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A Tribute To Rita Bronowski


She had opinions, loved good conversation, and was smart. She threw great parties. And she loved the color purple. All those qualities and more were remembered by friends and colleagues gathered at La Jolla Playhouse to pay tribute to the remarkable Rita Bronowski. Stories shared were warm, funny, and informative. Each speaker revealed a different aspect of Bronowski. Yet, all of the stories overlapped in a marvelous web of connectivity.


During the final three decades of her life, Bronowski’s greatest love was La Jolla Playhouse. Prior to that, she was an accomplished sculptor and theatre practitioner in London before arriving in San Diego in the 1960s with her brilliant and now legendary husband Jacob Bronowski (presenter and writer of The Ascent of Man). Early on, she devoted her energy to the Salk Institute, as well as San Diego theatre and visual arts. She served on the play reading committee at the Old Globe Theatre for many years, remaining a vital presence there until the new La Jolla Playhouse stole her heart.


Though she retained her avid interest in the Globe, she quickly was immersed in the process of making La Jolla Playhouse a reality, as a member of the search committee for its artistic director at the time (Des McAnuff), and as a visionary helping to set the future course of the re-born Playhouse. Rita was a trustee there, finally assuming the title of trustee emerita. She attended every event and activity, and was a tremendous booster of young people’s educational theatre, both at the Playhouse and through Shakespeare competitions sponsored by the English Speaking Union.


This sparkling woman was also active in Charter 100 and a founding member of the Salk Institute Art and Science Forum, recently renamed the Bronowski Art and Science Forum.


Rita appeared extensively in the 1984 KPBS television documentary, Jacob Bronowski Life and Legacy, which was a tribute to the man known as Bruno to his friends by producer Peter Kaye. That show marked the tenth anniversary of Bruno’s death, and it subsequently aired nationally on PBS in 1985, and internationally on the BBC in 1986. With that, the already internationally-known Rita became even more so.


Some years ago, Rita joined The Old Globe’s Craig Noel and actor Sam Wanamaker in London for the groundbreaking ceremony for the rebuilding of the original Old Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s time. There they were at convergent points in their lives. It was Wanamaker’s life purpose to rebuild the Old Globe in London. Noel had watched San Diego’s Old Globe being built in 1935 in Balboa Park when he was a teenager, and Rita represented a lifelong devotion to all theatre, whether classical, contemporary, or wholly experimental, and she was British. While La Jolla Playhouse was her pride and joy, she envisioned stages of the world. Her large circle of friends and associations attests to that.


Rita’s life was interesting because she made it just that. It didn’t just happen serendipitously. She challenged herself on a daily basis, and she challenged all around her, too. Her questioning mind and force of presence energized and elevated conversations. And together with Bruno, she is indelibly imprinted in our memories.    DARLENE G DAVIES



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