Segerstrom Center Off Center Festival

Segerstrom Center Off Center Festival Continues SCFTA’s Adventurous 25th Anniversary Season 


The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa has crossed into genuinely innovative territory, as its 25th anniversary season continues January 13-21 with a nine-day “Off Center Festival.” “The Car Plays,” for example, offer theater inside parked cars. 

Also included in the Segerstrom Center Off Center Festival are “Chautauqua!,”  inspired by the variety shows filled with novelty acts, lectures and dance numbers that ran from the late 20th century to the Great Depression with lectures; indie band Lord Huron, mixing Calpyso, folk and modern music; improvisational comedian and musician Reggie Watts; the play “ReEntry” about returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan; a performance art piece “Ten Tiny Dances,” and “The Word Begins,” combining theater, comedy, the spoken word and hip-hop.  There will be live music in a “Starving Artists Lounge,” where audience members can mix with festival artists.

Off Center Festival aside, the 25th anniversary season has more traditional treasures coming up, too, including the world-premiere of the American Ballet Theatre’s new production of “The Firebird;” a stage adaptation of the holiday film classic, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas;” and the annual “Candlelight Concert” starring Kristin Chenoweth and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and chaired by Dee Higby with co-chairs Elizabeth Segerstrom and Betty Huang.

And because last week’s “Stephen Sondheim: In Conversation” got derailed because of a freak snowstorm – keeping the guest of honor’s plane from departing New York – that event will come back again. (Having come to the Center for the event, I can’t complain as the evening turned into a free Sondheim concert with Tony Award-winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersole.)

The season has already been a whirlwind of music, dance and experimental arts. In the season-opening weekend alone, from September 30 to Oct. 2, there were performances by the San Francisco Ballet, National Acrobats of China, organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter and the Grammy Award-winning Ozomatli. Australia’s Polyglot Theater also installed We Built This City, consisting of thousands of cardboard boxes, which children and their families turned into towns with buildings, tunnels and a variety of architectural wonders.

The landmark year for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts began in January with the renaming of the Orange County Performing Arts Center to honor the Segerstroms for the vast contributions the family made since the center’s inception. The Segerstrom family provided the land for what has grown into a 14-acre arts complex, which now includes the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Samueli Theater, Founders Hall and Arts Plaza, in addition to the original Segerstrom Hall.  The Tony Award-winning theater, South Coast Repertory, shares the campus. 

The Segerstrom family continues to support the arts with enthusiasm. Nearly 100 family members attended the re-naming ceremony, celebrate with music and fireworks from the rooftops of the concert halls.

SCFTA president Terry Dwyer said the Segerstrom Center for the Arts looked forward to welcoming the entire community to events throughout the season, including many that are free or available at $10 per ticket through a special “Access for All” program. “We want to be sure that everyone has an opportunity to join in the celebration and participate in a season that offers the very best in the performing arts,” Dwyer said.

In its 25 years, the Segerstrom Center has presented Broadway shows, jazz, cabaret, classical music and an acclaimed international dance series, along with family entertainment and year-round free events on the plaza. Resident companies that call the center home include the Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society and Pacific Chorale.

Center representatives said they also expect the SCFTA campus to be the future home of the Orange County Art Museum, providing Southern California with a multidisciplinary complex for both performing and visual arts.

In the meantime, arts enthusiasts – myself included – are looking forward to the Segerstrom Center Off Center Festival and to getting inside “The Car Plays.”  

Photos, from top: organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter; from left: SCFTA board chairman Larry Higby, Dee Higby, SCFTA founding chairman Henry Segerstrom, Elizabeth Segerstrom, and SCFTA president Terry Dwyer; Sally Segerstrom, left, and Sandy Segerstrom Daniels; Ozomatli performs on the Plaza at the 25th anniversary season-opening celebration. (photos courtesy of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts)



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Segerstrom Center Off Center Festival

Published Nov. 9, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA