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San Diego Premire

This Beautiful City

November 8 - December 16, 2018
Written by Steven Cosson & Jim Lewis

About the Show

Created from actual interviews with citizens of Colorado Springs, the capital of the Evangelical movement, this timely musical explores faith, and the organized resistance against Gay rights. Traversing a scandal that rocked the core of the religious right, This Beautiful City illuminates a cross section of a community poised at the volatile intersection of church and state. Diversionary’s rare revival of this authentic, often humorous exposé of a nation divided honors the late Michael Friedman’s (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) extraordinary contributions to American theatre.

About the Writers

The Civilians is the center for investigative theater led by Artistic Director Steve Cosson, supporting the development and production of new theater from creative inquiries into the most vital questions of the present. Since its founding in 2001, The Civilians has supported the creation of thirteen original shows produced at numerous theaters in New York and across the country. Works by the company have toured extensively to arts presenters and festivals with presentations in over forty cities nationally and internationally. The Civilians received an Obie in 2004 and the company’s work has been included in top ten lists in the “New York Times,” “The New Yorker,” and “Time Out New York.” The Civilians expands the scope of American theater and champions innovation by tackling complex and under-explored subjects. The company provides a home for a multidisciplinary group of artists and partners with regional theater and arts presenters in New York, nationally, and internationally.

Composer Michael Friedman passed away Fall 2017 from complications related to HIV/AIDS. He was only 41. Taken far too early, this production honors him. Michael was a founding Associate Artist of The Civilians, and has been the composer/lyricist for the company’s THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY, [I AM] NOBODY’S LUNCH, GONE MISSING, and CANARD, CANARD, GOOSE? He also wrote music and lyrics for SAVED, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, THE BRAND NEW KID, GOD’S EAR, THE BLUE DEMON, and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. With Steve Cosson, he co-authored PARIS COMMUNE. He also scored the ballet LOVE STORIES for New York City Ballet’s Benjamin Millepied. His music has been heard at the New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, The Roundabout Theatre Co., Second Stage, Soho Rep, Theater for a New Audience, Signature, and The Acting Company. Regionally Friedman has written music for such companies as Hartford Stage, Humana Festival, A.R.T., Berkeley Rep, Dallas Theatre Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Portland Center Stage. Friedman’s compositions have also been performed internationally in productions at London’s Soho and Gate Theatres, and the Edinburgh Festival. Film/TV work includes “On Common Ground,” “Beloved,” “Emile Norman: By His Own Design,” “Floaters,” and “Affair Game.” He was also the dramaturg for the Broadway revival of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, directed by Kenny Leon. He was an Artistic Associate at New York Theatre Workshop, a Princeton University Hodder Fellow, and a recipient of a MacDowell fellowship. He received a 2007 Obie Award for sustained excellence.

