Through the New California Arts Fund (NCAF), La Jolla Playhouse is working to make arts engagement core to the institution and striving to build meaningful partnerships that will allow them to become more connected to the diverse San Diego community.
At the Playhouse, art is meant to spark conversations with and amongst the community. The more diverse that audience, the more fruitful and engaging those conversations will be. Because of its location in La Jolla, the wider San Diego community may have perceived barriers in coming to the theatre; so, inspired by the its Without Walls (WoW) series of site-based and immersive theater, the Playhouse is stepping off their campus, to bring new artistic opportunities to the community.
La Jolla Playhouse is adamant about not barging into communities as a “savior,” but instead expanding and supporting the cultural assets already in play within a community. They have begun to develop deep and lasting relationships with three communities via strategic partnerships:
Military. More than 400,000 San Diegans are active military, members of a military family, or veterans. The Playhouse is working with this vital community through its ongoing veterans’ playwriting workshop program, as well as hosted Military Nights at Playhouse productions throughout the season.
Native Americans. San Diego County is home to more Indian reservations than anywhere else in the United States, with 18 reservations and 20,000 Native Americans living throughout the County. The Playhouse has a longstanding relationship with Native Voices at The Autry, and has been producing their annual Festival of New Plays in San Diego since 2008. The Playhouse will build on this relationship by creating acting and theater workshops and co-producing plays such as They Don’t Talk Back by Tlingit writer Frank Katasse, the first all Native American cast and creative team in a regional theatre (March 2017 premiere).
Southeast San Diegans. This is the most diverse neighborhood in the County, with 50% Latinos; a significant portion of African American, Asian, and White families; and a small Pacific Islander population. The Playhouse is partnering with Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and the award-winning Ping Chong and Company to conduct artist residencies and produce play readings and full productions that provides a platform for underrepresented voices.
The Playhouse has identified several opportunities for evolving their organization alongside this increased focus on local communities. The Playhouse Leadership Council (PLC) already provides an avenue for diverse community leaders to get involved as volunteers with the Playhouse’s outreach and community-building efforts, but to be maximally effective, the PLC needs to be expanded and formalized. The Playhouse is in ongoing conversations about their mission, brand, and identity as their NCAF work permeates the organization. Playhouse staff are already active on the diversity and inclusion committees of the League of Resident Theatres, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and the Theatre Communications Group, and are working to integrate those experiences throughout their own staff and board.
In their effort to reflect the kinds of relationships they want internally and with their audience and partners, the Playhouse is focused on a series of learning efforts around:
Alternative organizational and governance structures.
Cultivating successful, egalitarian partnerships with like-minded institutions.
New methods for listening to communities.