Backstage Blog

Announcing Season Thirteen

 From a fish falling out of the sky in the year 2039, to a “sweet transvestite”, to one stupid f**king bird…our next season will take you to seven different times and places filled with humanity, laughter, destruction and compassion. And we’re excited to share it with you now.  Without further antici…pation, here’s our 2015-2016 season!

Music and Lyrics by BENJ PASEK & JUSTIN PAUL
Based on the Warner Bros. Film and Screenplay by BOB COMFORT
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
July 16th – August 23rd, 2015. Opening July 25th, 2015.

It’s November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of debauchery, partying and maybe a little trouble. But when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of compassion. Winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and praised by countless critics, Dogfight takes audiences on a romantic and heartbreaking theatrical journey that stays with you long after the performance. Featuring Dave Thomas Brown (Shakespeare’s R&J, Spring Awakening)  “Superbly crafted, gratifyingly intelligent, richly observant, and immensely enjoyable. This is musical theatre at its finest.” – Backstage

Dave Thomas Brown in Spring Awakening

Dave Thomas Brown in Spring Awakening

HAY FEVER (Performed in Rep with The Vortex)
Directed by ROB LUTFY
Semptember 23rd – November 8th, 2015. Opening October 3rd, 2015.

Retired stage star Judith Bliss, her novelist husband and their two bohemian adult children have each invited houseguests for the weekend. But as the Blisses indulge their artistic eccentricities in a hilarious whirlwind of flirtation and histrionics, the guests begin to wonder if they’ve landed in a madhouse – and if they can survive with their own wits intact. Set in an English country house in the 1920’s, Noël Coward’s hilarious comedy of bad manners has been a favorite amongst theatregoers ever since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925.  “An evening of intoxicating escape” – The New York Times

THE VORTEX (Performed in Rep with Hay Fever)
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
September 24th – November 8th, 2015. Opening October 3rd, 2015.

Nicky Lancaster brings his elegant fiancée, Bunty, home to introduce her to his famous mother, stage actress Florence Lancaster. Nicky is shocked to discover that Florence has taken a much younger lover, and when Bunty ditches Nicky to run off with his mother’s boy-toy, both are forced to confront the truth about themselves. Noël Coward’s first commercially successful hit, The Vortex premiered in 1924 in London, and its scandalous subject matter of drug abuse, repressed homosexuality, nymphomania and Oedipal jealousy made Coward an overnight sensation. Hay Fever and The Vortex will feature Rosina Reynolds (The Glass Menagerie, Noises Off)  The Vortex (1924) is the play that turned Noël Coward into a star….Almost nine decades later, it still packs a powerful punch.” -The Telegraph

Rosina Reynolds in The Glass Menagerie

Rosina Reynolds in The Glass Menagerie

Adaptation and Lyrics by SEAN MURRAY
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
November 27th – December 27th, 2015. Opening December 5th, 2015.

Cygnet Theatre invites you to start your own family tradition with one of ours. This season welcomes the return of theholiday classic adapted from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of hope and redemption. This re-imagined, fully staged production features original new music, creative stagecraft and puppetry, and live sound effects. Step into a Victorian Christmas card for a unique storytelling experience that is sure to delight the entire family!  “Critics Choice” in 2014 – UT San Diego

A Christmas Carol 2014

A Christmas Carol 2014

Directed by ROB LUTFY
January 14th – February 14th, 2016. Opening January 23rd, 2016.

Alice Springs in the year 2039. A fish falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Gabriel York. And it still smells of the sea. It’s been raining for days, and Gabriel knows something is wrong. Fifty years earlier, his grandfather, Henry Law, predicts that fish will fall from the sky heralding a great flood which will end life on earth as we know it. In an intricate, multi-layered story that spans four generations and two continents, When the Rain Stops Falling explores patterns of betrayal, abandonment, destruction, forgiveness and love. This powerful drama unfolds with humanity, surprising humor and hope, as the past plays out into the future.  “The Best New Play of Year” in 2010 – Time Magazine

Book, Music and Lyrics by RICHARD O’BRIEN
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
March 10th – May 1st, 2016. Opening March 19th, 2016.

A satirical tribute to the science fiction and B-list horror movies of the 20th century, the show centers around two naïve lovers, Brad and Janet. Seeking shelter from a thunderstorm in an old castle, they find themselves thrust into the laboratory of the cross-dressing mad scientist Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and his motley crew. Stripped of inhibitions — and their clothes — Brad and Janet embark on a wild, unforgettable journey of pleasure and self-discovery. Reality, fiction, and camp collide in this mash-up of comics, rock and roll, and late-night horror flicks.  “A musical that deals with mutating identity and time warps becomes one of the most mutated, time warped phenomena in show business.” – The New York Times

Directed by ROB LUTFY
May 19th – June 19th, 2016. Opening May 28th, 2016.