Steven Cosson founded the Civilians in 2001. He worked with the company as co-writer and director of PARIS COMMUNE, produced at The Public Theater, and previously produced in La Jolla Playhouse’s Page to Stage series. He also worked with the Civilians as co-writer and director of THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY, which premiered as a co-production of the 2008 Humana Festival and Studio Theatre, with productions in the 2008-2009 season at Center Theatre Group (Mark Taper Forum) and The Vineyard Theatre. He was the writer/director of the long-running hit GONE MISSING, which was included in “New York Times” critic Charles Isherwood’s Best of 2007 list, as well as (I AM) NOBODY’S LUNCH, which won the 2006 Fringe First award at Edinburgh, published by Oberon Books. He also directed the company-created CANARD, CANARD, GOOSE?. Cosson’s work with The Civilians has also been produced at A.R.T., Actors Theatre of Louisville, HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival, London’s Gate Theatre, and Soho Theatre, among many others. Cosson has directed and developed many new plays, including Neal Bell’s SHADOW OF HIMSELF, Mat Smart’s 13TH OF PARIS, Tommy Smith’s AIR CONDITIONING, Anne Washburn’s COMMUNIST DRACULA PAGEANT, the world premiere of Peter Morris’ SQUARE ROOT OF MINUS ONE, the U.S. premiere of Martin Crimp’s ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE, the U.S. premiere of Sarah Kane’s PHAEDRA’S LOVE, THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, SERIOUS MONEY, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, GUYS AND DOLLS, and others. He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia, a MacDowell Fellow, and Resident Director at New Dramatists.
Jim Lewis won Tony and Drama Desk nominations for Best Book for a Musical for his adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD. Also with Graciela Daniele, he wrote DANGEROUS GAMES and TANGO APAISIONADO. Other credits include Ballet Hispanico’s NIGHTCLUB (libretto); Philip Glass’ LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES (narration); and Paul Dresher’s THE TYRANT (libretto), while his translations include Ionesco’s THE CHAIRS and Ibsen’s LADY FROM THE SEA. Mr. Lewis also served as production dramaturg for PAST FORWARD (with Mikhail Baryshnikov); Anna Deavere Smith’s HOUSE ARREST; Lincoln Center’s Woza Afrika Festival; WASTE (Obie winner); CYMBELINE (with Bartlett Sher); and STILL/HERE at BAM (2003) He was the program director at The American Center in Paris and a resident dramaturg for the Guthrie Theater, Second Stage Theatre, and INTAR Theatre. Mr. Lewis’ show FELA!, with Bill T. Jones, completed a sold-out run Off-Broadway at 37 Arts and moved to Broadway in 2009.
a woman smiling for the cameraTheo Allyn (Woman 1)* is delighted to be making her Diversionary Theatre debut! An actor, writer and improviser, she recently made the cross-country trek from Chicago to Southern California. In Chicago, her work has been seen most recently at Second City and the Goodman Theatre. Regionally Ms. Allyn has worked with City Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and Bricolage. Training includes the Atlantic Theatre Company Acting School and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Victor E. Chan smiling for the cameraVictor E. Chan (Man 2)* is making his Diversionary Theatre: debut. Regional Credits: (Reprise 2.0) Sweet Charity starring Laura Bell Bundy, (San Diego REP) Evita, In The Heights, The Who’s Tommy, Celebration Of The Lizard,  (La Jolla Playhouse) Miss You Like Hell, (East West Players) Chess,(Disney Creative Entertainment) Crush in Finding Nemo the Musical (original cast album), Frozen :“Live at the Hyperion, (Starlight Theatre) Engineer inMiss Saigon, (American Stage Theatre Co.) Riff Raff in Rocky Horror Show,(SD Opera) Moby Dick. Movies: The Birth Of An Alien, Heart Of Mind, Platypus: The Musical, The Syndicate. TV: The Oscars 2018 (ABC), Bent(NBC), NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS). Love to his wife Michelle, and sons: Gabriel, Elijah, and Dorian. Proud member of AEA. @VictorEChan
a man with a plaid shirtMichael Louis Cusimano (Man 3)* is happy to return to Diversionary where he was seen last season in Homos, or Everyone in America and in the staged readings of The Boys in the Band and The Homosexuals. Elsewhere in San Diego: Once, Big Fish, American Rhythm, North of Normal (Lamb’s Players); The Rocky Horror Show, On the Twentieth Century (Cygnet Theatre); Spamalot (Moonlight Amphitheatre). Los Angeles and other SoCal credits: Metamorphoses (Santa Barbara Ensemble Theatre); The 39 Steps(Glendale Centre Theatre); Grease (Cabrillo Music Theatre). Michael has also performed in the NYC Fringe and Brooklyn BEAT Festivals, and is a BFA graduate of Carnegie Mellon School of Drama.
a woman with dark hairKim Heil (Woman 2) is proud to make her San Diego theatre debut on the Diversionary stage!  She returns to the theatre after a 17-year hiatus, having served as an administrator and producer for The Old Globe and San Diego Junior Theatre, as well as San Diego Repertory Theatre, where she is currently the Associate Producer and Casting Director.  In her previous life as an actor, Kim made many appearances at East West Players and CLO of South Bay Cities, among others.  Kim holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University.
Tony Houck with a mustacheTony Houck (Man 1 & Music Director) is reveling at returning to Diversionary. Diversionary: Marry Me A Little; Thrill Me; Bare: a pop opera(Critic’s Circle Nom). Elsewhere: Legally Blonde; The Secret Garden; The Buddy Holly Story; 1940’s Radio Hour; Oklahoma (New Village Arts); The Test (SD Fringe festival winner for Best Musical); Bring It On (SDMT).  Tony is also an accomplished pianist and has played for In The Heights(Southwestern College); Big River, Sylvia (New Village Arts); Lady Day at Emmerson’s Bar and Grill, (ion Theatre); Altar Boyz (Diversionary). He also played for B Squared starring Broadway’s Brad Bradley; and the Human Dignity Gala featuring Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Martin. Tony is a graduate of AMDA. He also plays trumpet and french horn. He plays for many auditions around town and does vocal coaching for many of San Diego’s local artists as well as being a teaching artist at San Diego Junior Theatre.  He has also been on stage in some Diversionary favorites like YANK!, Scrooge in Rouge(Craig Noel Award); Harmony, Kansas; and Twist, just to name a few.
a person smiling for the cameraJasmine January (Woman 3) is a graduate from the illustrious Howard University where she received her BFA in Musical Theatre. Her recent credits include Qulili (Blindspot Collective), Avenue Q (NVA), American Idiot (Southwestern College), Buddy Holly: The Buddy Holly Story (Intrepid Theatre Company/NVA), and Father Comes Home from the Wars (Intrepid Theatre Company). She’s also a headliner performer in many The Stars of the Future Cabarets (Leigh Scarritt Productions) and various performances throughout San Diego. She is elated to be making her debut with Diversionary Theatre!

*Denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association

a man wearing glasses

 Matt M. Morrow, Executive Artistic Director

Matt M. Morrow (Director, Executive Artistic Director) Since joining Diversionary, Matt has directed the World Premiere of Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald’s musical The Loneliest Girl in the World, Georgette Kelly’s Ballast (Winner, 2017 Best New Play, San Diego Critic’s Circle Awards), the San Diego Premiere of Bash Doran’s The Mystery of Love and Sex, the West Coast Premieres of Jordan Harrison’s Amazons and Their Men,and Christopher Shinn’s Now Or Later. Matt recently directed Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine with The Old Globe/USD MFA program. Prior to joining Diversionary Theatre, Matt was the Associate Artistic Director of City Theatre Company, a LORT theatre in Pittsburgh dedicated to producing work written in the past five years. With City he directed the Regional Premiere of Jessica Dickey’s Charles Ives Take Me Home, the World Premiere of Tami Dixon’s South Side Stories (Pittsburgh Post Gazette & Tribune Review’s Top Ten of 2012), and Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still.

Matt is currently a Creative Catalyst Fellow with The San Diego Foundation and La Jolla Playhouse. He has developed new work with The Sundance Theatre Institute, The Old Globe, The Banff Centre, Center Theatre Group, American Conservatory Theater, Lincoln Center, PlayPenn, and Page 73 Productions in residence at the Yale School of Drama. He served as The John Wells Professor of Directing at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama (Graduate & Undergraduate Directing programs), and is a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. He holds a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Tony Houck (Man 2 & Music Director) is reveling at returning to Diversionary. Diversionary: Marry Me A Little; Thrill Me; Bare: a pop opera(Critic’s Circle Nom). Elsewhere: Legally Blonde; The Secret Garden; The Buddy Holly Story; 1940’s Radio Hour; Oklahoma(New Village Arts); The Test(SD Fringe festival winner for Best Musical); Bring It On(SDMT).  Tony is also an accomplished pianist and has played for In The Heights(Southwestern College); Big River, Sylvia(New Village Arts); Lady Day at Emmerson’s Bar and Grill, (ion Theatre); Altar Boyz (diversionary). He also played for B Squared starring Broadway’s Brad Bradley; and the Human Dignity Gala featuring Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Martin. Tony is a graduate of AMDA. He also plays trumpet and french horn. He plays for many auditions around town and does vocal coaching for many of San Diego’s local artists as well as being a teaching artist at San Diego Junior Theatre.  He has also been on stage in some Diversionary favorites like YANK!, Scrooge in Rouge(Craig Noel Award); Harmony, Kansas; and Twist, just to name a few.

Justin Humphres (Scenic Design) is a scenic and video designer based in San Diego, CA. His design work has been seen internationally in both the United States and Asia. As a video designer, he has created content for numerous concert tours, corporate events and Las Vegas shows. As an assistant/associate he has worked with Robert Brill, John Lee Beatty and others on various commercial, regional and Broadway projects. Recent San Diego scenic design credits include: “Actually” (San Diego Rep), “Vietgone” (San Diego Rep), and “Voyeurs de Venus” (Moxie). Broadway credits include: “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical” (Associate Designer), “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” (Associate Designer). Justin holds a BFA from Western Michigan University and an MFA from University of California, San Diego.

