Starlight Bowl (San Diego)
The Starlight Bowl is an amphitheater located in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It was constructed for the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition and seats 4,300. It was originally named the Ford Bowl because the automobile manufacturer sponsored outdoor concerts at the venue during the exposition by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the San Francisco Symphony, and other performers.
Civic Light Opera
Until 2011 Starlight Bowl was the outdoor home of the San Diego Civic Light Opera, also called Starlight Musical Theatre, which presented several Broadway musicals each summer. The Civic Light Opera company was founded in 1945. It was one of the oldest musical theatre companies in the United States.
The amphitheater sits almost directly under the landing path for San Diego International Airport. During musical performances the conductor had a set of lights that indicated the noise level from passing planes. When the noise reached a certain level the conductor signaled everyone to pause, and the musicians and performers froze in place until the plane passed. Audience members regarded the "freeze" as part of the performance, and longtime attendees like to recount awkward pauses from long-ago shows. Dancers sometimes had to balance on one foot in mid-step for ten to fifteen seconds, holding a pose, and then resume their routine, singing and dancing as if nothing happened. Singers were sometimes left in the middle of an a capella solo, having to (hopefully) find the right note again after the pause. The theater was sometimes dubbed by insiders as the "stop-and-go theater".
Another quirk of the Civic Light Opera performances was the "little red box," a prop which had been used in (nearly) all performances since 1945 - sometimes as background or part of a set, and other times carried on stage by the performers or even passed around from one to another. Performers considered the box a kind of good luck charm, while audience members enjoyed trying to spot the box in each production.
The San Diego Civic Light Opera struggled financially in recent years. In 2011 (which would have been the company's 65th season) no productions were mounted, and in August the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2012 there were no productions, and the company's website was still live but was only advertising shows at other venues. As of 2016 the company's email no longer works and its Facebook page has been removed. The unused Starlight Bowl theater is falling into disrepair and has been described as an "attractive nuisance".
- City of San Diego
- Starlight Theatre: Our Story
- San Diego Union-Tribune, June 17, 2010
- "Starlight plight a sign of venues' dicey realities: Summer marches on with no word of once-celebrated musicals in park". San Diego Union-Tribune. July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- Welsh, Anne Marie (August 14, 2011). "Starlight's financial woes nothing new". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "current website". Starlight Theatre. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- Hargrove, Dorian (September 17, 2015). "The tragedy of the Starlight Bowl: A plan afoot to save the Balboa Park classic". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Starlight Bowl (San Diego).|
- San Diego Parks & Recreation Website
- San Diego Civic Light Opera organization
- San Diego History, "San Diego's Opera Unit of the WPA Federal Music Project"
- Southwestern Jewish Press, article reprinted on August 18, 1950 in San Diego Jewish World (scroll down