SAN DIEGO — Although he stands a strapping 6-foot-3 and weighs in at about 190 pounds, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancer Patrick Bissell is more at home dancing a pas de deux than dodging blitzing linebackers. But Bissell, who has been compared by more than a few female fans to a Greek god, is suiting up today in Charger blue and gold.
Bissell will soon be seen on area television and billboards and in newspapers and magazines as part of an advertising blitz the San Diego Arts Foundation hopes will attract even larger crowds to its upcoming dance season. The season just ended was 85% sold out, according to the foundation, including 20,000 San Diegans who attended the seven performances of ABT at the Civic Theatre this spring. Bissell danced the lead in four of the performances.
The choice of Bissell for the campaign was aimed at countering the somewhat less than macho stereotype of most male ballet dancers. "We want to show that these men are athletes and dance with beautiful women," said Rick Downer, who is producing the commercials.
CALLING O'BRIEN: Old Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien has been tapped to direct his third play for the Public Broadcasting Service's highly regarded American Playhouse series. A PBS spokesman confirmed that O'Brien will direct Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" in the upcoming season, which begins in October. Miller's play about a man who manufactured faulty airplane parts during World War II is still being cast and will be filmed in Toronto.
O'Brien's 1983 staging of "The Skin of Our Teeth" broke ground as PBS' first live broadcast of a play. Earlier this year O'Brien directed "Painting Churches" for the series.
UN-GRACEFUL NOTES: The latest example of the long-term rift between the San Diego Symphony and its musicians comes in an article in Sound Post, the newsletter of Local 325 of the American Federation of Musicians. Writing in the July issue, C. Patric Oakley wastes no time beating around the podium.
Oakley, the San Diego local's secretary-treasurer, begins by questioning the orchestra's threatened February bankruptcy, then launches into the current contract negotiations, bashing a proposal by the orchestra's English maestro, David Atherton, and scoring management's proposed three-year pay freeze and a plan to cut the season from 45 to 38 weeks.
The musicians have been highly offended by a proposal that Atherton appoint principal players without benefit of an audition. Oakley dubs the proposal "TeaTime tyranny," drawing a parallel to the Boston Tea Party, and wonders "if the Maestro has not read the American reply to unfairness."
The symphony, meanwhile, will host the 18th annual conference of the Assn. of California Symphony Orchestras Aug. 7-10. The conference's theme is not without a touch of irony: "Building Relationships That Work."
DANCE EXCHANGE: A panel of critics and choreographers will discuss dance, including the choreographers' own works, after the 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday performances of the Lo-tec dance series at the Three's Company & Dancers Studio, 3255 5th Ave. After Saturday's performances, choreographers Elfi Schaefer, Katja Biesang, Ellen Segal, Julie McLeod, Alison Cutri and Robert Owens will talk with critics Eileen Sondak, Lucie Dewey and William Fark about what excites them in dance. Sunday's panel will include critics Anne Marie Welsh, John Willet and Dewey, talking with Betzi Roe, Linda Sundstrom, Mary Peterson, Brent Schneider, Jocelyn Danchick and Mary Vetere about the performances of their works. Audience members will also question panelists.
ARTBEATS: Audiences won't see local acting phenom Thom Murray when he appears in the San Diego Repertory Theatre's staging of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" Aug. 13 through Sept. 6 at the Lyceum Theatre. Murray, who is home on break from the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, will be the puppeteer who operates the play's star, a man-eating plant. Actor P.L. Brown will serve as the voice of the carnivore, known as Audrey II . . .
Seventeen of La Jolla's art galleries are now open Thursdays until 10 p.m. It's a marketing ploy to catch the nighttime foot traffic and will be in effect at least through Oct. 2 . . . Actor G Wood has been replaced by Robert Hock in the role of the Gardener in "Richard II" at the Old Globe. Hock is also playing Ross in "Richard" and Verges in "Much Ado About Nothing." Wood will continue in the role of John of Gaunt in "Richard" and as Leonato in "Much Ado About Nothing." The actor, who is 66, "just wanted to go home after the death of John of Gaunt," a Globe spokesman said, rather than wait around to go on as the Gardener . . .
The San Diego AIDS Project is offering $60 benefit tickets for the opening night of the musical "La Cage Aux Folles," at the Civic Theatre. The $35 markup above the regular orchestra level ticket price covers a champagne reception with the cast at the U.S. Grant Hotel after Monday's performance. Beneficiaries will be the AIDS Project and the AIDS Assistance Fund, which provides food and temporary housing to victims of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.