Our Laguna: Playhouse gives former director accolades

March 24, 2011|By Barbara Diamond

Doug Rowe pronounces his name to rhyme with "wow," and for years that's what he did on the Laguna Playhouse stage and in the wings.

He acted and directed plays for 27 years when the playhouse was not yet a "professional" theater, meaning the actors and stage crew didn't get paid.

The playhouse is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year by honoring some of the supporters and volunteers who made major contributions in time, talent and/or money in previous decades.


None could be more deserving than Rowe. He was honored Saturday at the opening of "Private Lives" as the Heart and Soul of the Playhouse — to say nothing of his skills as a director or ability to woo locals to perform.

"Doug led the playhouse through many a windstorm as both artistic and managing director," "Private Lives" Director Andrew Barnicle wrote in the program.

"I've heard more than a few non-theater civilians tell me how they would try to shrink when they saw Doug approaching on the street for fear they would end up in a play," he wrote. "Then they'd follow up with a dozen stories of the wonderful time they had and how it not only changed their perspective of themselves and their personal capacities, but how it brought them into a fold of friends that has lasted for life.

"That was Doug's way: People who never knew they had it in them blossomed around him. His patience, skills, grace and humor guided them through innumerable joyous experiences, not to mention some terrific work on the playhouse stage."

Rowe served as artistic and managing director from 1964 to 1991, the year after Rick Stein was hired.

In 1996, Rowe moved with his family to Oregon, where he was to star as Willy Loman in the acclaimed Ashland Shakespeare Festival's production of "Death of a Salesman."

Last December, Rowe was named artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival.

Rowe was welcomed home at a pre-show reception attended by many of the folks who had worked with him, on and off stage, including Jim and Karen McBride, who starred in the award-winning "Quilters," among other notable productions; Cherry and Vern Spitaleri, who helped raise funds for construction of the theater and productions; Anne Wood, all around volunteer; Jim and Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda, a former board member; and Susan Jahraus, also a former board member;

John Ferzacca recalled directing musicals at the playhouse.

"Doug didn't want to do them, so I did," Ferzacca said.

Coastline Pilot Articles Coastline Pilot Articles