10 Questions with Ann Wareham

The Laguna Playhouse artistic director prepares to celebrate her 10th year at the theatre as the organization reaches its centennial in 2020.

Long before she arrived in Laguna Beach, Ann Wareham's career started with nearly three decades as an associate producer at Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group where she worked under legendary director Gordon Davidson. 

Now, Wareham is artistic director of Laguna Playhouse, where she has worked for almost a decade, handpicking shows and helping to select quality cast members to star in them. She first came on board to produce the remainder of the 2010 season, which had been planned by the last artistic director, Andrew Barnicle, before he resigned; Wareham stepped into her current role less than a year later and the Laguna Niguel resident can't imagine working anywhere else. “This is a beautiful facility,” Wareham says. “This theater … and this community … [are] very special indeed.” With a recent face-lift adding a vibrant new entrance, the Laguna Playhouse will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. Until then, catch shows like “Peter Pan and Tinker Bell: A Pirates Christmas” through Dec. 29 and “To Sir, With Love” beginning Jan. 29.

Read on to discover Wareham’s favorite Broadway shows and go-to places in town.

Laguna Beach Magazine: What’s your all-time favorite Broadway musical?

Ann Wareham: Goodness, that’s like ask- ing me who my favorite child is. I’m a huge Sondheim fan. So, “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Company.” [And] I do think “Hamilton” is brilliant.

LBM: What do you enjoy most about your job? AW: I am all about relationships and connectivity. … I love this community that is the theater. It’s all about the relationships. 

LBM: What criteria do you use to select shows and casts? AW: Every show is its own piece; all are unique. … I love diversity and what theater can do to enlighten and expand our experience in that regard. But it’s the best of the best—directors, designers, actors—who win out at the end of the day.

LBM: What can guests expect from the next season, which starts in the summer? AW: It’s our intention to give, over a season, a full range of experiences: comedy, drama, musicals, heartfelt and touching experiences, and pure entertainment. 

LBM: Every year, you present a Lythgoe Family Panto production at the holidays. What makes their shows so appealing to audiences? AW: They are completely family-friendly, but the humor is so smart and savvy that adults never get the feeling they’re watching a children’s show. … [And they’re] filled with hits that everyone will know.

LBM: Which restaurants in town are ideal for pre-show meals? AW: Well, what restaurant in Laguna isn’t? But, for convenience and great food and ambiance, … Lumberyard [and] Nirvana Grille. I [also] love Ocean at Main.

LBM: What are some of your favorite nontheater activities in town? AW: I love to walk the beach with my dog [or have] a good meal at one of our fine restaurants. Of course, summer is very special with the Festival [of Arts], Pageant [of the Masters], Sawdust [Art & Craft Festival] and [Laguna] Art-A-Fair.

LBM: Where do you enjoy shopping in Laguna Beach? AW: Tight Assets is a favorite. Sunny Days. Duet. Areo [Home]. I don’t get out much, but, when I do, I frequent those.

LBM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? AW: I tend to both live in the moment and not get much further out than the seasons for the theater I am plotting and planning. I expect to be happy, to see my daughter—who is a budding scenic and light- ing designer in the theater in New York—thrive and have joy in her life. I can’t ask for much more than that.

LBM: What are some things you’d still like to accomplish while you’re at the Laguna Playhouse? AW: I’d like to see our subscription base continue to grow, and our donors and donations continue to increase. … It’s a real challenge, keeping a nonprofit theater alive, and we need everyone who cares to take part.