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La Jolla Playhouse’s WOW Festival Explores Site-Specific Work From Quarantine

Artistic director Christopher Ashley talks about theater’s online offerings

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La Jolla Playhouse's WOW or Without Walls Festival highlights site specific work. Now that everyone is sheltering at home the festival has gone online. The Playhouse's artistic director Christopher Ashley explains how the theater is putting content online.

Aired: April 28, 2020 | Transcript

Photo credit: La Jolla Playhouse

"Binge" will be one of the site specific works from quarantine at this year's La Jolla Playhouse WOW (Without Walls) Festival. From Brian Lobel and friends it serves up one-on-one performance pieces that transforms the solitary experience of binge-watching TV shows into an opportunity to find comfort in the lives of fictional characters.

La Jolla Playhouse's WOW, or Without Walls Festival, highlights site-specific work. Now that everyone is sheltering at home the festival has gone online along with other content from the Playhouse.

La Jolla Playhouse Taps Into Resources To Go Online

Reported by Beth Accomando

The arts community has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Live theater has had to close its doors and now find other ways to connect with audiences, create new work and still bring money in.

When the orders came down from California's governor last month restricting public gatherings, artistic director Christopher Ashley was in New York for previews of The Playhouse's "Diana."

"So between 'Diana,' two shows at the Playhouse, all five productions of 'Come From Away' around the world and a Margaritaville Tour, I actually shut down nine shows in one day, which was a first for me," Ashley said.

But the La Jolla Playhouse has a unique opportunity right now with its WOW Festival. The festival looks to site-specific work from artists and has been done on the grounds around the theater, on the beach, at Liberty Station, in a high school, so why not from quarantine.

"We've been doing this work not inside a theater, but out in the communities, either site-specific work or immersive work," Ashley explained. "We did two festivals at the Playhouse, one downtown and one at Liberty Station. So it seemed like such a natural thing to take this work that's been out of the world, not inside a theater that's been inspired by stories, inspired by a place, and that it's re-envisioning the relationship between artist, audience and story. Seemed like such a natural thing to say let's move that on line. So we just announced our first four pieces of programming in WOW online and the artists we've talked to are all incredibly juiced and excited about making a new piece of art in this moment that helps people connect. So here we go."

Photo credit: La Jolla Playhouse

David Israel Reynoso and his company Optika Moderna presented "Las Quinceañeras" at last year's La Jolla Playhouse WOW (Without Walls) Festival.

The works announced include UK-based artist Brian Lobel (2013 WOW Festival’s "Carpe Minuta Prima"), San Diego-based artists Mike Sears and Lisa Berger (2019 WOW Festival’s "How High the Moon") and Blindspot Collective (2019 WOW Festival’s "Hall Pass"); as well as international designer and Playhouse 2020/21 Artist-in-Residence David Israel Reynoso and his company Optika Moderna (WOW Festival’s "Las Quinceañeras" and "Waking La Llorona").

Dates have not been set for the WOW content to go online, but it will be in May.

And finally there is

Currently you can find three other streams of digital content. Artist Alley offers conversations and content with Playhouse artists. In Deep Cuts you can find artists sharing songs that were cut from a show as with the co-creators of 2016’s "Miss You Like Hell," Quiara Alegría Hudes (book and lyrics) and Erin McKeown (music and lyrics), performing “Vecinos,” a hopeful song about kindness.

Then there is the LJP Vault where people such as the Playhouse prop shop supervisor Deb Hatch shares one of her favorite memories: working on 2012’s "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots."

And finally more directly addressing its educational component, the Playhouse offers Create and Learn, this is content designed for educators and includes lesson plans, professional development videos, and a guide to creating a devised theatre project. But anyone with a desire to learn and a hunger for a quarantine project can also have access to. One project comes from the Playhouse's costume shop supervisor Jennifer Ables who explains DIY-ing your own Tink fairy wings, inspired by the Playhouse's "Fly," which had to close shortly after opening because of the pandemic.

You can find all of The Playhouse's online and digital offerings on its website.

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Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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