La Jolla Playhouse’s popular Without Walls Festival, which will be presented April 27-30 at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, will be entirely free of charge this year.
The annual WOW festival of site-specific theater, dance, visual art and music has always offered a large portion of free programming as part of its lineup. But this year, in association with the San Diego Symphony, all events at the Rady Shell are free, though reservations will be recommended for select performances with limited capacity. An offsite WOW event being produced at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, downtown, will require paid tickets.
“The WOW Festival unites local, national and international artists and art lovers for four days of innovative, immersive and interactive events — all of which will be available free of charge,” said Christopher Ashley, the Playhouse’s artistic director, announced Thursday in a statement. “The festival has grown become one of the most highly-anticipated annual events — both locally and nationally — and we’re delighted to be partnering with the San Diego Symphony to hold this year’s event at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, where we can celebrate our community’s adventurous spirit and rich cultural offerings.”
Also on Thursday, the Playhouse announced an initial lineup of international acts who have been booked to appear at the four-day event. More will be added in the weeks to come. Here’s a look at the first batch of artists. The full lineup and schedule will be revealed in the weeks to come at lajollaplayhouse.org/wowfestival.
Here’s what’s booked for now:
“A Shared Space” — The San Diego Symphony presents this interactive performance in which Ryan Carter transforms cellphones into instruments as the audience joins the symphony musicians as players in a communal performance. Once audience members are connected digitally with Carter, their phones will emit sounds that will cue the orchestra to play.
“Birdmen” from Close-Act Theatre Co. — This theatrical stilt-walking troupe from the Netherlands become huge, illuminated, birdlike creatures from the future who react to their environment, communicate with colors and search for others of their species.
“Choreo & Fly” from Disco Riot — San Diego’s Disco Riot present this audience-participation dance program that involves short dance pieces, kite-flying, physical expression and movement.
“Circular Dimensions” from Cristopher Cichocki — This Coachella Valley artist presents an audiovisual performance that harnesses elements from the natural and industrial world to create original compositions for his DJ sets, which embrace the music genres of sonic ambience and experimental dance. Complementing the music will be three-dimensional video projections that will transform the environment around the audience.
“Drive” from Diversionary Theatre — The LGBTQ-identified San Diego theater will present this immersive theater piece inspired by Broadway veteran Sharon Wheatley’s book about her pandemic-necessitated, cross-country RV trip with her wife and family. Wheatley, an original cast member from the La Jolla Playhouse-born “Come From Away,” stars in the play with her “Come From Away” castmate Astrid Van Wieren.
“The End” from Control Group Productions — This Denver-based company takes audience members on a bus tour through a city transformed by escalating climate catastrophe and on the brink of collapse. Part theater, part civics lesson, summer camp and wild ride, it’s a story about San Diego’s present and future from the viewpoint of a school bus window.
“Las Cuatro Milpas” from TuYo Theatre — This Latinx-voices San Diego theater company will present an immersive play inspired by one of San Diego’s oldest and most beloved Mexican restaurants, Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan. Audiences will walk through a corn maze modeled on Aztec codices and covered in murals with interactive QR codes and audio tracks to learn the story of Petra and Nati Estudillo’s journey from Mexico to California and the founding of their restaurant in 1933. The show will include music and recorded dances inspired by the Aztec corn gods.
“The Nest” from Megan Flød Johnson — This St. Paul, Minn., artist will create an immersive playscape for young people that represents the home of an elusive migrating creature. Children will help workers decorate the colorful nest with their writings and reflections.
“salty water” from Blindspot Collective — This San Diego theater company will present a walk-through theater piece inspired by San Diego’s history and its connection to the sea. Fifteen performers, 40 local youths and large-scale puppets will present music, movement, poetry and spoken word pieces.
As an addition to the four-day WOW Festival in April, La Jolla Playhouse is also working with the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, on a ticketed world premiere lucha libre-themed project that will have a series of previews during WOW, followed with an extended run, May 11 through June 4. All performances are at MCASD, 1100 Kettner Blvd., San Diego. Tickets start at $39.
“La Lucha” — Written by David Israel Reynoso through his immersive Optika Moderna theater company, will take viewers inside the world of lucha libre Mexican masked wrestling. The audience will step inside the ring to cheer, explore and learn the secrets of the highly popular sport.