Artwork by Emily Wilker

Learn more about the artist

Save Starlight is an initiative working to restore, revive and revitalize Starlight Bowl—an open-air amphitheater in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park. The Bowl has been closed since 2012, and has fallen into disrepair.

We envision a venue for open-air performances, concerts, cinema, festivals, plays, community events, and musical theater. 

We imagine a new generation of diverse performances, a stage for the San Diego community hosting magical entertainment experiences. Our goal is to preserve the Bowl’s heritage, ensure accessibility, and use creative technology to address opportunities and challenges for its location and architecture.


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The Ford Bowl was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company for the 1935­-36 California Pacific International Exposition. In its early days the Bowl was home to symphony concerts broadcast via radio across the country, and other events. The name was changed to Starlight Bowl in the 1970s.

The Bowl is probably best known as home to the SD Civic Light Opera Starlight summer musicals most seasons from the late 1950s until 2012. Since the SDCLO folded in 2012, the Bowl has languished and fallen into disrepair.





The Bowl is located in the Palisades area of San Diego’s beloved Balboa Park. It is directly under the flight path for San Diego’s airport, the busiest single runway airport in the US, Lindbergh Field.

For decades, theatrical performances would “freeze” mid-scene or song as the planes passed overhead. As air traffic increased dramatically so did the noise and interruptions, creating problems for the venue’s traditional programming.





Step 1: Campaign

Stop the decline of the Bowl through maintenance and care.

Build a coalition of volunteers, leaders, advisors, supporters and participants.

Develop a sustainable operating plan.

Test sound and lighting technology.

Step 2: Renovation

Plan coming soon.

Step 3: Operation

Plan coming soon.





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Save Starlight—a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization—is a grassroots initiative led by a team with experience in theatre technology, urban culture, community production, urban revitalization, historic preservation, and sustainable business. Our growing team has a deep commitment to the heritage of the Bowl and surrounding park. Our DIT (do it together) spirit is generating collective momentum across San Diego for this vision.

CEO and Founder

Steve Stopper is the former audio technician for Starlight. He currently runs the largest audio, video design service, in San Diego, with customers ranging from the NFL to the Navy. Stopper is also the founder of The School for Creative Careers, a nonprofit focused on giving students experiences in real world performance art environments.


BOARD OFficials 

Chairman of the Board

Steve Woodard A Graduate of Denver University (DU) achieving a degree in Business with an emphasis in Finance.  He is a local Businessman and Entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in Business Development and Strategic Planning and Startups. Having previously held senior leadership roles in Fortune 50 companies as well as Start-ups in the Healthcare Sector, Steve brings a wealth of experience and demonstrated success is all aspects of Business Development, Sales, and Operations.


Dan Woodard is an alumnus of UC San Diego and received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1986. He’s been an attorney in private practice since then. In addition to nearly 30 years in estate planning and litigation practice, he’s mediated nearly 1000 disputes. He was honored by the Los Angeles Superior Court as the Probate mediator of the year in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He has been a member of numerous Boards of Directors and been counsel to multiple non-profit organizations over the past 25 years.


Mary Karo was a member of the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera and California Ballet Orchestras and created the Festival String Trio, Quartet, and Orchestra. She was a leader and musical contractor for Starlight Opera for 5 years and subsequently for San Diego Lyric Opera.


Stan Canaris recently retired after 36 years of service within the Sweetwater Union High School District as a teacher, football coach and dean of activities at various schools. He oversaw the opening of Eastlake High School in 1992 and served as vice principal before assuming the role of principal in 1995. It was under his leadership that the school, then the newest in the district, earned recognition as a California Distinguished School as well as numerous athletic banners. Upon retirement, to honor him and his contributions to the District and the community, Eastlake High named its athletic stadium Stan Canaris Stadium. He also taught and was head football coach at Hilltop High, taught at Sweetwater High School, and served as dean of activities at Mar Vista High School. Stan is a life-time member and Vice President of Eastlake Education Foundation.  He has received numerous awards over the years. Highlights of these are: Administrator of the Year at Sweetwater Union High District, San Diego Proclamation, Coach of the Year, Certificate of Congressional Recognition, Recognition from President George W. Bush.

