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The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

September 30 - October 29

Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
Conrad Prebys Theatre Center

Photo Credits

James Lecesne as Gloria in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey


The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

Written and performed by James Lecesne
Directed by Tony Speciale

Chuck DeSantis is a brash New Jersey detective eager for a case that gets him out from behind his desk. On one extraordinary day, he finds it: the disappearance of teenager Leonard Pelkey. Digging deeper and deeper into Leonard’s life, Chuck follows clues that lead him to unexpected places and show him how one boy’s bravery can light the way toward truth. James Lecesne delivers a solo tour de force, effortlessly bringing to life the inhabitants of a colorful seaside town as they awaken to the beauty of being different. The New York Times called Lecesne one of “the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation” and said The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey “leaves you beaming with joy.”

Contains strong language. 


Running time: one hour and 15 minutes.  There is no intermission.

Production Sponsors
Elaine and Dave Darwin
The Prado at Balboa Park
Karen and Stuart Tanz
US Bank

Cast and Creative



James Lecesne (Playwright and Performer, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey) wrote the short film Trevor, which won an Academy Award and inspired the founding of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. He created The Road Home: Stories of Children of War, which was presented at the International Peace Initiative at The Hague. He adapted Armistead Maupin’s Further Tales of the City for Showtime (Emmy Award nomination), and he was a writer on the series “Will & Grace.” He has written three novels for young adults and created The Letter Q, a collection of letters by Queer writers written to their younger selves. As an actor, he has appeared on television in “Sex and the City”; on Broadway in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man; and Off Broadway in The Boys in the Band, Cloud 9, One Man Band, and Word of Mouth (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards). Mr. Lecesne won awards from the Off Broadway Alliance, United Solo Theatre Festival, and Outer Critic Circle for his performance in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. The New York Times ranked him “among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation.” jameslecesne.com.

Tony Speciale (Director) is the artistic director of Abingdon Theatre Company in New York City. He conceived, co-authored, and directed the world premiere of Unnatural Acts (Classic Stage Company, Drama Desk Award nominee, GLAAD Media Award nominee). His New York credits include The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Westside Theatre/Dixon Place), A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Bebe Neuwirth, Christina Ricci, and Taylor Mac (Classic Stage Company), Handbook for an American Revolutionary (The Gym at Judson), and Stet (Abingdon). His regional credits include The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Kirk Douglas Theatre), Barry Manilow’s Harmony (Alliance Theatre/Ahmanson Theatre), and Romeo and Juliet (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Speciale served four seasons as associate artistic director of Classic Stage Company, holds an M.F.A. in Directing from Columbia University, and is the proud recipient of a Princess Grace Theatre Honorarium and Suzi Bass Award. tonyspeciale.com.

Jo Winiarski (Scenic Design) is a set designer and art director. Her Off Broadway credits include: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; multiple shows with The Pearl Theatre Company; The Jewish American Princess of Comedy; and I Love You Because. Other New York theatre companies she has designed for are New Georges, The New Group, Keen Company, Clubbed Thumb, Relentless Theater Company, and The Roundtable Ensemble. Jo’s regional design credits include 12 seasons at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (having designed over 30 shows), the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Dallas Theater Center, Geva Theatre, the Hangar Theatre, and the Virginia State Company. Jo is the art director on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” She received an Emmy nomination for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.

Matt Richards (Lighting Design) Broadway: Ann. Off Broadway: Theatre for a New Audience, Lincoln Center, MCC, Play Company, Playwright Horizons, Rattlestick, Second Stage. Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, Dallas Theater Center, Ford’s Theatre, The Goodman, The Guthrie, Hartford Stage, The Huntington, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf, The Old Globe, Shakespeare Theatre, Westport Playhouse, Williamstown, Yale Repertory Theatre. Graduate: University of Massachusetts, Yale School of Drama.


Insights Seminar

This series provides Old Globe patrons with an opportunity to closely connect with productions both onstage and backstage. A panel selected from the artistic company of each show (playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and/or technicians) engages patrons in an informal and illuminating presentation of ideas and insights to enhance the theatre going experience. Each Insights Seminar takes place 90 minutes before curtain time on the Tuesday after performances begin, and includes an informal reception 30 minutes before the start. FREE; no reservations necessary.

Tuesday October 3, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.


Post-Show Forums

Join us after the show for an informal and enlightening question-and-answer session with cast members. Get the "inside story" on creating a character and putting together a professional production. Post-show forums are scheduled after select Tuesday and Wednesday evening performances. FREE; no reservations necessary.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Subject Matters

Explore the ideas and issues raised by a production through brief, illuminating post-show discussions with local experts, such as scientists, artists, historians and scholars. Subject Matters will ignite discussion, bring the play's concerns into sharp focus, and encourage you to think beyond the stage! Subject Matters discussions follow select Saturday matinee performances. FREE; no reservations necessary.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


"Affecting and entertaining!" —Los Angeles Times

"Intimate, funny, quietly moving!" —The San Diego Union-Tribune

"A tour de force performance!" —San Diego Reader

"A whodunit with a heart of gold!" —The New Yorker

"Theatrical alchemy at its best!" —Orange County Register

"James Lecesne embodies his characters without resorting to overstatement or parody. The Old Globe's production serves the storytelling exceptionally well." —Talkin' Broadway

"A terrific showcase for the spectacular writing and performing skills of James Lecesne. What makes this show as special as Leonard himself is Lecesne's impeccable, meticulous attention to the small but significant details. It's easy to fall in love with every one of these delightful characters. There's a sense of joy, and yes, brightness in this piece, that sends you out a little lighter and hopefully a little more understanding." —Times of San Diego