Creative Coastal Culture: Discover the La Jolla Arts Scene

murals of la jolla

La Jolla has long been a popular destination for visitors, and it’s no surprise why: the coastal neighborhood just 15 minutes north of downtown San Diego offers some of San Diego’s most scenic views and stunning beaches. But there’s much more to this coastal neighborhood when you step off the sand, especially if you’re an arts lover.

La Jolla is home to incredible museums, outdoor sculptures and murals, and one of the world’s best theater companies, just to name a few of the area’s fabulous features.

Get to Know the Vibrant Art and Culture of La Jolla


Magnificent Museums

La Jolla’s variety of museums offer something for everyone:

Art in the Outdoors

murals of la jolla

This Julian Opie mural is just one of many in the Murals of La Jolla collection

With such beautiful natural surroundings, the best way to enjoy the arts in La Jolla is outdoors.

  • The Stuart Collection at the University of San Diego, California is full of surprises that will delight visitors.
  • Take a walking tour of downtown La Jolla to search for all the artworks in the Murals of La Jolla collection.
  • In addition to the exhibitions on their galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego features a spectacular sculpture garden overlooking the Pacific coastline.

> Explore More of San Diego – Nine Arts Districts, One Vibrant City


Fall Theater in San Diego: Conjoined Twins, Travesties and Much Ado

Side Show La Jolla Playhouse San Diego

Fall in San Diego is pretty great. The weather is warm, the beaches are free of the summer crowds, and there are lots of wonderful fairs and festivals happening nearly every weekend. With so many reasons to stay outdoors, sitting inside a theater may not be at the top of you fall to-do list, but a variety of spectacular offerings from San Diego’s award-winning theaters will surely convince you to stray off the beach for a few hours.

Side Show at the La Jolla Playhouse

Side Show La Jolla Playhouse San Diego

Don’t miss Side Show at the La Jolla Playhouse this fall

It may look like your average musical, but Side Show offers a surprising twist on burlesque theater. Inspired by a true story, sisters Violet and Daisy just want to live and love like any other women would. The problem? The two are conjoined twins making a living as performs in a side-show. Together, the two guide the audience through an honest and enthralling look inside their lives.

Where: La Jolla Playhouse  – 2910 La Jolla Village Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037
Run Dates: November 5 – December 15, 2013
Tickets: Start at $15
>Find out more about Side Show at the La Jolla Playhouse

What a Travesty! at Cygnet Theatre

Travesties - Cygnet Theatre - Fall Theater in San Diego

Travesties is on stage now at the Cygnet Theatre

Take one part Wilde, a touch of Lenin, a dash of Dada, a pinch of Joyce and you’ve got Tom Stoppard’s Tony award-winning Travesties. The playwright behind Arcadia and Shakespeare in Love, Stoppard weaves a medley of literature, philosophy, politics, and history in this humorous play at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town San Diego.

Where: 4040 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110
Show Dates: Now through October 27, 2013
Tickets: $29-$54
> Find out more about Travesties at the Cygnet Theatre

Much Ado About the Old Globe

Much Ado about Nothing Old Globe Theatre San Diego

The Old Globe offers a Shakespearian classic this fall

Did you catch Joss Whedon’s contemporary adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing in the movie theater last year? Whether you want to compare the old with the new or simply can’t get enough of the timeless Shakespeare classic, theater goers young and old will love seeing the Bard’s wit and humor come to life on The Old Globe‘s state-of-the-art stage.

Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
Run Dates: November 9-17, 2013
Tickets: Start at $16
> Get tickets to Much Ado About Nothing at The Old Globe

> Discover more Fall Theater in San Diego

Are you excited for fall theater in San Diego? Let us know which shows you’ll be seeing in the comments below.


