La Jolla-based Vantage Theatre is revived, with new production coming in November

La Jolla residents Dori Salois and Robert Salerno are reviving the Vantage Theatre this year.
La Jolla residents Dori Salois and Robert Salerno are reviving the Vantage Theatre this year after it went dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Provided by Dori Salois)

The small La Jolla-based company run by local couple Dori Salois and Robert Salerno is returning after a long break that started with COVID-19.


After a long intermission spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the La Jolla-based Vantage Theatre is set to make its return to the stage — wherever that may be.

The company, started by La Jolla husband-and-wife team Dori Salois and Robert Salerno, has been in operation for decades, producing original and experimental works and adaptations that use the venues as much as the actors, along with elaborate sound and lighting.

However, when the pandemic took hold in March 2020, no theaters, big or small, were hosting productions or lending their space to smaller companies. So, Salois and Salerno decided to “go dormant” with the Vantage Theatre while keeping an eye out for productions they could do later.

With pandemic restrictions lifted and theaters back in operation, the two have decided to present “Tears of War” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the La Jolla/Riford Library. A $20 donation is suggested.

The production features the stories of seven refugee and asylum-seeking women, as told in local writer Anne Hoiberg’s book of the same name. It centers on fleeing war-impacted countries, surviving the journey to refuge, adjusting to a refugee camp or neighboring country and resettling in San Diego.

Vantage Theatre also plans to present “Best Laid Plans,” a surrealist story inspired by the life of architect Chris Downey.

“An architect goes in for brain surgery that [accidentally] renders him blind,” Salerno said. “He is destroyed by this experience and doesn’t know what he is going to do. This aide that he has in the hospital comes to see him after he is discharged, and through his intervention, the patient goes through a series of transformations. The hospital aide turns out to be [famed German composer and pianist Ludwig van] Beethoven. So there is a surrealistic part to it and some magic to it.”

“Best Laid Plans” will be staged when Vantage can find the right place for it, likely next fall.

“In between we might do staged readings of things that are sent to us, but when we gear up for big productions … they are going to be big,” Salois said. “So finding the right place is critical. Sometimes we start something and it takes on a life of its own.”

A past Vantage Theatre production of "The Color of Light" looked at the life of French artist Henri Matisse.
(Provided by Dori Salois)

One of its first venues was a high school in the 1980s that had a theater but no theater program. So, Salois said, she and Salerno were asked to put together some professional shows, some of which involved the students.

“We started doing site-specific work, and that became what we were known for. Whatever the space allows, that’s what we staged,” Salois said.

“When we gear up for big productions … they are going to be big. So finding the right place is critical.”

— Dori Salois

Other venues included the WorldBeat Cultural Center in San Diego’s Balboa Park, where they featured TV screens around the main stage and the audience members had to turn their chairs to see the production as it moved around the space.

A few summers later, they staged a production at Belmont Park in Mission Beach that featured a walk-through component that allowed the audience a turn at being a main character.

“We like new work the best,” Salois said. “We’ll take a classic and put it on its head, but we are also partial to developing new plays. Plus, it’s the same amount of work to do a small play or epic pieces — you still have to do all the work. So if you want to go big, go big. So that’s what we do.”

Learn more at or call (858) 461-8552. ◆