Elisa Benzoni (Costume Designer) is thrilled to be working again with Diversionary Theatre. Select credits include: The Loneliest Girl in the World, The Happiest Place on Earth, Homos or Everyone in America, Ballast, Mystery of Love and Sex (Diversionary Theatre), Sex with Strangers (Geffen Playhouse), The Who and The What, Our TownTall Girls; Brahaman/ISam Bendrix at the Bon Soir (La Jolla Playhouse); Constellations (Old Globe); Cloud 9, Romeo and JulietTwo Gentlemen of Verona, Pericles, Prince of TyreReckless,Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure (USD/Old Globe); The Father, How the Other Half Loves, Of Mice and Men, Travels with my Aunt, The Illusion, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Cocktail Hour, Fox on the Fairway (Nominated for a Craig Noel Award), Chapatti, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush (North Coast Repertory Theatre); Men on Boats, Secret Garden, Awake and Sing, Sylvia (New Village Arts); Elisa holds a costume design MFA from UCSD.

Curtis Mueller (Lighting Designer) returns to Diversionary having designed Bull in a China Shop, The Happiest Place on Earth, Cardboard Piano, Homos, Well, 2.5 Minute Ride, Lizard BoyManhandledNow or LaterA Civil War Christmas, Amazons and Their MenMan Clan, and A New Brain. Select local credits include: Withering Heights, Margin of Error (Roustabouts Theatre Company); End of The RainbowQuality of LifeThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I Hate Hamlet, All My Sons, Macbeth (Intrepid Theatre Company); Big RiverThe 1940s Radio HourSeascape (New Village Arts); Chess in concert, Next to Normal, Spring Awakening (Cabaret at the Merc Summer Series). Curtis has also worked extensively with Coronado School of The Arts. Curtis holds a BFA in Lighting Design from California Institute of The Arts.

Matt Lescault-Wood (Sound Design) is excited to be back at Diversionary.  Previous credits include; Lizard Boy; The Moors, The Loneliest Girl Alive (Diversionary); Eurydice [2010 San Diego Critics Circle Nominee], Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Hickorydickory, ENRON, Eternally Bad, The Kid Thing, Bliss, Voyeurs de Venus (Moxie); Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, A Behanding In Spokane, Man of La Mancha, Assassins, Company, Spring Awakening, Pageant, True West, Fool For Love, Sons of the Prophet, My Fair Lady, Shockheaded Peter, Spamalot (Cygnet); Evita, Roz and Ray [2017 San Diego Critics Circle Nominee], Hand To God; Black Pearl Sings, Beachtown, Fun Home (San Diego REP)Seascape, Stage Kiss, Lord of The Flies, Big River (New Village Arts); Henry V [2014 San Diego Critics Circle Nominee] (New Fortune).  Matt has a Degree in Theatrical Design and Technology from SDSU.

Blake McCarty (Projections Designer) is an artist and educator, as well as the founder of Blindspot Collective, a theatre company devoted to transformative new work at the intersection of advocacy, education, and entertainment. He is thrilled to be making his Diversionary Theatre debut. Elsewhere as a designer: SpamalotOn the Twentieth Century, and The Rocky Horror Show (Cygnet); Evita and Beachtown (San Diego Rep); ShadowlandsAmerican Rhythm, and Oz (Lamb’s Players); Cloud TectonicsBuddy, and Return to Forbidden Planet (New Village Arts); and Sunday in the Park with George (Ion). Upcoming projects: Qulili, a documentary play about refugees based on the exact words of real people; Chasing Fear, a musical based on Turkish folklore with composer Trevor Bachman; a new play in the style of Boal’s Forum Theatre exploring the lives of non-binary and gender non-conforming youth that will tour to local schools later this year; and Angels in America with Cygnet. In addition to his work as a director and designer, Blake has developed educational programming for organizations that include The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, The New Victory Theatre, Tribeca Film Festival, and Guggenheim Museum. He holds a BFA in Film Production and an MA in Educational Theatre, both from New York University.

Taylor Todd (Stage Manager) is so happy to be stage managing at Diversionary this season! Some of her stage management credits include Bull in a China Shop, Mystery of Love and Sex (Diversionary); Bachelorette, Tarrytown, Gutenberg! The Musical! (Backyard Renaissance); Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2, & 3, Perfect Arrangement, ART, Woody Guthrie’s American Song, End of the Rainbow (Intrepid); Final Draft New Play Festival (New Village Arts); Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Co-production with Intrepid & New Village Arts); The Seagull (Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA); and Anton’s Shorts; Three Brief Comedies by Chekhov (University of San Diego). Credits as an assistant stage manager include Cardboard Piano (Diversionary); Parlour Song (Backyard Renaissance); Oliver! (Cabrillo Stage, Santa Cruz); and Anatomy of Gray (University of San Diego). Taylor graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.

a man wearing glasses

 Matt M. Morrow, Executive Artistic Director

I’m thrilled to debut the work of The Civilians on the Diversionary stage. Our 10th Anniversary revival of this rarely seen musical is the first professional production since its original. With religious freedom laws sweeping the country, I expect this piece will take on a renewed urgency as we hone in on what it means to have faith and how a community organizes on both sides of the political spectrum. Featuring a stunning score by the late and great Michael Friedman riffing on Christian rock, this profound and often humorous musical takes an even-handed look at what divides us, and what brings us together.