Love, Death and Gossip: San Diego Theatre in May

Shakespeare's R & J at Cygnet Theatre

This May, San Diego’s theatre line-up reads like the cover of a tabloid magazine with the promise of love, death and intrigue. From the fresh retelling of Shakespeare’s classic, Romeo and Juliet, to the stage version of the 1940’s movie, His Girl Friday, May is a great time to get into the gossip and head out to one of San Diego’s top theatres.

Shakespeare’s R & J at Cygnet Theatre

Shakespeare's R & J at Cygnet Theatre

Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of coming of age love, Romeo and Juliet, has been band from a repressive, parochial school for boys, but when four students discover a copy, they find the forbidden text strongly represents their own adolescent passion in this unique “play within a play” version of Romeo and Juliet.

Where: Cygnet Theatre – 4040 Twiggs Street, San Diego, CA 92110
When: May 22 – June 16, 2013
Cost: $19-$54
> Get your tickets to Shakespeare’s R&J

Be a Good Little Widow at the Old Globe Theatre

Be a Good Little Widow at the Old Globe Theatre

What is the right way to grieve? This is the question young wife Melody must face when her husband’s business trip ends tragically in a plane crash. As Melody’s concerns make a drastic switch from which throw pillows look best to how to properly wear black, Be a Good Little Widow takes the audience through a bittersweet look at the sadness and humor that unites of life and death, grief and hope.

Where: The Old Globe Theatre – 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
When: May 11 – June 9, 2013
Cost: Tickets start at $29
> Get your tickets to Be a Good Little Widow

His Girl Friday at the La Jolla Playhouse

His Girl Friday at the La Jolla Playhouse

Immortalized by Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the 1940 movie of the same name, His Girl Friday is a fast-talking comedy set in a 1939 Chicago press room. Reporter Hildy Johnson is just about to leave the paper for good when her editor/ex-husband tempts her with the scoop of a lifetime. The lure of fame and rekindled romance prove more than she can resist.

Where: La Jolla Playhouse – 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037
When: May 28 – June 30, 2013
Cost: Tickets start at $15
> Get your tickets to His Girl Friday

> Enjoy more live theatre in San Diego

Where’s your favorite place to catch live theatre in San Diego?


San Diego Theatre Preview: Winter 2013

Winter San Diego Theatre - San Diego Opera - Daughter of the Regiment

As temperatures cool outdoors, creativity heats up in theatres across San Diego. Check out the grandest form of all theatre with the beautiful and bold productions at the San Diego Opera, or get an intimate view into the theater workshopping process with La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Work Series. Check out the San Diego Theatre Preview below for more Winter 2013 must-see shows.

San Diego Opera – The Daughter of the Regiment

Winter San Diego Theatre - San Diego Opera - Daughter of the Regiment

San Diego Opera kicks off an exhilarating season with Donizetti’s sparkling and hilarious, The Daughter of the Regiment. The story tells of the orphaned French girl, Marie, adopted by a regiment of soldiers in the waning days of World War II. The independent, spunky Mario love Tonio, a peasant, but the Marquise tries to marry her off to a rich Duke. Luckily for Marie, the Marquise is thwarted and Marie is free to marry Tonio. Hear, hear, for opera with a happy ending!

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 3rd Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 (map)
When: January 26 – February 3, 2013
Cost: $35 – $275
> Find out more about San Diego Opera’s The Daughter of the Regiment

Old Globe Theatre – Pygmalion

Winter San Diego Theatre - Old Globe Theatre - Pygmalion

Old Globe Theatre presents George Bernard Shaw’s most popular modern masterpiece (which Lerner and Loewe adapted as the musical My Fair Lady), Pygmalion. The poor flower-seller Eliza Doolittle is in the right place at the right time, just as speech professor Henry Higgins makes a friendly wager that he can change her accent and pass her off as the epitome of English society. Pygmalion is a funny, touching, unforgettable battle of wits between two of the theatre’s most iconic characters.

Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101-1696 (map)
When: January 12 – February 17, 2013
Cost: Tickets start at $29
> Find out more about Old Globe Theatre’s Pygmalion

La Jolla Playhouse – DNA New Work Series

Winter San Diego Theatre - La Jolla Playhouse - DNA New Work Series

La Jolla Playhouse announces a new play development initiative, the DNA New Work Series, which will entail a six-week period of workshop productions and readings of new plays and musicals. First up is Chasing the Song, which follows a group of pop songwriters and the changing sounds of music charts in the early 1960’s before the Beatles emerged and transformed the entire music world.

Where: 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037 (map)
When: January 24 – March 3, 2013
Cost: $0-$20
> Find out more about La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Work Series

Lamb’s Players Theatre – Pete ‘n Keely

Winter San Diego Theatre - Lamb's Players Theatre - Pete 'n Keely

Lamb’s Players Theatre welcomes Pete ‘n Keely to the stage. The year is 1968 and it’s been a thrilling week of rehearsing at the NBC studios for the live telecast of Pete and Keely Reunion Special. This Off-Broadway hit is packed with classic favorites like, “Besame Mucho,” “Secret Love” and “Fever” as well as great new songs.

Where: 1142 Orange Ave, Coronado CA 92118 (map)
When: January 18-March 3, 2013
Cost: $12-$68
> Find out more about Lamb’s Players Theatre’s Pete ‘n Keely

Cygnet Theatre – Gem of the Ocean

Winter San Diego Theatre - Cygnet Theatre - Gem of the Ocean

For a moving and thought-provoking start to 2013, Cygnet Theatre presents Gem of the Ocean. Gem of the Ocean is chronologically the first of ten plays in August Wilson’s acclaimed Century Cycle examining African-American experience in the 20th century. Citizen Barlow sparks a chain of events that drive a community into turmoil and set him on a journey, guided by 285-year-old Aunt Ester, towards personal redemption.

Where: 4040 Twiggs Street, San Diego, CA 92110 (map)
When: January 24 – February 24, 2013
Cost: $15-$34
> Find out more about Cygnet Theatre’s Gem of the Ocean

> Find more San Diego Theatre Shows


A Dimension Torn Free of the Future: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at the La Jolla Playhouse

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at the La Jolla Playhouse

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at the La Jolla Playhouse

The La Jolla Playhouse‘s Des McAnuff is no stranger to producing big, blockbuster theater. During his previous tenure as the Artistic Director for the Playhouse, he masterminded shows including The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Jersey Boys. Under his leadership, the Playhouse received more than 200 awards.

It’s no surprise then that, after departing in 2007, McAnuff would return to the Playhouse to take on a challenging production: adapting an iconic rock album into a musical stage production. Released in 2002, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed albums by delightfully weird indie rockers The Flaming Lips.

Given the beloved state of the album, not to mention its complex themes of technology and humanity, adapting the album for the stage would seem to be no easy feat, even without having to create the mythical pink robots referenced in the album’s title and songs.  Proving himself up to the challenge, MacAnuff creates an enthralling production that will leave you captivated, awed and perhaps even a little weepy.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at the La Jolla Playhouse

Glowing pink robots, both life-sized and larger than life, glide through otherwise stark sets. With the entire stage framed in a luminous white border that mimics a computer screen and impressive tech elements (like projected touch screens and text message-style displays) floating in and out of scenes, viewers find themselves lost somewhere between the present and an imaginary future. Yet the technology and staging are just big enough, never overpowering the underlying humanity of the story, as the actors delicately unfold a tale both tragic and life affirming.

As the writers of the source material, the Flaming Lips should be proud to see what their album has inspired, as what shines through most in Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is the power of song. Using both tracks from the Yoshimi album and other hits from the Flaming Lips’ repertoire, like the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Waitin’ for a Superman,” MacAnuff has seamlessly crafted a storyline through song, so much so that there is very little dialogue throughout the show. On stage, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots has done precisely what the best adaptations should do, simultaneously capturing the power of the source material while transforming it into something new, something equally magical in its own way.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is on stage at the La Jolla Playhouse through Dec. 16, 2012. Don’t miss your chance to see this powerful show!


