Inside the Icon: The Old Globe
The Balboa Park landmark celebrates 80 years of theatrical art in 2015
Photo by Jesse Lazaro
Visit the Icon
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
A Faithful Replica
Built for the presentation of abridged works of Shakespeare at the California Pacific International Exposition, the theater replicates the Bard’s home base, the Globe Theatre in London, and initially had no roof.
Groundbreaking for San Diego’s Globe Theatre took place on April 28, 1935, with opening day just 31 days later, on May 29.
The Demanding Early Days
In the theater’s first year, programs opened daily at 1 p.m. and included seven or eight shortened versions of Shakespeare plays. Each actor played as many as six roles per day.
Twice a Victim of Arson
On March 8, 1978, fire destroyed all but the admin offices, rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, scenery and costume shops, and the Cassius Carter Center Stage. The Festival Stage was then constructed to accommodate the summer’s San Diego National Shakespeare Festival. That stage was destroyed by another arson fire in 1984, resulting in the construction of the new 612-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in 1985.
Queen Mum Visits
After the 1978 arson fire, the rebuilt theater opened in 1982, earning a visit from Queen Elizabeth II the following year. She unveiled a bronze bust of Shakespeare, installed in the lobby.
Twenty-one shows with Old Globe origins have gone to Broadway, garnering 12 Tony Awards and 72 nominations. The most recent winner of Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, had its world premiere at the Globe in 2013.
This month marks the 17th season of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Vanessa Hudgens, of High School Musical fame, played the first Cindy-Lou Who in the 1998 debut season. Close to 200 local children have been cast in the show since then.
A Half-Million in Whoville
More than 500,000 people have attended Grinch since 1998. The Seuss-inspired Christmas tree is lit each night during the show’s run.
For the third year, the Globe is offering a sensory-friendly performance of Grinch for children on the autism spectrum, as well as other families with special needs. Slight adjustments include fewer loud noises and flashing lights, a pre-show visit to familiarize children with the theater, and a quiet area in the lobby.
John Goodman, Christopher Walken, Neil Patrick Harris, Lea Salonga, John Lithgow, Christopher Reeve, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kelsey Grammer have appeared on The Old Globe stage.
Top Dollar for Takei
The world-premiere musical Allegiance, which featured Star Trek legend (and Facebook fan favorite) George Takei, is the highest-grossing show in Globe history, taking in $2.23 million in seven weeks of performances.