In this irreverent, contemporary, and very funny remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull, award-winning playwright Aaron Posner wages a timeless battle between young and old, past and present, in search of the true meaning of it all. An aspiring young director rampages against the art created by his mother’s generation. A nubile young actress wrestles with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist. And everyone discovers just how disappointing love, art, and growing up can be. With music, meta-theatricality, and mad humor, playwright Aaron Posner beats The Seagull to a bloody pulp.  “Bitterly sardonic…Ferociously funny” – Stage and Cinema



Playwright Insight: Stephen Karam

It’s a special occurrence when a theatre get to chat with a playwright. Stephen Karam took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions about what he’s working on now, and his hopes for getting out to San Diego.  

Stephen Karam

Stephen Karam

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new play called, THE HUMANS. To explain the title might be giving too much away. But suffice to say this is a genre-collision play; it’s a ghost story/thriller…and a family play. I suppose it’s…a family thriller? If Sons of the Prophet looked at the way humans cope with suffering, The Humans looks at the way we cope with our biggest fears, the way we process the big existential horrors of life. I wanted to write a play about human fear that was actually scary. It’s an interesting time to think about what “terror” means to us—we keep hearing the word “recovery” in the news, but I think most Americans are still trying to climb out of this weird black pit of dread and malaise set off by 9/11 and the financial crisis. The production just closed in Chicago. It will open in New York City in September. I hope it lands in San Diego soon…

Have you ever been to San Diego? If not, any plans to visit?

Sadly, my California experiences have been limited to Los Angeles and San Francisco. I would love nothing more than to make it San Diego someday. I love warm weather and swimming in the ocean (and adventurous theater companies like Cygnet), so my hunch is I will be quite happy there! I’m delighted when the characters in my plays make it to cities before I do. I’m proud and thrilled the Douaihys have made it to San Diego.

For more on Stephen Karam check out this article and interview from Roundabout Theatre Company.

Virtual Peek Backstage @ Social Media Night

This January we held one of our traditional Cygneture events at the theatre for our patrons, bloggers, Twitter fans, and media. During a fun and engaging night at Sons of the Prophet, our staff, cast, and crew participated in live tweeting and provided some behind-the-scenes facts about the show as it progressed through the night.

Check out these fun facts and recaps from the night
and join us for the next one!

  1. As we were assembling the deer decoy, the office dog, Uli, wasn’t sure what to make of it.  At least we made the playwright, Stephen Karam, laugh.

Deer and Dog

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 1.49.15 PM

Assembling our final cast member, the deer decoy.

2. The actors took some awesome backstage photos. Dylan, who plays Charles, also participated in the first Social Media Night for  Spring Awakening. Do you see a pattern with Dylan?


  1. Close to home: The voiceovers in the show were actor Faeren Adams (Ensemble), who voiced the automated phone message at the bus station, and the sound designer’s mother, who is an actual nurse, voicing the overhead paging system in the hospital waiting room scene.

Photo by Daren Scott

  1. The image of St. Rafqa in the upstairs bedroom is a religious icon from the Maronite Oder of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lebanon.
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Dylan Mulvaney, as Charles, with the image of St. Rafqa. Photo by Daren Scott

  1. Our Costume Designer (and also our Development Director) Veronica Murphy scored some lucky finds. One of the hardest things to locate in San Diego is a big bulky coat (since 60 degrees is near-freezing).  She searched everywhere for a coat for Gloria, played by Maggie Carney, with no luck. We got a last minute donation and it fit her perfectly!
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Featured in this picture from left to right is Maggie Carney, Alex Hoeffler, Dylan Mulvaney, and Navarre Perry. Photo by Daren Scott

  1. In the last scene, Joseph is wearing a Nazareth Cross Country t-shirt, which was his high school team. It was given to us for free by the actual Nazareth High School Athletic Department in Pennsylvania.Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 3.13.25 PM
  2. Joseph’s character, Sons of the Prophet’s playwright Stephen Karam, grew up in Scranton, PA. and ran cross-country. He also lived down the street from an actual Douaihy family.

