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What Kind of WoW Festival-Goer Are You?

Playhouse artistic director helps maneuver the three-day theater and art event

Photo of The Spheres, part of La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival

Credit: Friedel Peters

Above: Photo of The Spheres, part of La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival

La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival is a three-day theater and dance event that celebrates new and innovative work, or as Artistic Director Christopher Ashley likes to think of it: one giant art party.

"We’ve taken quite a lot of care to create a set of experiences we think people will be excited by," he said.

Without Walls Festival

When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Oct. 11 2015.

Where: La Jolla Playhouse, UC San Diego, La Jolla

Cost: Free to $29 per show.

Tickets: La Jolla Playhouse

Ashley first debuted the WoW Festival two years ago, showcasing pieces like "The Car Plays" and a re-imagined version of "Our Town." It returns for its second go-around from Oct. 9 to 11 with more than 20 events that range from theater and dance performances to parades and art displays.

Many shows happen simultaneously, some even as visitors walk through the La Jolla Playhouse area. And throughout the weekend, people are encouraged to congregate in the Festival Village area to eat, drink and share what they've seen.

But because the festival is relatively new to San Diego's arts community, the idea of so much happening at one time can be overwhelming. So we enlisted Ashley to help maneuver the festival landscape for a variety of festival-going styles.

If you're a planner

Ashley recommends spending some time with the festival's comprehensive web site that lists show descriptions, times and ticket prices.

"If you're already a theatergoer, and you know a lot of the local companies, you can program a meaningful experience for yourself," he said.

Ashley enjoyed collaborating with San Diego organizations including Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater and Ion Theatre among others.

Ion, for example, will premiere "Refuse, Or the Golden Door," which explores the experiences of San Diego's refugee population. And Isaacs' "Dances With Walls" will present dancing against various walls on the UC San Diego campus.

Photo credit: La Jolla Playhouse

Jean Isaacs Dance Theater presents "Dances With Walls" at the 2015 WoW Festival.

If you're spontaneous

The Wow Festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, with shows happening at all times. You can buy a ticket for something that's close by, a show that sounds interesting, or a piece that people are talking about.

Just show up and see where the festival takes you.

"One of the things we're trying to recapture from the first festival is how so many people met each other and formed friendships," Ashley said. "Everyone’s talking to each other about a piece they just saw, which is much different than going to a traditional play where you sit in your seat and then go home after. This festival encourages people to be social and make new friends - it feels more like a picnic or a party."

If you're having trouble deciding

For those who prefer a more guided experience, Ashley said the Playhouse has created various curated packages.

You'll receive tickets to three pre-picked plays and then follow the map to the various locations. There are also VIP and family-friendly options.

If you're on a budget

The cost for most of the plays ranges from $10 to $29 per show. But there are also several free performances throughout the weekend.

"We aimed to make it very affordable, even the ticketed shows," Ashley said.

Some free highlights include "The Spheres," a nighttime presentation of illuminated globes and "A Flock of Flyers" about the 217th Canadian Flying Squadron determined to still fly even though they don't have any planes.

Photo by Courtesy photo

Gnomesense! is a puppet parade that will be led by Animal Cracker Conspiracy.

If you're bringing the family

Though there are family-friendly performances all during the festival, Saturday is definitely the day to attend with children.

Kids are invited to participate in "The Quest," which is part scavenger hunt and part role play. There will also be an interactive art garden where visitors can make nature-themed crafts out of recycled materials, a fort-building area, marble painting and a parade.

If you're only going to one play

"The Healing Wars" is considered the Wow Festival's anchor show and will be staged through Oct. 25.

Ashley said the immersive piece blends dance, storytelling and multimedia in an exploration of how soldiers and healers cope with the physical and psychological wounds of war.

For those looking for something a little less intense, The Trip theater company will stage Chekohv's "Three Sisters" on a tennis court at twilight.


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