Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Reviews by Bill Eadie

Bill Eadie was born in a trunk during intermission of ... no, that was Richard Connema, Talkin' Broadway's San Francisco regional reviewer. Actually, Bill had a relatively normal childhood, if you can call always wanting to dress up in a top hat and tailcoat and direct his two younger sisters in improvised shows "normal." Bill loved to watch theatrical performances on television while growing up (he recalls in particular Art Carney playing the Stage Manager in Our Town, Groucho Marx as Ko-ko in The Mikado, and of course Mary Martin in Peter Pan, every time it came on). When his parents took him to see the film version of Oklahoma! he demanded that they buy him the soundtrack (on a series of 45rpm records), which he promptly wore out.

In high school, Bill attempted to break into the theatre program by volunteering to pull the curtain on what turned out to be a very dreary production of Stage Door. In fact, Bill learned the meaning of the word "dreary" from this production. Undeterred, he made his high school stage debut as a middle-aged man with gray in his temples in a theatrical version of Tammy Tell Me True (they were even basing theatre on films back then). He got one good laugh—inadvertently. Bill wanted to volunteer one summer to work at a local Shakespeare festival, but his parents said no, contending that he would "meet too many of the wrong kind of people."

At UCLA, Bill tried to audition for plays but was told that he needed to be a theatre major in order to do so. Knowing that his parents would kill him if he majored in theatre, Bill beat a strategic retreat, became a band geek and started writing press releases and scripts for band shows. He became good friends with a talented budding theatre composer and ended up playing in the pit band for the theatre department's production of Noah and a Flood of Other Stuff. This production was notable in that future Broadway and Hollywood star John Rubinstein played a rabbit (which, actually, was the leading role). Bill had such a good time working on Noah that he flunked out of school.

Bill managed to get back into UCLA as a more motivated but still confused student. He figured out that he had some talent for writing, so he thought about how he could put that talent to work. One of his thoughts was to become a theatre critic, so he took a journalism class in arts reviewing from the book critic of the L. A. Times. Bill had a great time in the class and learned a lot, but his professor was not encouraging. So, he discarded the idea of trying to write about theatre for a living.

Fast-forward several years. Bill is doing doctoral work in communication as well as adapting and directing material from a number of sources for cabaret-like performances (all of this was totally in violation of copyright laws, so Bill says that you'll have to torture him to get any more information about these performances out of him). Bill's professors become concerned about his co-curricular activities, and one inquires if he wouldn't really rather be majoring in theatre. Bill realizes that he needs to buckle down, so he starts to get serious about his academic career (though, at his first professorial position, Bill did volunteer work for the local children's theatre company and even directed a couple of shows for them).

Eventually, Bill did grow up and became a full-fledged academic. He earned tenure (more than once, actually), and he developed a reputation in his field. His interest in theatre was confined to the role of audience member, but he was a very frequent audience member. In conversations about theatre with knowledgeable people, Bill surprised himself by how much he knew. He read a lot of reviews (he particularly admired Frank Rich, because Bill discovered him when he was still writing for a now-defunct magazine called New West). Very eventually, he found, and it rekindled his interest in theatre reviewing. He started posting anonymous reviews of performances he'd seen. Finally, his cover was blown by a San Diego theatre executive, who sat him down and told him that he should start writing under his own name. Bill approached the management of about reviewing San Diego theatre for them, and they agreed. The rest is history (or, at least, you can read it on Talkin' Broadway).

Bill's connection to San Diego theatre dates back to when he was 13. A friend of the family took Bill to see a production of Richard III at the Old Globe, and that trip started a 25-year streak of seeing at least one production at the Old Globe each summer, even though Bill never lived in San Diego until well after the streak ended. Back then, professional theatre in San Diego was mostly confined to the summer months. Now, San Diego boasts three fine university theatre programs, and those programs have fed a thriving theatre scene that goes well beyond the two top-notch regional theatres, the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse. While Bill still has a "day job" as a university professor, he looks forward to reporting on and critiquing San Diego theatre for Talkin' Broadway readers. Doing so, literally, is a youthful dream come true.

- Bill Eadie

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