By David Dixon
For 30 years, Diversionary Theatre has produced many plays and musicals focusing on the LGBT community. A celebration honoring the legacy of the University Heights-based theater company will be held April 1 at the San Diego Central Library’s Shiley Special Events Suite.
The grand gala, themed “Daring Decadence,” will feature Tony Award nominee Beth Malone (“Fun Home”) and local politicians including County Supervisor Dave Roberts and District 3 City Councilmember Todd Gloria.
Several people will also be recognized for their achievements, through the presentation of the theater company’s Fritz Klein awards; the national honoree is James Obergefell (Obergefell v. Hodges) and the local honoree is Tom Reise (California Institute of Contemporary Arts).
The late Dr. Fritz Klein was the founder of the CICA and a longtime financial supporter of Diversionary — the third oldest theater of its kind in the country — which has produced 140 stage productions in its 30 years.
Executive Artistic Director Matt Morrow said the Diversionary is able to have such an impressive lineup because of the company’s positive reputation.
“Diversionary is part of the identity of San Diego’s theater community,” he said. “People are ferociously passionate about the company and its health and well being.”
A tribute video created specifically for the gala will focus on how audiences have been impacted by visiting the theatrical space.
“Diversionary was quite important in helping a good amount of people understand their place in the world. It has been a compass for LGBT members.”
Morrow said the video also references significant cultural and local events that occurred over the past several decades.
“The [tribute] will touch on certain shows, chapters of history and community members,” he said, noting that almost 50 people were interviewed for the video.
Former board member and longtime supporter James Ziegler said the Diversionary’s impact over the years is shown by how many local performers are taking pride in their work at the theater.
“I’ve noticed that in programs throughout the city, more actors are mentioning Diversionary Theatre experience,” he said. “Whether the star is LGBT is irrelevant, but they mention prior work at the stage. I think that’s wonderful.”
One of Ziegler’s biggest contributions to Diversionary was hosting season announcement parties at his home.
“That was a way of giving back to Diversionary and getting people in the arts world to talk about the intimate entertainment center,” he said.
To this day, Zeigler still supports every production.
“I think I’ve gone to every show for many seasons,” he said. “I’ve always supported the work they do and I have learned to really respect the craft of acting. I admire their passion.”
Morrow and Ziegler give a lot of credit to a member of the honorary board of trustees, Susan Atkins-Weathers. “She was so personally involved with the success of Diversionary,” Ziegler said.
“Atkins-Weathers really helped us connect with the leadership of the Central Library to procure this space,” Morrow added.
Ziegler is extremely excited about reuniting with people he has gotten to know through the years with his association with Diversionary and as a former board member.
“I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself and seeing people who I haven’t seen in many years,” he said. “In ways, the evening should be like a mini reunion.”
While “Daring Decadence” is sure to have bittersweet and emotional moments, organizers said the overall atmosphere will be very upbeat.
“It’s going to be super fun,” Morrow said. “Beyond honoring our past and legacy, the evening is going to be looking forward to the future of what the company is capable of.
Those that support the playhouse will have an unforgettable time at the early spring festivities. “Daring Decadence” should be further proof of why the theatrical venue is still going strong.
—David Dixon has been a fan of film and theater from a very young age, and has written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.