by Annette Bignami

Theater and music can treat your ears, and rest your feet, after a long Balboa Park Day. The Old Globe Theatre deserves its Tony Award. Three separate stages, the "you can hear a pin drop" Old Globe, the small Cassius Carter Centre Stage and the outdoor, and usually balmy, Lowell Davies Festival Theater mix Shakespeare and classics with more modern works. Shakespeare in the Old Globe offers a taste of England.

Since most performances are in the evenings, a visit to the Old Globe won't clog your schedule. My wife notes, "bundling under a blanket at the Lowell Davies Theatre suits romantics." Last trip we enjoyed John Goodman of ROSANNE fame, as Falstaff in a unique joining of both parts of Henry IV. We was decent, but outclassed by the Shakespearean specialists. It probably takes time to get used to the odd airliner overhead and the odder seal chatter from the zoo towards dusk. Seals apparently get fed late in the day.

The Starlight Bowl runs summer musicals at 8 p.m. from June through September. With 4,324 seats, you might need binoculars if you do not book up front. You miss some theater nuances in the spectacular open-air setting. Generally frisky casts that, with only 10 performances per show, have not lost their verve offer good value. Last year prices were in the $10 to $20 range with copious free parking. Tip: Come early, but park near the lot exits, not the bowl, for a quick getaway.

Children enjoy two special offerings. The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park offer weekly weekend shows of hand, rod and marionette puppets. The San Diego Guild of Puppetry is one of the best in the world, and it's cheap! Just $1 for kids; $1.50 for adults. The San Diego Junior Theater offers five stage shows in the Casa del Prado Theatre as part of their year-round learning and performance program for eight to 18 year old youth. Lots of verve here, and not as many fluffed lines as you might expect. A must for families with budding thespians!

Everyone enjoys monster pipe organs, and they don't come any bigger outdoors than in the Spreckles Organ Pavilion. If you schedule your lunch break at 2 p.m. on Sundays you can listen to spectacular organ performances. Some are almost as ornately embellished as the Pavilion.

This by no means exhausts your options. Last visit there were two touring musicals, drama at the famed La Jolla Playhouse and a host of lively beach and street entertainers. Add the excellent jazz and entertainment in a host of clubs in Old Town. We also enjoyed a wonderful jazz pianist at the Harbor Sheraton and, the next morning, a classical trio for brunch. Just down the walking paths along the water, we found a New Orleans combo. Further on, and nothing beats a walk along the water on a balmy evening -- that’s most of them in San Diego -- we ended up with a folk music group before we returned to the hotel and a final drink in the lounge. Unfortunately, there’s so much to do during the day that it’s difficult save energy for the nightlife.

Old Globe Theatre 239-2255
San Diego Junior Theatre 239-1311
Starlight Bowl 544-7800
Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park 466-7128