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Old Globe Stage Rises From Ashes as Theater Marks Landmark Season

Times Staff Writer

A year after an arson-caused blaze destroyed its outdoor festival stage, Old Globe officials say the theater is en route to its most successful season.

Because the fire did not interrupt operations and the theater was rebuilt in time for the summer season, a potential disaster was avoided, theater officials say.

On Oct. 29 last year, an early morning blaze that sent flames 40 feet into the sky roared through the Globe’s wooden Festival Stage. Ironically, the theater had been built as a temporary replacement for the original Old Globe stage, which also was lost to an arsonist’s torch in 1978. No suspects have been arrested in either fire.

Despite the Festival Stage fire, the Tony Award-winning theater’s management pushed ahead with plans for a yearlong 50th anniversary jubilee. The outdoor stage was closed for the winter when it burned. But 222 days after the fire, a permanent outdoor theater costing $2.1 million rose above the Balboa Park canyon on the site of the temporary stage--opening just in time for productions of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “London Assurance” by Dion Boucicault.

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The new Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, constructed of steel and concrete, was named to honor the San Diego attorney and longtime volunteer leader of the Globe. The new 620-seat facility, with its shingled facade, played a major part in this year’s success story, Globe officials said.

Because the temporary stage had been well-insured, the cost of rebuilding it “is pretty much paid for now,” Globe spokesman Bill Eaton said. “But it put an extra burden on our fund raising.”

The publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary celebrations and strong marketing and fund-raising efforts, theater officials say, contributed to this year’s record box-office receipts.

The Globe expects to write off this year at least $500,000 of a $700,000 debt incurred when the theater was rebuilt without interruption of normal operations between 1978 and 1982.

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“The debt primarily occurred from having to work off site” during the four years of construction, Eaton said.

According to managing director Tom Hall, the Globe’s season ticket subscriptions this year totaled more than 50,000, generating nearly $3 million, up 34% from 1984.

The 1986 Globe season begins Nov. 30 with the American premiere of “Bert and Maisy” by New Zealand playwright Robert Lord on the Cassius Carter Centre Stage. George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” will open the season in the Old Globe Theatre on Dec. 5.


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