Alex and Stephen

  1. Double throwback fact: Two young Cygnet actors are currently playing Charles in different productions of Sons of the Prophet.  Dylan Mulvaney, who plays Charles at Cygnet, was last seen here at the theatre in Spring Awakening as Ernst. Braxton Molinaro was last seen at Cygnet Theatre in Assassins as John Wilkes Booth. He is currently playing Charles in a production at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood, CA.
Dylan_Braxton comparison photo

Dylan Mulvaney (left) with fellow actor Jacob Caltrider. Braxton Molinaro (center) with the cast of Assassins.

Join us for the next Social Media Nights for My Fair Lady (March 13) and The Whale (May 22).  You never know what you might learn about the show and its cast!

Jacob Caltrider’s Next Big Role – Cygnet Casting Director!

Jacob Caltrider, Cygnet’s Artistic Associate and new Casting Director, tell us why he’s excited about his promotion and how he got involved in performing arts in the first place.


How would you describe your new job? Tell us about your new position and what you’re looking forward to most.

I’ve been involved in the organization and execution of the auditions for a few years now, but this new title means I’ll have more freedom in how the whole process works, as well as the ability to be more hands-on in the actual audition room. I’m excited to be in the room more often, you learn a whole lot by seeing the process from the other side of the table and I’ve got a lot more I want to learn!

How did you get started in theatre and what drew you to it? 

A Christmas Carol

Jacob in his first show, A Christmas Carol, in 2008 at Cygnet Theatre with Amanda Cooley Davis & Manny Fernandes

I got started one summer when I was 13 – my mom saw an ad in the paper for auditions for The Wizard of Oz at a local community youth theatre. Once I started I never stopped. I got involved with Cygnet in 2008 when I came out to audition for A Christmas Carol. That was the first show following the big renovation of the Old Town Theatre, it was exciting!

What advice would you give to an actor auditioning? 

Send your headshot as resume as a PDF. Many actors send their information in an editable format (word, pages), and not all computers have the right layout options or fonts to correctly display your work. I often open resumes that look like jumbled nonsense. A PDF will make certain the resume I see looks exactly the same as the one you see.

What has been your favorite Cygnet production that you’ve seen? Been a part of?

There are several productions I loved at Cygnet! Recently, I was able to catch the closing day of “A Christmas Carol” and absolutely adored it. It was really fun for me to see this version of the story after having been in the cast of the 2008 Christmas Carol. Such wildly different approaches to the same source material- and both really fantastic.


Jacob as Lee Harvey Oswald with the rest of the Assassins cast

I love each Cygnet show I’ve been cast in for different reasons, though Assassins may be my favorite. The way I got to be involved in the telling of all those stories as the Balladeer, and then to turn around and tell Lee Harvey Oswald’s story as Oswald himself was very satisfying to me. That production felt so tight and sharp, it felt amazing to be part of the ensemble.

Join us in congratulating Jacob.  And although he’s doing great things behind-the-scenes, you’ll still be able to catch his incredible talent on stage at Cygnet and theaters around the county. 

Behind-the-Scenes of A Christmas Carol

For every production at Cygnet Theatre, we hold special Designer Forums that take our patrons behind-the-scenes with the creative team.  Listen to the director of each show talk about how they prepare for a show, and get a glimpse into the process of set design, costumes, sound, & lighting.  Check out our latest forum for A Christmas Carol.

Want to attend the next one?  Make sure you’re on our e-blast list to get invitations and reminders.

Director’s Insight: 

Creating the Characters: Costumes & Wigs

The Stage: Set Design

Creative Puppetry

The Magic of Mixing Live & Recorded Sound Effects

Christmas Past and Present with Maggie Carney

It’s the time of year when Cygnet Theatre delights you with the timeless story of A Christmas Carol. We sat down with the some of the cast to find out what Christmas means to them.  Resident actor Maggie Carney shared with us her favorite holiday memories, past and present, in San Diego and in her hometown of East Troy, Wisconsin. 

Tell us about one of your favorite childhood holiday memories… 

Maggie (left) and her sister Kate playing in the snow behind their house in Milwaukee, WI in 1966.

I loved singing in the choir at Midnight Mass at St.Peter’s Church in East Troy, Wisconsin with my sisters, Kate and Aileen. We sang every year from about ages 8 to 12 (we are all a year apart in age). We would have to take a nap in the afternoon to make it through the program, which started at 10:30 pm and went to 1:00 am.  When we got home we were allowed to pick ONE present from under the tree to open. We also got to drink hot chocolate and eat christmas cookies…at one in the morning! A good family memory, indeed.

