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Stories by Jeff Smith

My Acting Bucket List: Jessica John Gercke

The Craig Noel Award-winner has an affinity for deep, complex characters

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

July is busting out all over!

Theater preview for the month to come

T’is the season. Count some of the ways: NOW PLAYING: La Jolla Playhouse: Come From Away. The world premiere musical, by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, creates a comedy within a tragedy. On the morning ...

History out the corner of your eye

Place, people, and change with Asian Story Theatre’s Stories of the Sun Café

Asian Story Theatre’s Stories of the Sun Café runs three performances through the weekend of June 27-29. Written by Kent Brisby, who researched the subject with Joyce Teague for two years, the piece is the ...

In search of Romeo and Juliet

The course of true history never did run smooth

Lamb’s Players fine production of West Side Story raises a question. The musical based Tony and Maria on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But where did the Bard’s star-crossed lovers come from? And were they real? ...

Four-alarm blazer

Lamb’s Players continues the streak with West Side Story

Musicals have iconic images: a Huey helicopter? Miss Saigon; white semi-mask? Phantom; Julie Andrews’ 360 on a green hill, dressed like a risqué Puritan? Sound of Music, the movie. How about a chain-link fence and ...

Those damn beehives!

Hattie Ada Dougherty granted a license to burn

Back in 1888, Hattie “Ada” Dougherty had a ranch between Japatul and Sacatera, southeast of Alpine. She wanted to clear some land for ploughing but couldn’t. Her neighbor, an old, unnamed man had some of ...

Fleeting utopia

In Come From Away, a group of people withdraw from the world — for a time

When’s the last time a musical began not with a Carillion-style fanfare of intent, but with the crisp, insistent pounding of a hand drum? Then a fiddle slashes in and things go Celtic — tight, ...

Miles away from the legend

Ion Theatre searches for the reality behind the drama with Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Were she still alive, Billie Holiday would have turned 100 last April. That would have surprised the hell out of “Lady Day,” since she lived an epic life and died July 17, 1959, of complications ...

Memory also betrays

North Coast Rep starts at the end with Pinter's Betrayal

Harold Pinter denies he based his 1978 drama on a seven-year affair he had with a married woman. And that her husband, a friend of his, had affairs all the while — and knew about ...

The Press War

Women compel men to think — that’s what Clara Foltz said.

Clara Foltz must have lived at least nine lives. A descendant of Daniel Boone, she was a wife, until her husband abandoned her and their four children. She was the first woman to practice law ...

Wide open to interpretation

Talent's not the issue with Everybody’s Talkin: The Music of Harry Nilsson at San Diego Rep

“Goin’ where the sun keeps shining/Thru the pouring rain/Goin’ where the weather suits my clothes…” To those who recall when Midnight Cowboy came out, the lyrics conjure up Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight scuffling down ...

My acting bucket list: Eddie Yaroch

The Craig Noel Award-winner shares his top choices for five categories — King to Bard, father to kidnapper

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

Rich Girl finds little purchase at the Old Globe’s theater in the round

Contested territory

The only time it happened was at the old Old Town Theatre. I was watching a production of The Heiress, where a complete and total jerk courts rich, innocent, young Catherine. He was so obviously ...

Above the bar, below the legend

San Diego Musical Theatre's Singin' in the Rain a competent rendering of a classic

Aw come on, you mean the movie where Gene Kelly — with a glow-ree-us feelin' — kick-splashes puddles, spins that black umbrella, glides with gymnastic grace, and joy-hangs from the side of a lamp-post didn’t ...

Point of no return

The Whale devotes his last days to honesty

Lights come up, dimly, on a dingy brown old couch with a deep sag in the middle. Close by: a laptop, a TV-tray-like table with rollers, a low slung reading lamp, and a small bookcase ...

To the Nationals!

New Group West goes big for its... first show?!

I still don’t believe this story! The New Group West’s first-ever show will represent California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii in a national competition! American Association of Community Theatre has 12 regions. San Diego is in ...

The Famous Shavian “BOO!”

The audience didn't get it.

Like Socrates and Ben Franklin, it’s hard to imagine George Bernard Shaw ever being young — in part because he didn’t become a successful playwright until age 40. When Arms and the Man opened at ...

