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What Is Theatre Now?

The Old Globe Announces a New Initiative
with Six Visionary Theatre Artists to Explore
What Theatre Can Be at This

Extraordinary Moment in American Life

These artists include Justin Emeka, Patricia McGregor, Johanna McKeon,
Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, James Vásquez, and Whitney White


SAN DIEGO (September 21, 2020)—The Old Globe today announced a new initiative in which it has asked six visionary theatre artists this one question: What Is Theatre Now?

As the prolonged closure of The Old Globe’s performance spaces enters its sixth month, the Globe has been creating a wide range of digital programs in its Arts Engagement, Humanities, and Artistic Departments, all aimed at bringing the transformative power of theatre to audiences at home. The Globe is carefully planning for the day when it can once again gather the community in its theatres and share the art form beloved by so many. And the Globe is taking steps to become more equitable, inclusive, and just, as it heeds the call of an urgent nationwide appeal for racial equity and social justice.

All of these efforts come together in What Is Theatre Now? These six gifted artists will share their insights with the Globe on themes that are universal, wide-ranging, and especially resonant in this time of upheaval and change. They are imagining forms and technologies that might translate onto digital platforms or live theatre, or might introduce new hybrids that blend live and virtual work. The Globe has asked each of these artists to further develop their ideas, and the theatre stands ready to provide them with resources to help bring their work to deep and rich life. This new initiative will inform the Globe’s trajectory moving forward, even as it reshapes and remakes this ancient art form for an extraordinary new era.

The group comprises Justin Emeka, Patricia McGregor, Johanna McKeon, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, James Vásquez, and Whitney White.

“The day the Globe was forced to close its doors in March, Old Globe Associate Artistic Directors Freedome Bradley-Ballentine and Justin Waldman and our artistic staff began a process of imagining what theatre might look like while audiences shelter at home,” said Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein. “Reinventing a 2,000-year-old art form in a matter of months is not for the faint of heart, so we turned to the most visionary artists in our orbit, knowing that their bright imaginations would guide our inquiry. The six remarkable theatremakers in this cohort have real and authentic ties to the Globe, sincere affection for San Diego and its audiences, a huge range of interests, talents, and insights, and a wide diversity of backgrounds. Our conversations have already been inspiring and beautiful. From this collaboration, exciting new works will emerge that will fill the Globe’s digital platforms—and soon, we hope, its stages—with thrilling theatre in many forms. We look forward to sharing the fruits of their answers to the question ‘What Is Theatre Now’ as they develop in the time ahead.”

What Is Theatre Now? is sponsored in part by Bank of America.

Note: All in-person Globe productions and events have been postponed until further notice; all dates are subject to change. In the meantime, the Globe develops and presents a wide array of free online programs to continue reaching the San Diego community. These currently include a free commissioned short-plays project Play At Home and The Old Globe Coloring Book. Current arts engagement programs include the exploration of modern poetry The Poet’s Tree; at-home theatre program The Living Room Play Workshop; Voces de la Comunidad, the Spanish-language version of Community Voices, our popular playwriting program; collaborative Mad Libs–style program Word Up!; and Creative Youth Studio, a series of professional development opportunities for youth and high-school theatre enthusiasts. Coming soon are new middle school and high school Globe to Go focused resources, a part of School in the Park, which offers free downloadable K–5 resources for teaching; season 2 of Reflecting Shakespeare TV, a digital version of the transformative initiative offered at prisons; Behind the Curtain: Art of Protest; Community Voices: Comedy Writing; and the sixth annual AXIS event Day of the Dead/Día de Muertos.

Programs and videos archived on our website at www.TheOldGlobe.org and on our YouTube channel, available for viewing at any time from the comfort of your home, including the world premiere of Bill Irwin’s In-Zoom; On Book: The Old Globe’s Shakespeare Reading Group; outreach from familiar Globe artists in Act Breaks and Flashbacks; Soap It Up with students from The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program; and Barry Edelstein’s hit presentation Thinking Shakespeare Live! and his series Thinking Shakespeare Live: Sonnets! Archived arts engagement programs include the Community Voices playwriting workshop; Behind the Curtain and its offshoots, the Spanish-language Detrás del Telón and Behind the Curtain: Technical Assistance forum; check-in program with Globe-commissioned playwrights Playwrights Unstuck; and season 1 of Reflecting Shakespeare TV.