Fall for Theatre in San Diego this 2012 Autumn

Allegiance starring George Takei at the Old Globe Theater

It’s a musical fall in San Diego’s theater lineup, and big names are the big news. From a whimsical Broadway favorite to a melancholy reflection of American history to giant robots and contemporary indie rock music, these productions offer a theatre experience for just about every theatregoer’s taste.

Allegiance – A New American Musical

Allegiance starring George Takei at the Old Globe Theater

Allegiance at the Old Globe Theater stars George Takei.

Running now through Oct. 21, The Old Globe presents Allegiance – A New American Musical. This new production is an epic story of family, love and patriotism set during the Japanese-American internment of World War II. The star-studded cast includes Lea Solanga, winner of the 1990 Tony Award® for her role in Miss Saigon, and George Takei, the veteran actor best known for playing Dr. Sulu on the original Star Trek series.

> Get Allegiance – A New American Musical Tickets Now

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at the La Jolla Playhouse

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, based on the album by the Flaming Lips, debuts at the La Jolla Playhouse.

On November 6, the world-renowned La Jolla Playhouse will debut Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, a new musical featuring a story by The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Playhouse Director Emeritus Des McAnuff (director of The Who’s Tommy and Jersey Boys). Based on the album of the same name by the indie rock band The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi tells the story of a young Japanese artist facing a battle for her life in a fantastical robot-world. This world-premiere production runs through December 16.

> Get Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Tickets Now

Peter Pan

Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan at Broadway San Diego

A classic childhood tale and Broadway smash hit comes to San Diego as Broadway/San Diego presents Peter Pan, Nov. 13-18. Peter Pan stars Cathy Rigby, the Olympic gymnast turned thespian, in the role that she made famous. Rigby’s high-flying theatrics will have everyone in the audience believing they will never grow up.

> Get Peter Pan Tickets Now

Don’t miss your chance to enjoy a spectacular show and catch one of these big-name shows before it’s too late!


What Would You Endure for an American Dream?

Hands on a Hardbody Cast - La Jolla Playhouse

This is the inadvertent question asked by the latest La Jolla Playhouse production, Hands on a Hardbody. Based on a 1997 documentary about a group of Texans vying to outlast each other by placing one gloved hand on brand new Nissan truck in hopes of driving off with it, this new American musical engages the audience to ask themselves these questions: What you are willing to do for your dream? Would you stand under the searing Texas sun for days with nine other strangers? Endure sleep deprivation, hallucinations and numbness of limbs for a chance to drive off the lot in a brand new truck?

Hands on a Hard Body Poster

As I sat comfortably in the La Jolla Playhouse’s intimate Mandell Weiss Theater, I knew I wasn’t crazy enough to put myself through that kind of torment, which is what made the premise all the more intriguing. But an alluring premise does not a successful musical make. After all, how do you make a group of people standing around a truck come alive on stage? My curiosity peaked as the first character took the stage.

La Jolla Playhouse - Hand on a Hard Body

Creative force behind Hands on a Hardbody (L-R): Doug Wright, Trey Anastasio, Amanda Green and Benjamin Millepied.

The creative force behind Hands on a Hardbody consists of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning writer (and Texas native) Doug Wright, music composed by Trey Anastasia (founder of the band Phish), lyrics by Amanda Green (Broadway’s High Fidelity and Bring it On: The Musical) and stage choreography by Benjamin Millepied (Black Swan). The result of their collaboration is nothing short of a vibrantly composed, elegantly choreographed and spirited production.

Hands on a Hardbody Cast - La Jolla Playhouse

(L-R) Jay Armstrong Johnson, Keala Settle, Hunter Foster and Keith Carradine. Photo by Kevin Berne.

