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A Conversation with Inspiring Artist Michael Lopez, Artistic Director of Cabrillo Playhouse

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Inspiring Artists Stories

Today we'd like to introduce you to Artistic Director, Michael Lopez of the Cabrillo Playhouse

Current Location: San Clemente, CA

Michael, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a major in theater and minor in dance. I had worked at Disney as a dancer and upon graduation was hired full time as a dancer at Knott's Berry Farm. I danced in shows around Southern California in different Civic Light Operas and eventually ended up at the Curtain Call Dinner Theater for over 25 years working my way up to Staff Choreographer and Dining Room Manager. Eventually when the theater was sold, I was hired as the General Manager/Artistic Director.

Throughout those jobs I also choreographed for Tri-School Theater, The Rose Center Theater, Huntington Beach Playhouse, The Lewis Family Playhouse, and California theater of Performing Arts. Seven years ago I was hired as the Artistic Director for the Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente.

Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?

I am currently the Producing Artistic Director for the Cabrillo Playhouse. I hire the production team and work with the board of directors in selecting a season of six shows. Because of Covid, we have created an outdoor Garden Cabaret that seats about 30 people at private tables. This will be a permanent stage with ongoing performances of small shows and solo acts.

What challenges have you had to overcome on your journey as an artist?

In 2014 I was hired at the Cabrillo Playhouse and a month later I was hospitalized and had to undergo major surgery. I was at the hospital for a month! Luckily I healed and have been fine since but it put me in a major financial bind. It took a while but I've come back stronger than ever with the help of family and friends.

Are there any lessons you've learned along the way, maybe something you would tell your younger self? What's the best piece of advice you've received?

More than once I have been promised jobs, promotions, etc., that did not come through. I would tell myself "get it in writing!"It wasn't advice, but help. A college professor/mentor-Dean Hess-asked me what he could do to help me. I was horrible at vocal auditions. I asked him to teach me the notes on a piano so I could take a piece of music, and practice my audition song on the piano by hitting the right starting note. It changed my whole audition process and built my confidence at auditions.

What do you consider your proudest moment?

One specific proud moment was being a dancer for the opening ceremonies of the '84 Olympics. I also feel a lot of pride when I see students that I have taught excel in their careers and hope that maybe I had a little bit of influence.

What inspires you as an artist?

Mostly my longtime friends, but most recently from a friend that I had lost contact with for about 20 years, and connected with again in the past year.

What role do you think the Arts play? What are your hopes for the future of the Arts?

I believe that we must provide a platform as artists to explore, feel safe, and learn. As an Artistic Director I want to give the audience a place to escape and enjoy shows, and also push their boundaries a little. I hope that the Arts continues to grow and encourage new talent. I also hope that we don't forget the past and get consumed in technology and lose the artistry of the artist.

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