Holy Shakespeare: Old Globe San Diego Turns 80

Artist Director Barry Edelstein Can Hardly Contain His Excitement

Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director at Old Globe San Diego

The Old Globe San Diego Theatre Announces Their 2015-2016 Season 

Now that the beloved Old Globe Theatre San Diego has announced its remarkable 2015–16 season, Artist Director Barry Edelstein can hardly contain his excitement. I caught up with him to discuss his passion and enthusiasm for this theatre and for his happily–adopted city.

EM: Congratulations on celebrating your 80th anniversary this year. What has been your personal journey to the Old Globe Theatre?

BE: I’ve been in the theatre since I was a kid; I was inspired by teachers in public schools in New Jersey, back in a time before arts budgets were slashed from public education. I got my first paying job from the legendary Joseph Papp who founded the New York Shakespeare Festival. Soon I was directing Shakespeare at small theatres around the country, ran a small Off Broadway theatre in New York, and then the Globe. That makes it sound fast and easy and a straight line! It was none of those. But it’s certainly been fun.

Also Read:  Interview with La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley 

With the exciting new 2015–16 season coming up, what are the world premieres your audiences most look forward to? Are there any intriguing surprises in store?

Our 15–16 season is really varied, really strong. The Globe has a big audience with a wide range of tastes, so we work hard to keep our offerings diverse. Everyone will find something they like and, if we’re doing our jobs right, something new they didn’t know they would like. We’re premiering a new musical, RAIN, by one of our country’s great theater composers; a new play by an up–and–coming writer; and a dance–musical choreographed by a master. All thrilling stuff!

You have possibly one of the best jobs in town. In addition to all the hats you wear producing 15+ shows each year, somehow you’ve found time to direct the world premiere of RAIN, your first musical. What are its unique challenges and rewards?

Yes, it is a great job! I am nervous about my first musical, but in the best ways. Artists need to renew themselves by embracing the challenge of new forms. RAIN is unique in that it’s really more of a play in which people sing than a traditional, chorus–girls–and–dance–numbers musical, and its source is literary. In some ways it reminds me of a big classical play, and not such a huge a leap from where I’ve been. I’m excited to start work on it.

Given the wide range of old and new shows to choose from in any given season, how do you create the right mix to keep loyal audiences happy, while reaching out to a broader, more diverse audience?

We listen very carefully to our audience, which is not exactly shy about expressing its opinions. My sense is that what people want is work that’s excellent, regardless of form. Excellence in the arts is often a function of innovation. Each season needs to have material that’s new, that reaches out to more and more of our city, so that the company as a whole remains vital and relevant. The trick is to do that while at the same time honoring the history that’s made the Globe so successful in the first place.

The Old Globe has been developing one of San Diego’s most extensive community outreach programs. How will its outreach expand this year?

Globe for All, our free tour of professional Shakespeare, has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Last year we did it as a pilot program, really on a shoestring. This year we’re visiting a few more venues and building more support for it throughout the institution. We’re in the middle of a big reorganization of how the Globe conducts all of its community–based education and humanities work. I want the Globe to emerge as a national leader in this work. We’re on our way.

Some of the most popular events are your onstage conversations and your “Thinking Shakespeare Live!” Do you have any special events planned?

I love doing that stuff, because part of making art is helping people understand it, giving audiences entry points. Whenever a prominent thinker comes to our institution, for example, I love to share them with our audience. We’re doing a play, CAMP DAVID, about the 1978 Middle East peace accords. Its playwright is brilliant Pulitzer–winner Lawrence Wright. We’re honored to bring him to San Diego, and we’ll do a public program with him. “Thinking Shakespeare” will have an encore on August 8th.

Who would be on your bucket list for a “Conversations With” evening?

Oh, so many people! One of the things that drew me into the theatre is the number of incredibly interesting people in and near it—super smart, highly imaginative people. In that world are some real thinkers—people whose range is wide and who conceive of the arts not just on their own terms but as a civic force. It’s those theatre thinkers that I love the most.

You’ve been here just over two years. Have you had time to enjoy San Diego outside your own theatre yet?

The public nature of my job has brought me into contact with people and institutions all over the county and it’s been wonderful. Also, I have young children, and they keep me grounded in real life and in so many things beyond theatre. I know the whereabouts of every jungle gym in every neighborhood of the city, for example. And beaches, and hikes, and wonderful restaurants, and so many great arts institutions that program family–friendly activities. It’s a happy, livable city, and I’m so grateful to be part of it.