By Deborah Vietor
There’s an exciting new musical playing at the Old Globe, directed by Erna Vinci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein. Edelstein is widely recognized as one of the leading American authorities on works of Shakespeare, directing nearly half the works of the Bard. He is a director, producer, author and educator, interested to share what is upcoming for the 2019 season. L’Chaim spoke to him about what’s next at the Old Globe.
L’CHAIM MAGAZINE: What inspired you to direct the new musical U.S. premiere of Life After by Britta Johnson? What have you found to be some of the most interesting aspects regarding the direction of the play and the actors?
Barry Edelstein: The Globe is famous as an incubator for new musical theatre. Dozens of shows that started here have gone on to illustrious lives post-San Diego. This attracts great projects to the theatre, and when Life After crossed my desk, I perked up. The story is sweet and profound, about a sixteen year-old girl coming of age at a moment of huge grief in her life. It has all the goofiness, warmth and humor of that awkward period in our lives. It’s also about the extraordinary bond between parent and child, a bond so strong, it can seem to even defy death. All this thematic richness is expressed in Britta’s beautiful score, which for me is the most original and daring in the contemporary musical theatre. It’s such a strong, interesting and moving piece. All of us working on it are finding that it resonates deeply with our own memories and experiences. I think audiences will see themselves in it too.
L’CHAIM: In August, you direct the timeless play, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. With your expertise and knowledge regarding Shakespeare’s work, what do you find most endearing about the direction of this particular play? Why do you feel this holds a generational appeal to audiences, creating relevance and popularity today?
BE: Romeo and Juliet is first and foremost a great story, a terrific yarn. It’s just exciting. A secret love affair, a big costume ball, brawls in the streets, a magic potion that counterfeits death. This is fun, dramatic, sweeping stuff. Then there’s all that love, all that romance. There’s love poetry in this play that’s so soaring and breathtaking, you just melt in front of it. I’ve always found that the most enduring plays are the ones with genuine love in them, truthful, real, recognizable love. Romeo and Juliet has that, and its passion and purity carries us along on a wonderful two-hour ride in the theatre.
L’CHAIM: What can you share regarding your interest and passion for upcoming plays at the Globe for the remainder of 2019?
BE: It’s an uncommonly diverse season at the Globe. We’re dealing in American history, (women in the early years of the space program); contemporary American life, (JC Lee’s What You Are is about this very turbulent moment in our country’s life). We’ve got comedy from Steve Martin and Ken Ludwig, music from the amazing PigPen Theatre Company, and holding it all together is Shakespeare. It’s a lineup with something for everyone. My favorite stuff, though, is the work our Arts Engagement Department is doing in the community, enfranchising our neighbors into our work and institution. We serve over 40,000 San Diegans for free with this programming, which expresses our view that theatre matters, and theatre is a public good. It enhances our lives and our city in all sorts of wonderful ways. I love being part of that.
Britta Johnson began writing plays and songs in high school, stressing that Life After is not really autobiographical, however she lost her dad at the age of 13. Like the character Alice, grief was a big part of her life and coming of age. Johnson revisited her feelings, and wanted to explore this musically.
She explains that when you grieve, you simultaneously exist in in the past, present and speculated future, all at once things feeling as absurd as they are devastating. She believes music has the power to hold this all together, motivating her to write this show.
For more information, visit the Old Globe’s website at www.theoldglobe.org. For tickets, call (619) 234-5623.
THIS COULD BE A SIDEBAR
The Old Globe Calendar for 2019 includes:
U.S. premiere Life After, book, music and lyrics by Britta Johnson, directed by Erna Vinci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein – Playing through April 28, 2019
West Coast Premiere They Promised Her the Moon, by Laurel Ollstein, directed by Giovanna Sardelli – April 6 – May 5, 2019
Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare, April 20, 2019 – The Old Globe’s Copley Plaza, part of the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center – Free Axis Event
Manila Disco Fever in Concert – May 9, 2019 – The Old Globe’s Copley Plaza, part of Conrad Prebys Theatre Company – Free Axis Early Evening Event
World premiere Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy, by Ken Ludwig in association with Mc Carter Theatre Company – May 11-June 16, 2019
San Diego’s Gods of Comedy – June 15, 2019 – The Old Globe’s Copley Plaza, part of the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center – Free Axis Event
What You Are, by JC Lee – Globe-commissioned world premiere – May 30-June 30, 2019
As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, directed by Jessica Stone – June 16- July 21, 2019
“Make Music San Diego,” June 21, 2019 – The Old Globe’s Craig Noel Garden, part of the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center – Free Axis Event
The Tale of Despereaux, – World Premiere Musical – Book, Music and lyrics by PigPen Theatre Company – Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo and the Universal Pictures animated film – directed by Marc Bruni and PigPen Theatre Co., July 6-August 11, 2019
Steve Martin’s The Underpants, by Steve Martin – adapted from Die Hose by Carl Sternheim – Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Conrad Prebys Theatre Center – July 27-August 25, 2019
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Barry Edelstein – Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Conrad Presbys Theatre Center – August 11-September 15, 2019