George Bernard Shaw pays a rare visit to the Old Globe

A Shavian rinse

Arms and the Man succeeds despite an antsy itch to entertain.

Early San Diegans couldn’t celebrate without lots of noise

More unexpected vignettes from San Diego's history — including the Horribles

1.) This photograph, taken in the late 1880s, was rare for its time. No male cradles a wide-brimmed hat in his arm. No one stares up, or dreamily off, as if posing as the person ...

Last Call: Unnecessary Farce at North Coast Rep

Silly and hilarious comedy must close soon

The North Coast Rep’s silly, lunkhead, hilarious Unnecessary Farce must close this Sunday. One of the oddest things about farce: it must as precise as it is frantic. Actors scream “eek,” slam doors, and sprint ...

Just a few more before retirement

Lifelong performer and Craig Noel Award-winner Melinda Gilb’s shares her acting bucket list

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

Familiar sitcom feeling

Competence doesn't save Moxie Theatre's Lesson 443 from feeling like a repeat.

Tatiana Suarez-Pico’s new play is either a drama sabotaged by comedy, or vice versa. When the play builds to an emotional moment, a joke undercuts it. And when a scene starts out funny, things take ...

San Diego Rep explores the Uncanny Valley between you and your replicant

Will you be you?

Robots became so human-like that thoughts of playing God plagued their creators.

Right kind of mindless

The Silence of the Clams at Diversionary Theatre takes the low road, yet moments impress

Clarice Starling: “Most serial killers keep some sort of trophies from their victims.” Hannibal Lecter: “I didn’t.” Clarice: “No. You ate yours.” Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs can be funny, in a ghoulish sort ...

Good, whacko, slamming-doors sense

Unnecessary Farce at North Coast Rep is pointless, silly, and delightful

The North Coast Rep’s current show is a farce! But in the good, whacko, slamming-doors sense. Paul Slade Smith’s two-act script has absolutely no redeeming social value, and he goes for silliness where most comic ...

Ion goes all-out

Hillcrest-based company plans quadruple-header to select NYC-bound work — plus BBQ

The idea could cause vertigo: on Saturday, April 25, Ion Theatre will stage-read four new plays starting at 11:00 a.m. Each script has already been work-shopped with readings and feedback from preview audiences. And it’s ...

Last call: The White Snake and My Fair Lady

The final opportunity to see these notable shows is fast approaching

Two beautifully performed shows must end their runs this Sunday. The White Snake, Old Globe Theatre. Mary Zimmerman does theatrical adaptations of literary works, among them The Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, and The Notebooks of ...

Mark Christopher Lawrence’s acting bucket list

The award-winning actor shares his Shakespearean ambitions, desire for important work, and perhaps some additional bites at the apple.

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers – even choices ...

Babs for a day

One-man Buyer & Cellar takes on Barbra and Alex at the same time

Alex Moore, struggling actor, not only works at Disneyland, he’s the “Mayor of Toontown.” He hates it so much he calls the “happiest place” on earth “Mousechwitz.” The drive from his Los Feliz studio apartment, ...

An evening at Villa Montezuma; Coda

Something between a viper and vampire.

(The second in a two-part series. Part one was published March 18.) It’s after midnight, February 15, 1888. The last of the guests are finally leaving Jesse Shepard’s musicale at the Villa Montezuma. One- and ...

Next generation of excellence

The second year of Ben Vereen Awards “celebrates excellence in high school musical theater”

Now in its second year, the Ben Vereen Awards “celebrates excellence in high school musical theater.” On April 26, 20 nominees from the local high schools compete to be in the Top Ten representing San ...

Amanda Sitton’s acting bucket list

The Craig Noel Award-winner manages to whittle dream roles down to five, more or less.

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers – even choices ...

Off-beat rainbow

This Land Is Your Land at the White Box Theater walks it out with precision and form

Open stage. Rear wall: five vertical stripes — green, yellow, red, blue, orange — an off-beat rainbow. Six performers walk eight steps forward, turn, and walk eight steps back on invisible aisles for 45 minutes. ...

Leave Tiger alone!

What have the demands of modern sport wrought — even in golf?

