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Old Globe Theatre


Tour of Balboa Park San Diego August, 2010

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220px-Old_Globe_Theatre,_San_DiegoThe Old Globe Theatre 

Is a professional theatre company located in Balboa Park in San DiegoCalifornia. It produces about 15 plays and musicals annually in summer and winter seasons. Plays are performed in three separate theatres in the complex, which is collectively called the Simon Edison Centre for the Performing Arts:

  • Old Globe Theatre — 600-seat flagship theatre, fully enclosed
  • Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre — 250-seat intimate theatre in the round (completed 2009)
  • Lowell Davies Festival Theatre — 615-seat outdoor theatre


The Old Globe Theatre was built in 1935, designed by Richard Requa as part of the California Pacific International Exposition. The theatre was based on a copy of one built for the Chicago Century of Progress, which in turn was a copy of the Globe Theatre in LondonEngland, where many of William Shakespeare‘s plays were performed during his lifetime. Like the original Globe, the theatre was open in the center with a roof over the seating on the sides.

During the exposition, it hosted 50-minute versions of Shakespeare plays. At the end of the exposition, the Globe had been received so well that a nonprofit organization called the San Diego Community Theatre was formed to save the temporary structure from demolition. The committee leased the structure from the city, produced full-length plays, and created a more permanent structure by roofing over the theatre and bringing it up to code.

In 1939 a young actor and director named Craig Noel was hired as general director. During World War II the U.S. Navy took over all buildings in Balboa Park, including the Globe. The Community Theatre group stayed together, producing one-act plays in various venues around San Diego.  When the Globe was returned to civilian use in 1947, Noel returned as general director, and he remained in a leadership position until his death in 2010. In 1949 he launched the Globe’s summer Shakespeare Festival in partnership with the drama department at University of San Diego. Since then the Shakespeare festival has been presented every summer except 1953, when Noel broke with tradition by producing the smash hit play Mister Roberts instead.  The Globe continued to produce a combination of modern plays along with Shakespeare and other classics. In 1981 Jack O’Brien was hired as artistic director, while Noel became executive producer.

The Cassius Carter Centre Stage was added in 1969; it was a theater in the round, developed in what had been the Falstaff Tavern restaurant. It was rebuilt in 2009 as the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. In March 1978, the Globe Theatre was destroyed in an arson fire, and an outdoor festival stage was hastily constructed so that the 1978 season could still be produced. The Globe Theatre was rebuilt and reopened in 1981. In 1984, the festival stage in turn succumbed to arson. It was rebuilt and is now named the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. The entire three-theatre complex is called the Simon Edison Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Globe has grown into an internationally known theatre complex, an “influential powerhouse among regional theatres.”  In 1984 it received the Tony Award for best regional theatre.  Shows which originated at the Old Globe have gone on to Broadway to win nine Tony Awards and nearly 60 nominations.

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