Theater Notebook: New Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center in Carlsbad makes national arts history

Dea Hurston and Kristianne Kurner cut the ribbon on the Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center.
Playwright and arts patron Dea Hurston, third from left, and executive artistic director Kristianne Kurner cut the ribbon on the Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center in Carlsbad on Jan. 27.
(Courtesy of michael taylor )

Also this week: Diversionary Theatre lands a writers residency for a new musical it’s developing, and a celebration of life for former U-T critic Welton Jones is set for Feb. 11


The newly dedicated Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center in Carlsbad opened Jan. 27, following a six-month, $2.5 million renovation that expanded and updated the property.

After 15 years in a city-owned former lumber company warehouse at 2787 State St., New Village Arts remodeled the building into a community-centric arts center that will offer lectures, workshops, art classes and exhibits, as well as theater productions. As part of the reimagining, the building was rededicated in the name of San Diego playwright and veteran arts volunteer Dea Hurston.

Over the past 36 years, Hurston has been an underwriter, arts commissioner, community engagement leader, gala planner, board member and outspoken voice for creating opportunities for actors, directors, designers and playwrights of color. The Dea Hurston New Village Art Center is the first arts center in the United States outside of New York City to be named after a Black woman.

Opening day of the Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center in Carlsbad on Jan. 27.
pening day of the Dea Hurston New Village Arts Center in Carlsbad on Jan. 27.
(Courtesy of James Hebert)

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, New Village founder and executive artistic director Kristianne Kurner said Hurston deserved the honor because she has had a bigger impact on the arts than practically anyone in the county: “When we were thinking of who would reflect our mission and our goals and our beliefs of what arts can do for our community, there was no one else but Dea.”

Hurston said Monday that she’s thrilled that the building is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility that will offer something for everyone in the community.

“I’m honored to have my service to community recognized in such a humbling way,” Hurston said. “By naming the building in my honor, NVA has stepped and made history in an epic way. My hope is that it becomes an artistic home for locals and a destination hot spot for those visiting the greater San Diego area. I’m excited to continue to expand the Dea Hurston Fellowship Program under the NVA banner that aligns with my mission to help local artists make a living at making art.”

The new center’s first production is Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman,” which opened in previews Jan. 27 and has its official opening night Saturday. It’s the first U.S. production of the Tony Award-winning play outside of Broadway. For tickets, visit

A man wearing red glasses and a denim vest over a colorful shirt poses outside Diversionary Theatre.
Matt M. Morrow, executive artistic director of Diversionary Theatre, outside the University Heights theater in 2021.
(Nancee E. Lewis/For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Diversionary musical wins development grant

Diversionary Theatre in University Heights is among eight U.S. theaters that have received grants this past week from the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, which sponsors the development of new American musicals.

NAMT’s Frank Young Fund for New Musicals will provide writer residency grants for EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn, who are co-developing the musical “Queer. People. Time.” for Diversionary.

Diversionary has yet to announce when it will present “Queer. People. Time.” but a synopsis of the musical on Chary and Gwinn’s website describes it as a chamber musical where five people walk into a queer bar in five time periods — the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and today — where they meet and fall in love, but in each time period their relationships are complicated by the complexities of the world.

The 10-person committee that chose this year’s writer residency grants is co-chaired by Eric Keen-Louie, executive producer at La Jolla Playhouse.

San Diego actor Victor Morris.
(Courtesy of the Old Globe)

South Coast Rep’s ‘Voices’ features two local artists

South Coast Repertory theater in Costa Mesa is presenting “Voices of America,” two American plays in repertory this month that feature the work of two San Diego County artists.

San Diego actor and musician Victor Morris is performing in one of the two plays, which was directed by San Diego freelance director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. Sonnenberg directed Morris last year in “Trouble in Mind” at the Old Globe.

“Voices in America” is a rotating repertory of Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play “The Little Foxes” and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ 2013 play “Appropriate.” Six of the 12 actors in “Voices of America” appear in both plays, and the two plays share a set. Although the plays were written nearly 75 years apart, both are set in the South and deal with issues of family, money, power, status, race and the roles of women.

The plays run in rep through Feb. 26. Details at

Welton Jones, bottom right, with his son Welton Jones III, left, and his grandson, Welton Jones IV.
(Courtesy of Diana Cantu)

Memorial planned for Welton Jones

Longtime San Diego Union-Tribune theater critic Welton Jones, who died Dec. 27 at age 86, will be remembered from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 11 in a celebration of life event at the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park.

Jones served as the main theater critic at The San Diego Union-Tribune and its predecessor from 1966 to 2001. He served nine years on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association and was on the jury that awarded Neil Simon the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1991. He also founded the first iteration of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle. He was a historic building preservationist, and the restoration and revival of Starlight Bowl, which shuttered in 2011, was one of his pet projects. RSVP to the gathering here.

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at