The “story” at this week’s Masters is Tiger Woods. Can he make the cut? Can he win? Vegas now says 40-1. In the age of “right this minute” media mania, golf pundits question his “chipping ...

The White Snake slithers into the Old Globe

Believing is seeing

"Sir, you are married to a snake!” the holy man Fa Hai tells bewildered Xu Xian at the Golden Monastery. “You are coiled in the snares of a snake demon.” His wife and her sidekick ...

Brian Mackey’s acting bucket list

Self-discovery, transformation, and charismatic villainy are all enticing to the Craig Noel Award-winner.

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

Last call: Oedipus El Rey, You Can't Take It with You, Baby with the Bathwater

Three very different, beautifully performed shows must end their runs this Sunday.

Oedipus El Rey, San Diego Rep. This isn’t Sophocles’ Oedipus, its playwright Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus Gomez. He rises from prison to become a Scarface-like, L.A. drug lord who has faith only in himself (“God’s ego’s ...

Infectious exuberance

Wonderful My Fair Lady enthralls at Cygnet

“I could’ve donced all night, I could’ve donced all night” — at least half the audience at intermission, it seemed, bounced up the aisles at Cygnet Theatre singing this song, including the accent! And when ...

Divided, disconnected

Made and missed connections in story and on stage in Kin at Ion Theatre

Anna didn’t get her wish. She wanted to write her doctoral dissertation on punctuation in Emily Dickenson’s poems but couldn’t. So she wrote on how John Keats punctuated his. Bathsheba Doran’s Kin begins with Anna’s ...

Not for all their wealth

Pay-to-play stage roles for rich women — but would the manager ever let one play a lead?

I found this in the San Diego Union, July 8, 1887, a reprint from the New York Mail and Daily Express. The best dressed character in the show spoke only ten lines. “Her costume was ...

An evening at Villa Montezuma

A carnivorous smile among the city’s upper crust

Between 1887 and 1889, Jesse Shepard gave musicales at his Villa Montezuma. He had an international reputation as a singer/pianist. Others called him a charlatan. To bring instant culture to the pioneer town, San Diegans ...

Unfolding fatality

SD Rep presents marvelous, tragic version of Oedipus El Rey

A young man and an older woman, both naked, make tender love in silk sheets amid a roseate aura. They haven’t known each other long, but found common goals and dreams. A blazing sense they ...

Harsh and tender

Passion & Honey's choreo-poems share deep feeling at Ira Aldridge Repertory Players

Artistic director Calvin Manson opens the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players 31st season with its 199th production, a choreo-poem, based on his poetry, that begins in innocence and concludes in tragedy — and hope. Ntozsake Shange ...

Jacque Wilke's acting bucket list

Dream roles include characters who run the gamut — quirky, bold, meaty, powerful, and hated

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

Life’s kind of beautiful

Lamb’s Players ensemble takes on Moss Hart’s eccentric Vanderhofs

Mr. De Pinna delivered ice to the Vanderhof home eight years ago, and stayed. When Mr. De Pinna isn’t modeling for one of Penny Sycamore’s paintings, he and her husband Paul experiment with explosives in ...

Genuine horror

Inferior superiors are a scream in Diversionary's Baby with the Bathwater

White bassinet, spot-lit center stage. Surrounding darkness makes it seem whiter, even more innocent. John and Helen, the parents howling over the child, couldn’t be more menacing if they sucked on crack-pipes and wielded chainsaws. ...

Lasting impermanence

3 Plays in a Tattoo Shop a little too lax but not lacking electric moments

The set, Full Circle Tattoo at 2312 30th Street in South Park, couldn’t be more authentic. Maybe 100 pictorial choices are framed on the walls, along with rows of knickknacks suggesting other possible “skin illustrations.” ...

Fred Harlow's acting bucket list

Roles both dramatic and comic appeal to the veteran actor, from Equus to the Tuna

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices ...

The Old Globe stages The Twenty-Seventh Man

Fellow travelers

Their crime: they compose in Yiddish, “from right to left on the page.”

It has been considered a poor week for killing

Unforgettable outtakes: Southern California, back in the day

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT. John Phoenix, San Diego Herald: “Very little news will be found in the San Diego Herald this week. The fact is there never is much news in it ...

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