SAN DIEGO — Craig Noel never completed his college education at San Diego State University, but the school still honored the executive producer of the Old Globe Theatre as Alumnus of the Year Saturday night. About 550 SDSU alumni and supporters paid homage to Noel for his contributions to San Diego theater (he has been associated with the Tony Award-winning Old Globe from its start in 1937) and his leadership in establishing the Globe's Educational Tour for area students.
Thus began a week that promises to be among the most memorable in Noel's career, as the Old Globe formally celebrates its 50th anniversary with a spate of special events. At 10 a.m. today, for example, the Globe hosts "The Encaenia" (that's a fancy Latin term for "a dedicatory festival"), at which the new Lowell Davies Festival Stage will be dedicated. The cast for that production includes Lily Tomlin (who co-chairs, with Christopher Reeve, the Globe's current "Year of Jubilee") and U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, former mayor of San Diego.
Fittingly, the Old Globe hit its high-water mark of 50,000 subscribers--counting subscriptions for both the winter and summer seasons--on May 14, when a young local attorney named Nancy Jones purchased her first subscription. According to Globe spokesman Bill Eaton, Jones is a native San Diegan who has been attending the Globe since her high school days.
Eaton also reported that construction crews have been working 12-hour days to ready the Davies Stage--on the site of the burned-out Festival Stage--for its June 7 opening production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." "Construction began Feb. 18," Eaton reported, "and so far the only day off the crew has taken has been Easter Sunday. Wednesday (today) marks their 100th day in the job."
More to the point, today marks 50 years to the day that the Old Globe began presenting Shakespeare in Balboa Park, and some members of the original 1935 company will be present at the "Encaenia," including actress Irene Tedrow. At 12:30 p.m., the celebration gives way to some news, as artistic director Jack O'Brien announces the Globe's 1986 theatrical schedule. On Friday, the Globe's big birthday bash takes place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. The general public can attend for the price of a $35 theater membership, and Eaton estimates that 1,000 new memberships will result. The summer season begins next Wednesday with "Greater Tuna" at the Globe's Cassius Carter Centre Stage.
PLAYHOUSE: Meanwhile, most of the creative talent for the La Jolla Playhouse's production of the musical "Merrily We Roll Along" arrived over the weekend from New York, where they had been rehearsing for two weeks. The cast, director James Lapine, designers Ann Hould-Ward and John Kilgore among others were welcomed at a bash at UC San Diego's sculpture garden, known to some as Stonehenge by the Sea. The New Yorkers had sunny weather, beer, barbecue, burgers and "killer guacamole."
They started rehearsals again Tuesday for "Merrily's" June 11 opening. The other good news from the theater is that season subscriptions hit the 6,100 mark. Still in New York were composer Stephen Sondheim, lyricist George Furth and Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff, who is winding up casting for "The Seagull" and will stay for the June 2 Tony Award ceremonies (he is nominated for best director).
BUDGET BUDGING: Most local arts groups have requested at least a 10% increase, but next year's proposed City of San Diego budget includes only a 6.5% across-the-board increase for all arts groups that received transient occupancy tax revenues last year. COMBO, for example, requested $1.1 million, but is slated to receive $811,943, while the San Diego Museum of Art requested $434,698 but is due to receive $385,795.
According to a recent market study by the museum, its blockbuster "Precious Legacy" exhibition of last year generated $12 million in revenue for San Diego. Museum director Steven Brezzo explained that the request for more city funding next year--20% more than last year--is the museum's way of seeking a "return on our investment" in San Diego's cultural growth. The Public Service and Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on the allocations June 7 at City Hall.