How to support performing arts during a pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all experiencing a very difficult time.

Among those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic are cultural institutions whose live performances are intended for gathered audiences. Many concerts and plays have been cancelled. Most of these institutions are nonprofits that can struggle financially even in the best of times.

If you have the means, now might be a good time to make a donation to help the performing arts through a very dark tunnel. That way, we can all enjoy a bit more light when we finally come through.

I’ve linked to the donation pages of some notable local institutions that are being hurt by the pandemic. And don’t forget the many museums throughout San Diego. They will also suffer as people avoid gathering in public.

Follow these links to make a donation:

San Diego Symphony

La Jolla Music Society

The Old Globe

La Jolla Playhouse

San Diego Repertory Theatre

San Diego Opera

We will get through this very difficult time.

Be safe.

Photos inside the San Diego Civic Theatre.

Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.
Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.

I’ve lived in downtown San Diego for nearly 20 years. It’s sad to admit, but there are places of great interest within easy walking distance that I still haven’t visited. Until today, one of those places was the San Diego Civic Theatre.

This morning I took a guided tour behind the scenes at the San Diego Civic Theatre, courtesy of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s big annual Open House event!

According to the event website: “The 2,967 seat San Diego Civic Theatre is the region’s largest and most attended performing arts venue. Owned by the City of San Diego, the theater hosts performances in opera, classical and contemporary music, dance and Broadway shows, in addition to serving as a community gathering place for inaugurations, governmental addresses and public meetings. Built at a cost of $4.1 million, the Grand Salon features back lit Italian onyx panels and an iconic $35,000 chandelier made of Bavarian crystal.”

Our group entered the lobby from Civic Center Plaza, ascended stairs and stood with heads tilted back as we took in the awesome beauty of the Grand Salon. Overhead, the impressive 2800 pound chandelier sparkled with its 186 lights and 52,000 crystals, casting magic about the elegant gathering place.

We then walked into the enormous theatre and stood for a moment “atop” the orchestra pit, the floor of which can be raised or lowered like an elevator. Then we went backstage to see the positively enormous space that is utilized to produce major shows of all sorts. In one corner of the dark stage, out of sight of the audience, there’s a very cool shrine to Elvis Presley!

It’s hard to describe the immense grandeur of this venerable theatre. The world’s biggest stars have performed here over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and many others. Several United States Presidents have also attended events in the building. Today, the venue is the home of San Diego Opera, Broadway San Diego and California Ballet Company.

The lighting inside the building wasn’t ideal for my poor little camera, but during the tour I did manage to capture a few photos.

An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
We enter the lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
We enter the building lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building's second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building’s second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains--and perhaps even actors!
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains–and perhaps even actors!
Looking up!
Looking up!
Here's the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn't catch the story behind it.
Here’s the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn’t catch the story behind it.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Scenes from Without Walls Festival 2019!

This afternoon I headed to Liberty Station in Point Loma to experience some of the La Jolla Playhouse’s annual WOW event!

The Without Walls Festival 2019 features all sorts of cool outdoor performances, many of which are free for the public to enjoy. It continues tomorrow!

The first production I watched, titled Tall Tales of the High Seas, was a very unique visual drama that seemed part circus act, part aerial dance. The athletic performers raised the flexible masts of a rotating Viking longship, then climbed skyward to dip, fly and swerve through the sky! One could sense a bit of a story unfolding as the ship seemed to become lost at sea and the actors hung limp from the crow’s nests without hope; then land is sighted and excitement takes hold!

After that, I walked around the grassy North Promenade of Liberty Station, tried to peer into the intimate little Theatre on the Move, and stood for a few minutes enjoying the Montalban Quintet at the Festival Stage.

Then, as I made my way toward the South Promenade, I paused to watch kids sail in colorful Boats about Legacy Plaza!

Finally, a production titled Peregrinus was ready to begin. The actors marched across the street in a very businesslike way, as you can see in my photos.

At first each individual actor showed a unique personality, but as they put on their corporate attire, ordinary people were transformed into conforming, business suited employees. They could select their own color of tie, but no more.

The actors bowed before their enormous masks, inserted their heads, rose up in a row, and suddenly each head was identically serious, grim, tired and sad. They filed about in a circular hurry, did the corporate dance, bowed to their boss, became jackasses when commanded to do so, engaged in power plays and subterfuge–you know, all that ridiculous, demeaning stuff that pains the heart when people shed their dignity in their desire for power, position or money.

The act was hilarious!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Moved by music at the San Diego Symphony.

A new era of music has begun under the leadership of San Diego Symphony music director and conductor Rafael Payare.
A new era of music has begun at the San Diego Symphony.

Music was potent last evening. It swirled like a wind in Copley Symphony Hall.

