(The following post is part of a series highlighting and celebrating the theatres and theatre people of San Diego as part of the 2014 TCG National Conference in San Diego. Email Gus Schulenburg if you’d like to participate.)
Growing up, I kept hearing “You have to leave San Diego to appreciate what really great theatre it has.” I didn’t have to leave to know I was spoiled as a patron of the theatre here. However, now that I am studying theatre, I do realize the incredible learning opportunities I had growing up in the San Diego theatre community. I was fortunate enough, not only to have parents that supported theatre, but a city that could foster my love and passion. I grew up taking acting, singing and dancing classes at San Diego Junior Theatre for fun, and in no time at all I caught the theatre bug.
I grew up watching all sorts of productions from all sorts of theatres and groups from a young age and wanted to know what I had to do to be on that stage. I started out performing in shows in elementary school, but once I hit middle school I was constantly auditioning and trying to get on stage in community theatre. Little did I know, that it wasn’t onstage that I would fall in love with, it was back stage. At the young age of 12, I was given the responsibility to stage manage at a small satellite production for Junior Theatre. After that, there was no turning back. I wanted to grow in my stage management skills and did so, but I also wanted to learn more about everything that goes on in a theatre and putting up a production.
When I started high school, a fellow theatre student that I had admired, asked me to apply for the La Jolla Playhouse Student Board. I had no idea what it was at the time, but I knew the name “La Jolla Playhouse.” I had seen some of my first professional shows there and had heard so many wonderful stories from my parents and their friends about it. I decided to apply and made the cut to be on the board. I learned that the board works to get high school students from across the county to have exposure to live theatre. In my time on the board and as its Chair for a few years, we were able to expand its outreach to more students and continue to grow and have an impact on students across our county. In return for our work, we were able to meet the Playhouse staff, pick their brain about the business and even help out with some special projects. But that was just one of the many opportunities that I and the students of San Diego have to work with professionals or even be in the theatre world.
San Diego is filled with theatre companies that cater to students all ages from youth companies like Junior Theatre, J* Company and CYT to our professional theatres like La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe and San Diego Rep. We even have performing arts schools, high schools and middle schools with drama departments and even smaller –but quickly growing- start up theatres that perform for schools, like Step Up Theatre. All these theatres have something unique and incredible to offer. I was grateful everyday that I got to see shows, work with and even influence some of these theatres while I was here.
Over the years I have had access to so many great learning opportunities in San Diego’s theatre community. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. How involved we were and how cool it was that professional theatres opened the door to its youth and gave us access and exposure to professional theatre. Returning home and catching up on what has been happening in the theatre scene in San Diego makes me realize that I could only be so lucky to come back home and work in the theatre business here. Hopefully I will return someday and help students find and pursue their passion in theatre, just as this city has helped me.
About Me: My name is Carmen Quiñones and I was born and raised in San Diego. I grew up playing soccer and basketball, but spent most of my time in the theatre. I continuously watched shows across the county, interned, stage managed and performed through out middle school and high school. Since then, I continue my education in theatre, specifically stage management, at Syracuse University. I love coming back to San Diego and staying involved through seeing shows and interning.