Theater Notebook: Despite state’s lifting of indoor mask mandate, local theaters still embrace face coverings

A scene from San Diego Junior Theatre's  "The Jungle Book."
A scene from San Diego Junior Theatre’s upcoming musical adaptation of “The Jungle Book,” playing March 4 through 20 at the Casa Del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park.
(Courtesy of San Diego Junior Theatre)

Also in this week’s San Diego theater report, we have news from Kuumba Fest, Diversionary Theatre and the Old Globe


Although California lifted its indoor mask mandate for most locations on Feb. 16, many San Diego County theaters plan to keep their mask rules firmly in place for the time being.

Last week, the San Diego Theatre Alliance — a coalition of 50 live theater organizations countywide — released a statement of solidarity for continued use of face masks at indoor live theater performances.

“While Theatre Alliance cannot mandate any policies, we feel strongly that our community is strongest when we stand together. Because our cast members perform without masks (in most cases), continuing to ask all of our patrons to remain masked helps ensure a safer environment for our onstage artists, as well as fellow patrons. Therefore, we strongly encourage our members to maintain a policy of face coverings for all audience members for indoor performances,” the statement read.

Virtually all San Diego County theaters also require proof of full vaccination or proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test within 48 to 72 hours of showtime.

Actors’ Equity, the labor union for professional actors, has yet to relax the rules theaters must follow to protect Equity artists, so Equity-contract theaters like the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre and Cygnet Theatre won’t be making any changes on their own.

Jill Drexler, artistic director of Scripps Ranch Theatre, said her theater’s board voted on Feb. 16 to keep its mask mandate and vaccine requirements for the safety its patrons. She said the company has had “very little pushback” on masking and most ticket buyers have thanked the theater for the policy.

Anthony Zelig, patron services and marketing manager for San Diego Junior Theatre, said the organization will continue its mask policy for all patrons ages 2 and up, as well as requiring proof of vaccine for audience members 12 and older. The company’s next production is a musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” series by Greg Banks and Miles Shrewsbury III. It runs from March 4 through 20 at the Casa Del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park.

“We have surveyed our audiences from our recent productions and about 95 percent of the responses regarding our policy have been extremely positive and supportive,” Zelig said. “We’ve been operating at reduced capacity — around 250 seats versus our regular 600-plus — and many shows have sold out, so we feel very fortunate that our audience has returned in strong numbers.”

North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach also said it plans to keep its mask mandate in place for the time being.

An artisan sells African-style clothing at Kuumba Fest, which returns Feb. 24 to 27.
(San Diego Repertory Theatre)

Kuumba Fest returns for 30th year

San Diego Kuumba Fest, a celebration of African American arts, expression, culture and heritage, marks its 30th anniversary this week. The four-day festival, co-produced by San Diego Urban Warriors Inc. and the African American Advisory Council of San Diego Repertory Theatre, will run Thursday through Sunday at the Lyceum Theatre complex in downtown San Diego.

This year’s festival includes an opening reception on Thursday followed by three days of play performances, hip-hop dance and speech competitions, drumming and dance performances, education workshops, a gospel concert finale and an African market place in the lobby.

For the full schedule, visit or

Diversionary cancels ‘Best Lesbian Erotica’

Diversionary Theatre has canceled its planned production of Miranda Rose Hall’s play “Best Lesbian Erotica 1995,” which was set to make its world premiere on Saturday. Ticket refunds are available at the box office. The company’s next production will be Jeremy J. King’s AIDS-themed play “Eighty-Sixed,” which will open May 12. Visit

Bill Irwin will star in "On Beckett" at the Old Globe July 14-17.
(The Old Globe)

Old Globe adds Bill Irwin’s ‘On Beckett’

The Old Globe has added a special engagement to its summer season featuring veteran stage actor and master clown Bill Irwin.

The Tony-winning actor conceived and will perform the 90-minute solo piece, which explores his relationship with the late Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, whose writings include the 1953 theatrical masterwork “Waiting for Godot.” “On Beckett” made its world premiere in 2018 at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York.

The show will play for six performances July 14 through 17. Visit

Pam Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at