Maggie's father tossing her in the snow

Maggie’s father tossing her in the snow

How do you celebrate the holidays here in San Diego?

My husband Joe and I sleep in on Christmas morning. When Christmas Carols are blaring, we open gifts, drink coffee and eat pain au chocolat in our pjs, while our pup Grady opens his presents. The day is all about relaxation: calling parents, sisters and brothers, watching movies, reading books received for Christmas in front of the fireplace, baking a chicken, going for a walk in the ‘hood…just sharing the day together.

What is your favorite holiday show or movie?

My favorite holiday show is A Christmas Carol (1972 TV Special) featuring Richard Williams and Chuck Jones. I remember seeing it when I was little and being so scared!

See A Christmas Carol now through December 28. Purchase tickets at


Playwright Insight: Diana Burbano

PiP logoPlaywrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights.

With the festival around the corner, we asked our playwrights to tell us how the process is going for them. Here’s playwright Diana Burbano talking about her play, Silueta, with playwrights Tom Shelton and Chris Shelton.

L to R:Diana Burbano, Tom Shelton, Christopher Shelton

L to R:Diana Burbano, Tom Shelton, Christopher Shelton

How has working with theatre artists from Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project helped your writing for Playwrights in Process?

They are generous and are deeply invested in helping our play grow. It is rather delicious to feel like we have a whole group of people who are “in” on the story. We are very grateful for the time and brainpower that Jessica Ordon, Katherine Harroff, Derek Charles Livingston, Veronica Burgess and Charles Maze have given to us. It feels hugely collaborative and energizing.

Diana on her inspiration for the play: I was and am dismayed at the lack of interesting roles for women of my age and ethnicity. 

About Silueta: Silueta is a two-person show based on the true story of Ana Mendieta, who fell 34 stories to her death in 1985. Almost three decades later her ghost returns to ask her husband a question for which she needs an answer: Did he push her.

Click here for more insight from Diana on her play and Playwrights in Process. 

See Silueta on Sunday, Nov 9 at 2:00pm.View complete information on workshops and plays:

A huge thanks to Festival sponsors Bill and Judy Garrett.

Playwright Insight: Paul-David Halem

PiP logo

Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights.

With the festival around the corner, we asked our playwrights to tell us how the process is going for them. Here’s playwright Paul-David Halem talking about his play, Mannequins.

Paul-David Halem

Paul-David Halem

How has working with theatre artists from Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project helped your writing for Playwrights in Process?  

I have been truly fortunate to have Derek Livingston as both my Director and Dramaturg.  He has read my play no less than 7 times, and each time has offered wonderful suggestions for the rewriting process.  I have a wonderful cast of actors with Jason Heil as the lead who have brought my words to life.  All of the actors also have been helpful with suggestions and comments.  This has been the most nurturing experience I have ever had.   There is no doubt in my mind that “Mannequins” has reached a level that could not have been achieved without their generous help. My heartfelt thanks to Derek Livingston and the wonderful cast he has assembled -  Jason Heil, Whitney Thomas, Cameron Sullivan, and Linda Libby.

On his inspiration for the play:  I’ve often been accused of having a warped sense of humor.  As for my inspiration – it is getting to have my characters have outrageous experiences that I would never get to have in my suburban existence.

About Mannequins: Life is more interesting if it’s not what it seems to be. Fade in on a successful actor trying to read a hot new film script. Phone calls, delusional friends, and a hunky burglar disrupt his plans…as the mannequins watch.

Click here for more insight from Paul-David on his play and Playwrights in Process.

See Mannequins on Sunday, Nov 9 at 7:00pm. View complete information on workshops and plays:

A huge thanks to Festival sponsors Bill and Judy Garrett.

Playwright Insight: Thelma Virata de Castro

PiP logoPlaywrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights.

With the festival around the corner, we asked our playwrights to tell us how the process is going for them. Here’s playwright Thelma Virata de Castro talking about her play, Cookies for Prisoners.

Thelma Virata de Castro

Thelma Virata de Castro

How has working with theatre artists from Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project helped your writing for Playwrights in Process?

Even the interview process was a learning experience! Producer Derek Livingston asked me questions that focused my rewrites for Cookies for Prisoners. I had a great meeting with Dramaturg Robert May in which we discussed the big question, “What is this play about?” Director D. Candis Paule brought out the central theme of family. We had two table-reads with the actors and it’s been so helpful to hear their voices in my head. Veronica Murphy, Nicolette Shutty, Shuan Tuazon-Martin, Tom Ashworth and Austyn Myers take all the craziness quite seriously. It’s just been fun! Robert has said many times that if playwrights want to get their plays produced, they need to write better plays. Well, receiving support from Playwrights in Process has definitely helped me write a better play.

