• Polly E. Toledo

La Jolla Playhouse's Outdoor Festival WOWs District 2.

How was the idea of WOW developed and what is the mission of the festival?

The WOW Festival had always been part of Artistic Director Christopher Ashley’s vision for La Jolla Playhouse.  He felt that San Diego was an ideal place to showcase immersive and site-based theatre. WOW performances take place outside the confines of a traditional theatre, in unusual or unexpected locations, and WOW audiences can expect to be part of the action. Featuring several world premieres and new commissions, the WOW Festival offers events to entice all arts lovers, from intimate one-on-one experiences to epic storytelling spectacles. All generations are invited to come together to be part of the adventure.

How long has WOW been going on? Can you talk a little bit about the decision to have WOW at Liberty Station/ NTC Arts District and how the location of the festival affected the design or implementation of the event? Was there anything different about the festival having it in the NTC Arts District? 

WOW is a biennial festival that started in 2013. The first two WOW Festivals in 2013 and 2015 took place in locations surrounding La Jolla Playhouse and all around the UCSD campus. For the third iteration of WOW, we decided to take the Festival out of La Jolla and presented the 2017 Festival in several locations in and around downtown San Diego. 

Although it was artistically a success, with the productions being spread throughout downtown and Barrio Logan, it was missing the feeling of a “festival hub.” For the 2019 WOW Festival, we got the best of both worlds at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station – allowing us to keep the urban, downtown location but with the “hub” feeling we had in earlier festivals.  Inhabiting ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station meant we also joined the myriad of artists and vendors that already call the district home.

With plentiful food options, art galleries, shops and other facilities combine with a clean, welcoming environment, WOW patrons could park their car once and stay all day.

Was the audience at the WOW festival different from the audience at a typical La Jolla Playhouse production?

Although there are many similarities in the demographics of a Playhouse subscription show audience, we find that WOW tends to draw a younger audience from diverse zip codes throughout San Diego. WOW also offers a vast array of family friendly programming, so we see a lot more children and young families at the Festival than attend our typical Playhouse productions.

Approximately how many people attended the event?

The 2019 WOW Festival attracted more than 17,000 people.

Anything else you would like to share about the event this year?

The 2019 WOW Festival at Liberty Station was the best attended in Festival history.

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