s return to production will kick off with socially distanced ‘A Thousand Ways’ encounters beginning June 3

La Jolla Playhouse will return to live onsite programming on June 3, kicking off a nine-month season of events that will include three world premieres, a free weekend of Without Walls Festival shows, a new play series and a mix of online theatrical shows for adults and children.

Among the season highlights will be the premieres, presented in a three-show subscription that includes two plays by celebrated authors and a new musical. Tony-nominated playwright Charlayne Woodard returns to the Playhouse in September with “The Garden,” a play about a mother and daughter finding common ground. And in November, Kimber Lee will debut her new play about painter Vincent Van Gogh on the verge of greatness, called “to the yellow house.” Also making its premiere next March will be the new musical “Bhangin’ It,” which blends Indian folk and contemporary Western dance traditions.

Kimber Lee, playwright for La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere of "to the yellow house."
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

The popular Without Walls Festival (WOW), presented as an all-digital event in 2020, will return to in-person performances on June 3, with the second part of the three-part audience-interactive series “A Thousand Ways.” There will also be a “Pop Up WOW” fest Aug. 14 and 15 at Liberty Station in Point Loma featuring five free shows. Several more digital WOW shows are planned in the coming months. Now available for online streaming is the Playhouse’s Performance Outreach Program (POP) show “Pick Me Last,” available for free streaming to school groups and families this spring and summer.

Over two weekends in late July, the Playhouse will present four new works in its eighth annual DNA New Work Series of new plays. In past years, the series has been the springboard for numerous Playhouse premieres, including “The Who & The What,” “Chasing the Song,” “Blueprints to Freedom” and “The Last Tiger in Haiti.”

Two shows previously planned for 2021, Lauren Yee’s “Mother Russia” and the Broadway-bound musical “Lempicka,” will move back to the 2022-23 season.

David Israel Reynoso, Playhouse 2021/2022 Resident Artist and Pop-Up WOW artist.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

Because health orders are changing weekly, the Playhouse will continuously update its policies regarding in-person live performances on its website at lajollaplayhouse.org/plan-your-visit/. It will offer flexible ticket return policies as well as virtual viewing options for subscribers to “The Garden” and “to the yellow house.”

Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said that in his discussions with subscribers, most are eager to return for live performances, but for those who are not, the Playhouse is making accommodations.

“The huge majority of subscribers I’ve had conversations with are very positive about coming back,” he said. “Now the rules around someone walking back in our theater we haven’t absolutely settled on. Everyone’s health and safety is our primary priority, so we’ll welcome them back into our theaters in accordance with UC San Diego, county, state and CDC guidelines.”

Subscriptions for the three-show series of world premieres will go on sale June 21. Here’s the lineup of new Playhouse programming from June through April 2022. For more information on La Jolla Playhouse’s in-person and digital productions, visit lajollaplayhouse.org.

“A Thousand Ways (Part 2): An Encounter,” June 3-20: Part Two of this Without Walls Festival piece by 600 Highwaymen about the power of human connection. This part will bring together two ticket-buyers who are strangers who will communicate with each other through a pane of glass using printed cards. Part 1, presented last fall, involved a phone call between two strangers with question prompts asked by a computerized voice. The third part will bring all the of the several hundred past participants together in the same space for a new interaction, most likely in the late fall or early winter. Tickets for Part 2 are $25.

DNA New Work Series, July 22-25 and July 29-Aug. 1: The Playhouse’s festival of new plays will return with four new, unannounced works. This year’s format will feature two performances of two new plays on the first weekend and the same schedule for the other two plays on the second weekend. Tickets will be free, but reservations are required.

Pop-Up WOW, Aug. 14-15: Without Walls returns to in-person festival experiences with a weekend of five short Playhouse-commissioned pieces that will be presented in the Arts District at Liberty Station in Point Loma, site of the 2019 WOW festival. Participating playwrights include three past WOW artists: David Israel Reynoso (“Las Quinceañeras” in 2019 and “Waking La Llorona” in 2017), Blindspot Collective (“Hall Pass” in 2019) and UC San Diego MFA graduate Jesca Prudencio (director/choreographer of “PDA” in 2019). Playwrights joining WOW for the first time this year are Playhouse resident artist Kenny Ramos and the newly formed San Diego Black Artist Collective.

"PDA," from the 2019 WOW Festival, by Pop-Up WOW artist Jesca Prudencio.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

“The Garden,” Sept. 21-Oct. 17: In a co-production with Baltimore Center Stage, this new play by Charlayne Woodard is the story of two “Alpha” Black women, elderly mother Claire Rose and her middle-aged daughter Cassandra, who meet at a garden gate after three years of estrangement in an attempt to heal old wounds. Patricia McGregor makes her Playhouse directing debut in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

“to the yellow house,” Nov.16-Dec. 12: Kimber Lee’s art- and color-filled world premiere play is set in 1886 Paris, where struggling painter Vincent Van Gogh is trying to find love and overcome failure just before his move to Arles, where inspiration finally struck. Ashley describes the piece as a “show of scale with a substantial cast.” Former Playhouse associate artistic director Neel Keller directs in the Mandell Weiss Theatre.

“Bhangin’ It,” March 8-April 17, 2022. Winner of the 2019 Richard Rodgers Award, this new musical is about a young woman who finds her identity cannot be defined by checking a box, so she sets off on a quest to dance to her own beat. The musical draws from competitive Bhangra, mixed with other Indian and Western dance forms. It’s written by former Playhouse resident artists Mike Lew and Rehana Lew Mirza, with music and lyrics by Sam Willmott, additional music by Deep Singh and choreography by Rujuta Vaidya. Amy Anders Corcoran directs in the Mandell Weiss Theatre.

A scene from La Jolla Playhouse's 2021 POP Tour show "Pick Me Last."
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

“Pick Me Last”: Now available for streaming. The Playhouse’s 2021 POP tour play for young audiences was written by Idris Goodwin and directed by Jacole Kitchen. It’s the story of grade-schooler Chavonne, who comes up with a plan to help her best friend Wes, who is always picked last for playground games. Instead of a school tour this year, the play was filmed and is being offered free to school groups and families. Online registration is required at pop-tour-lajollaplayhouse.com.

All-Digital WOW Fest: Over the past 14 months, the Playhouse has presented 14 virtual Without Walls shows online. Nine of these programs are still available for free viewing on the Playhouse website. More virtual shows are planned in the coming months. To watch, visit lajollaplayhouse.org/wow-goes-digital/.


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