November 29, 2020

Who is Craig Noel?

Craig Noel with a bust of himself at The Old Globe in 2006.
Craig Noel with a bust of himself at The Old Globe in 2006.

Biography of Craig Noel, namesake of our awards

 When the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle relaunched in 2002 after a 9-year dormancy, it renamed its awards in honor of Craig Noel, the founding artistic director of The Old Globe. Before his death in 2010, Noel was universally loved and acknowledged as the founding father of San Diego’s theater community.

   During his distinguished 70-plus-year career with The Old Globe, the much-honored director staged over 225 productions of all styles and periods. His achievements as a director, educator and visionary were recognized on Nov. 15, 2007, with the award of the 2007 National Medal of Arts at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

 Born in New Mexico in 1915, Noel came to San Diego as a child. He was associated with The Old Globe from its community-theater inception in 1937 as an actor and in the following years he returned as a prolific director and eventually the artistic director who would guide the theater through its metamorphosis into one of the nation’s most successful nonprofit theaters.

In association with San Diego State University, Noel established the Globe’s famed Shakespeare Festival in 1949. He guided the Globe’s transformation to professional status in 1959, establishing it as the oldest continuing, professional not-for-profit theater in California.

Noel created an audience for new works through his early ’60s spring seasons at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, where he introduced the works of Beckett, Ionesco, Anouilh, Pirandello, Brecht, Behan, Giraudoux and Albee to San Diegans.  

Among Noel’s other innovations are Globe Educational Tours and the Play Discovery Program, which began in 1974. And in 1983, he established the Globe’s bilingual theater program Teatro Meta, offering bilingual theater programs in local schools.

In November 2007, Noel was awarded the prestigious 2007 National Medal of Arts by U.S. Pres. George W. Bush in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. The medal, chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts, is the highest honor given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government. 

After a prolonged illness, Noel passed away at his Mission Hills home on April 3, 2010. He was 94. 

Craig Noel with President George W. Bush after receiving the National Medal of Arts in 2007.
Craig Noel with President George W. Bush after receiving the National Medal of Arts in 2007.