Kevin Charles Patterson comes to San Diego after an extensive career in the performing arts which has taken him on tours for productions around the world. He is also the Executive Director of the San Diego International Fringe Festival as well as the Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts (formerly Philadelphia College of Performing Arts), where he received a BFA in Theatre/Dance.

Alexandra Germon is a real estate agent and former radio personality whose show supported small businesses on a local AM 1170 radio. She is passionate about causes that change people's lives. Alexandra devotes her time to helping Save Starlight to be recognized as pillars of San Diego's community.

Steve Karo has performed as a percussionist from Boston to Los Angeles for over 50 years, including many years as percussionist for Starlight Opera at Starlight Bowl. He founded the Save Our Balboa movement when Balboa Theatre faced imminent destruction; He was a founding member of the Balboa Theatre Foundation and listed as agent by the State of California.

Rachael Akin is the Brand Czar & Co-Founder at Benchmark Brewing Company in San Diego.  She is a fifth generation San Diegan, who attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, and holds a BS in Interior Design from the Art Institute of San Diego. Rachael worked for several years in theater design and management, beginning her car rear at the Starlight Bowl. She later transitioned to commercial interior design and graphics where she focused on patient experience and brand identity for large healthcare facilities, specializing in children’s hospitals. She currently holds the office of secretary of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and sits on the board for Save Starlight.

Ed Hollingsworth is an actor and a retired teacher.  He appeared in 35 productions at Starlight, starting in 1980. His wife and all four of his kids have performed at Starlight.  He met his wife on the lawn by the back parking lot of Starlight on September 2, 1982.  He proposed to her in the same spot one year later. Starlight is a major part of his life.



Welton Jones has been involved with San Diego arts and entertainment since 1966, as a theatre and music critic for The San Diego Union-Tribune; as a playwright, director and producer at many venues; and as an activist for innumerable cultural projects.

Diana Cantu is an international business development executive with extensive experience in the intersection of technology and the arts/humanities. Currently she’s a consultant specializing telecommunications, broadcast, and multimedia distribution infrastructure. She also has served/currently serves in leadership capacity on boards for nonprofit arts organizations.

Stephanie Sherman is an art director, public curator, and social designer who creates collaborative systems by transforming underutilized spaces and surplus resources. She co-founded Elsewhere--a living museum and artist residency set in a former thrift store that helped to revitalize Greensboro, NC, and is currently the co-director of Common Field, a new national arts organizing network. She has worked as a collaborator and cultural consultant with Materials & Applications (LA), Sensible Recovery (NY), DesignLab (San Diego), Provisions Library (DC) Rebuild Foundation (Chicago), Kulturpark (Berlin), Save Starlight (San Diego), Merz Barn (UK), Forecast Public Art (MN), RadioEE (Miami) and Port-to-Port (international). Her projects have been supported by the Warhol Foundation, Kresge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtPlace America. She holds a BA from University of Pennsylvania in 20th C. Literature, an MA from Duke in Critical Theory+Visual Culture, and is currently working on a Phd in Art+Design at UCSD. She believes there is an art to everything.


Executive Director of Operations

Janelle Woodard  Graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) achieving a B.A. in Communications with an emphasis in Business Marketing and a Minor in Fine Art History while interning with the American Federation of The Arts (The AFA) in New York City.  Upon graduating and returning to California she was a Media Account Executive for Honda through Rubin Postaer and Associates.  Her career then led to the Five-Star resort, Stein Ericksen Lodge where she was the Sales and Marketing Manager and Corporate Event Planner.    She then secured the role of  International Sales Manager for the Park City Chamber allowing her to travel abroad marketing the area and the Olympics Games.  In 2015 she founded the North County chapter of the Non-profit Teen Volunteers in Action (TVIA).  Where she currently is the Founder /President of the Board and is the spokesperson for the Chapter's 120 members.  

Communications Manager

Sierra Poppleton graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with her B.A. in Photography ( She is the founder of BYU-Idaho’s Last Voice Standing and has served as the director of their dance and sports program. She has a passion for theatre, dance, sports, business and plans to return to school to get her M.B.A. in the future. 

