Veteran arts institution Starlight Theatre is on life support, writes longtime theater critic Anne Marie Welsh in an in-depth look at the company’s financial history for the Union-Tribune.

“The miracle is that Starlight, aka San Diego Civic Light Opera, held on without changing its business practices for as long as it did,” writes Welsh.

The theater company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this month, carries a long list of debts approaching $1 million, including back wages and benefits for its stagehands and loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars from board members.

The company’s history of producing musical theater in the outdoor Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park stretches back to 1946. Reader Lucy Goodwin brought me a stack of old programs from the theater’s early days, including several that featured her dad, Mike Bogle, a Starlight fixture for many years who also flew planes for Pacific Southwest Airlines. Bogle had the distinctive role of both stopping his performance onstage while planes flew over the bowl and flying some of those planes himself.

You’re reading the Arts Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news.

In the Bank

• At a time when companies like Starlight are struggling, and symphonies around the country are in trouble, the San Diego Symphony’s stabilizing $120 million gift from Joan and Irwin Jacobs nearly 10 years ago is coveted. But the symphony has to find the tricky balance between thanking its benefactors and convincing everyone else their gifts are still needed.

Local musician and music writer Christian Hertzog wonders in the comments if the symphony has put all its eggs in the Jacobs basket to its detriment, though he says he believes the symphony is playing at a much higher level than it has in decades.

What do you think? What have you seen (and heard) in the symphony that’s been impressive or disappointing? Tell us here or on Facebook.

• A luxury cinema chain based in Mexico, Cinepolis, just opened its first location in the United States, in Del Mar. (Tijuego)

Border reporter Amy Isackson visited Cinepolis and filed her report from its “cushy, leather” recliner seats last week on NPR’s Morning Edition. She interviewed the company’s manager of the U.S. expansion, who’s interested in changing the perception of a Mexican business:

“There are surprising companies that people aren’t necessarily aware of that came from Mexico — the education, the culture, the population. And we hope this will set a standard,” he says.

• A new, $8.9 million performing arts complex is expected to open at San Dieguito Academy this fall. The theater’s designer: John Sergio Fisher, who has been involved in building and setting up more than 200 performance halls around the world, including the La Jolla Playhouse’s Potiker Theatre. (U-T)

Water, Color, Mixed

• Tropical fish on loan at the Chula Vista Nature Center have been swimming for months among the colorful, whimsical glass sculptures that local artists dreamed up. We took video at the “Art Aquatic” exhibit of that glass-and-fish intersection and heard from a glass artist how his medium resembles water.

• An opera singer who grew up in San Diego, Brian Wahlstrom, was one of the 20 young performers participating in a program called “I Sing Beijing,” whereby Western performers came to China to learn to sing opera in Mandarin. The month-long program wraps up this week. (Los Angeles Times)

You can read some of the singers’ blog posts on the program website, including one from Wahlstrom.

• The ’80s-music revue that is Lamb’s Players’ “miXtape” has enjoyed an unexpectedly long run downtown, pulling in young audiences and even audiences seeing the show more than once. In radio and TV segments, KPBS caught up with some ’80s ladies out to see the show, and even a guy who’s seen it nine times.

• La Jolla’s Quint Contemporary Art has a show up of work by Manny Farber, the film critic and painter who lived in San Diego County for decades until his death in 2008. Juxtapoz magazine has photos of the art show. Jim Chute wrote about Farber’s paintings, which “never seem cluttered or chaotic” despite the number of elements featured, for the U-T earlier this month.

• What can be done with a painting that has had layers of bad varnish applied over the years? The Balboa Park Art Conservation Center knows. Writer Randy Dotinga visited conservator Betsy Court and brought us a glimpse of her work, currently a several-hundred-hour effort to scrape layers of “restoration” off of a painting that belongs to the San Diego Museum of Art.

• The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library’s annual juried show is celebrating its 20th year. The current show highlights 23 local artists out of 200 who submitted work. (U-T)

• A London magazine interviews local artist Kelsey Brookes, one of whose paintings we photographed hanging on Ben Strauss-Malcolm’s wall last fall.

In the interview, Brookes says, “I don’t believe in inspiration, I believe in hard work and showing up every day.” (Idol)

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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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