The Old Globe Theatre was built in 1935 for the presentation of abridged versions of Shakespeare's plays as part of the California Pacific International Exposition. At the conclusion of the exposition in 1937, a non-profit producing corporation, the San Diego Community Theatre, leased the theater and adjacent buildings from the City of San Diego (an arrangement that continues today) and renovated the theater for ongoing use.
On December 2, 1937, the remodeled Old Globe Theatre opened with a production of John Van Druten's The Distaff Side. In the cast was a young actor named Craig Noel, whose presence as an actor, director, and artistic leader would guide the theater's growth through more than five decades of continuous production, and whose role as Founding Director continues to this day.
In 1969 the original restaurant facility adjacent to the Old Globe Theatre, known as the Falstaff Tavern, was remodeled to become the 225-seat Cassius Carter Centre Stage, an intimate space devoted to the production of new and experimental theater.
On March 8, 1978, an arson fire destroyed the landmark Old Globe Theatre. Fortunately, the administrative offices, rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, scenery and costume shops, and the Cassius Carter Centre Stage were spared from the flames. While plans to rebuild the Globe were put into action, the immediate need for a space to produce that summer's San Diego National Shakespeare Festival resulted in the construction of the Festival Stage, an award-winning outdoor theater.
In January 1981, the theatre's board of directors established the Globe as a year-round professional company, initiating more than a decade of extraordinary growth. In 1982, the new 581-seat Old Globe Theatre opened with a production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. When the Festival Stage was destroyed by another arson fire in 1984, the new 612-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre was constructed in 1985. A decade later, a fundraising campaign retired the debt from the two fires and financed a major reconstruction and remodeling project, unveiling an enhanced rehearsal and administrative complex, box office, gift shop, pub, and landscaped plaza.
The Old Globe has been home to the most acclaimed national artists, designers, directors and playwrights in the Theatre industry. More than twenty productions produced at The Old Globe have gone on to play on Broadway and off-Broadway and continuing this tradition, The Old Globe’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2005, and the 2000 production of The Full Monty garnered 10 Tony Award® nominations for its successful Broadway run. Globe Artistic Director Jack O’Brien received the 2003 Tony Award® for his direction of the musical Hairspray and the 2004 Tony Award® for his direction of Henry IV at Lincoln Center. These awards bring world attention not only to The Old Globe but also to San Diego’s rich cultural landscape.
The Old Globe annually produces 15 mainstage productions from all periods and styles, ranging from Shakespeare to an ongoing emphasis on the development and production of new works, and an annual family musical, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas!. With a current operating budget of approximately $20 million, the Globe is one of San Diego's largest arts institutions, its leading arts employer, and among the nation's top-ranked regional theatres. More than 250,000 people annually attend Globe productions and participate in the theater's education programs and outreach services.
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