Current and former San Diego theater-makers making national news

Seema Sueko, a freelance director who founded San Diego’s former Mo’olelo Performing Arts Theater before leaving town in 2013, has been honored this month with the prestigious Alan Schneider Director Award from the national Theater Communications Group in New York.

The award honors promising mid-career stage directors whose achievements have been demonstrated through work in specific US regions or territories, but who may not be known more widely or recognized nationally. Past recipients have included Daniel Banks, Mary Adrales, Kimberly Senior and Liesl Tommy.

“At TCG, we have long admired Seema Sueko’s work,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG in a statement. “From her founding of Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, where she developed the Green Theater Choices Toolkit, to her work in Consensus Organizing, to her development of the Arena Stage Theater Artists Marketplace, Seema has always matched her director artistry to a transformative vision of what theater can do and be. She truly models TCG’s mission of leading for a just and thriving theater ecology, and we’re thrilled to honor her with the Alan Schneider Director Award.”

Sueko and Kim Palma, who left early on, launched Mo’olelo in San Diego in 2004, with the goal of creating a diverse and thought-provoking issue-oriented plays on subjects that grew to include immigration, school violence and health-related issues. In December 2013, she left to serve as associate artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse for 2 1/2 years and then spent four years as deputy artistic director at Arena Stage in Washington, DC Mo’olelo stopped producing in 2015 and officially folded in 2017.

Sueko’s most recent project is “Imagine a US Without Racism,” a play she wrote and directed based on interviews she conducted in 2021 with 100 people nationwide. It premiered in April in Minneapolis.

Locals launch theater incubator

Several San Diego theater industry veterans have this month launched an Aggregate Collective, a national theater incubator program that will support the development of new plays that expand ethnic, cultural, social-economic and gender representation.

Aggregate will workshop the plays in Grants Pass, Ore., but all of the initial development and dramaturgy will be done via Zoom and streaming applications, so artists from all over the country can participate. There’s also a learning component, where audiences can watch the streamed staged readings at an annual Aggregate festival.

Aggregate’s creators have roots in San Diego. Co-founder Julia Cuppy earned her master’s degree in musical theater from San Diego State and was director of education and outreach at La Jolla Playhouse. She now lives in Oregon. Co-founder Jaese Lecuyer has also choreographed and taught in San Diego. And the collective’s production manager, Anthony Zelig, is a longtime local theater designer, producer and official marketing who spent five years with Coronado Playhouse before becoming patron services and marketing manager at San Diego Junior Theater last summer.

The Collective’s first project is “Exit Right,” a musical by composer Ian Brandon, lyricist Anne-Marie Thompson and librettist Matthew Buckley Smith. The artists’ residency in Grants Pass will take place July 15-22. Brandon is a San Diego-based music director who has worked at the Old Globe, Lamb’s Players, Diversionary Theater and many other local theater companies. Visit aggregatecollective.com.

GUMBO theater group from Osaka, Japan, won Best of the Fest at the 2022 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

(SDIFF)

Fringe winners announced

The San Diego International Fringe Festival, which finished a 10-day run in Balboa Park on June 12, has announced its list of award-winning acts. Here are some of the winners:

Theater Group Gumbo from Osaka, Japan, won Best of the Fest and Audience Favorite honors for its show “Are You Lovin’ It.” Phina Pipia won Best Solo Performance for “Ha Ha Da Vinci.” Brelby Productions won Outstanding Ensemble for “Luna & Solis.” Paco Erhard’s “Worst. German. Ever” won the Critic’s Pick award. BJ Robinson’s “Pandemusical Diaries” won Artist’s Pick. Catherine Barnes’ “Yes, No, Maybe, So” won Spirit of the Fringe.

Wildsong plans ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

Wildsong Productions, a new San Diego nonprofit community theater dedicated to making arts accessible to all, has announced plans to present the Frank Wildhorn musical “Jekyll & Hyde” in a production opening June 30 at OB Playhouse in Ocean Beach. Performances are at 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays and 3 pm Sundays. Tickets are $25.

Later this summer, Wildsong will present Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s musical “Spring Awakening” from July 22 through Aug. 7. For tickets, vist wildsongproductions.showit.site/#about.

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.

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