As I sat in the mezzanine listening to the San Diego Symphony, I could see the music rising. More powerful than the waves of an ocean, music lifted the body of conductor Rafael Payare. It flowed through the arms and shoulders of the gathered musicians.

Music swayed the enraptured head of famed young pianist Vikingur Ólafsson as it danced through his fingers.

Where the music came from, I don’t know.

It moved the artists that sat upon the stage as if they were the instruments.

The music swelled inside me, too, then the concert ended and I had to walk up a steep hill to go home.

My legs worked in rhythm.

Perhaps the music is always within us. And when those who listen come together, it multiplies into a whirlwind.

The most magical circus in the world!

Today I was wowed by amazing, dazzling, stupefying performances at the most magical circus in the world!

I know for a fact that I experienced the most powerful magic. I saw it, heard it, smelled it, got goosebumps. I felt magic in my sudden laughter and in my soaring heart. I saw magic in the joyful smiles of each circus performer.

The Zoppé Family Circus is performing this weekend at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They are a circus whose history goes back to 1842, when, according to their website:

“. . . a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, his eyes glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda, who captured the hearts and minds of the crowd with her grace and showmanship. More important, this talented beauty captured Napoline’s heart.

Unfortunately, Napoline was a clown, and Ermenegilda’s father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name . . .”

Today, the Zoppé Family Circus is filling our world with the time-tested magic of an Old World traditional circus. As Giovanni Zoppé explained when he welcomed the audience to the show, an authentic circus is all about family, tradition and struggle, and happiness and heartbreak.

I could see that the performers are also motivated by passion and a very deep love for what they do.

I spoke to Giovanni briefly, and he was such a nice person. I mean really nice.

After I got home, I did some reading and learned: “Giovanni Zoppé, the director of the circus and a sixth-generation performer, says the show aims higher than what passes for circuses these days. ‘We try to touch every emotion during the show,’ he says. ‘They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, and they’ll feel for the characters. It’s more of an event than a show.’

His performance as Nino the clown was hilarious, winning and utterly human. It was perfect. It was masterful.

The entire spectacle was fantastic.

Under the big top, in the spotlight at the center of the ring, the magic of the Zoppé Family Circus never ceased. There was magic in the acrobats, trapeze act, jugglers and tightwire act. There was magic in the trick horse riding and the lady who shot an arrow with perfect accuracy using her feet while doing a handstand. There was magic in the mustachioed fellow who flew through the air absurdly with a rope tied to his hair. He spun like a top, circled high above the ring, soared like a bird. There was magic in the glittering costumes, and the smell of sawdust and buttery popcorn, and the excited chatter and laughter of children. There was magic when Nino couldn’t find his hat, then couldn’t reach it when it dangled from the top of a broomstick that he held.

There was magic in every single moment.

My camera failed to take good photos in the subdued light under the big top. But I got some photos in front of the tent during a humorous pre-show performance.

In my photos you can see a little bit of that magic. And much of the humanity.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

San Diego Fringe Festival in Balboa Park!

Look what I discovered today!

The San Diego International Fringe Festival has moved this year from its old downtown location inside the Spreckels Theater Building to Balboa Park. As I walked past the Starlight Bowl this afternoon, I was surprised to stumble upon Fringe City, the festival’s box office and cool outdoor public lounge!

If you’re into weird, experimental, absolutely unique alternative entertainment, including live, uncensored comedy, dance, satire and even circus acts, head to Balboa Park’s Palisades area to check out the Fringe Festival. Performance venues in Balboa Park include the nearby Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, the Centro Cultural de la Raza and the WorldBeat Cultural Center. Come on out and support visionary artists!

Read the poster and the signs to learn a bit more. (Click the photos and they will enlarge.) Better yet, go to the event website here!

The San Diego International Fringe Festival continues through June 16, 2019.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos of Shakespeare celebration in Balboa Park!

Today I headed into Balboa Park to enjoy a special event celebrating Shakespeare’s 455th birthday!

Many activities were centered in sunny Copley Plaza, the hub of The Old Globe’s Conrad Prebys Theatre Center. There was an outdoor performance of Shakespeare in Exile by Grossmont College Theatre Arts students. There was instrumental musical entertainment, a sonnet writing contest, and even an Elizabethan ruff-making station. Inside the lobby of The Old Globe, costumes from some of their past Shakespearean productions were on display.

A bit after noon high school students from all around San Diego gathered on the steps of the Timken Museum of Art. After a welcome speech, a fantastic parade featuring many Elizabethan costumes began along El Prado. Several students were presented with achievement awards at the foot of the Lily Pond as their classmates shouted approval, then the youth fanned out to perform scenes from Shakespeare and other famous plays on several stages along El Prado.

Here are photos that provide a flavor of this truly awesome annual event!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!