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Founders Of San Diego Rep Tell Theater’s Origin Story

Ron Campbell on stage at San Diego REP playing R. Buckminster Fuller.

Photo by Kevin Berne

Above: Ron Campbell on stage at San Diego REP playing R. Buckminster Fuller.

Founders Of San Diego Rep Tell Theater's Origin Story


Doug Jacobs, co-founder, San Diego Repertory Theatre

Sam Woodhouse, co-founder and artistic director, San Diego Repertory Theatre

In 1976, Doug Jacobs and Sam Woodhouse, both newly graduated, decided to start a theater in San Diego.

"We spent two weeks in a borrowed apartment in L.A. putting together documents to file as a non-profit," said Jacobs. "They were all wrong and had to be redone a few years later."

"We just decided as young kids with no resources to call it San Diego Repertory Theater," said Jacobs. "We gave it a name big enough to grow into."

They also wanted to act.

"There weren’t many jobs in theater other than the ones you created," said Jacobs. "So a lot of our impulse was to create work for ourselves and other actors."

Jacobs went on to serve as artistic director, a post he would hold for 20 years before resigning to focus on playwriting. Woodhouse stepped in as artistic director, a post he has now held for the last 20 years.

In 1986, the theater troupe moved into the Lyceum Theatre space in Horton Plaza and became downtown San Diego's main resident theater.

Jacobs and Woodhouse developed a mission. They would produce work "that nourishes progressive political and social values." To that end, in the last 40 years, the theater has produced 46 main stage shows by Latino and Latina playwrights and more than 23 plays written by or about African-American artists.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the Rep is staging a play important in its history as a theater company. “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe,” is a one-man show written by Jacobs. In fact, it was focusing on the writing of this play that drew him to resign from the Rep's artistic leadership. He remained at the Rep to develop and incubate the show, which draws from the life, work and writings of architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller, also known as "Bucky."

The show was a hit and went on to productions throughout the United States and abroad.

Jacobs and Woodhouse joined KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about the Rep's contribution to San Diego's theater landscape and plans for its future growth. They haven't been interviewed together in over 20 years. They also talked about reviving "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of The Universe," and its relevance to contemporary society and politics.

San Diego Rep's production of "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of The Universe" is currently on stage at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza through April 10.

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker


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