The Tony Award–winning The Old Globe is one of the country’s leading professional not-for-profit regional theatres. Now in its 85th year, the Globe is San Diego’s flagship performing arts institution, and it serves a vibrant community with theatre as a public good. Under the leadership of Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein and Audrey S. Geisel Managing Director Timothy J. Shields, The Old Globe produces a year-round season of 16 productions of classic, contemporary, and new works on its three Balboa Park stages, including its internationally renowned Shakespeare Festival. More than 250,000 people annually attend Globe productions and participate in the theatre’s artistic and arts engagement programs. Its nationally prominent Arts Engagement Department provides an array of participatory programs that make theatre matter to more people in neighborhoods throughout the region. Humanities programs at the Globe and around the city broaden the community’s understanding of theatre art in all its forms. The Globe also boasts a range of new play development programs with professional and community-based writers, as well as the renowned The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program. Numerous world premieres—such as 2014 Tony Award winner for Best Musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Bright Star, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,and Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!—have been developed at The Old Globe and have gone on to highly successful runs on Broadway and at regional theatres across the country.

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Justin Emeka is a director, writer, actor, and teacher who specializes in new approaches to classic texts, as well as imaginative stagings of popular and emerging playwrights. His Off Broadway credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet (Classical Theatre of Harlem), and his regional theatre productions include American Son (Pittsburgh Public Theater), Sweat (Philadelphia Theatre Company), Sunset Baby (Dobama Theatre), Stick Fly (Intiman Theatre), Paradise Blue, Detroit ’67, and Julius X (Karamu House), and A Raisin in the Sun (Oberlin Summer Theater Festival). His other credits include director for Death of a Salesman, The Bluest Eye, Macbeth, and The Wedding Band (Oberlin College), director for The Glass Menagerie and Dutchman (University of Washington’s Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center & Theatre), and movement coordinator and playing Edgar in an all-Black production of King Lear starring Avery Brooks (Yale Repertory Theatre). He adapted Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme into The Boougie Gentleman, which he also directed (New York University’s Graduate Acting Program). As a writer he received awards in playwriting from the Seattle Arts Commission and in screenwriting from the Washington Filmworks state film commission. He also published the chapters “Seeing Shakespeare Through Brown Eyes” and “Playing with Race in the New Millennium.” Emeka is a Drama League Fellow, a member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Actors’ Equity Association, and a tenured professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at Oberlin College.

Patricia McGregor (she/her/hers), born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, is a director and writer working in theatre, television, film, and music. McGregor has twice been profiled by The New York Times for her direction of world premieres. Her productions include Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole (co-writer and director; Geffen Playhouse, People’s Light), Sisters in Law (Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts), What You Are, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Measure for Measure (The Old Globe), Skeleton Crew (Geffen Playhouse), Good Grief (Center Theatre Group), Hamlet (The Public Theater), Place (Brooklyn Academy of Music),The Parchman Hour (Guthrie Theater), Ugly Lies the Bone (Roundabout Theatre Company), brownsville song (b-side for tray) (Lincoln Center Theater), Indomitable: James Brown (Apollo Theater), Holding It Down (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), A Raisin in the Sun, The Winter’s Tale, and Spunk (California Shakespeare Theater), Adoration of the Old Woman (INTAR Theatre), Blood Dazzler (Harlem Stage), Four Electric Ghosts (The Kitchen), and the world premiere of Hurt Village (Signature Theatre Company). She served as Associate Director of Fela! on Broadway. For many years she has directed The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway. She served as director for HBO’s emerging writer’s showcase, and as tour consultant to Raphael Saadiq and J. Cole. Her short film Good Grief will premiere this year. Additionally she was a directing shadow on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” She co-founded Angela’s Pulse with her sister, choreographer, and organizer Paloma McGregor, and sits on the advisory boards of Adam Driver’s Arts in the Armed Forces and the Parent Artist Advocacy League. McGregor attended Yale School of Drama, where she was a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and Artistic Director of Yale Cabaret.