On her inspiration for the play: My idea for the play was to have characters bake cookies for prisoners, but to have the characters be as guilty as the prisoners themselves.

About Cookies for Prisoners: Margie bakes cookies for prisoners, takes in stray people and advocates for underdogs, but all bets are off when it comes to tolerating her own son. All the characters in this play are hiding horrible secrets in the kookiest ways.

Click here for more insight from Thelma on her play and Playwrights in Process.

See Cookies for Prisoners on Friday, Nov 7 at 8:00pm. View complete information on workshops and plays:

A huge thanks to Festival sponsors Bill and Judy Garrett.

Very Superstitious!

With the spirit of Halloween & Dia de los Muertos coming up this weekend, Cygnet would like to share some superstitions to be mindful of during your next visit to the theatre.

1. Hauntings: Ghosts haunt theatres and should be given one night a week alone on the stage.

To keep the ghosts of the theatre subdued, there should be at least one night a week where the theatre is empty, this night is traditionally a Monday night, conveniently giving actors a day off after weekend performances.

At Cygnet Theatre, Monday and Tuesday are when the theatre is dark, so Charlie, our resident ghost, gets an additional day to haunt the theatre. Lucky him!

2. Ghost Light: There should always be a light burning in an empty theatre to ward off ghosts.

wide-ghost-lightConventionally, the light is placed downstage center, illuminating the space when it is not in use. This is to give ghosts like Cygnet’s Charlie enough light so that he can see, which keeps him at bay.

Another practical reason for a ghost light is the backstage area of a theatre tends to be cluttered with props and set pieces, thus someone who enters a completely darkened space is prone to being injured while hunting for a light switch.

It prevents the living from having to cut across the stage in the dark, hurting themselves and contributing to new ghosts for the theatre. It’s also known as the “Equity Light” or “Equity Lamp”.

3. Whistling: It is considered bad luck to whistle on or off stage, as someone (not always the whistler) will be injured.

Before the invention of walkie-talkies or “comms”, the cues for the theatre technicians (usually hired sailors) were coded whistles given by the stage manager. If one was whistling backstage it could call a cue before it’s due, which could have disastrous outcomes.

4. Saying Good Luck: To wish someone ‘Good luck’ before a show is bad luck. 

It is considered bad luck to wish someone “good luck” in a theatre; the expression “break a leg” replaces this phrase. There are many theories on the origin of the term “Break a Leg”.  The most popular? In the days of Vaudeville, companies would book more performers than could possibly make it onstage, but would only pay those who performed. Since the Renaissance, stage curtain legs have been used as part of the masking in proscenium theaters, which remain the most popular style of theater to this day. Thus, to make it on stage, one had to enter the line of sight of the audience or “break a leg”, to be paid.

5. The Scottish Play: Saying the word ‘Macbeth’ inside  a theatre will result in extreme bad luck.


Theatre folk avoid saying the name of this play and only refer to it as ‘The Scottish Play’. If the name is spoken in a theatre, there is a cleansing ritual one can perform to rectify the mistake. The most popular way: the offender is required to leave the theatre building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back inside. Other variants include: Reciting a line from another Shakespearean work, brushing oneself off, running around the theatre counter clock-wise, or repeating the name 3 times while tapping their left shoulder.

There are several possible origins for this superstition. One of the most commonly held beliefs is due to the play’s infamous reputation as theatres in debt often produced it and it was used as a last attempt to increase sales, but the theatres normally went bankrupt shortly afterwards.

Other superstitious activities to avoid in the theatre:

  • It is considered bad luck to give flowers to actors BEFORE the show.
  • It is also bad luck to complete a performance of a play without an audience, hence the practice of “invited dress” allowing family & friends to attend the final dress rehearsal. Another way around this is to avoid saying the last line of a play.
  • A company should not practice doing their bows until the final dress rehearsal.
  • Peacock feathers should never be brought on stage. Actors associate this accessory with disasters on stage.
  • Stemming from a concern over theft, real money and real jewelry shouldn’t be used on stage.
  • A bad dress rehearsal means you will have a great opening night.

Speaking of ghosts, catch three very well known ghosts this holiday season with Cygnet’s new original musical, A Christmas Carol.  Perfect for the whole family!