REGIONAL THEATRE NEWS
San Diego is justly renowned for The Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse. But these regional giants often overshadow a bright little gem of a repertory theatre, Lamb's Players Theatre, which has been quietly and diligently presenting both classics and new work. In the process its artists have transformed both their community and their companyone of the few European-style arts organizations in the country.
Two years ago, the Lamb's Players Theatre, a resident, year-round company, moved its base of operations from National City, CA, into a quaint 348-seat historic theatre just down the street from the legendary Hotel Del Coronado. So far, it's been a nearly perfect fit, signaling a new chapter in the life of a company of artists, which began humbly as a street theatre and which this month is preparing no less than five productions in different satellite venues across San Diego.
"We love Coronado," says Robert Smyth, the artistic director who has been with the company for 20 years. "Our profile and visibility in the community has been raised, and we've received a tremendous amount of support. Our scope is still the samewe try to offer our subscribers present a real smorgasbord of theatrical tastes."
Indeed, the intimacy of the resident theatre worked particularly well for a show like Chaps, a witty cowboy cabaret that the Lamb's Players presented last August and which was part of a line-up that included the San Diego premiere of Mark St. Germain's Forgiving Typhoid Mary, Edmond Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac and the Philip King farce, See How They Run. They still maintain their 175-seat theatre-in-the-round in National City, using it as a home for their educational touring company and to present readings of plays in progress.
They plan eventually to present childrens' theatre as well. The company also presents works at satellite venues including the Hahn Theatre in the Gas Lamp quarter of San Diego, which will be presenting an adaptation of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. Amazingly, the theatre generates 80 percent of its $2.4 million annual budget from ticket revenues. The rest is supplemented from corporate grants and private gifts. The non-profit Lamb's Players receives no government aid.
Among the company's most popular productions of the year are their Christmas celebrations. This year, the Festival of Christmas features Once Upon a Time... by Kerry Meads at the resident theatre as well as their annual environmental theatrical extravaganza at the Hotel Del Coronado. An American Christmas features turn-of-the-century stories, music, dance and a five-course feast in the Hotel Del's grand ballroom. In addition, the company has two touring productions, a musical adaptation of Dickens's A Christmas Carol with a cast of four, and Paul Maley's The Secret Star.
"Our first duty is to our company and to the community we serve, and we try to come up each season with a real smorgasbord of theatrical tastes," says Smyth. "But since we started, we've had a real strong sense of faith about what we are doing. If anything unites all the productions that we do, it's the moral compass that we are not alone in this world; life is not empty. It is filled with wonderful possibilities if only we're open to them."
-- By Patrick Pacheco