Welton Jones covered theater and the arts for the Union-Tribune from 1966 to 2001. His byline’s back in a column honoring Edythe Pirazzini, who died in February at the age of 96. She didn’t want the fanfare of funerals or obituaries, Jones said, but her passing must be marked.
“She was a keystone in San Diego’s evolution into a major theater center, a bridge from the amateur past to the professional present,” he writes.
Pirazzini opened a theater in Mission Valley in 1957 in “a barn smelling like a barn.” Run out of Mission Valley by the Hanalei Hotel a few years later, she moved to Old Town, then to Marina Village on Mission Bay, finally retiring in 1988.
As Jones points out, Pirazzini’s style was parsimonious:
For plays, she chose the usual Broadway hits, sturdy classics and European curiosities. But she staged them her own way: clear, tough and without casual frills. …
She proudly proclaimed herself a self-taught producer/director. She never worked elsewhere and she hired no outside directors. She rarely even attended other theaters, saying tickets were too expensive.
Jones posits that Pirazzini’s legacy should be better-known:
The playhouse in Old Town, expanded to 240 seats, is under its sixth management, Cygnet Theatre. The Marina Village room is back to being a meeting facility.
And Edythe Pirazzini is increasingly forgotten.
Too bad. She proved to San Diego that alternative managements could succeed, that honest effort tirelessly applied would find audiences. And that even under modest circumstances, art could happen.
Did you see any of Pirazzini’s plays in Mission Valley, Old Town or Balboa Park? Do you know someone she mentored? Leave a comment and share your memories.