Published in KPBS On Air Magazine February 1995

The Gaslamp Quarter has undergone numerous transformations over the past fifteen years, and so has the theater that bears its name.   Evolving from the Women’s Theatre Ensemble, the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company made its mark on the local theater scene, then kept growing and expanding until it burst, acquiring Equity status, two theater spaces and a mountain of debt.   The company suspended operations in 1992, intending to regroup and recoup. Now the optimism is high again; there’s one theater less, a new woman at the helm, and a fifteenth anniversary season in the offing.

Last fall, Rosina Reynolds was named new artistic director.   A native of London, Reynolds first appeared onstage in San Diego fifteen years ago, acting with GQTC co-founder Kit Goldman. After time spent in Panama, L.A. and Wisconsin, she and her husband and daughter Katie returned to San Diego, and Reynolds gave several memorable performances at the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre (the 250-seat house that the GQTC acquired in 1984 and has retained; they lost the smaller Elizabeth North Theatre).   In her new role, she’s committed to presenting “an off-Broadway sense of immediate, important, contemporary theater.”

The first production of the anniversary season is the San Diego premiere of “Marvin’s Room” (Jan. 26-Feb. 19), Scott McPherson’s black comedy about two sisters, reconciliation, and taking care of someone with a terminal disease. Reynolds calls it “a heartening, humorous, poignant comedy-drama.”   Next up is Mame Hunter’s “Unquestioned Integrity” (March 9-April 2), based on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Senate hearings.   “It’s startling,” says Reynolds. “Very provocative.   Very persuasive.   Every time I read it, I take a different side.”  

The third offering is the world premiere production of “The Legacy” (April 27-May 21) by actor/writer Mark Harelik, a San Diego favorite. Another character with a terminal illness, but the focus here is on “trying to give to the next generation some sense of belonging, some spiritual support.”   Reynolds is not concerned about the controversy generated by the piece when it received a staged reading at the GQTC’s annual Streisand Festival of New Jewish Plays (this year, May 1-23). “It made some people angry, fearful. But that’s the point of theater. We don’t always give the answers.”

The Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company may not have all the answers to its own survival, but it’s ready to pose creative theatrical questions again. As Reynolds puts it, “we’re back with a vengeance and we’re back to stay.”

©1995 Patté Productions Inc.