La Jolla Playhouse's $32 million expansion set for construction

    The award-winning La Jolla Playhouse, located on the UCSD campus, announced the commencement of a $32 million construction project that will be named after the gift’s benefactors, Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

    Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse

    The 45,000 square-foot complex will consist of a brand-new theater, a play development center, an education complex and a restaurant/cabaret.

    “”I cannot exaggerate the impact this new building complex will have on San Diego,”” said Des McAnuff, two-time Tony Award winner and artistic director of the playhouse.

    The La Jolla Playhouse is a nonprofit professional theater. It was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and was revived in 1983 under the leadership of Des McAnuff.

    Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse

    The playhouse currently shares its facilities with the professional training program of the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, which is nationally-ranked in the top three of its category.

    “”It is vital that we, as professionals, continue to work side-by-side with young artists,”” McAnuff said. “”Due to our passionate commitment to the training and development of theater students, it stands to reason that we need more space than the average theater organization. For the last 20 years, we’ve had considerably less.””

    The original La Jolla Playhouse has experienced a great deal of success over the years. Of the 107 plays and musicals produced by the playhouse since its revival in 1983, almost 40 percent have been world premieres. Over a third of them have moved on to other theaters, from those on Broadway to international ones.

    The playhouse’s productions of both plays and musicals have merited over 300 major honors, including the 1993 Tony Award for America’s Outstanding Regional Theatre.

    “”Thoroughly Modern Millie,”” which premiered at the playhouse in 2000, became the first show created at an American regional theater west of the Hudson River to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.

    “”The playhouse plays a unique cultural role locally and nationally,”” said Irwin Jacobs, a primary contributor to the campaign and one of the namesakes of the new playhouse.

    “”For us, it joins with San Diego’s other world-class arts institutions in making our city one of America’s major cultural destinations,”” Irwin Jacobs said. “”Equally important, it further consolidates UCSD’s connection to the playhouse and creates an environment where local, national and international theater artists will converge to create bold, compelling theater for San Diego audiences.””

    During the last theater season, the playhouse attracted over 170,000 people. Mainstage productions were attended by 120,000 of those patrons, while an additional 50,000 participated in the playhouse’s education and outreach programs, including 40,000 students who enjoyed playhouse programs in schools throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties and Mexico’s border regions.

    “”I think the addition of a new theater is a very exciting thing for this area,”” said Alissa Nadel, a Muir junior. “”However, as a part of UCSD, I believe that the theater should be student-friendly, and student issues, especially parking, should be taken into consideration. With more people being attracted to our campus, the students can’t be driven out.””

    The playhouse’s Capital Campaign is attempting to meet the objectives of the first long-range plan that the original theater fashioned in 1997, including space issues and financial stability. The campaign’s goal of $36 million, once met, will be distributed among the construction of the new building, an endowment and the funds necessary for its annual operation.

    In addition to Joan and Irwin Jacobs, other major contributors to the building include The Hughes and Sheila Potiker Family Foundation, the Audrey Geisel/Dr. Seuss Foundation and the county of San Diego.

    Joel Holliday, chairman of the board of trustees, is enthusiastic about the implications of the new playhouse.

    “”This is a stunning time for San Diego theater and La Jolla Playhouse,”” Holliday said. “”This year, San Diegans will be able to experience five world premieres at the playhouse, which gives all of us bragging rights to say, ‘I saw it in San Diego first.'””

    Plays produced at the playhouse this season include Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “”Our Town,”” Michael Ondaatje’s “”The Collected Works of Billy the Kid,”” and the celebrated New York hit “”The Laramie Project.””

    “”The new complex is the completion of a dream we at the playhouse have had for 20 years,”” McAnuff said. “”Theater in San Diego has never been brighter.””

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