|Old Globe Theater
The original Old Globe Theater opened May 29, 1935. A temporary replica of Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse, it was an entertainment attraction of the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition, which presented various entertainments and commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational exhibits.
At the roofless "Wooden O," Old Globe audiences viewed 50-minute versions of 19 Shakespeare plays, which were performed by a troupe of young professionals and adapted and directed by Ben Iden Payne (a noted Shakespearean scholar and specialist in Elizabethan staging techniques) and Thomas Wood Stevens (founding director of Chicago's Goodman Theater and designer of the original Old Globe Theater). Then, returning for a portion of the fair's second season, the original Old Globe Players performed February through May 1936 -- in spite of inclement weather.
In accordance with the agreement that stipulated all temporary buildings be destroyed at the exposition's close, the Old Globe and its two adjacent struct ures (Ye Olde Gift Shoppe and Falstaff Tavern) were scheduled for demolition. This news aroused a small group of citizens, who raised $10,000 and arranged for the remodeling of the buildings to conform to existing building codes and fire regulations. The remodeling included modification of the stage and installation of a roof.
In order to coordinate the renovations and fund raising and also to create a producing organization, The San Diego Community Theater, a non-profit corporation, was chartered by the State of California in February 1937. This organization leased the Old Globe land and buildings from the City of San Diego, an arrangement that continues to the present. Because the theater company and its buildings were always referred to as the Old Globe, the name "San Diego Community Theater" was changed in 1958 to "Old Globe Theater, Inc."
On December 2, 1937, the remodeled Old Globe Theater opened with a production of John Van Druten's THE DISTAFF SIDE. In the cast was a young actor named Craig Noel, who continued to act and direct at the Old Globe and was named full-time director in 1939. Noel later became the theater's artistic director (1947) and executive producer (1981).
Although the Old Globe was occupied by the U.S. Navy from December 1941 through July 1947, the organization was preserved as an entity through monthly meetings and frequent productions at nearby Dartlee Hall. USO shows were also mounted for local military installations. Theater operations resumed at the Old Globe in 1947 with Noel at the artistic helm.
In 1949 the Old Globe joined with San Diego State University to present a summer production of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT directed by Payne. This cooperative venture continued four seasons. Two Shakespeare plays were produced during each of the following summers. Then in 1954, the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival -- produced solely by the Old Globe -- began using talented young actors who received scholarship stipends. Because of it's artistic standards, the Old Globe soon gained a national reputation.
In 1961 the Old Globe was invited by the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art to produce a spring season of three plays at Sherwood Hall, La Jolla. To offer a broader theater aspect than was currently available in San Diego, works of Albee, Anouilh and Arthur Miller were among those presented. The program was discontinued because of insufficient staff and logistical problems created by producing so far from the Globe.
San Diego's appetite for more experimental theater had been aroused, though, and Noel, who had long envisioned a second stage at the Old Globe, began producing plays in the Falstaff Tavern in 1963. The productions were so successful that in 1969 the Tavern was remodeled to become the Cassius Carter Centre Stage, taking its name from the late San Diego arts patron and Shakespeare scholar Cassius Carter.
In 1964 the Old Globe received its first funding from an outside source. The
Combined Arts and Educational Council of San Diego County (COMBO), a fund raising umbrella for arts organizations, made an allocation to the Old Globe for the purpose of a building program. Completed in 1966, the construction included space for new dressing rooms, new public restrooms, shops, business offices and a rehearsal hall.
Globe Educational Tours, founded in 1974, provided an introduction to Shakespeare and the classics to city and county youths in grades K through 12. Community Acting Workshops were established in 1975, providing classes in theater disciplines for adults and youth. The Play Discovery Program was founded in 1976 and administers an extremely popular readings series. From its initial Play Discovery Festival in 1986 emerged Reuben Gonzalez's THE BOILER ROOM subsequently produced in its world premiere by the Old Globe in 1988. As an extension of the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival, summer tours to Scottsdale, Arizona, took place from 1977 to 1980.
Teatro Meta, the Old Globe's multicultural component, was established in 1982 and its award-winning In-Schools Program in 1988. In 1987 the Old Globe and the University of San Diego established a highly successful Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Arts program, which confers degrees upon as many as 14 young actors each year.
Then early in the morning of March 8, 1978, an arsonist completely destroyed the 43-year-old landmark theater. Fortunately, administrative offices, rehearsal hall, dressing and storage rooms, scenery and costume shops and the Cassius Carter Stage were spared from the flames.
OLD TIMES, which had been playing in the smaller theater, continued as scheduled; and THE SUNSHINE BOYS, which has been playing in the Old Globe, reopened six days later in the historic Spreckles Theater, located two miles away in downtown San Diego.
News of the fire elicited from throughout the nation an outpouring of financial, personal and moral support for the Old Globe. Nearly $500,000 in unsolicited contributions were received during the 30 days immediately following the tragedy. In emergency sessions the Old Globe Theater board of directors unanimously vowed to rebuild the theater, taking as a motto for the fund-raising campaign Elizabethan journalist Edmund Howe's description of England's rebuilt Globe, "and the next spring it was new builded in far fairer manner than before."
The immediate need for summer 1978 was a space in which to produce the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival. A mere 100 days following the fire the Shakespeare Festival opened as scheduled on the new Festival Stage, which had been built in 52 days. Located in a wooded canyon adjacent to the ruins, this award-winning outdoor theater immediately endeared itself to festival-goers.
In June 1979 the three-theater complex, consisting of the planned Old Globe Theater, the Cassius Carter Centre Stage and Festival Stage, was named the Simon Edison Centre for the Performing Arts in honor of the late husband of Helen Edison. Her contribution to the rebuilding fund was at the time the largest, single, private donation ever made to a San Diego performing arts institution.
In 1982 the new 581-seat Old Globe Theater opened with a production of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT. When the Festival Stage was destroyed by another arson fire in 1984, the new 612-seat Lowell Davis Festival Theater was constructed in 1985.
During the early '90s, the Old Globe completed two phases of a three phase capital improvement plan. Completed are the Old Globe Theater Creative Center, a remodeling and renovation of the administrative, production and artistic offices originally built in 1969; the Helen Edison Gift Shop; the Copley Plaza; Lady Carolyn's Pub; Shiley Terrace food-service facility; a new lobby and air-conditioning system for the Cassius Carter Centre Stage; and new public restrooms adjacent to the Lowell Davis Festival Theatre. To complete the capital improvement plan, phase three will provide rehearsal and educational facilities in Balboa Park's House of Charm.
Nearly 220,000 San Diego residents and visitors annually attend performances, and an additional 40,000 participate in the Globe education and outreach programs.