Since 2011, La Jolla Playhouse has been wowing audiences with their biennial Without Walls (WOW) Festival, a grand-scale event that has featured performances in cars, bars, basements and the great outdoors — anywhere but inside their usual theater spaces.
This year’s chosen site is the 100-acre Arts District at Point Loma ‘s Liberty Station, which has been greatly transformed from its former identity as a Naval Training Center (NTC). Now home to over 90 arts-related organizations, The Lot, and many dine-and-drink spots, it will be seriously enlivened Oct. 17-20, 2019 when the Playhouse assembles almost two-dozen local and international performance groups for the 2019 WOW Festival.
Three of the performances were commissioned by the Playhouse, and will be world premieres:
1) New-York-based Third Rail Projects, acclaimed for their audience-involving, site-specific pieces, is presenting “Ikaros,” an audio walking tour through the garden-fringed Arts District that mixes poetry, dance, film and the ill-fated flights of Icarus and Amelia Earhart with the sights and sounds of Liberty Station.
2) David Israel Reynoso, an award-winning costume and scenic designer born in Guadalajara and now based in San Diego, offers the offbeat “Las Quinceañeras,” featuring a staff of paranormal opticians who lead audience members into a dream-like experience of the coming-of-age rites of 15-year-old Latinas.
3) Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company, current theater-in-residence at the Playhouse, is creating a set of five 10-minute plays called “Written in Stone,” each of which takes place in a hidden corner of Stone Brewing’s Bistro & Gardens.
There will be something for everyone at this WOW Fest. History-lovers will enjoy “Allegory,” the re-creation — with new music by singer-songwriter Ari Afsar — of a women’s suffrage pageant originally performed in 1913 and aptly re-imagined in time for the 2020 centennial of the amendment that gave women the right to vote.
There’s also “Calafia at Liberty,” staged around the USS Recruit, a dry-land, 2/3-lifesized Navy ship used to train recruits at the former NTC. The piece, by a troupe of UCSD theater arts grad students who call themselves Wetsuit Collective, combines California history and the story of Calafia, a fictional, turn-of-the 16th-century warrior queen who has become an iconic figure in California mythology.
Dance-lovers will be able to experience a delightful diversity of movement with Arts District resident companies Malashock Dance (the circus-themed “Without a Net”), San Diego Dance Theatre (an inter-generational “Senior Prom”) and San Diego Ballet (an open-air “Midsummer Night’s Dream”).
For lovers of outdoor spectacles, there’s “Peregrinus,” by Poland’s Teatr KTO, whose silent performers, accompanied by music, invite audiences to follow along as they move through a day in the life of some very unusual-looking office workers. And then there’s “Tall Tales of the High Seas,” a sailing adventure played out by aerial actors on 16-foot sway-poles.
Many of the performances are family-friendly, and there will also be free concerts on the Festival Stage. Event prices range from free to $20, and there are dining and rest-and-relax options all around.
— For the full schedule and tickets, visit lajollaplayhouse.org/wowfestival2019 or call (858) 550-1010.