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Theater, Down A Garden Path

Above: "Sussurus" is a site-specific piece that will launch La Jolla Playhouse's grant-funded Without Walls program, running at the San Diego Botanic Garden September 16 - October 2, 2011.

A new play from The La Jolla Playhouse will have audiences strolling down a garden path. It's part of a new initiative to take theater outdoors. The initiative, called Without Walls, was funded by a $900,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation.

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Aired 9/16/11

A new play from The La Jolla Playhouse will have audiences strolling down a garden path. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone says it's part of a new initiative to take theater outdoors.

The Playhouse will work with playwrights and artists to stage plays in locations outside the theater, including gardens, beaches and neighborhoods. Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley:

It’s really extraordinary to go out and say to artists, 'Come to San Diego and we’ll tool around, we’ll explore every nook and cranny we can think of, and we’ll start with what place inspires you. What place suggests a story? And then let’s write and create the story that could happen there.' That's been a really exciting process for us.

David Leddy, playwright and director of "Sussurus," La Jolla Playhouse's inaugural Without Walls presentation to take place at the San Diego Botanic Garden September 16 - October 2, 2011.
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Above: David Leddy, playwright and director of "Sussurus," La Jolla Playhouse's inaugural Without Walls presentation to take place at the San Diego Botanic Garden September 16 - October 2, 2011.

The Playhouse will produce two site-specific works a year for the next two years, culminating in a festival in 2013. The first play opens this weekend. It’s called "Sussurus," and it’s set in the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas.

Ashley described "Sussurus" this way: "It's part radio play, part sonic avant-garde art piece and part walk in the park. It’s kind of a new, new hybrid."

The play was written by Scottish playwright, David Leddy, who is known for producing cutting-edge work. Audience members will be given an iPod and a route to follow through the gardens while they listen to a play loosely based on "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Ashley says site-specific work is extraordinary because of random events that can influence audiences' experience of the work. "A flock of birds will take off at some moment and the audience member will never really know how much of that was planned and how much of it was just life. And life starts to look like art and art starts to look like life."

Upcoming Without Walls programming will involve local artists, as will the future festival.

In the meantime, the Playhouse will have to add "wear sunscreen" to its "turn-off-your-cell-phone" warning.

"Sussurus" runs at the San Diego Botanic Garden September 16 - October 2, 2011.

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