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Meet Vanessa Dinning of Coronado Playhouse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Dinning.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m the Director of Artistic Planning and Marketing for Coronado Playhouse. I moved to San Diego from the UK eleven years ago, coming from a professional theatre and classical music background. At the time, I didn’t have a green card and so was looking for volunteer opportunities while I established myself in San Diego. I acted in a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III back in 2007 and really enjoyed the people that I met at the Playhouse. Over the next few years, I helped out in small capacities, eventually directing a mainstage production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in 2010.

A few years later, I was asked if I’d consider joining the board of directors, which I did. Over the past 7 or so years, I’ve worked for San Diego Opera and for La Jolla Music Society in their marketing departments, as well as working as a freelance actor, director, voice, and dialect specialist and educator in professional theatre. My experiences – artistic, administrative and in production – both here in San Diego and previously in the UK are all skills that I felt I could offer to Coronado Playhouse.

Coronado Playhouse has its roots very firmly in the community and gives back to the people of Coronado and San Diego. I love that we are so connected to our community but also that we offer such high-quality community theatre. I’m proud that I can bring my professional skills and experiences and share them with this small, but wonderful and vital community theatre to help better our on-stage product, our operations, our image and our community partnerships and relationships.

Nowadays, I am not only a board member, but am on staff at CPH, heading up our Play Selection Committee, working with our directors to try to bring audiences the best possible performances, and overseeing our marketing and PR. In addition, I work as a singing and voice teacher, an actor and a director in professional theatre in and around San Diego. I love that I can bridge the Community/Professional theatre families here.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Working in the arts is always challenging – in both good and bad ways. Our jobs – whether creative or administrative – center around teamwork, collaboration, listening and respecting our colleague’s ideas. Sometimes the work can be extraordinarily fulfilling and meaningful. Other times, it can be frustrating and difficult, even disheartening. Either way, there’s always something to learn. There’s always a takeaway.

Mostly, my work at and for Coronado Playhouse has been relatively smooth. The same at other theatres in San Diego too, honestly. There are times when I might disagree with a colleague, or when something we’d hoped to do doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped. Sometimes, there are “last minute” challenges that we need to overcome.

In general, people who work in theatre have the same goal – which is for the show to be the best it can be, so there’s always a way – if we listen, and collaborate – to get there in the end. Theatre people are – generally – pretty good in a crisis and there’s always a way to make sure that “the shows goes on.”

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Coronado Playhouse story. Tell us more about the business.
Coronado Playhouse is known for top-quality Community Theatre productions at as close to a professional level as possible, and were often mistaken for being a Professional company, which makes me really happy! Our programming is adventurous without being alienating. We program smart and well-written works, produce many local premieres and also work to offer family-friendly productions each year. In addition, we’re known for – or at least we strive to make everyone who walks through our doors feel like Family.

Whether you’re an actor auditioning, a volunteering helping to build a set, or an audience member coming to see a show, we want everyone to feel welcome, at home and like they belong. I’m very proud that actors and directors want to return to Coronado Playhouse to work with us again and again because they have had such positive experiences with us. I’m proud of the friendships made and the memories made on our productions and also the positive, supportive and nurturing environment we try hard to provide.

In addition, we do our best to ensure that what you see on our stage reflects a joyful spirit of collaboration and a sense of pride in a job well done. I’m also proud of our community partnerships with local non-profit organizations. Each mainstage show partners with a local charity and we work alongside them to fundraise and raise awareness for them. We truly aim to be “the community’s theatre.”

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Interesting question. Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest person alive as I get to do what I love to do and make a living at it. But then, I have to remind myself that I went to university, and grad school, and have put in hours and hours, years and years of work, discovery, practice, analysis etc.

To be able to enjoy the professional and personal life I do today. It isn’t like someone just came up to me randomly and offered me the jobs I’ve had. I’ve worked in professional theatre for 25 years. I still have to audition for acting jobs and deal with the competition and rejection. I’ve had to prove myself and my abilities. My private students throw up challenges every day.

Sometimes it’s a case of “being in the right place at the right time” but hard work, integrity, study, and dedication go hand-in-hand with that. That said… I do get to do a job that gives me such joy. Not everyone can boast that. And in that respect, I am indeed very lucky.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Weston Bennett, Ken Jacques, Barron Henzel, Jerry Monroe, Andrew Rodgers

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Rosemary Harrison

    March 17, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Vanessa, what a wonderful article! Well deserved. I am constantly in awe of what you are able to accomplish. (and you didn’t even pay me to say all those things) You have maximized the talents God gave you, and fiercely attacked the opportunities that came your way. As an ex-pat myself, your early work in the UK is very impressive. Congrats on such positive recognition.

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