Local theater is an ecosystem. That’s what Seema Sueko, artistic director of Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company and one of San Diego’s theater leaders, likes to say. She describes the continuum this way:
The big companies like La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe don’t exist in a vacuum. There are medium-sized theater companies and baby theaters. There are shows that can pay actors and shows that can’t. There are theaters that have been able to raise enough money to buy their own buildings and those who rent. And within those that rent, there are those with a fixed home and those that rove from performance to performance or from season to season. For the county’s several roving or “gypsy” theater companies — groups with plays, casts and crews and sets but no stage of their own — the effort to find a space in which to perform that play can be a difficult endeavor.
Some of the local theater spaces are too big for the gypsies, with too many seats for how many tickets will realistically sell. Or they might be too small, not allowing as many people who want to see a performance the chance before it’s over.
But Sueko’s company, Mo’olelo, announced this week it’s found a home at downtown’s 10th Avenue Theatre, with 107 seats. In years prior, Mo’olelo has performed all over the county, including at the Centro Cultural de la Raza, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center at Balboa Park. Each time, the company would pack up props and materials from its office in Kearny Mesa and truck them back and forth to the rented theater spaces.
Being a gypsy company suited Mo’olelo nicely for the last several seasons, Sueko said, but the move marks an important symbolic step in the small company’s progress as a fixture in San Diego’s scene. (Another previously gypsy company, Ion Theatre, moved into its own new home in Hillcrest last spring.)
Besides the easily apparent perks of having a place where audience members know to come, the move is a logistical relief, too.