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Theater | Theater Notes

Out With the 'Old' at San Diego's Globe

February 04, 2001|DON SHIRLEY | Don Shirley is The Times' theater writer

What's in a name? Will the Old Globe Theatre smell as sweet, now that it's called the Globe Theatres?

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" may have inspired the above reference, but the name change at San Diego's oldest stage company is, in part, a signal to the world that the company is about a lot more than just Shakespeare.

When Globe managing director Douglas C. Evans told a neighbor he worked for the Old Globe, she replied, rather unenthusiastically, "Oh--Shakespeare." She didn't know that the Old Globe had long since outgrown its roots as a Shakespeare-only institution.

Now, it's true that the original venue where Shakespeare's plays were presented was called the Globe, not the Old Globe. So in a literal sense, the new name is even closer to associations with the Bard than was the old one.

However, the "Old"--or so the theory goes--tended to connote old plays, as opposed to, say, the Old Globe's latest hit, "The Full Monty." The same connotation sometimes sticks to arts audiences, who are often stereotyped as white, wealthy and senior, Evans said. "We want to make it clear that you don't have to be of a certain group or have a master's degree in English literature. Theater should be accessible to everyone, especially the kids."

The other half of the change is the switch to the plural "Theatres." Before Evans considered working at the Old Globe, he thought it used only one venue. Many San Diego newcomers also have that impression, he said. The indoor space that's roughly modeled on Shakespeare's original Globe has indeed shared the name Old Globe Theatre with the company that uses it--but they are hardly identical. The company also uses the smaller Cassius Carter Centre Stage and the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.

Yet another reason for the name change is, in the words of artistic director Jack O'Brien, the fact that "the organization has been casually referred to as 'the Globe' for years. This change simply formalizes the reference."

Globe executive director Craig Noel, who first acted at the Old Globe in 1937, said the name change was "much ado about nothing" and "not that big a difference." The former "Old" was "a term of endearment," he said. "It didn't mean decrepit or not being on the cutting edge, to use a buzzword." He predicted that a lot of theater artists will continue to use the old name, which, he said, also distinguished the San Diego company from other Globes.

Indeed, a new Globe Theatre exists near the site of the original in London. West Hollywood has a 99-seat Globe Playhouse, which plans to set up a Web site in the next few weeks with the domain name http://www.globetheatre.org. If you go to http://www.globetheatres.com on the Internet, you'll find more than you want to know about a movie complex in Globe, Ariz. To find the site for San Diego's Globe Theatres, type in http://www.theglobetheatres.org.

Still, Evans said, he believes his Globe's reputation is well enough established--and San Diego is far enough away from London--that there won't be much confusion.

With the new name came a new logo, and Noel, 85, is glad. He never liked the old one. "The little house in it was separated to suggest three theaters, but I thought they looked more like outhouses."

*

NAME CHANGE 2: The new Peter Parnell play opening at the Mark Taper Forum on March 22 was initially announced as "Tuva or Bust!"--the name of the Ralph Leighton book that is one of its sources. However, the play now will be called "QED," which is a double acronym for both quantum electrodynamics and the Latin quod erat demonstrandum--"which was to be shown." The latter use is a common notation in scientific writing, indicating that a fact proves a previously stated theory, and quantum electrodynamics refers to the work of physicist Richard Feynman, who is the subject of the play.

Asked about the name change, the play's director, Gordon Davidson, said, "The play has changed." It's no longer based as heavily on Leighton's book, about an actual journey to Tuva. "QED," with its double meaning, "is a more comprehensive title." *

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