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On the Case with a former Girl Friday: My life in newspapers, from baseball to ballet, Part III - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

On the Case with a former Girl Friday: My life in newspapers, from baseball to ballet, Part III

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Final in a 3-part series

By guest blogger Anne Marie Welsh
June 21, 2013

In tribute to our season-opening show, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, longtime arts writer Anne Marie Welsh has been chronicling her early days as a real-life, former Girl Friday on our blog.  In last week’s post, she had landed at the Washington Star in D.C. in the 1970s as its dance critic and occasional theater writer, interviewing legends such as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov and reviewing the burgeoning theater scene in our nation’s capital. Read on in this third and final entry as Anne Marie finds herself in America’s Finest City, writing for the San Diego Union and arriving on the scene just after Des McAnuff completes his first summer as the Playhouse’s then-Artistic Director…

Part III

Dateline: San Diego, 1983-2008

After the Washington Star folds I free-lance as a dance and theater critic for the Baltimore Sun and teach writing at the Corcoran School of Art. My husband and I and our two young sons then spend a year in Zimbabwe where he fulfills his contract as ballet master (another story!) for the National Ballet before we return to the States to look for permanent work.

Over lunch in Manhattan, the public relations director at New York City Ballet tells me that the San Diego Union is seeking a critic to review dance and report on the arts scene. I come out to California for the first time for interviews with then features editor Karin Winner and other top editors, Jerry Warren and J.D. Alexander.

I land the job just after Des McAnuff completes his first summer season at La Jolla Playhouse, and, with Mary Hellman as my encouraging editor, carve a wide beat covering dance, some theater, performance art, and arts funding and politics.

The paper is expanding its arts coverage and gifted colleagues like Bob Pincus and David Elliott follow me on to the staff that already includes theater critic Welton Jones and music critic Don Dierks. Eventually there are 14 of us in the arts and entertainment section. The local dance scene is growing and two major presenters are bringing national and international companies to the Civic Theatre, the Spreckels, and the old Fox Theatre before it becomes Copley Symphony Hall.

But the juiciest growth is happening in theater, where McAnuff is putting the revived Playhouse on the national map, and he and Jack O’Brien, also newly installed at the Old Globe, become acknowledged leaders of an ever-shifting regional theater movement.

Once more, I land in a good place where being a girl doesn’t mean playing half-court b’ball. And so, with a full court press, I spend the next 25 years living my passions, writing about dance and theater, covering shows throughout San Diego, in Los Angeles and New York, interviewing emerging artists and stars, while moonlighting teaching criticism, writing, theater and dance history at local universities.

Unlike Hildy in the 1930s, I don’t have to choose between an exciting career and a stable home life; I raise a family that now, happy to say, consists of three thriving young men for whose baseball teams in the North Park and Rolando neighborhoods I gleefully kept score and for whose college lacrosse teams I was the most vociferous of cheerleaders.

The thrill of live performance, the challenge of a tough interview, the dogged pursuit of fiscal facts, the easy camaraderie in the office, and the ever-present pressure of a looming deadline: They made for a great professional life and inspired me nearly every day to follow my bliss, which is to write.

The newspaper may no longer be the dominant news medium in this country, and journalism as a profession has lost some of its luster since the glory days of Watergate when I got my big city start, but for this former Girl Friday, nothing could ever compare.

You can learn about Anne Marie Welsh’s new life as an author, writing coach and Yoga instructor at her website, and you can follow her blog, The Inward Eye, at http://www.annemariewelsh/blog/.


Anne Marie, as a guest of modern dance great Erick Hawkins and reporter for the Washington Star, in a reception line at the White House in 1979, meeting Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is standing next to President Jimmy Carter.