Remember the wooden puppet, who wants to be a real boy, with the growing nose? His story is told through a group of Italian construction workers. And then, we travel with a fine china rabbit through four decades of his remarkable life.
Our last steps go to the darker and more mysterious streets of long-ago London, with an eerie barber and his neighbor lady who sells peculiar meat pies. You will find this otherworldly adventure just as exciting and extraordinary as all of those that preceded it!
In our 68th year, San Diego Junior Theatre is honored to present a show season that promises enchantment, imagination and wholehearted joy to audiences of all ages. You will be hard-pressed to choose just a few of our productions, so we encourage you to experience all of them. Our performers and production team members – ages 8 to 18 – are continually learning to bring out the best of themselves in new and creative ways. When you, our audience members, join us in the theater, together we contribute collaboratively to a brighter light…a light that touches our hearts and enhances our souls.
It is an honor to welcome you to a full wonderous journey – one that you will definitely find Wonder-Full!
Directed by Barb Heikkila
Music and Lyrics by Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard,
Oliver Wallace and Cy Coban, Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert,
Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston
Based on the works of Lewis Carroll and the 1951 Disney film
It’s #TeacherFeatureTuesday! Meet Michelle Gray, one of our voice teachers at SDJT.
It’s #TeacherFeatureTuesday! Meet Michelle Gray, one of our voice teachers at SDJT.
Michelle studied Music at UCSD and is an accomplished pianist and keyboardist. She has music directed and accompanied numerous Southern California theatre productions, ranging from youth to professional. Michelle has worked with several California regional theatre companies such as Moonlight, San Diego Musical Theatre, and Welk Resorts. In her spare time, Michelle teaches private piano and keyboard lessons and creates custom sound and backing tracks in her home studio. Michelle is teaching for summer camp as well as some classes in the fall.
EDUCATE, ELEVATE and CELEBRATE with Historic Balboa Park
Youth Organizations at “YOUTH IN ARTS” Exhibit
WHO: San Diego Civic Youth Ballet (SDCYB), San Diego Junior Theatre (SDJT), San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservancy (SDYS) and San Diego Civic Dance Arts (SDCDA)
WHAT: For generations, countless students have entered the halls of the historic Casa del Prado to enrich their lives through dance, theatre, music and the magic of live performance.
This fall, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Youth Symphony & Conservatory and San Diego Civic Dance Arts will come together to share our collective stories through an ongoing exhibit in the Casa del Prado Theater. On November 13th to 15th, please join us for a free interactive weekend full of unique experiences and featuring excerpts of performances from each of these dynamic institutions.
At “Youth in Arts,” we will educate, elevate and celebrate the impact that has been made on our community through decades of educational and artistic opportunities.
WHEN: Exhibit opens September 26, 2015 and runs through December 20, 2015, with a free interactive weekend from November 13th to 15th.
WHERE: The Casa del Prado Theater in Balboa Park at 1800 Village Place, San Diego, CA, 92101.
As a Directographer, Jacob Brent believes in creating with commitment and passion leading him to create award-winning productions by inspiring theater artist to bring and share their talents with audiences everywhere. As a performer, Jacob is probably best known for his portrayal of Mr. Mistoffelees in the Broadway, London and DVD productions of Cats, where he worked closely with its creator, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. He is the only performer to have appeared in all three, and the only actor to have performed in both of the record-breaking performances of the longest running Broadway and West End show. He also had the privilege of working with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber when he opened the original cast of Starlight Express in Las Vegas.
