From the outside, Point Loma Playhouse appears to give a whole new meaning to the term "home theater." The 10-year-old nonprofit company resides in a charming building with a generous porch, bright red doors and a stained-glass window.
"Everybody thinks it's a house," says Dorothea Laub, president of Point Loma Playhouse's nine-member board of directors.
In truth, the 105-year-old structure on Talbot Street was built to be a community hall, and in its long history it's been many things, but never an actual home: a neighborhood polling place; an auditorium for Cabrillo Elementary School, located across the street; a Red Cross headquarters during both world wars.
The building is owned by Point Loma Assembly, a "local improvement society," according to its website, that's currently composed of 132 dedicated women from Point Loma and the adjacent peninsula areas.
But thanks to the efforts of its board, its artistic director David Sein, and many regular volunteers (there is no full-time staff), Point Loma Playhouse is making this century-old building synonymous with training-ground theater for actors, directors and writers.
"We're the step into being professional," said Sein, a founding member of Point Loma Playhouse and himself a director, producer and playwright. "That's our niche."
On a recurring basis throughout the year, Point Loma Playhouse offers workshops in acting, musical theater and even stand-up comedy. There also have been workshops on screenwriting, playwriting and improvisation. The multi-week, performance-oriented classes culminate with a showcase evening in which students get onstage experience in front of an audience.
Yes, inside this clubhouse building is an elevated proscenium stage, used not only for training but for live productions.
Sein calls the workshops "the most successful" of Point Loma Playhouse's undertakings. "We're always trying to find the best possible teachers and (instructing) actors for these."
Among those recruited is DeAnna Driscoll, who is directing the Playhouse's spring 2018 Acting Intensive Workshop/Showcase. Driscoll is a familiar figure on San Diego stages, having recently been honored by the San Diego Theater Critics Circle with a Best Female Lead Performance of the Year award for her work last year in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" at Old Town's Cygnet Theatre.
Meanwhile, this spring's Stand-Up Comedy Workshop/Showcase is being taught by comedian Tony Calabrese, a fixture at local clubs like The Comedy Store in La Jolla.
A Musical Theatre Workshop (with two showcase performances) earlier this year was taught by Jordan Miller, who San Diego theatergoers may best know for his performances at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado and who will direct a full-on musical at Point Loma Playhouse this fall.
Other teaching artists include Stephen Carpenter (screenwriting), Jennifer Lane (playwriting), local actor Brian Mackey (recently seen in "Smoke on the Mountain" at Lamb's and then at Vista's Avo Theatre), and theater director Jerry Pilato.
"Our workshop students come from all over San Diego," says Sein. "It's always been about the workshops for actors and creative people."
On the marquee
Not to be overlooked alongside Point Loma Playhouse's important educational and training component, however, are its theater productions, which over the years have included notable plays and playwrights: Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Twelfth Night"; David Mamet's "Random Acts"; David Lindsay-Abaire's "Kimberly Akimbo" (directed by Sein); Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy"; Moliere's "The Forced Marriage"; Robert Harling's "Steel Magnolias"; Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie"; A.R. Gurney's "Sylvia" and his "Love Letters"; Annie Baker's "Circle Mirror Transformation"; John Ford Noonan's "A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking"; and last year, Joe DiPietro's "Clever Little Lies," directed by Pilato.
Performance tickets usually range between $10 and $20, and patrons come from throughout San Diego. Sein and Laub estimate that only 20 percent of the regulars are Point Loma residents.
Sein appreciates that the board gives him "the flexibility of doing what I want, like something a little cutting-edge or something that hasn't been done in San Diego before."
This year's "Building the Wall" by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan qualifies on both fronts. The two-person play imagines a post-Trump-impeachment future and makes a powerful message about war on immigrants.
"We were so proud to do that show" (whose successful run was extended), recalls Sein.
Added Laub: "We had people compliment us for having the courage (to stage it) and for stepping into the future."
Speaking of the future, Point Loma Playhouse has a busy 2018 yet to come.
First up is the company's 10th Anniversary Celebration, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 3. It's an evening of appetizers, drinks and entertainment. Tickets are $50 per person.
The next theatrical production will be the Sam Bobrick/Ron Clark comedy "Wally's Café," in July.
Sein promises a free Shakespeare potpourri in September that will be staged outdoors, either in the park adjoining Westminster Presbyterian Church up the street on Talbot, in the Greek Amphitheatre on Point Loma Nazarene University's campus, or somewhere on Shelter Island.
That will be followed by the aforementioned musical directed by Jordan Miller, and a holiday show toward the end of the year.
Beyond that, "I'm always looking for new things to do," says Sein.
Board president Laub "would like to do a headliner here. I don't care who (Sein) gets — just so we could say we did it!"
In the meantime, Sein says Point Loma Playhouse will "continue to do great workshops and bring in the highest quality theater people we can."
Because it's located in a residential neighborhood, signage is not permitted, but you'll know Point Loma Playhouse by that big porch, those red doors and perhaps by the sound of lively rehearsals going on inside.
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? Point Loma Playhouse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community theater dedicated to presenting quality productions and providing educational opportunities to the public at 3035 Talbot St. Queries are welcome at (619) 800-5497 or pointlomaplayhouse.com