Theater Notebook: San Diego Musical Theater leaves Horton Grand for the new Kearny Mesa space

After five years of producing shows at the Horton Grand Theater in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, the San Diego Musical Theater has announced that it will be producing its as-yet-unannounced 2022 season in Kearny Mesa.

Beginning with the pre-professional production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” which opens October 1 for a three-week run, SDMT will begin operations – including theater productions, acting classes, acting camps and workshops – at its new location at 4650 Mercury St. consolidate … in San Diego.

The theater company is creating a black box theater space within the two-story light industrial building that has been used since 1975 by Party Plastics, a Tupperware company owned by SDMT co-founders and producers Gary and Erin Lewis. The Lewises are now pulling out of Tupperware so they can focus on family and SDMT.

Erin Lewis said SDMT’s lease for the Horton Grand expired this year and the company hadn’t found new theater space to showcase its 2022 season. The closure of Party Plastics provided a great opportunity for the theater group to take advantage of their space.

Party Plastics was one of the most successful Tupperware distributors in the country, ranked number 1 in the US for several years and now number 1 in the world. With the success of their business and a shared love of musical theater, the Lewises founded SDMT in 2006 as a non-profit theater organization producing Broadway musicals.

The creative team of the San Diego Musical Theater, consisting of Robert and Jill Townsend (left), as well as Erin and Gary Lewis, with the 6-year-old son of the Townsends, Chase, in the foreground.

(San Diego Musical Theater)

The Lewises became more involved in the local theater community as volunteers and donors after their daughter Jill Townsend began performing locally and later nationally. Townsend is now the Artistic Director and Casting Director of SDMT, her husband has been for 16 years, and her theater colleague Robert Townsend is the company’s director of education.

SDMT had previously used the Kearny Mesa room for rehearsals, auditions, and educational programs. But now that the TupperStudio auditorium of the building is available, this space has been converted into a flexible theater space that can now accommodate up to 120 people. At the beginning of the month, the lighting and sound technology was installed and a booth for the sound design and the stage manager was built. After “Rent” closed, Lewis said a new stage floor was being installed and other improvements were planned.

Lewis said SDMT is still looking for a new permanent home theater for its professional shows starting in 2023, but the company plans to keep the black box space on the SDMT Stage in Kearny Mesa for cabarets, readings, special events and rentals.

Gary Lewis said it’s been a tough 18 months for the theater but he’s optimistic about what’s next.

“It’s exciting to see how much we’ve grown, despite everything from the pandemic to the immediate need for a new venue in the future,” he said.

“Rent”, with actors aged 15 to 21, is directed by Courtney Corey with Victor Chan conducting. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. from October 1st to 17th at the SDMT Stage Theater. Tickets start at $ 25. Full vaccination is required or a negative COVID-19 PCR test is required within 72 hours of the performance time. Masks are required indoors. Call (858) 560-5740 or visit

Cygnet gives away free tickets

Cygnet Theater is offering health workers free tickets to its current production of “La Cage aux Folles,” which runs through November 7th.

The giveaway is limited to one ticket per nurse, depending on availability, with the exception of matinee performances. For program information, call the box office at (619) 337-1525 or email the box office at [email protected] Valid photo identification and a business card or badge for healthcare or hospital are required at the time of ticket collection.

collar writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Send her an email at [email protected]

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