Neighborhoods like Oak Park, Skyline, Valencia Park and Encanto don’t often make the news, except for stories about crime.

The La Jolla Playhouse wanted to change that. It decided to give southeastern San Diego residents a chance to tell their stories onstage, in hopes it would help others better understand a part of San Diego that’s too often overlooked.

The theater company teamed up with Ping Chong + Company, a New York City-based theater group known for tackling big civic issues, and other local nonprofits to find people in the area who’d not only be interested in sharing their stories, but would also be willing to perform them in front of a live audience.

“Underrepresented, unheard stories and voices, that’s what we were looking for,” said Sara Zatz, associate director for Ping Chong + Company.

Once they found a handful of willing participants, they began conducting hours-long interviews with them. One of the participants, DeAndre Clay,  found himself sharing detailed memories of his family history and what it was like growing up in Encanto.

Zatz and other collaborators looked for similar threads in each of the stories, then weaved them together to create “South of The 8,” a spoken-word piece that will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, and at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at the City Heights Performance Annex.

“We think of this not so much as a play, but a storytelling project,” Zatz said. “The performers are doing collective storytelling so that each of their individual stories are building toward a larger community portrait.”

“South of the 8” is part of the La Jolla Playhouse’s ongoing effort to reach more diverse audiences. Arts organizations are increasingly focusing on community engagement, and that’s especially true of theater companies, which tend to cater to mostly wealthy, white audiences.

La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic programs manager Jacole Kitchen said she already knows “South of the 8” will reach a wider audience than the main-stage plays they put on in La Jolla. She said she recently talked to one person who’ll be attending the show who said he’d never seen live theater.

“And that’s exactly why we’re doing this,” Kitchen said. “We’re looking to bridge so many gaps and it’s already happening.”

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news. Sign up here to get the weekly report delivered to your inbox. 

What Would Chance Do?

Local actor and filmmaker Chance McManus died March 21 from tongue cancer. He was 29 years old.

Photo courtesy of Nicolette McManus
Photo courtesy of Nicolette McManus

On Thursday, March 30 there will be a public celebration of his life from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Moniker Warehouse in East Village.

Chance’s wife Nicolette McManus is also hosting a free film festival from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Tenth Avenue Arts Center. She’ll be showing films Chance acted in and many he made himself. He’s been making movies since he was 13 years old.

Well known in the local film and theater community, Chance starred in Theater Alive’s popular “Evil Dead” annual Halloween musical. He ran his own videography business, taught filmmaking at the Elementary Institute of Science and the Media Arts Center and hosted live trivia nights at local bars and clubs around town.

Nicolette, also a filmmaker, said she’s working on launching an annual event to honor Chance and his work. She’s also building a website that will feature a list Chance made of all the things he wanted to do.

“He wanted to go to New York and help the needy and visit cancer patients who didn’t have anybody to hold their hands,” Nicolette said. “But he also wanted to do things like go to Voodoo Doughnut in Oregon and drink a beer, and he listed some films he wanted to make. … So the website will be called, ‘What Would Chance Do,’ and it will be a site for making memories for Chance.”

• Prolific San Diego author Chet Cunningham also died recently. (San Diego Union-Ttribune)

Spring Arts, Comic-Con Museum Concerns and Other Arts and Culture News

• The U-T is out with its annual collection of spring arts preview stories. This year’s crop includes features on a new theater company in town, a budding choreographer in North Park, a 15-year-old jazz singer and more.

• CityBeat’s John R. Lamb talked to some folks who think the city moved too quickly and without needed public input when it allowed Balboa Park’s Hall of Champions to turn over its lease to San Diego Comic-Con International. What do you think?

• Local hip-hop artist Tiny Doo is performing this week. Tiny Doo was charged with a felony a few years ago when District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis used an obscure law to argue his rap lyrics tied him to a series of shootings in Lincoln Park.

• The nonprofit advocacy organization Californians for the Arts, which includes San Diego arts leaders as members, wrote a letter to the leaders of the California State Assembly budget subcommittee asking them to restore $6.8 million as a permanent funding source for the California Arts Council. The funds were included in the last budget, but Gov. Jerry Brown left the them out of his latest budget proposal.

• Local photographer and educator Paul Turounet is featured on the most recent episode of the “Keep the Channel Open” arts podcast.

• Interesting intersections between visual art and music will be the topic of conversation at this talk hosted by the San Diego Symphony.

A blogger in University Heights is telling the stories of Lyft drivers in hopes of getting Americans to connect and empathize with immigrants. (U-T)

• The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego cleared another level of approvals for its expanded La Jolla campus. (U-T)

The dilapidated California Theatre building downtown is one step closer to demolition, and the local historical preservationists are encouraging folks to show up at an April 4 City Council meeting to oppose the plan.

At its last meeting, the San Diego International Airport’s art advisory committee approved commissioning Oakland-based Hood Design for a new glass partition public art opportunity.

• Parrot Heads take note: Tickets for La Jolla Playhouse’s Jimmy Buffet musical went on sale Sunday, and they’re going fast.

Famed fantasy author Neil Gaiman is in town. (CityBeat)

• March 31 is the deadline for application submission to become San Diego’s next civic organist. A spokesperson from the Spreckels Organ Society told me that each of the finalists will be asked to play at one of the free 2 p.m. Sunday concerts at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.

• The La Jolla Light highlighted UC San Diego’s University Art Gallery’s “Making Communities: Art & The Border” exhibition showing through April 13.

Tijuana street artist Panca is painting a new mural at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights.

• A free photography exhibit in Balboa Park features the works of two local distant cousins.

• Here’s who’s playing at this year’s Kaaboo music festival in Del Mar. (Variety)

Food, Beer and Booze News

• San Diego’s first for-charity restaurant is opening in Hillcrest. It’ll be a gourmet taqueria and its owners, Cohn Restaurant Group, say they’ll donate 100 percent of profits to different local charities each month. (Eater)

• Will someone please just open a brewery in Lemon Grove already? (Reader)

• Eater San Diego has details on Thorn Street Brewery’s new Barrio Logan location, which will eventually house a brewery, tasting room, public market and restaurant.

Modern Times just announced a new rum barrel-aged Ethiopian coffee and it’s only available online.

• The Bankers Hill Art & Craft Beer Festival is happening Friday. (West Coaster)

• How much garnish can you cram into a Bloody Mary? Lots and lots. (Eater)

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

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...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.