The curtains are going up on two avant-garde, campy pieces of regional theater. Moxie and Diversionary, two of San Diego’s leading independent theater companies, are joining forces this upcoming season to co-produce a pair of mission-driven plays that share symbiotic themes: inclusivity, finding one’s authentic self, and a flagrant regard for fun. The double-header will hit both companies’ 99-seat theaters in tandem in May of 2024 to tell the stories of San Diego’s growing (though still underrepresented) LGBTQ communities.
“San Diego is such a dynamic theater town that there is room for all sizes of companies, and not in a competitive way. We all get to have the pleasure of seeing each other soar,” says Jenny Case, the executive director of Diversionary Theatre. Case cut her teeth at La Jolla Playhouse as their associate general manager.
Moxie’s newly appointed executive artistic director, Desireé Clarke Miller, adds, “We’re trying to be creative in the way that we think about our mission to be really and truly inclusive of all different types of folks.” Their play selections speak to that.
As America’s third-oldest LGBTQ theater, University Heights’ Diversionary is committed to “telling LGBTQI stories, and then sharing them [with] the world … [and giving] our community a place to come see themselves reflected,” Case says. Their current 38th season welcomes canonical characters like Tom Wingﬁeld of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (closing Dec. 23). But Diversionary’s production in this partnership brings something new: the world premiere of TL; DR: Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix, a musical reimagining of the classic ﬂick’s characters with a lesbian lean, questioning why all strong female characters have to die. Backed with a raucous riot girl soundtrack, identity-seeking never sounded so badass.
Launching its 20th season next year, Rolando-based Moxie centers on the stories of women and other people who face gender-based marginalization. Their pair production, Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members, is a Puerto Rican drag fantasia that speaks to decolonization. “It’s gonna have music. It’s gonna have dancing,” Miller says. “It is going to feel like a party, even though we’re talking about decolonizing places in our bodies.”
Miller, who previously directed at Diversionary, was curating Moxie’s season when she landed on Notes. “Immediately, given the context of it with trans women on stage and a gay man on stage and [it being] written by a trans woman, I reached out to Matt Morrow [Diversionary’s former artistic director] and was like, ‘Hey, listen, we’re thinking of doing this play. I’m wondering if there’s an opportunity to partner,’ she recalls. “And Matt said, ‘You know, it’s interesting because I was going to reach out to you, because we’re doing this musical…’”
Mission-based minds think alike.
“We both have these incredibly dynamic shows that are wild and adventurous and a little dangerous to produce, and they seem like such a complement to each other energetically,” Case says. And, as hyper-specific as the tales might seem, the humanity resonates, which is the beauty and functionality of this kind of holistic storytelling. Regional theater, if you’ll let it, can guide our city toward radical inclusion.
“I think one of the important things that people miss in our mission is that we’re trying to demystify what women’s work really looks like. Women write about all different types of things,” Miller says of Moxie’s ethos.
Right now, these two women leaders are writing the future of SD’s regional theater.