Sunday, July 15, 2012
Starlight Bowl, 2005 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA
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. Frank Hope Jr. was the architect and designer.
It was originally named the Ford Bowl because the automobile manufacturer sponsored outdoor concerts there during the exposition by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the San Francisco Symphony, and other performers.
The Ford Bowl, a clamshell structure, was located east of the Ford Motor Company Building, immediately south of the California-Pacific International Exposition's Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries. Within the modern acoustically-designed amphitheatre were presented numerous concerts and musical programs, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Among the many featured performers were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. A novel feature of the Ford Bowl was the newly invented Hammond Electronic Organ, upon which unique organ concerts were presented.(6)
Starlight Bowl is the outdoor home of the San Diego Civic Light Opera, also called Starlight Musical Theatre, which presents several Broadway musicals each summer. The Civic Light Opera company was founded in 1945. It is one of the oldest continuously producing musical theatre companies in the United States.
The amphitheater sits almost directly under the landing path for San Diego International Airport. During performances the conductor has a set of lights that indicate the noise level from passing planes. When the noise reaches a certain level the conductor signals everyone to pause, and the musicians and performers freeze in place until the plane has passed. Audience members regard the "freeze" as part of the performance, and longtime attendees like to recount awkward pauses from long-ago shows. Dancers sometimes have 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 are sometimes left in the middle of an a capella solo, having to (hopefully) find the right note again after the pause. The theater has sometimes been dubbed by insiders as the stop-and-go theater.
Another quirk of the performances is the "little red box," a prop which has 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 consider the box a kind of good luck charm, while audience members enjoy trying to spot the box in each production.
The San Diego Civic Light Opera has struggled in recent years, and in 2011 (which would have been the company's 65th season) no productions were mounted.
Jerry performed here on
5/17/84 Jerry Garcia Band
5/18/84 Jerry Garcia Band(7)
4.)^Dailey, Ken, 2010-06-17, Starlight Gives Em What they Want, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2010/jun/17/starlight-gives-em-what-they-want/
5.)^Hebert, James, Starlight plight a sign of venues' dicey realities, 2011-07-22, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2011/jul/22/starlights-plight-a-sign-of-venues-dicey-realiti/
6.)^Speth, Kenneth, Kenblog, 2009-04-03, http://expoguy2.blogspot.com/2009/04/san-diego-1935-ford-bowl.html