I have not seen the original documentary, but after viewing some clips on YouTube, it seems they remain quite true to the real people, down to the mustache of Benny Perkins (played by Hunter Foster) and the headphones of Norma Valverde (played by Keala Settle). The colorful cast of characters each have their own motivation and purpose, but are all driven to the truck by the same force of economic depravity. The truck, symbolizing the American Dream (ironically a Japanese-made Nissan model) is the notable 16th character, which lights up, honks and moves fluidly on the stage with the characters. Each character’s story unfolds through song. The catchy melodies and heart-felt lyrics draw the audience into their struggles. The truck means something different for each person: a one-way ticket to Hollywood; God’s will; or a means for college tuition.

Hands on a Hard Body Cast - La Jolla Playhouse

(L-R) Jay Armstrong Johnson, Allison Case and Hunter Foster. Photo by Kevin Berne.

I found myself rooting for my favorite character, just as an observer from grand stand at the Texas dealership or the radio listener who followed the 5-day contest must have. One by one, the characters drop off as their hopes for the truck fall away with them, until one victor remains. As the cast takes the stage one last time for the final score, their collective hopes rise again, permeating the audience with the enduring message that far exceeds the prize itself: If you love something, keep your hands on it.

The performance on Saturday night ended with a standing ovation from the crowd. My husband and I left the theater, hand-in-hand, reminded and inspired to pursue our lives with a little more heart, and how gel insoles could help us along the way.

La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere, commissioned musical Hands on a Hardbody runs through June 17 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre. Book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, directed by Neil Pepe, musical staging by Benjamin Millepied.

So tell us in the comments below, would you be willing to endure five days under the scorching sun for the chance to take home your dream…a new car?


5 to Try This Weekend

1. Meet an Astronaut: On Friday, August 26, the San Diego Air & Space Museum is offering a special opportunity to meet Al Worden, command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971. Worden will give a talk relating his fascinating moon-travel experiences, and sign copies of his new book Falling To Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut’s Journey to the Moon.

2. Ride the Bridge-Bike the Bay: On Sunday, August 28th, take advantage of a rare opportunity to ride over the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge. This popular, noncompetitive 25-mile ride along Bayshore Bikeway passes through the cities of Coronado, San Diego, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and National City. Registration is required.

3. Julian Star Fest: Professionals and amateur enthusiasts explore the world of astonomy during this four-day festival from August 25-28. The festival takes place at Julian’s Menghini Winery and will include exhibition areas, guest speakers and an astronomy equipment swap meet.

4. Sleeping Beauty Wakes, La Jolla Playhouse: Extended through this weekend is the popular Sleeping Beauty Wakes. The story follows the characters after a father brings his sleeping daughter in to a sleep disorder clinic, staff and patients mysteriously find themselves sharing the same dream. With beguiling characters, hypnotic lyrics, and a rocking score from GrooveLily, this musical about a father, a daughter and an unlikely suitor dives into the magical space between dreaming and waking.

5. Orfila Grape Stomp: When their fruit is harvested in late August, Orfila Vineyards and Winery in Escondido hosts this fun-filled event so guests can help stomp the grapes and enjoy great food, live music and tractor rides through the vineyards.


Get A Sneek Peek Before Broadway

San Diego is a major theater town.  Productions that premiere here head off to the Great White Way every year. Lately, we’ve had a lot of luck with musicals like The Old Globe’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and La Jolla Playhouse’s Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys

In fact, debuting this fall on Broadway is Memphis which I saw right here, at La Jolla Playhouse, last year. It’s good, check it out if you’re in NYC!

What does this mean for you? Especially if you’re visiting San Diego? Well, you can brag to theater buffs that you saw it first in San Diego. 

This season, if luck holds, it looks like The Old Globe is giving musical fans a chance to preview another (future) Broadway show with the world premiere of The First Wive’s Club: A New Musical showing now through Aug. 23 in Balboa Park. 

Check out a preview of the show with new songs by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland:

PS.  This is our 100th post.  Hooray!