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CultureCorner: Irvine Barclay Theatre

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The roots of this marvelous institution reach back to the 1970s — shortly after the City’s incorporation in 1971.  Believing that “the arts are the soul of a City,” a group of Irvine citizens led the way in formation of a partnership between the City and UCI for the purpose of garnering broad public support, and financial commitments, to build a major performing arts theater in the City of Irvine.

Located on land donated by UCI, the theater itself would be owned by the City of Irvine, and it would be operated by a non-profit board of directors that — even before the theater was built — included a diverse array of supporters and stakeholders.

Led by early Irvine residents — Sharon Sircello Toji, Shirley Palley, and Hal O’Neal — theater advocates determined that they wanted a “right-sized” theater.  It should be small enough for more intimate performances, such as smaller dance companies, chamber music, soloists, and plays. Yet, it had to be large enough for major productions, and include a balcony to fully appreciate the patterns and choreography of dance performances.  The right size? 756 seats.

By the time the Irvine Barclay Theater got built, more than $15 million had been gathered, the majority of those funds from voter-approved bond issues and other City resources, but nearly $5 million from private donations.  The San Francisco firm selected to design the Irvine Barclay Theater — Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons — called its elegant yet functional design “Bay Area Modernism.”

The Irvine Barclay Theater is celebrating 25 years of exciting and innovative theater — nearly all of those years under the brilliant leadership of Doug Rankin, the Irvine Barclay Theater’s founding president.  More than two million theater-goers have attended 3,600 events since 1990.

For more information go to: www.thebarclay.org

Marilyn Vassos

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