Back to profile

Stories by Jeff Smith

Fractal edgy

Stupid F---ing Bird at Cygnet Theatre

In Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull (1896), the characters wonder how people will think about them in 100 years. Boy, if they only knew! They’ve been revised, relocated, remixed, and, in Aaron Posner’s comic tribute/diatribe, Stupid ...

The book is better

Camp David at the Old Globe Theatre

Lawrence Wright’s Camp David is an “important” play, but not a well-written one. In 90 minutes it recreates the 13 days of vein-bulged negotiations that led to the historic Camp David Accords. On September 17, ...

To call Hollywood “noir” is misleading

Fade out

Before the police arrived, many of Taylor’s friends ransacked the bungalow — and not for souvenirs.

Ben Vereen Awards

Camp Broadway awaits

On Sunday, May 29,, the Balboa Theatre hosts the 2016 Ben Vereen Awards. Ten male and ten female nominees, chosen for their leading roles in local high school musicals, vie for the chance to represent ...

Last Call: Our Lady of Kibeho

Candle held to a poor, shoeless girl from Gisaka

Moxie Theatre’s excellent Our Lady of Kibeho must close next Sunday (May 29). Here’s some background: Katori Hall’s drama retells the story of the seven Rwandan schoolchildren who witnessed visions of the Virgin Mary (“Our ...

Lady of the Word

How can Anathale’s father sell bananas if his daughter is a witch?

On November 28, 1981, 17-year-old Alphonsine Mumureke was serving lunch to classmates at the Kibeho school for girls in Rwanda. She heard a woman’s soft voice call, “My daughter.” “Here I am,” Alphonsine replied. She ...

At a certain point, the Cupeño stopped looking back.

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part four of four

The wagons came at sunrise. Over 40 teams passed through the barb-wired gate and lurched up the dirt road to Kupa like a giant snake. They came to drive the Cupeño from their land. Stacked ...

Prospect High: Brooklyn rolls in to SD

World Premiere at San Diego School of Performing Arts

The Roundabout Theatre Company of New York is staging the world premiere of Prospect High: Brooklyn, on 23 stages around the country — throughout the school year. Theaters began “rolling premieres” with the national New ...

Against the Inevitable

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part three of four

Tents and campfire smoke signaled the end for the Cupeño.

Last Call: Rocky Horror, Way Downriver

Explorations of the satisfaction in time-warping and doing time

The Rocky Horror Show at Cygnet “It’s astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll…” Riffraff sings these lines as he invites Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, innocents both, to do the “Time Warp” in ...

Rogue river

North Coast Rep's Way Downriver, set in Louisiana, 1927

Though most had "lived within the shadow of the levee," some "had never even seen the river."

Beekeeper meets physicist

Constellations at Old Globe Theatre

Beekeeper meets physicist at a party. Neither is adept at romance. Roland (the beekeeper) says the wrong thing. Marianne (the physicist who studies “theoretical early universe cosmology”) backs out. Blackout. Lights up — same scenario: ...

When Victorian propriety fell apart

Notes for The Elephant Man

I won’t be able to review, and therefore shouldn’t comment, on Backyard Renaissance/Oceanside Theatre Company’s production of The Elephant Man. I dramaturged the play twice before and, when asked, did a talk for the cast ...

Rain falls on the Old Globe stage

We all want new lives

“She’ll be starved and tortured...I want her to accept the punishment of man as a sacrifice to God.”

In search of the unwanted

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part two of four

U.S. government didn’t fool Cecilio Blacktooth.

My Acting Bucket List: Bets Malone

"I want to walk in the shoes of everyone Sondheim creates."

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Last Call: Virginia, Godot, Bucky

Three quality shows conclude their runs this Sunday, April 10

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? From the big picture to the small details, this is an outstanding production of Edward Albee’s masterpiece. George and Martha’s off-hours, young-faculty-initiation party devolves into a Walpurgisnacht of exorcisms and ...

The blackest of crimes committed against Warner Ranch Indians.

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part one of four

Visitors to the Indian village at Kupa were often struck by the silence. No loud voices, no sudden shouts. Even children played quietly. A stillness spread from the bowl-shaped Valle de San Jose below, past ...

Mr. G. will come

Waiting for Godot at Fruitlessmoon Theatreworks

Two tramps (today they’d be called “homeless”) wait by a leafless tree for a mysterious man. He told Vladimir he’d come yesterday. But didn’t. Then he said today. Nope. So, they wait and try to ...

Guinea Pig Bucky: Truth speaker, future seer

R. Buckminster Fuller revisited at San Diego Rep

“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.”

Trashy enough? Yes.

Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show at Cygnet

Talk about gumption: Sean Murray, artistic director of a major local theater company, cavorts on stage in layers of splotchy make-up, a black leather bustier, fishnet stockings, with holes, and, for the final “floor show,” ...

Shredded hopes and egos

Seminar at InnerMission Productions

Here’s Leonard, award-winning novelist: “Am I creating a living, breathing cosmos with language, or am I just scratching at the wall of a cave?” Ostensibly he’s teaching a seminar on the craft of fiction, held ...

I can't play crazy

Maggie Carney's bucket list of acting roles

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Tribute to Al from Spaceship Earth

"He knew about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask anyone."

As part of its 40th anniversary season, the San Diego Rep is remounting Douglas Jacobs’s R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe. The show, which opens Wednesday, March 16, premiered in 2000 ...

Flecks of gold

The Jacksonian at Ion Theatre

When Mississippi put its only gas chamber at Parchman Penitentiary, says Fred in Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian, “there was a good deal of opposition from the people of Sunflower County. They did not want all ...

A salute to Swedenborgian Hall

Final curtain

On Sunday, February 7, parishioners lost their church, and local theater lost a space. After a farewell service in the sanctuary, where each member signed the paper of dissolution, the Swedenborgian Church of San Diego ...

25 kinds of lout

Now You See It at North Coast Rep

Best of Show: director Bruce Turk devised an inspired curtain call. In the spirit of farceur Georges Feydeau, Turk pulls the equivalent of rabbits out of hats. Four of his five-member cast seek the fifth, ...

Feisty pistol with range

Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight at New Village Arts

History remembers Gabrielle-Emilie du Chatelet (1706–1749) more for her amatory escapades than her magisterial intellect. Like the time she broke up with her lover, the Count de Guebraint. She ordered him to fetch a bowl ...

Tennis, troubles, tennis, troubles, tennis…

The Last Match at Old Globe Theatre

We’re center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis championship. Tim Porter, ranked #1 in the world for three years, faces Sergei Sergeyev, the fiery Russian currently #10. Rumor ...

Last Call: Outside Mullingar and Ragtime

Neighbors stop bickering, piano stops thumping on Sunday

That ol’ clock on the wall again. Two quality shows must conclude their runs this Sunday, February 21. Outside Mullingar, at San Diego Repertory Theatre. John Patrick Shanley is famous for tough, thought-provokers like Doubt: ...

Poem in stone

La Jolla Playhouse stages Guards at the Taj

They must keep their backs to the Taj and not witness the most beautiful object that will ever be.

Demons squeezed out

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Intrepid Theatre Company

Martha: “Truth and illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.” George: “No. but we must carry on as though we did.” Not anymore. In Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, during an all-night drunkathon ...

Theatre Week

Discounts, special events, talkbacks with the cast, after-parties...

What a great idea! If local critics sing the praises of San Diego theater, well, that's just what they (we) do. D. Candis Paule, president of the San Diego Performing Arts League, and Gary Kramer, ...

Last call

When the Rain Stops Falling concludes Sunday

I love it when I walk out of a theater, deeply moved, and can’t put my reaction into words. It’s a sign that the play and production were so engrossing they put the brain on ...

Verse crazy

“You have ewes, I have rams. Should we not couple flocks — in epigrams?”

The Metromaniacs wax poetic at Old Globe; Moxie stages Brownsville Song.

Craig Noel Award Winners for 2015

And they are...

Musical Direction: Elan McMahan, Big Fish, Moonlight Stage Productions Choreography: Colleen Kollar Smith, West Side Story, Lamb’s Players Original Score: Irene Sankoff, David Hein, Come From Away, La Jolla Playhouse Ensemble: Come From Away, La ...

Last call for death row

OnStage Playhouse's Coyote on a Fence closes this weekend

“Goddamn madhouse tonight,” says Shawna, a prison guard, as she talks to a reporter and sips the upscale beer he paid for. “Never seen it like that — never! All them TV trucks? Never seen ...

The theater scene has rhythms

Most companies open every eight weeks or so. Their routines are often the same, at times almost identical: what people wear, where they cluster before the show and intermission, levels of excitement (the more intimate ...

Irish February

Outside Mullingar at San Diego Repertory Theatre

The Rep has already extended its run of John Patrick Shanley’s Irish love story, and with good reason. The play and the production are a treat. Mullingar’s a bit reminiscent of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly. ...

When the Rain Stops Falling at Cygnet; Lamb’s stages The Nerd

Sins of the father

“It will take more than a spot of bad weather to silence the human mind.”

You, too, will be frisked

Coyote on a Fence at OnStage Playhouse

You don’t just walk into OnStage Playhouse’s theater. You must stop and spread your arms out wide. A prison guard (Twila Burnett) frisks you with a metal detector and points if it makes a noise. ...

Langtry Comes to San Diego

Part two of two | Read part one

The first time her acting company toured the West Coast, Lillie Langtry skipped San Diego. That flea-bit Podunk wasn’t up to snuff. In 1888, she booked May 4 and 5, at the Louis Opera House, ...

The Jersey Lily comes to San Diego

Part one of two: Becoming an actor

When the world’s most beautiful woman came to town.

My acting bucket list: Melissa Fernandes

"Judas is one of those roles that can easily be female."

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Performance artist glue

23rd annual Star Award honorees for 2015

Every year the San Diego Performing Arts League honors volunteers from 30 local arts organizations for “the indispensable role they play in the arts community.” These are the behind-the-scenes self-starters, the pitch-inners, often the glue ...

To share or not to share?

That is the dramaturgical question, directors of Hamlet

“To be or not to be,” asks Hamlet. But to whom is he speaking? Let’s say you’re directing Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. An entire production can hang on another question: Does your actor speak only to ...

Craig Noel Award Nominees for 2015

Ceremony to be held on Monday, February 6

Outstanding Musical Direction Kris Kukul, Kiss Me Kate, Old Globe Theatre Elan McMahan, The Music Man, Moonlight Stage Productions Elan McMahan, Big Fish, Moonlight Stage Productions Terry O’Donnell, Dogfight, Cygnet Theatre Ian Eisendrath, Come From ...

San Diego theater year in review

Practically every theater in the county produced a world premiere in 2015

Back in September I remarked that “2015 may be one of the gutsiest years ever in San Diego theater. I can’t remember so many world premieres.” The final three months kept pace. Call it the ...

A Scrooge is born

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea...”

Charles Dickens wrote at top speed, in part because of gifts that didn’t seem so at the time. In his youth, he was a court stenographer. He learned the intricate Gurney system of shorthand in ...

Viewpoints ricochet in The Cherry Orchard

Schtick abounds, unfortunately, in UCSD Theatre's take on Chekhov classic

How many plays have the rent past due, foreclosure banging down the door, a way of life on the ropes? Hundreds? Thousands? Ah, but how many display the event through countless pairs of eyes, and ...

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!