La Jolla Playhouse Hosts Year-Long Residency for San Diego’s Common Ground Theater


Common Ground Theatre, the third oldest black theater group in the country, has been named 2022-23 theater in residence at La Jolla Playhouse.

The troupe was launched in southeast San Diego in 1963 and is celebrating its 59th season this year. Led by Executive Artistic Director Yolanda Franklin, the company will begin its residency on Saturday, July 9 with “Still We Rise,” an evening of poetry by black authors including Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Amanda Gorman and music by Rob Thorsen Jazz. Trio.

The La Jolla Playhouse Theater-in-Residence program, now in its 12th year, was created to help small theater companies without their own permanent performance space. In addition to providing venues to rehearse and present plays, the residency includes lighting and sound support as well as marketing and development mentorship. Past theaters in residence have included the San Diego Asian American Repertory Theater, Moxie Theater, Teatro Máscara Mágica, and Blindspot Collective.

“Common Ground has a long and storied history in San Diego, and we are honored to serve as their home during the 2022-23 season,” La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley said in a statement.

Franklin said she was thrilled to bring the spirit of Common Ground to the performance hall and its audience.

“Everything Common Ground does is created and produced by black artists,” she said. “It is important to present these stories to an audience that has never heard them before. But I’m also very excited to bring our Southeast San Diego audience to the venue.

For the past two years, Common Ground has produced most of its work online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, a $35 million renovation underway at its long-term residence space. date, the Educational Cultural Complex (ECC) in the Mountain View area of ​​San Diego. Franklin said that with the reopening of the ECC, Common Ground will be producing shows at both locations.

In La Jolla, there will still be a studio production of Sheryl Mallory Johnson’s new play “Sense of Love,” as well as a monthly Uplifting Black Voices Play reading series from playwrights who identify as black or cross paths with Blackness.

At the ECC, Hughes’ “Black Nativity” is slated for the winter and George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum” will be presented in February.

Franklin said one of the most exciting aspects of the Playhouse residency is the training she will receive in marketing and fundraising, which could push Common Ground to a new level of visibility and stability. She also praised Old Globe’s artistic director, Barry Edelstein, who provided advice on running the business.

“Everything Common Ground does is created and produced by black artists. It is important to present these stories to an audience that has never heard them before. But I’m also very excited to bring our Southeast San Diego audience to the venue.

— Yolanda Franklin, Executive Artistic Director, Common Ground Theater

Franklin was named Artistic Director of Common Ground in August 2020 after serving for a year as guest artistic director while longtime frontman Charles Patmon Jr. was on medical leave. He died in January 2020. Since then, the company has also mourned the deaths of co-founder Robert Matthews and longtime board member Dorothy LW Smith, who recruited Franklin to Common Ground as a director in 2019. .

” I’m motivated. It means so much to me to be able to do this,” Franklin said.

Franklin had just opened the musical “Little Rock” at the ECC when the pandemic took hold in March 2020. It quickly moved online, first collaborating with Moxie Theater for the “Dinner and a Zoom”, then with producer Cory Immele for digital. playing readings that included “Day of Absence” by Douglas Turner Ward. She also oversaw several performances of “Still We Rise” at various venues, as well as two June 19th celebrations and collaborated with Diversionary Theater on a co-production of Donja Love’s play “One in Two”.

In the past year, she has also directed or co-directed the Community Actors Theater and La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Work series.

“We Always Rise”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday July 9

Where: Shank Theater, Northpoint Driveway, UC San Diego, La Jolla

Cost: $25

Information: secure site.lajollaplayhouse.org/18065/18068

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