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Levey Oversaw Completion of Theaters

Alan Levey was the first staff member hired by the La Jolla Playhouse Board of Trustees--a group dedicated to bringing back to life the old La Jolla Playhouse that folded in 1964, after opening in 1947 as a summer theatrical home for founders Gregory Peck, Mel Ferrer and Dorothy McGuire and other Hollywood celebrities.

The former managing director of the California Shakespeare Festival in Visalia, Levey came to La Jolla with experience supervising the construction of five theaters in Ohio, Texas, Virginia and California.

As the sole staff member, Levey oversaw the completion of the Mandell Weiss Theatre, which was half-built when he arrived, and picked the brains of the Board of Trustees to pinpoint their vision for their new theater.

“The first thing I said to the Board is what do you want this to be? What are your dreams and your desires? I talked to them individually and I talked to them as a group.

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“Because the organization hadn’t produced since 1964, their most pressing desire was to produce plays. Taking that primary goal, we had to start either with an artistic director or book other shows into the venue. They wanted to support the work of an artist. They wanted to do something special.”

Levey then went to work creating the structure that could support an artistic director--making sure the board could raise funds, meet the needs of a staff, establish a mission statement and establish bylaws and policies.

He helped in the search for an artistic director that culminated in the hiring of Des McAnuff, helped nurse the board through the shock of McAnuff’s first adventurous seasons and shared in the company’s triumphs, including the celebrated productions of “Big River,” which went on to win seven Tonys on Broadway, and “A Walk in the Woods,” which was produced around the world. He also shared in the company’s travails, including the 1989 crisis campaign in which $500,000 was raised to save the 1990 season.

And, what Levey calls one of his greatest achievements, he oversaw the construction of the $5.5 million Mandell Weiss Theatre in 1983 and the $5 million Mandell Weiss Forum in 1991.

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He gives credit for his successes to McAnuff, whose artistic vision he has unwaveringly supported, to his longtime friend Mandell Weiss who helped finance the dreams of the two theaters and to the Board that first hired him, praising “the commitment of the board and the passion the board experienced in wanting to make this not just another American theater, but one that made a difference.”

Levey will continue as consultant to the theater, working with Evans at least until May.


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