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Cygnet Theatre now at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

By Tania Hormozi

Six summers ago the Cygnet Theatre Company opened its doors with a production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the off-Broadway hit story of a wanna-be glam rocker with identity issues.

Now Cygnet is closing out its successful run at the Rolando Theatre with the same production, for old times’ sake. Hedwig, which opened June 3 and will close Aug. 9, is the final show the theater company will produce at the Rolando location on El Cajon Boulevard in the college area.

But it’s certainly not the end for Cygnet, which is moving into the newly-renovated Old Town Theatre. The first production at the new venue, the Tony Award-winning play “Noises Off,” opens July 2 and runs through Aug. 23. It will be directed by Cygnet’s artistic director, Sean Murray. “Noises Off” is described as a hilarious farce about a disorganized theater company trying to rehearse and make it through a show.

Murray and Executive Director Bill Schmidt founded Cygnet in 2002. Schmidt, a software engineer, wanted to do something else with his life, so he teamed up with Murray, who was then the Artistic Director for the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. “We signed off as a non-profit, and looked at other theaters in San Diego — what we liked and didn’t like,” before settling on the Rolando location, Schmidt said. They renovated the old storefront, which was the site of the former Actor’s Asylum, into a 157-seat theater. The company has since outgrown the space.

In December 2007 Cygnet was awarded a 10-year lease by the state Department of Parks and Recreation to run the 248-seat Old Town Theatre in Old Town state park. “The Old Town Theatre is the best possible place in San Diego for a theater,” Murray said. “It’s visible. There is so much traffic, people walking by, going to restaurants. It’s an entire experience.”

After “Noises Off” concludes its run Aug. 23, Cygnet’s 2009-2010 season will continue with “Man From Nebraska” Sept. 24-Nov. 1, “It’s a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play” Nov. 27-Dec. 27, “The Piano Lesson” Jan. 21-Feb. 28, “Sweeney Todd” March 18-April 25, and “Private Lives” May 27-July 3.

Cygnet’s marketing director, Manny Fernandes, said the theater company strives to do a wide variety of shows. “We do not stick to the same genre necessarily,” he said. “We tend to bring the comedy shows in the summer, to give the audience a reason to stay indoors and watch a fun play.”

Cygnet rarely hires actors from outside of San Diego, because having local performers keeps the story and the characters closer to home, and they relate to the audience better, Fernandes said. “Cygnet Theatre’s mission is to want the audience to relate to the characters and the human interest story.”

The Old Town Theatre is located at 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.cygnettheatre.com or call the box office at (619) 337-1525.

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