New leadership at Diversionary Theatre
Diversionary Theatre is the nation’s third-oldest LGBTQ+ theatre and is dedicated to amplifying queer voices through the performing arts. Its executive artistic director of eight years Matt Morrow is stepping down to take on the role of artistic director of Walnut Creek’s Center Repertory Company. Current managing director, Jenny Case, has just been promoted to executive director. Case and Morrow have been longtime collaborators since Morrow created the managing director position for Case in 2017.
Case is not taking over Morrow's role, but will be working with the board of trustees to search for the theatre’s next artistic director.
"So we'll still have a dual leadership model, which is common in theaters, where I will take care of the business and administrative and general leadership and executive work and budgeting and all of these things," Case said. "Then we're doing a national search right now with some firms that conduct these searches for us, and we are going to find the best leader possible for our artistic side."
As managing director, Case co-led a $2.7 million renovation project that addressed security and COVID-19 concerns, as well as paid off the theatre's $500,000 mortgage.
Case has more than two decades of experience in working in the nonprofit theatre sector, including 16 years at La Jolla Playhouse. She also worked on the Playhouse's Without Walls Festival (WOW), which specializes in site-specific theater that pushes boundaries.
"I think the idea for WOW of not just looking at how the audience experiences the art, but also what's possible when you just step outside the theater — it goes back to that adventure that new work, that mind-expanding that WOW has to offer all of San Diego, which is so exciting," Case said. "It was pleasure this year to get to have a Diversionary show inside the WOW Festival, where we produced 'Drive' by Sharon Wheatley. And now that show is going on to have a whole other life and it's going to become a full-length play and hopefully find its way to both indoor and outdoor stages."
Case is excited about taking on her new role at this particular moment in time.
"We're known for punching above our weight class as far as the artistic vision and what's on stage for the size of our organization," Case said. "But we're also the only theater that actually carries the weight of also being a queer theater, an LGBTQIA+ theater in a time right now when our society is really struggling with the civil rights aspect for our community. So the fight is ahead of us both to create the adventurous, joyous things we see on stage, while maintaining the right for trans and queer people to thrive in this society."
And theater has always been the perfect place to tackle those issues.
"Theater is always about community gathering together to watch some sort of transformation, and that is the joy of theater. Being together is part of the experience," Case said. "I think with the pandemic we went through not being together and we felt what that felt like and how it hurt. So I think that the magic of Diversionary, especially in this time where we hear that isolation and loneliness, is now actually being registered by the CDC as like a health concern. Having a space here at Diversionary, where folks can come and be together and witness something together, is a transformative process for the human being. I also think that downstairs we have The Clark Cabaret and we are using that as both entertainment and bringing folks to be together to watch some fun show or live music, but also as a community gathering space. And so that place is about serving community. You can walk in off the street and see something lovely and entertaining, but you also can use that space to come together and do the good work, whatever that might be. So it's a privilege to get to support the community with this theatre."
Diversionary kicks off its 38th season this fall with plays already selected by Morrow. The theme for the season is liberation, exploring the idea of personal freedom and how it evolves the way we view the world around us. The season includes: the San Diego premiere of "Dragon Mama" by Sara Porkalob; the legacy revival of "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams; the West Coast premiere of "Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members" a co-production with Moxie Theatre by Mara Vélez Meléndez; and the world-premiere musical "TL;DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix," also co-produced with Moxie Theatre.