Meet the Moxies behind San Diego Moxie Theatre at premiere of ‘Toughest Girl Alive’
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
If you’re a theater-lover, there’s a small mall near San Diego State University that’s definitely worth the trip. For the past year, it’s been home to Moxie, a 132-seat nonprofit theater that consistently presents some of the hottest shows around.
The secret to its success is a quartet of gifted women who founded the theater six years ago: Artistic Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Managing Director Jo Anne Glover, Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Eve Thorn and Liv Kellgren.
The plays they present are edgy ones, often written by female playwrights, with wild and wonderful roles for female performers.
This doesn’t mean men are excluded from Moxie. Helpful husbands and kid-friendly meetings are part of the lifestyle. In fact, Moxie is like one big, close, collaborative family — the kind you really wish you had.
“You don’t have to choose between being an artist and being a parent,” said Sonnenberg, a mother of two whose husband is a scenic designer and whose 8-year-old daughter, Zoe, made her stage debut in “Eurydice” in 2010 — directed by mom.
“Someone in the company will always step forward so we all get to do what we love,” Thorn said. (Her two kids, ages 1 and 3, are used to taking meetings.) “People leave here at night and hug us and help take the trash out.”
Glover agreed. “We have a pretty strong community,” she said. “We help each other out so everyone can perform.”
Glover first met Sonnenberg when both were students at the University of Texas in Austin. They shared an apartment in New York when both were starting out in theater.
The original quartet of founders is now a trio, since Kellgren moved on to become a Feng Shui consultant, but the Moxie power is stronger than ever. Of course. They’ve got Moxie, a name meaning “courage, energy, determination and spirit.”
It was Glover who came up with the name, which Thorn said acts as a compass for them all. “It helps us when we’re tired or scared or wondering what we should do.”
Sonnenberg chimed in, “It helps when you’re looking at a play like Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ — our most recent production, which has 21 roles — and wondering how a theater with our little budget can manage to do it. You can’t call yourself Moxie if you’re too afraid.”
They make decisions by asking: What’s Moxie-licious about this? Is it strong and daring and ambitious enough for us? Their name keeps them on track. And they’ve got a slew of awards to show for it.
They’ve also got Moxie to share. So they collaborate happily, and often.
“We love working with other companies and giving new people a start, letting them try out new things here,” Thorn said. “Moving the art of theater forward as a whole is important to us.”
Sonnenberg added, “Mentoring is really important to us, the idea of being supportive of other artists — we love that.”
And Glover summed up, “Theater’s a collaborative venture. We want all artists to feel valued here.”
This month, Moxie is trying something new by presenting its first musical show, “Toughest Girl Alive.” The autobiography of local blues diva Candye Kane, it’s the 99.9 percent true story of a former gang member, teen mom and plus-sized adult-movie star who became a cancer-surviving, award-winning, singer/songwriter phenomenon.
“I’m in love with Candye as an artist,” said Sonnenberg. “She’s an extraordinary woman, such a positive, generous spirit, and so talented. We’re really excited to provide an opportunity for people to hear her story.”
Javier Velasco, artistic director of San Diego Ballet, has adapted, choreographed and directed Candye’s story for the stage. A workshop version of the show was presented at Diversionary Theater last January, but this will be its first full production.
Coming in March, is another play by Liz Duffy, whose “Dog Act” was one of Moxie’s greatest hits. This one, “Or,” is about Aphra Behn, England’s first female playwright.
If you go
What: Moxie world premiere ‘Toughest Girl Alive’
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15-Feb. 5; 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N
Tickets: $25 (858) 598-7620. moxietheatre.com
Reader perk: Bring this article to Moxie Theatre and get $5 off your ticket price (opening night excepted).
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