Now, on the other side of the table, he brings the same commitment and passion for theater to create productions such as Xanadu (Watertower Theater) and Lysistada Jones (PACE University), Fiddler on the Roof,A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Avenue Q (Weston Playhouse.) He served as the choreographer for West Coast regional premiere of The Producers (Diablo Theater Company.) Directed and choreographed Cats at Merry-Go-Round Theater, Gateway Playhouse and Cohoes Music Theater. He recently worked on a new version of Rags working closely with the original creators of the show. His all-star cast of Guys and Dolls for the Indianapolis Symphony was met with much acclaim. The cast included Gary Beach (The Producers), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins), Hugh Panaro (Phantom) and Megan Lawrence (Damn Yankees and Hair). He later returned for Hello Dolly! staring Sandi Patty. He has also directed and choreographed the annual holiday show Yuletide Celebration for the Indianapolis Symphony the last five seasons.
When not working on productions, Jacob teaches in New York City at both Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway and well as highly involved in the Junior Theater Festival and Broadway Jr. productions inspiring a new generation of young actors.
Meet Teri Weisenberg Ang, director of San Diego Junior Theatre’s 2015 production of Charlotte’s Web.
Teri Weisenberg Ang has been involved with theatre since she was a little girl. After a stint as piglet in Winnie the Pooh at her local recreation center, she found San Diego Junior Theatre. Having received her early training at Junior Theatre, she is proud to call herself a JT Alumna.
Teri continued her theatrical endeavors at SDSU. For over 30 years Teri has been a Theatre Educator. She was fortunate to land a dream job with the San Diego Unified School District’s only elementary performing arts magnet school. She taught theatre there for 26 years. Teri currently works as a theatre teacher at Horace Mann Middle School. She is also on the board of the San Diego Theatre Educators Alliance and Mira Mesa Theatre Guild. Her involvement in San Diego’s local theatre community keeps her busy.
Yet happily, Teri cannot seem to get away from Junior Theatre. She has been a teaching artist, board member, JT mom and a show director. Her JT directing credits include: Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat,Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,How to Eat Fried Worms, and now, Charlotte’s Web.
Union Tribune features executive director James Saba, and production manager Tony Cucuzzella, who celebrates 20 years with JT!
UTSanDiego article features JT Production Manager Tony Cucuzzella and Executive Director James Saba —
Celebrating the Essence of Junior Theatre
Times change, but the San Diego Junior Theatre spirit abides By James Chute, May 16, 2015
JT Production Manager Tony Cucuzzella in action. Photo, Sean M. Haffey, UT San Diego.
San Diego Junior Theatre executive director James Saba is not ignoring the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration.
The organization, along with the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, just received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create an exhibit at the Casa del Prado Theatre to showcase the history of the three youth-oriented institutions and the San Diego Civic Dance Arts in Balboa Park.
It’s just that Saba and the 67-year-old Junior Theatre have a more important anniversary to celebrate.
Junior Theatre veteran production manager Tony Cucuzzella has been with the institution exactly 20 years.
“He’s not your typical person who works with kids,” said Saba, the Junior Theatre’s executive director since 2013. “Yet every kid who comes through here has a deep admiration for Tony. He’s a big constant. There’s someone who is here when we open the doors to the time we shut them, and that’s Tony.”
Cucuzzella’s anniversary is significant because he embodies the spirit and values that are Junior Theatre. Certainly the institution, which touts itself as the oldest youth theater in the U.S., has grown over the decades. It now serves thousands of kids, offers hundreds of classes, and presents 10 main-stage productions on a budget in excess of $1 million. And its successful alumni, whether in the New York theater scene or outside of theater, attest to the efficacy and professionalism of its programs.
But somehow, like Cucuzzella — who is also a designer, playwright and has directed and acted as well — the organization has maintained a certain can-do, let’s-put-on-a-show flavor.
“What Junior Theatre does more than anything — and it’s not about making kids into stars — is build self-confidence and give kids tools so they can be successful no matter what they go forward with in life,” Cucuzzella said. “We teach them how working as a group is how you make something happen. It happens to be a show, but you can take those tools and apply them to anything outside of theater.”
As you would expect from Junior Theatre, the celebration won’t be over the top. Junior Theatre families are going to honor Cucuzzella with a picnic, and it’s likely he will be sharing a cake or two with students during the year. The theater will also place a plaque on one of the seats in the Casa del Prado Theatre in his honor.
