#SDTheatre: A Band of Misfits – How we do Theatre in Paradise

by Jennifer Eve Thorn

in National Conference

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(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.)

Photo by Jack Yonn

 

10 years ago I opened a theatre with 3 other women. I was 23 years old, single and fearless. The world existed for me to succeed in and how could I ever fail? We would produce plays by women, we would defy stereotypes, and we would marry, have children, be uncompromising artists, cut large slices of cake and then eat them without guilt. We expected to work hard, we expected to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, which is why we named ourselves MOXIE, but what we never expected was an outpouring of support from other San Diego theatres. You see in San Diego, the theatres are united by a common enemy – the beach.

I’m half joking about the beach but I’m not kidding about being united. Maybe every town is like this -I wouldn’t know because I only opened a theatre in this one – but it seems that the sense of duty and mentorship that mature theatres in San Diego feel for the younger companies is unique. In our first 3 seasons we were homeless but that didn’t actually mean we didn’t have a home. Diversionary Theatre, this country’s longest running LGBT theatre, rearranged their season to accommodate our first one. Their staff donated countless hours pitching in to help us find our footing. When we weren’t at Diversionary, we called the San Diego Rep’s Lyceum Theatre home. 10 years later the artists and staff at the REP and Diversionary are still often found swinging by MOXIE to pitch in, knowing that all we have to pay them with is gratitude. Then in a grand gesture which seemed to defy all capitalist logic, the La Jolla Playhouse announced they were starting a program mentoring homeless theatres and providing space to them FOR FREE and we were granted the incredible opportunity to work with their staff and introduce ourselves to their audiences.

MOXIE isn’t homeless anymore. In keeping with the outpouring of generosity in San Diego, Cygnet Theatre took great care to make sure the space they had outgrown was handed over to a deserving company. They left behind lights, a light board, beautiful seats and a remodeled theatre space, allowing us to make payments for equipment as we were able.

We aren’t the new kids on the block anymore. We’ve joined the ranks of the successful theatres in San Diego who take pride in having something to offer younger companies. We opened our 32nd production this past weekend and at the after party I spoke with a young woman whose eyes were on fire. “I’m so inspired by you all. This is what I want to do,” she said. It felt good to tell her she was in the right town and to pass her my email as she described her vision for a company. “MOXIE can help you with that,” I said and I meant it.


Jennifer Eve Thorn is a founder of MOXIE theatre,an actress and a director. She received her degree in Theatre from The College of Santa Fe, studied with Commedia Del Arte and taught for Playwrights Project. She was an Assistant to the General Manager at The Vineyard Theatre in New York, Casting Associate for The San Diego Rep and is currently the Associate Artistic Director for MOXIE Theatre.