'Community theater' is a loaded term, especially in a city that hosts a coupla big fat gorillas like La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe. Often, it connotes performance art in the same breath with lemonade-stand fund-raisers and the pony rides at the annual ice cream social. Absolutely not so at Vanguard Theatre Company, now San Diego's oldest community troupe to operate from one location.
For the last 40 years, it's doggedly tackled whatever strikes its fancy, pushing its own envelope so audiences can push theirs. The company plays out of Westminster Theater, a cozy venue inside Westminster Presbyterian Church (3598 Talbot Road, Point Loma, 619-224-6263)--but religion isn't immune from its scrutiny. It once took a shot at The Royal Hunt of the Sun, a hugely ambitious script about Francisco Pizarro's conquest of Peru's Inca Indians (it's rife with thorny takes on separation of church and state).
The venue has also become the latest regular home to Poor Players Theatre Company, whose maverick take on Shakespeare has garnered an avid following and critical acclaim.
Last June, Vanguard hauled out its biggest guns for a production of The Music Man. Nothing new about that; every community outfit in the history of the universe has done The Music Man, probably 12 times. But the Vanguard production featured one core characteristic--it was really, really good! --Martin Jones Westlin