“The thing is, the centennial begs to be celebrated and Tony does not,” Saba said. “We want to make sure we sneak in this year as much as we can to show how much we appreciate him.”
Sense of belonging
Saba knows exactly what Cucuzzella is talking about in the self-confidence category.
While still a student at Grant Elementary, an uncertain, 10-year-old Saba joined Junior Theatre in 1977. The company, which was created in 1948 at the Old Globe (at that time the San Diego Community Theater), then operated under the auspices of the city of San Diego, as did the Civic Youth Ballet and the Youth Symphony.
“I remember the first rehearsal I had in here,” said Saba, during a recent interview in the Casa del Prado Theatre. “I was right in front, near where I am right now, and I was looking out into the theater and I was learning choreography and I was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, this is amazing, this is amazing — I’ve finally found a place for me.’ ”
The production was “Tom Sawyer,” and one of the company members was Christian Hoff, now a Tony Award-winning Broadway star with credits that include “The Who’s Tommy” and “Jersey Boys.”
“There were a whole slew of people involved, and I bet I’ve kept in touch with 50 percent of that group,” Saba said. “I mean, really in touch. That was the introduction to the group I would grow up with in life. We would get together and share our milestone moments, and we continue to do so.”
Saba left Junior Theatre in 1984, the same year the theater became an independent, nonprofit institution, as did the Youth Symphony and Youth Ballet (although the city continues to support the three organizations by providing space for them in the Casa del Prado). He attended Southern Methodist University in Texas as a theater major before returning to Southern California, where he was active in San Diego and Los Angeles theater and TV. But he couldn’t escape Junior Theatre.
He came back to help in the early ’90s as interim director during a rough patch for the theater, and left for points east just before Cucuzzella’s arrival. Cucuzzella was called in to rescue a production of “Romeo and Juliet” and welcomed the opportunity of a stable job, an all-too-rare occurrence in the theater.
“I started literally during tech week, and I was like, ‘OK, kids doing theater, and kids doing Shakespeare, that’s going to be interesting,’ ” Cucuzzella said.
“I was trying to learn the show and solve some problems backstage, and I remember suddenly just stopping and listening to what was happening onstage: Here was a 13-year-old Romeo and a 16-year-old Juliet, and they knew what they were saying, they had a command of the language, and the level of the performance they were giving just impressed me so much.
“The kids still, not surprise me, that’s not the right word, but they continually reach a level and beyond that we’ve set for them. It’s amazing to watch.”
Junior Theatre spirit
While Cucuzzella found his calling at Junior Theatre, Saba was freelancing as an actor and director on the East Coast and working with the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre at Hope College in Michigan. He was thinking about settling down when he heard about an opening for executive director at Junior Theatre.
“What I was thinking in coming here is there’s no place that is in the marrow of my bones more than this organization,” Saba said. But he was apprehensive about whether Junior Theatre had changed too much in his absence.
“When I was here before, it was a patchwork of all different kinds of kids, with all different backgrounds,” he said. “I don’t know how we ever found each other in the same room because we were only united by our love of theater and the arts. We were all kind of misfits elsewhere.”
“And I thought, ‘If it’s not that same spirit, I think I’m going to have a harder time working for the place.’ Because some organizations such as ours can get kind of (pageant-like). It’s very much about being the little star with a bun on your head and an ‘Annie’ voice and that type of thing. And Junior Theatre was never like that.”
When he returned, he found the Junior Theatre spirit in people like Cucuzzella and the students, who oddly resembled his younger self and his colleagues. Some were children of students Saba had worked with two decades ago.
“I thought, if I can’t raise money for this, I can’t raise money for anything,” said Saba. “I am a walking poster child for my cause, which is Junior Theatre.
“It’s my life, and it changed my life significantly. I want to make sure I’m part of that change in other kids.”