Photo credit: Simpatika

Special Events

Thursday, November 8th – Friday, November 16th

The first two weeks of early preview performances are not rehearsals — they are your chance to get a sneak peek of the show as the creative team puts their finishing touch on the play, and to see a great performance at a fantastic price.

Friday, November 9th
To say thank you to those that serve, Diversionary offers complimentary tickets. Email for more information.

Saturday, November 17th
Pre and post-show festivities – celebrate with the cast and company! The party starts at 7pm before the 8pm performance.

Monday, November 26th

Theatre Professionals enjoy a special discount to our only 7pm Monday evening performance! Pay-What-You-Can at the door, or $10 in advance with code SDARTS.
Thursday, November 29th
Join us in Fritz’s Lounge before the show to meet the Design Team, see a display of the concepts used in producing the show and hear the influences and process involved. Hosted hors d’oeuvres round out a fun pre-show experience! The party starts at 6pm before the 7pm performance.
Thursday, December 6th

Join Director Executive Artistic Director, Matt M. Morrow for a discussion about the next show, World Premiere ofTHE HOUR OF GREAT MERCY by Miranda Rose Hall in Fritz’s Lounge for hosted hors d’oeuvres and a chance to chat before the show! Pre-Show reception at 6pm, performance at 7pm.


San Diego Union Tribune

  • “The six-member cast and scenic design are excellent.”
  • “Allyn is an excellent and authentic actress and a powerhouse singer.”
  • “Victor E. Chan shows impressive versatility.”
  • “Multitalented Michael Louis Cusimano plays guitar in the show as well as various pastors at New Life Church. He’s most memorable as the disillusioned son of New Life founder Ted Haggard.”
  • “Kim Heil makes a welcome return to the stage after 17 years as a local theater administrator.”

San Diego Magazine 

  • “The songs sincerely capture the sound and feeling of contemporary Christian rock. I can’t deny how often my toes were tapping, even as my post-evangelical anxiety tried to protect me from the lyrics.”
  • “I can’t deny how often my toes were tapping.”
  • “[Jasmine] January’s voices and affect for each character are subtle and consistent.”
  • “It offers no easy conclusions, instead creating a multidimensional, complicated portrait of what it means to be a believer in a changing world
  • and how muddy faith and power get when mixed together, elevated by some excellent performances and enriched by a propulsive soundtrack.”

Broadway World

  • “With so many elements, characterizations, and musical numbers it is through the creative and empathetic direction by Matt M. Morrow, and the stellar cast that this show comes together to tell its story so effectively.”
  • “Theo Allyn is tremendous” 
  • “THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY is an interesting exploration of faith, power, politics, and community when the world is always changing.” 

City Beat

  • “The production is spirited and wonderfully performed. It boasts an ardent, versatile ensemble of actors.”
  • “Friedman’s musical numbers reverberate with emotion in the small but acoustically sound Diversionary space.”
  • “This Beautiful City’s presence on the local theater scene now—when holiday fluff will soon take over almost completely—guarantees that a thoughtful alternative is available. It asks its audiences to ponder the true meaning of love and good will.”

Jazz 88

  • “The cast and creative team are excellent, marshaled by inventive director Matt M. Morrow and music director Tony Houck.”
  • “The voices superbly capture the pastiche score of pop, country and Christian rock.”

Talkin’ Broadway

  • “Diversionary’s interpretation treats a potentially sensitive plot with humanity and compassion. The production is an enjoyable and insightful one, regardless of your background or personal beliefs.”

Gay San Diego

  • “Meticulous musical direction, flawless casting, and an engaging and moving story.” 
  • “Masterfully done, poignant at every turn.”
  • “As relevant today as it was at its opening debut in 2008.”
  • “Diversionary Theatre delivered its message with precision.”
  • “An  engaging artistic endeavor.”
  • “The direction and execution of every line in this show left an indelible mark that stays with viewers long after the performance is over.” 
  • “Simply superb.”
  • “This Beautiful City is incredible in its depth.”
  • “A phenomenal tool for opening dialogue on conversations too long overlooked.” 
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