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Theater Notebook: La Jolla Playhouse announces ‘The Garden’ cast and its new vaccine policy

Playwright Charlayne Woodard, center, with "The Garden" cast, Stephanie Berry, left, and Monique Gaffney, right.
Playwright Charlayne Woodard, center, with La Jolla Playhouse’s “The Garden” cast, Stephanie Berry, left, and Monique Gaffney, right.
(La Jolla Playhouse)

This week’s San Diego theater news, with more from Turnkey Theatre and Patio Playhouse

Following the lead of many other major theaters around the nation, La Jolla Playhouse announced its own vaccine policy on Friday, Aug. 20 along with the cast for its season-opening production of Charlayne Woodard’s world premiere play “The Garden.”

San Diego-raised actor Monique Gaffney will co-star in the two-character play with Stephanie Berry in a production co-directed by San Diego-based directors Patricia McGregor and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. It’s the story of two “alpha” women: Claire Rose, an elderly Black woman, and her middle-aged daughter, Cassandra. After not speaking to each other for three years, Cassandra shows up at her mother’s garden gate, attempting to reconcile old wounds.

Gaffney is a resident artist at Cygnet Theatre and a recipient of the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship. In 2012, she received the San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst Fund Individual Artist Fellowship with La Jolla Playhouse to develop a multimedia piece on the life of Henrietta Lacks. She will dedicate her performance in “The Garden” to her late father, Floyd Gaffney, who helped found the Department of Theatre & Dance at UC San Diego, where the Playhouse resides.

“The Garden” will open Sept. 21 and run through Oct. 17 in the Playhouse’s Potiker Theatre. Beginning with the first performance, all attendees must show their ticket, photo ID and proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours of the performance date. Proof requires a physical vaccination card, a photo of that card or a QR code from the State of California’s digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record, which can be obtained at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/.

Also face masks will be required for everyone — including staff, artists and volunteers — inside the theater, lobby and restrooms. The policy will be in place for all performances through Dec. 31.

For complete policy information, visit lajollaplayhouse.org/plan-your-visit/covid-safety.

Eric Keen-Louie has been promoted to the new position of executive producer at La Jolla Playhouse.
(La Jolla Playhouse)

Playhouse promotes Keen-Louie

Eric Keen-Louie, who joined La Jolla Playhouse in 2018 as producing director, was promoted Aug. 20 to the new position of executive producer at the theater.

In his expanded position, Keen-Louie will serve as lead producer of the Playhouse’s subscription season, and he will work with artistic director Christopher Ashley and managing director Debby Buchholz in overseeing the company’s mission, core values and practices, in particular its anti-racism and inclusion commitments and to create a more diverse workplace.

Over the past year, Keen-Louie has emerged as a national leader in the campaign for diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts. Last March, he was one of the creative minds behind the viral #StopAsianHate National Day of Action and Healing. On March 26, Asian-American celebrities nationwide posted digital videos on Instagram and other social media platforms where they talked about the wave of anti-Asian violence that has been growing in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

“With the calls for theaters around the country to take tangible action to advance social justice, I can think of no better place to call home at this moment than La Jolla Playhouse,” Keen-Louie said in a statement. “As a gay third-generation Chinese American, I have not always felt that there was a place for someone like me in theater. The creation of this position is a reminder that there is, and I hope it brings more visibility to the need for continued change and expansion of leadership in our field.”

Ashley said in a statement that Keen-Louie’s passion, producing expertise and “fierce dedication to nurturing and championing diverse artists and audiences made him our unequivocal choice for this vital new position.” And Buchholz said Keen-Louie is deeply respected in the field, both locally and nationally.

Brandon and Amy Throckmorton in Patio Playhouse's "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."
(Matt FitzGerald)

Patio opens ‘I Love You’ revue

This weekend, Patio Playhouse Community Theatre kicks off the final production of its annual Plays in the Park summer series with Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ off-Broadway musical comedy “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

Written in 1997, it’s a musical revue of songs that take a comic and touching look at the ups and downs of dating, love, marriage, sex, parenting and growing old together. It opens Friday, Aug. 27 , with performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Sept. 11 at the Kit Carson Park amphitheater at 100 Amphitheater Drive, Escondido. Visit patioplayhouse.com

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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