San Diego is awash with excitement about the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival happening this weekend. WoW reaches across the aisle and speaks to nontraditional-theater fans with its experimental, immersive and site-inspired theater and performance pieces.

This year’s fest includes theater staged on tennis and basketball courts, Baroque opera set in a grove of trees overlooking the Pacific Ocean, an audio tour that turns into a theatrical narrative and a whole lot more happening at the La Jolla Playhouse theater district, UC San Diego campus and locales throughout the neighborhood.

“Twenty-two shows in three days is definitely a lot to wrap your brain around,” said La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director, Christopher Ashley. “But basically, the work in the festival is reimagining the relationship between art and audience, blurring and blending the real life that’s happening around you with the fictional work being created.”

Ashley said this year’s centerpiece, “Healing Wars,” is a multi-sensory experience blending dance and storytelling that begins with an immersive pre-show experience inviting audience members to encounter real-life conversations with veterans and otherwise wander through back- and side-stage areas of a theater most folks never see.

Andy Horwitz, a cultural critic who recently moved here from New York, saw a preview of the show and publicly applauded its creator, Liz Lerman, for the “beautiful, multi-layered, well-composed dance theater that isn’t often seen in San Diego.”

“Audiences here are well-advised to take advantage of this opportunity,” he wrote on Facebook. “The show is a thoughtful and moving examination of trauma in soldiers, weaving together the history of battlefield medicine with individual soldiers’ stories from The Civil War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. … I don’t want to give anything away but there is a veteran who performs in the piece who is kind of amazing.”

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

Responding to the Writing on the Walls

Linda Sheridan is close to launching a new juvenile diversion program geared toward kids arrested for graffiti. She’s also working toward getting an underpass running beneath Highway 163 designated as an art park where anyone can add their art to the concrete walls.

The CEO and founder of San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance, Sheridan’s so dedicated to turning young graffiti artists around, she had her car covered in spray paint in hopes of upping her street cred and showing people how fervent she is.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

“I wanted to show everybody my commitment to what I was doing,” she said. “Because, I really don’t look like the kind of person who’d be involved with the subject matter.”

New San Diego Opera Manager’s Former Company to Close

The dramatic fall and surprising rise of the San Diego Opera, which came close to completely shutting down last year, is a narrative so enthralling it’s almost fit to be become a libretto itself.

This summer, the opera announced David Bennett, former executive director of the Gotham Chamber Opera in New York, would be taking the helm, steering the decades-old arts organization toward exciting new realms.

Last week, The New York Times added an interesting new chapter to the San Diego Opera saga when it reported that Bennett’s former employer, Gotham Chamber Opera, is closing. In the story, fingers are pointed at Bennett for keeping the board in the dark about financial deficits and otherwise keeping contracted fees and invoices off the books. Bennett denied all charges.

Photo by Sam Hodgson, courtesy of San Diego Opera
Photo by Sam Hodgson, courtesy of San Diego Opera

I asked a San Diego Opera spokesperson about the accusations and was given a detailed follow-up statement from Bennett:

“In the course of transitioning to new leadership, the board of Gotham Chamber Opera engaged in a deeper analysis of the company’s financial condition and finally grasped a reality that I and the dedicated shoestring staff of three employees faced every day; the company’s financial condition was more perilous than they had fully understood. My most recent recommendation was to eliminate one production from the 2015-2016 season and replace it with a 15th anniversary gala, thereby raising sufficient funds to pay the Company’s obligations. Unfortunately, this recommendation was not followed. Gotham Chamber Opera existed on a razor’s edge for years, and on that edge we created some truly amazing things. I am terribly saddened by this news, but it does not diminish the accomplishments of Gotham Chamber Opera, its artists and its generous supporters. Ultimately, art is about taking risks. We took them and we were incredibly successful in taking them. But in the business of making opera there is always another side to taking risks; it is something that looms in the back of our minds every day. Today, sadly, Gotham Chamber Opera has decided it is a risk that they no longer wish to take.”

Amid other responsibilities, Bennett is currently touring possible alternative venues for future, riskier opera and further getting to know San Diego’s cultural landscape. I recently tagged along with him while he scoped out the Barrio Logan art scene. Stay tuned for that story and let me know if there’s anything I should ask Bennett. Obviously, the news about his former opera company is something I can dig deeper into.

Injecting Contemporary Architecture on USD’s Very Catholic Campus

Close your eyes and picture the University of San Diego campus. Lots of white, church-looking stuff, right?  The school’s buildings are designed in a 16th century Spanish Renaissance architectural style, paying homage to the private school’s Catholic underpinnings. Nothing much diverges from the dominant aesthetic of the campus, but that’s about to change with the introduction of a small but ambitious building designed by Rob Quigley, the architect behind San Diego’s new Central Library.

