La Jolla Playhouse is where artists and audiences come together to create what’s new and next in American Theatre.
From Tony Award-winning plays and musicals, to imaginative programs for young audiences, to interactive experiences outside our theatre walls, the Playhouse brings people together to inspire discussion and open pathways to new ways of thinking.
A visit to the Playhouse is an invitation to harness the transformative power of theatre to explore the here and now – and together, expand our world’s compassion, understanding and hope.
La Jolla Playhouse advances theatre as an art form and as a vital social, moral and political platform by providing unfettered creative opportunities for the leading artists of today and tomorrow. With our youthful spirit and eclectic, artist-driven approach we will continue to cultivate a local and national following with an insatiable appetite for audacious and diverse work.
In the future, San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse will be considered singularly indispensable to the worldwide theatre landscape as we become a permanent safe harbor for the unsafe and surprising. The day will come when it will be essential to enter the La Jolla Playhouse village in order to get a glimpse of what is about to happen in American theatre.
Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, La Jolla Playhouse thrived as a summer stock retreat for such Hollywood luminaries as Vivian Vance, Groucho Marx and Eve Arden. After over a decade of performances featuring numerous greats from stage and film, the Playhouse went on hiatus from 1959 – 1982. While shuttered, a handful of dedicated supporters fought to keep the Playhouse alive, eventually working to revive it on the campus of UC San Diego in 1983.
Over the next three decades, La Jolla Playhouse rose to prominence as one of the most celebrated regional theatres in the country. Under the artistic leadership Des McAnuff (1983 – 1994; 2001 – 2007), the Playhouse developed dozens of new works, many of which transferred to Broadway, including Big River, The Who’s Tommy and Jersey Boys. In 1993, the Playhouse was awarded the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
This period also saw the beginning of the Playhouse’s acclaimed Performance Outreach Program (POP) Tour, in which a brand new, Playhouse-commissioned work brings the magic of theatre into San Diego schools. The Playhouse’s continued its commitment to developing new plays and musicals with the launch of its Page To Stage New Play Development Program, spawning the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife.
Led for the last decade by 2017 Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley, the Playhouse has solidified its reputation of originating new work, producing a total of 101 world premieres and sending 32 productions to Broadway – including the currently-running hit musical Come From Away.
Deepening the Playhouse’s connection to the San Diego community, Christopher Ashley inaugurated the Resident Theatre Program in 2008, providing a temporary home each year for an up-and-coming theatre company. In 2011, he spearheaded the innovative Without Walls (WOW) series of site-inspired and immersive theatre. The Playhouse hosts a biennial WOW Festival featuring local and international artists in vibrant, interactive experiences that amplify the energy of the city.
From its signature play development initiatives to its intriguing and playful WOW programming, La Jolla Playhouse has become the place to see what’s next on the American theatre landscape.
Artists and audiences converge at La Jolla Playhouse to take part in the development of new plays and musicals. To date, the Playhouse has mounted 102 world premieres, commissioned 52 new works, and sent 32 productions to Broadway, garnering a total of 38 Tony Awards, including the 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
Since its inception, the Playhouse and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have worked closely together to create an integrated environment for the adventurous theatre produced by the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse and the nationally-renowned theatre training program offered by the Department of Theatre & Dance.
The Playhouse also provides residencies for 20-25 UCSD graduate students in acting, directing, design, and stage management, and many undergraduate students take advantage of internships in various areas of the theatre. Playhouse artistic, administrative and production staff frequently teach in UCSD’s graduate theatre programs and UCSD faculty have been engaged by the Playhouse as actors, directors, designers, stage managers, choreographers and voice and movement coaches.
La Jolla Playhouse and UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance share the use of four theaters: the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum, the Forum Studio and the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.
The spirit of this unique relationship has always been one of symbiosis — the Playhouse feeding the university with extraordinary artists, innovative new works and high production values, while the university brings the energy and idealism of its talented students, a world-class faculty and the presence of an intellectual environment to support cutting edge work in the Theatre District.
Mandell Weiss Theatre
The first La Jolla Playhouse theatre introduced in 1983, the Mandell Weiss Theatre is a 492-seat proscenium arch theatre.
Mandell Weiss Forum
The second Playhouse venue, the Mandell Weiss Forum is a $4.9 million gem designed by award-winning architect Antoine Predock, housing a 400-seat thrust stage theatre.
Inagurated in 2005, the newest of the La Jolla Playhouse theatres is the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, a black box flexible theatre seating up to 450 patrons, and the centerpiece of the 6,500-square-foot Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center.
The Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre is 98-seat theatre adjacent to the Mandell Weiss Forum.
Photo credit: Montego Glover and the cast of Memphis, Photo by Kevin Berne.