Sunday, March 26, 2023

WOW! It’s a four-day-festival.

 By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Birdmen (Courtesy of Close-Act Theatre Company)

I’ve been a fan of La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) Festival  since 2011, when they first presented Susurrus, an audio adventure in San Diego Botanic Garden by Scottish playwright David Leddy that offered a thrilling new experience of the Garden.

This year, in association with the San Diego Symphony, the Playhouse will be presenting its sixth full-out festival at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park from April 27-30. It’s a great space for an assortment of multimedia performances and this year, for the first time, admission to all events will be free.


The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park (Photo by Maurice Hewitt)

Among the events I’m looking forward to is Birdmen, from Close-Act Theatre Company in the Netherlands. They’re known for creating larger-than-life spectacles that are audience-inclusive and this one will feature huge birdlike creatures that communicate with colors.
I’m also looking forward to being part of the orchestra in A Shared Space, a San Diego Symphony presentation that will take over the spacious lawn at the Rady Shell for a communal performance.  And I’m planning to walk through a maze: TuYu Theatre’s Las Cuatro Milpas, a corn maze filled with Aztec murals, music, and the amazing stories behind San Diego’s oldest Mexican restaurant, Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan.
And then there’s La Lucha, a world premiere from award-winning scenic and costume designer David Israel Reynoso and his Optika Moderna. This is a special WOW project presented in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego that will preview at MCASD’s downtown location April 27-30, in tandem with the Festival, and continue performances May 11-June 4. 

La Lucha (Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

Optika Moderna, who have appeared at previous WOW Fests, lead willing participants into mysterious settings where you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the action. Inspired by Lucha Libre, masked Mexican wrestlers who use high-flying maneuvers to thrill their audiences, La Lucha promises to fill MCASD’s galleries with ringside cheers and backstage secrets. For this special event, ticket prices start at $39.

All WOW events are site-specific, so photos can give you only a small sense of what they’ll be like in person. To get really WOWed, make a date to come see for yourself…and bring friends and family too. Don’t forget your cellphone and charger; you’ll need them if you want to participate in some of the performances. For others, reservations are recommended. For further information and a full schedule of events, see

To get some idea of the kinds of things you may be seeing, check out the visuals below.

Remembrance of WOWs Past

2013: Seafoam Extravaganza. For the first WoW Festival, on the UCSD campus and beyond, the award-winning New York-based puppeteer Basil Twist created a Birth-of-Venus extravaganza with a giant puppet goddess, live music and wet-suited performers, drawing rapt audiences to La Jolla Shores. (Photo by Maurice Hewitt)

We Built This City.  On campus, Australia’s Polyglot Theatre invited children and their adults to turn piles of cardboard boxes into interesting creations. (Photo by Lonnie Hewitt.)


2017 Super Night Shot. Passers-by became co-stars in a movie when Berlin-based Gob Squad Arts Collective (with their Gob Squad Bunny) staged this magical mystery tour through the night-time streets of San Diego.  (Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

2019: Peregrinus. Three views of an unforgettable performance at Liberty Station by Poland’s Teatr KTO that poked fun at the deadening lives of office-workers. (Photos by Lonnie Hewitt)

At Rest.

On the Move


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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