Courtesy of the University of San Diego
Rendering courtesy of the University of San Diego

“The structure will be quite modest,” said Allison Wiese, visual arts professor and chair of USD’s Department of Art, Architecture + Art History. “But the part we think is sort of sexy is that Rob Quigley has been working on it for us and collaborating with students from USD’s architecture program.”

Scheduled for completion in spring 2016, the Architecture Pavilion is a demonstration project that will include the use of innovative sustainable design techniques. The school will be introducing the ideas behind the building in a public reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. The evening is part the Archtoberfest, a month-long series of architecture and design-related events in San Diego.

“It’ll be the only bit of contemporary architecture on campus,” Wiese said. “We want to celebrate its beginnings.”

Painting in Prison, Music Awards, Freebies in October and More Artsy Bits

• KPBS dropped in on Project Paint, an arts program for inmates of Donovan State Prison. I followed the founders of Project Paint into the prison the day it launched in 2014 and talked about the wider push to get the state’s Arts-in-Corrections program back up and running.

• The San Diego Music Awards celebrated 25 years Monday night. The Schizophonics, a psychedelic rock band, were among the night’s big winners. (U-T)

San Diego’s Film Commission lost its funding in 2013. The group worked as a liaison between the film industry and the city, successfully landing movies like the “Titanic,” which was filmed in Baja California but employed San Diegans. KPBS reports on an effort under way to try to win back more film and TV business.

• Martha Gilmer isn’t a fan of classical music being used as soothing background sound. The U-T’s James Chute talks with the new CEO of the San Diego Symphony about her “active listening” approach and asked her to preview the new season by picking out the surprising elements she’s packed into the program.

• Check out the perks behind the “Kids Free San Diego” promo. (U-T)

• CityBeat’s Seth Combs introduces us to Mastectomy Tattoo, a Pacific Beach tattoo shop devoted to covering breast cancer’s scars with body art.

• An op-ed in Times of San Diego touts the importance of arts education:

“Seeing firsthand the incredible transformation that these youth undergo as a result of an arts education makes it very apparent that including the arts in education is not a luxury but a necessity,” writes Toria Watson, executive director of the Moonlight Cultural Foundation.

Richard Lederer uses his latest U-T column to remind us about the San Diego Shakespeare Society’s upcoming Celebrity Sonnets event, in part, by writing a sonnet about a sonnet.

• This year’s big winner at the Orchids & Onions architectural awards show was the Museum of Man’s refurbishing and reopening of the California Tower. (U-T) The jury was apparently able to look past the water stains streaking the sides of the stunning tower.

• An experimental art gallery in South Park is going through some leadership changes. (CityBeat)

• The annual “Galaxy of Glass” exhibition showing at the Fallbrook Art Center through Oct. 25 might be the “best one ever.” (Village News)

The daughter of designers Svetozar and Ruth Radakovich is making a documentary about her famous parents. (U-T)

• After 7 years,  artist Grant Pecoff announced he’s closing his Little Italy gallery.

Get Cultured: Where to Be This Week

Over the years, Wendy Maruyama has garnered international acclaim for San Diego State’s furniture design program. Her work, which easily blurs the line between art and craft, has inspired hordes of students who’ve gone on to start successful independent practices or even furniture design programs at other universities across the country.

Writing about Maruyama’s huge influence is not nearly as interesting as seeing it, which is exactly what will happen when SDSU opens “A Long Engagement: Wendy Maruyama and Her Students” on Friday. The show features the work of over 30 SDSU alumni and current graduate students from the furniture and woodworking program and highlights the recently retired professor’s 25-plus years of teaching.

Photo Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki
Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Maruyama passes the torch to Matthew Hebert, whose push toward incorporating technology into design is promising.

• Artist Omar López is hosting a symposium in Barrio Logan next Tuesday.

• The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is kicking off its “52 Weeks of Science” program in Barrio Logan and Logan Heights. The initiative, which celebrates STEM education, will be introduced at an event Tuesday evening at the Logan Heights Branch Library.

Artist Stephen P. Curry has curated a show featuring a dozen abstract painters from San Diego. It opens Thursday at City College’s new art gallery.

• Paper artist Bhavna Mehta’s “Gush” installation opens at the Oceanside Museum of Art Saturday. The Creative Catalyst grant recipient focused on patterns and the stories they tell in her exhibition. Artist Anne Mudge made a video about Bhavna Mehta’s exciting new work.

• The Salk Science & Music Series continues Sunday with pianist Vadym Kholodenko and molecular scientist Tony Hunter.

It’s your last chance to see Artist Vabianna Santos’ mostly text-based works at Helmuth Projects. There are also only a few days left of the whimsical Coney Island exhibition showing at the San Diego Museum of Art.

•  Gil Penalosa, founder of the 8-80 Cities Organization, will talk about creating great cities on Thursday.

The annual tour of expensive and impeccable modern homes is happening this weekend.

• Movers and shakers in the local sustainability movement have put together a Good Food Community Fair happening Sunday.

• The Baja Culinary Fest will take over Tijuana’s art center this week.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at

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Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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