Margie M. Palmer
Theater in the La Mesa area is alive and well; in the upcoming weeks, both Moxie Theatre and Lamplighters Community Theatre are on deck to premier their latest productions.
Lamplighters President and Artistic Director Mark Loveless said the group, founded in 1937, is unique in that they tend to be a little more old-fashioned than their counterparts.
“We try to be more inventive about the types of plays we do and tend to be more of an educating theater than the others are,” he said, noting this tends to attract a more mature audience.
Their next production, “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” is set to open on Feb. 6 and will run through March 1. Show times are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The fast-paced suspense-comedy is set at a Howard Johnson’s Motor Inn and unfolds around a love triangle. In the first scene, the husband and wife plot to kill her lover; in the second, the wife and her lover plot to kill her husband; in the last, the husband and lover decide to work together to kill the wife.
Loveless said one of his favorite things about working in community theater is when patrons come up to him after a show to ask questions about it.
“And again, this is getting back to the education,” he said. “I love it when people come up to me and said they enjoyed the work we just did but also have some questions about it. That is what theater should be all about; people need to learn and laugh and that is what life is all about.”
Lamplighters had been dark for the past nine years after their performance space at the Ben Polack Art Center was demolished in August 2006, but Loveless wants La Mesans to know they are back up and running. Their newly remodeled theater space, he said, is located in the shopping center at Severin and Amaya drives.
But Lamplighters isn’t the only theater group in the area that is set to debut a new show. Moxie Theatre — located just west of the La Mesa-San Diego border at 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N — will launch its latest production on Jan. 23.
“Trouble in Mind” is described as a semi-satirical, groundbreaking classic in which a racially integrated cast begins rehearsing for what everyone hopes will be a big Broadway hit. But social norms and prejudices collide as the company of aspiring stars, hard-edged veterans and hopeful dreamers set out to make a play with a message.
The play fits directly into Moxie’s mission of creating more diverse and honest images of women through the art of the stage, said Delicia Sonnenberg, Moxie’s artistic director and the director of “Trouble in Mind.”
“The play was written in 1955 and is set in 1957. We wanted to try to program a classic that we could welcome a younger audience to,” Sonnenberg said. “I had read about this play and eventually got a copy and read it. It fit our mission succinctly. It’s about stereotypes and art; company actors come together to do an integrated play about a lynching and the story is about how they navigate the difficult question of image and race.”
The play is currently experiencing a renaissance in American theater, she said, and Moxie is excited to be the first company to bring it to the San Diego region.
“One of the actors in the play, Russ Yeager, was born and raised in East County,” Sonnenberg said. “And while I hope that when people come to Moxie that they have an experience that is both intelligent and fun, I also hope they are able to see the level of talent we have in our own region.”
Trouble in Mind opens Jan. 22 and will run through Feb. 22. Show times are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information on Lamplighters, call the box office at 619-286-3685. For more information on Moxie, call 858-598-7620.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.