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The Old Globe's new artistic director is dreaming big

SAN DIEGO – Barry Edelstein, the new artistic director of The Old Globe, has only been on the job since Jan. 2, but he already is crafting an ambitious vision to transform San Diego’s most cherished theater institution into North America’s preeminent Shakespearean venue.

He envisons The Old Globe attracting the nation’s top Shakespearean actors to perform the Bard’s works both indoors and outside, as well as the theater providing a touring company to reach San Diegans who might otherwise not get exposed to the classics.

Edelstein met with local theater critics and the media over lunch on Tuesday, sharing how he has uprooted his wife and two young children from New York, where he was director of The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare Initiative. They have rented a house in South Park, enrolled their 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten and endured sleepless nights with their 4-month-old son.

Dressed San Diego business casual, wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt and no tie with a suit jacket and slacks, Edelstein displayed confidence, ambition, humility and humor as he charmed the media.

He said it has been a whirlwind ride so far, with countless meetings with staff, donors and the community, trying to learn as much as possible as he begins planning the 2014 season. Edelstein said the entire community has rolled out the red carpet for his family and offered advice on everything from picking a good dentist to choosing the right mechanic. “It’s been a humbling experience … very touching … wonderful,” he said.

Then he talked about his “gob-smacking” experience of taking his family to Balboa Park for the first time, just “tootling around,” and being amazed by the sheer number of world-class museums located within walking distance of each other. “It is hard to think of any place in America that can boast of that many museums within a 1-square-mile block,” he said, gushing. “The physical beauty is amazing, too. I keep thinking, what a jackpot we hit on coming to San Diego. … Balboa Park, what a treasure this place is!”

Edelstein’s enthusiasm for his new job is evident.

“How lucky I feel to be here,” he said.

He recognizes The Old Globe’s venerable history, and pledges to restore its international reputation. Through his connections to the top talent that graced the stage at The Public Theatre in New York City, Edelstein said he has already been reaching out to the actors and directors with the intent of luring them to San Diego. And he is confident that he can propel The Old Globe to greater heights.

Edelstein plans to direct as well, saying that he will likely helm a show in early in 2014 and a Shakespearean play outdoors.

"One of the lures of the job is that I can hire myself," he said, and his joke brought big laughs from the media.

He said he would eventually take over as artistic director of the Shakespearean Festival whenever Adrian Noble decides to move on.

He dreams of making the Interstate 5 corridor along the West Coast, from San Diego to Portland to Seattle, the heart of Shakespearean America.

Perhaps even more significant, Edelstein has already met with "friendly" rival Christopher Ashley, artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse. The meeting of the minds may pay off down the road as the two old friends from New York get reaquainted, and the two are already talking about ways to create synergy between San Diego's two biggest theater enterprises.

"Funny how life goes full circle," he said. "And here we are having breakfast in Hillcrest!"

Two different career paths lead to New York and eventually to San Diego. What are the odds?