Community Outreach

Jamie McGuffee is a creative spirit connected with The School For Creative Careers and many other performance art entities. McGuffee has been involved with School for Creative Careers since 2014. As an instructor she has helped to create and teach seminars for students about music and live production. She has worked for over 60 music festivals and events across the country. She is able to combine her passion and skills for preforming arts, by creating events  and  through these skills she aims to develop a Save Starlight community. McGuffee is currently part of the outreach team for the campaign.

Assistant to the CEO

Glenna Trone has experience in both photography and videography with a background in theatre. She first became involved with Americas Finest Sound as technical support in 2014. Soon, she expanded her skills in media through the School For Creative Careers. Her enthusiasm for media production continues to grow through her involvement with Save Starlight.  

Creative Director

Diana Benavidez  is a Visual Artist and Undergraduate Researcher for UC San Diego's The DesignLab Creative. She has previously been involved as Executive Production Assistant for Parkeology and Design Forward. Her work as a Visual Artist adopts the Mexican craft of piñata making as a medium to create sculptures that involve the absurd-like exaggeration of mass-produced objects, which plays off on both the viewers intimate knowledge of, and their shared relationship to taken-for-granted objects. Her sculptures are also a reflection of the artist’s own hybrid identity as a Mexican-American growing up near the San Diego/Tijuana border where the language of commodification and the culture of conspicuous consumption transcends both sides of the border. Works have been exhibited in a variety of spaces that include UC San Diego’s Adam D. Kamil Gallery and The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.

Grant Writing Team

Margaret Akin With a BA in English and American Literature from UCSD and a long career as a technical writer, she found herself writing grant applications. “It’s another form of technical writing. I especially loved writing applications to introduce arts programs in school districts around the country.” Margaret has recently retired for a second time after cofounding San Diego-based, family-owned and family-operated Benchmark Brewing Company with three other family members. “I love retirement. It gives me time to volunteer.”

Susan Trump Former Development Director for the Reconstruction of Starlight Bowl in 1980 now does not work traditionally after a long history as a Relator and restaurant owner.

Sharon Russakoff  has been a teacher and librarian for over thirty years, at sites ranging from inner city public schools on two coasts, to a prestigious private school, at medical facilities, and at public libraries. She has performed with a variety
of choirs locally and internationally, and has written monthly newsletters for various organizations for over twenty
years. She keeps out of mischief by walking, swimming, helping with costuming in a local theater, volunteering with
Father Joe’s Villages, the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Opera, and a number of local theaters, and recently
appeared in a show at the North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe and at UCSD Osher. Russakoff will be completing her certification in grant writing in the near future, and is looking forward to helping in this grand effort to revive a wounded giant, for the benefit of all San Diegans.

Dr. Duncan Earl is a local scientist and entrepreneur. Before moving to San Diego, Dr. Earl spent 18 years working as a physicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, where he wrote and secured over $20M in federal grants. As an entrepreneur, he has raised more than $7 millions of private funding and state-based grant funding for various startups in the Southern California area.    





Contact us 

General Info: // 619.252.1744

Steve Stopper (Production):

Diana Cantu (Development):

Susan Clausen (Press):  




See Press Releases, Media Kit, and Press Archives here.

June 9, 2016 - The San Diego Reader                                                     June 9, 2016 - Voice of San Diego - Culture Report

June 22, 2016 - Save Starlight Press

June 26, 2016 - Beautiful Balboa Park

June 29, 2016 - 600 KOGO News Radio

July 9, 2016 - Presidio Sentinel

July 29, 2016 -

August  9, 2016 - The San Diego Union-Tribune

August 10, 2016 - KPBS

August 10, 2016 - The November Project

August 11, 2016 - CW6 News

August 11, 2016 -

August 13, 2016 - The San Diego Union - Tribune

August 13, 2016 - The Los Angeles Times

August 13, 2016 - NBC San Diego

 August, 13 2016 - Fox 5 San Diego

September 7, 2016 - Write Out Loud

December 27, 2016 - VOICE OF SAN DIEGO- Staff Picks

January 3, 2917 - VOICE OF SAN DIEGO




Save starlight NEWSLETTERS

January 18, 2017       2017 The Year Starlight Bowl Reopened

February 15, 2017    Old Venue, New Vision

March 15, 2017          Activating The Site, Building a Future 

April 12, 2017              A community Treasure