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A Hammer, A Bell, and a Song to Sing

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Quick! Name your favorite folk musician!  Is it Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie?  Now, name your favorite social justice song!  Is it "Blowin’ in the Wind?" "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier?" "We Shall Overcome?" "The Times, They Are a’Changin’?" "Big Yellow Taxi?"" De Colores?" "This Land is Your Land?"" Baa, Baa, Black Sheep?"


Whatever you picked from that hasty inventory, and more, is included in the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s engaging musical review, A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing. (If you are wondering how that nursery rhyme made the list, it originated as a tax protest ditty in 13th Century England.) There are historical nods to LBJ, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, the Occupy Movement and even Plato, as the singers offer a low-key, non-chronological bit of history to go with the nostalgia. Victoria Petrovich’s artful photographic projections set the mood and showcase the times.



Written by the Rep’s associate director Todd Salovey, who also directs, and Vaughn Armstrong, Dave Crossland, and Jim Mooney, who also perform, the production was initially conceived as a tribute to legendary folk meister Pete Seeger, whose 1949 ballad inspired the title.  When Seeger withdrew his support a few days into rehearsal for the workshop production in January, 2012, the artistic team lead by Salovey boldly created an expanded play focusing on the music of social change. With the inspired addition of actress/vocalist Lisa H. Payton, they were ready to put on a new, improved show. Thanks to Bruno Louchouarn’s expert musical direction and arrangements, each number shines its own light into the luminous harmony of the whole.

Accomplished guitarists Mooney (a Rep veteran) and Crossland (a veteran folk musician) provide the smooth tones characteristic of much of the folk genre, and Armstrong (a veteran of Star Trek and a host of other theatre and television productions) provides many of the stories that give the songs their context and the audience its sentiments. (Be ready for a misty eye, as well as a hearty laugh, from time to time.) Payton radiates soul and style, meaningfully completing the quartet and artfully balancing the voices.

But rather than simply sit back for a trip down memory lane, the audience members add their own tuneful (or not) expressions in singing along to a few well-known numbers. For those too young to croon from memory, words projected on the screen behind the stage take away any excuse not to join in. Encouraged by the musicians and the memories they bring out, it would be difficult not to at least clap and sway. You will not be alone in giving in to the happy expression that these tuneful recollections bring.

This is a musical tour of and for the ages, and it deserves a hearty chorus.

“A Hammer, a Bell, and a Song to Sing” plays on the Lyceum Stage at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza through December 2.Performances are: Thurs-Sat at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Other performances on selected Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m.Tickets are $38-$58,students $18, with discounts for groups, seniors and military.

Reservations and information at or (619) 544-1000



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.