The long-anticipated La Jolla Playhouse WoW Festival has arrived, and it looks like fun indeed. I will be providing impressions of the festival by attending each day (Thursday through Sunday), while my colleagues will be covering specific performance events.
Some basics to start: the festival is located on the UC San Diego campus, just off the intersection of La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road. There, you’ll find the main La Jolla Playhouse complex, where many of the events will occur. But, events will also occur in the buildings that house the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance and in outdoor spaces surrounding those buildings. Nothing is more than the equivalent of a few blocks’ walk, but you will walk – and you’ll wait in line, and you’ll stand through some of the performances. Best to be prepared for that by wearing sturdy walking shoes (I did not yesterday, and I paid a penalty on my feet and legs). There is also a venue at La Jolla Shores, and there is a shuttle bus that will take you to that venue from the main festival site. You’ll need to plan ahead to visit the Shores, because the shuttle runs only every half hour. The festival material says that you can drive there on your own, but you can be sure that parking will be at a premium.
Parking near the festival will fill up quickly, but there is a valet service (though, it may fill up as well). Be aware that UCSD charges for parking on weekdays but not on weekends (including meters). There is parking available throughout the UCSD campus, if you are willing to walk a ways. The closest lots besides the ones right at the festival are along Torrey Pines road (I’d get off I-5 at Genesee and approach these lots, from the north), or just off the Gilman Drive entrance to the campus (turn right, instead of left) at the new stop light just inside the campus gate. There is also a structure and surrounding open-air lots located at Gilman and Villa La Jolla Drive. Turn right on Villa La Jolla from La Jolla Village Drive, and the structure is at the top of the hill. It will be a bit of a walk from there to the festival site, but you may well avoid the traffic by going that way.
The festival village is centered by the Potiker and Forum Theatres. There are places to eat and drink there, including food trucks. The food trucks looked more interesting to me than did the food for sale at the former Jai restaurant (which is now run by UCSD, I believe). Will call and ticket purchase is at the Potiker Theatre box office. There are a number of free events, but most of the featured performances require tickets.
Yesterday felt very much like a warm-up day. There were lots of people in green volunteer tee shirts (including Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley) who didn’t seem to have a whole lot to do, and the box office staff was struggling with finding ticket orders. The Playhouse has partnered with UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance and with the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, on the festival, and it was the partners’ turn to shine while I was there. The festival is presenting what it calls site-specific performances, though some of those just seemed to be performed at the festival site, while others had a specific site in mind.
One of the ones with a specific site was The Myth Project: Altar, by Patricia Rincon, the Head of Dance at UCSD. Set at the nearby Ché Café, this hour-long dance program celebrated the various functions that Ché has served in the SDSU community. Dances were set in locations around the café, and audience members were on their feet a lot, following the progression of the dances as they went.
A second event I attended was staged in the dirt area behind the Forum Theatre. It was a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, by a group of UCSD theatre students, directed by recent MFA graduate Tom Dugdale. Mr. Dugdale envisioned Our Town as a picnic, and the performers began the show by throwing around footballs and eating hot dogs. Once the proceedings began, though, it was pretty much the actual text of Our Town, being staged on a picnic table. The audience was asked to move their lawn chairs at the end of Act 1, and the play continued in another part of the dirt area. Don’t come expecting that everything will last about an hour, as the Our Town cast performed the entire play. [php snippet=1]After ducking out of Our Town early, I settled in on the Forum patio with some food from the snack bar. My colleague, Janice Steinberg, joined me, but we were soon distracted by Kamchåtka, an improvisational performance troupe from Barcelona that was part of “Thursday Night Thing” event from the Museum of Contemporary Art. Janice became entirely distracted by Kamchåtka, as you will read in her review.
By Friday, I expect that the organizational glitches will be mostly rectified, and that the festival will be running smoothly. I’ll report on how all of those expectations ended up in my next installment, tomorrow.