Johanna McKeon has directed the West Coast premiere of Heather Raffo’s Noura (The Old Globe), Mona Mansour’s Unseen (The Old Globe’s Powers New Voices Festival), the premiere of Anne Washburn’s I Have Loved Strangers (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Clubbed Thumb), Tokio Confidential (Atlantic Theater Company), The Comedy of Errors and Schmoozy Togetherness (Williamstown), Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall (Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse), A Hatful of Rain (ITS Festival Warsaw), Semi-Permanent (New York International Fringe Festival; Outstanding Solo Show), The Importance of Being Earnest (Bard College), Golden Motors (BRIC), and Functional Drunk, Fiesta Cabana, and The Tanks Break (Ontological-Hysteric Theater). She directs frequently for the Obie Award–winning Noor Theatre, founded to develop and produce theatre artists of Middle Eastern decent. McKeon was Associate Director on the Broadway productions of King Kong, War Paint, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Idiot, and Grey Gardens, and she has directed multiple national and international tours. Her independent feature Auld Lang Syne received the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the 2016 Indie Street Film Festival. She is a co-founder of the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation, and she served as a panelist for The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in 2020. McKeon is the recipient of Drama League, Boris Sagal, and Fulbright Fellowships. She received her M.F.A. from The University of Texas at Austin.

Delicia Turner Sonnenberg is a founder and the former Artistic Director of MOXIE Theatre, which she helmed for 12 acclaimed seasons, receiving the Des McAnuff New Visions Award for risk-taking leadership and body of work and the 2015 Director of the Year Award from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. She has also directed plays for The Old Globe, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, San Diego Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Cygnet Theatre Company, New Village Arts, Diversionary Theatre, and Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company. Some of her honors include Theatre Communications Group’s New Generations Program grant, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Awards, Women’s International Center Living Legacy Award, Van Lier Fund fellowship (Second Stage Theatre), and New York Drama League’s Directors Project.

James Vásquez recently directed the West Coast premieres of Hurricane Diane and Tiny Beautiful Things and the world premiere of American Mariachi at The Old Globe, where he has also directed Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Rich Girl, and Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show and provided musical staging and movement for several additional productions. His directing and choreography credits also include work at Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company, Children’s Theatre Company, and Dallas Theater Center, as well as developmental workshops for La Jolla Playhouse and Goodspeed Musicals. He is the recipient of the Craig Noel Award for his productions In the Heights (Moonlight Stage Productions) and Sweeney Todd (Cygnet Theatre Company). Vásquez is an amateur gardener, lover of dogs, and graduate of The Juilliard School.

Whitney White is an Obie Award– and Lilly Award–winning director, writer, and musician originally from Chicago. She is a believer of alternative forms of performance, multidisciplinary work, and collaborative processes. She is the current recipient of the Susan Stroman Directing Award, is part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and is an Associate Artist at Roundabout Theatre Company. Her recent directing credits include The Amen Corner (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Our Dear Dead Drug Lord (WP Theater, Second Stage Theater; The New York Times Critic’s Pick), Aleshea Harris’s What to Send Up When It Goes Down (The Movement Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, American Repertory Theater, The Public Theater; The New York Times Critic’s Pick), An Iliad (Long Wharf Theatre), Jonathan Caren’s Canyon (IAMA Theatre Company; Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choice, Center Theatre Group’s Block Party Grant), and the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of Charly Evon Simpson’s Jump (PlayMakers Repertory Company). White’s digital projects include Ming Peiffer’s Finish the Fight (The New York Times, 24,000+ viewers), Stacy Osei-Kuffour’s Animals (Williamstown Theatre Festival/Audible), and Aleshea Harris’s Soft Light (The Movement Theatre Company). Her original musical Definition will debut at The Bushwick Starr in 2021, and her five-part cycle deconstructing Shakespeare’s women and female ambition is currently in development with American Repertory Theater in Boston. Her past residencies and fellowships include Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Colt Coeur, The Drama League, Roundabout Theatre Company, and the 2050 Artistic Fellowship at New York Theatre Workshop. She received her M.F.A. in Acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company and her B.A. from Northwestern University.


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