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Creating A Portrait Of San Diego For The Stage

Aired 6/25/13 on KPBS News.

The La Jolla Playhouse is planning to put a portrait of San Diego on stage, using living, breathing San Diegans. The production will feature 100 non-actors who reflect the city’s demographic makeup.

Andrea Moser was the first San Diegan cast in "100% San Diego." She was asked to choose an item meaningful to her, which is the Fringe Festival catalog she holds here.

There are no nervous actors waiting to audition for the upcoming La Jolla Playhouse production of "100% San Diego."

In fact, knowing how to act isn’t even a casting requirement. Instead, the cast will be chosen based on statistical categories. The production will feature 100 non-actors who reflect San Diego's demographic makeup.

Andrea Moser works for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. She helped the Playhouse gather the demographic criteria using the U.S. Census. They asked her to be the first cast member. "I said, are you sure? I’m just a middle aged-person from La Jolla," said Moser. The Playhouse assured her she was exactly what they needed. "I guess I do indeed fit into a category," Moser added.

Her job was not done. Moser then had to chose the next cast member, keeping the production's demographic needs in mind. She chose a family friend, a white male who is in the military. He then had to invite someone he knows to be in the cast and the process keeps going, while the demographic matrix gets filled out along the way. To date, forty-two San Diegans have been cast for the October production of '100% San Diego."

The actual play hopes to give audiences a sense of the lives and values of San Diegans. It’s not a play with a scripted plot. It will contain a series of short scenes. Actors may be asked to pantomime what they do over the course of a day in one scene. In another, they may be asked to sort themselves based on a topic. "They might ask a question like, do you believe in gay marriage," explained Moser. "People will walk to one side of the stage or the other."

The cumulative effect of these short scenes is snapshot of life in San Diego.

Similar productions have been staged in Australia, Germany and the UK, all under the 100% moniker. The series was created by German-based theater artists working in a collective called Rimini Protokoll. They are considered the leaders of a theater movement known as "Reality Trend." According to the Rimini Protokoll website, "each project begins with a concrete situation in a specific place and is then developed through an intense exploratory process." You can find videos of past productions here.

The La Jolla Playhouse is staging "100% San Diego" as part of a four-day festival of innovative theater taking place this fall.

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