Irvine Barclay Theatre is about to expand its horizons with more events than the venue has ever seen before. This consists of music, cabaret, dance, speakers, jazz and so much more. Beginning on July 12, the season will have the National Theatre Live screening of All About Eve starring actresses Gillian Anderson and Lily James. This will be followed by more events, including an evening of Broadway hits with Linda Edner, a lecture by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and a night of music with Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez.
President of the theater Jerry Mandel said that the 2019-2020 season is taking on a different path than the previous season with several more kinds of performances. Several years ago, he and his colleagues started programming an arc that is about to come into fruition this season.
“We started by adding a jazz series that has quickly matured into one of the best in Southern California. Then we added a Broadway-Cabaret series focusing on great voices. And of course, the Barclay has long been known as a leading presenter of contemporary dance,” Mandel said.
The president added that he wanted to have a nice blend of different artists come join and not only show off their talent, but also bring an extra taste of the county.
“[We wanted] well-known names in the field, along with up-and-coming artists, and we try to add a SoCal element featuring the best that Southern California has to offer in that genre,” he said. “We feel that the programming at the Barclay is finally hitting its stride and making itself known in the community.”
Mandel also said this season is not just about presenting new art, but also about giving the community a place to belong.
“We want our patrons to feel that the Barclay is their home,” Mandel said. “A comfortable and welcoming place for them to share experiences with great artists.”
One particular event that Mandel hopes residents will experience at the theater is Chick Corea, a jazz trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade, playing on October 4. And with numerous other performances coming up, everyone can expect something new and exciting that may be unexpected.
“A season is a year-long journey and I always find something along the way that surprises me when I least expect it,” Mandel said. “Never knowing what the surprise may be keeps me excited about what we do.”
Irvine Barclay Theater opened in 1990, and from the start diversified with unique performances. Madel said it’s a place where audiences not only get to see memorable shows, but can be in a closer atmosphere with what’s happening in front of them.
“The size of the Barclay allows us to give our audiences very intimate experiences with the people on stage,” Mandel said. “You are never that far away from the performances and that creates a special energy between the audience and the artists that you don’t get in larger venues.”
One of the more intimate performances includes the National Chreographers Initiative on July 27. This event consists of 16 dancers from different professional companies who participate in a three-week workshop with four choreographers (Julia Feldman, Alan Hineline, Alex Ketley and Tom Mattingly) and perform original pieces. Over the years, the dancers have come from a number of different professional ballet companies, including Nashville Ballet, Richmond Ballet and Sacramento Ballet. Artistic director Molly Lynch said this event will have dances that may or may not be completed. This will give audiences the opportunity to ask questions.
“It’s fully performed, but it’s not fully produced. And the audience can offer their thoughts about it,” Lynch said. “Sometimes we’ll even ask the audience, ‘What did you get out of it? What did you see?’ At the end of it, the choreographers own their work and they have the ability to go and stage it or finish it on another company or another organization and we’ve seen over the years that at least half of the pieces that have been developing this project have gone on to be performed or premiered by other organizations.”
As the founder of NCI, Lynch started it as an independent project. Sixteen years later, she’s seen a lot of change because of the people who become a part of it each year.
“It’s different every year because there are different choreographers that come each year,” she said. “And what I’ve learned is I usually have about half of the dancers return and half of the dancers [are] new so there’s sort of new blood being brought into the project, but there are also dancers who have been through the process so they can help the dancers get acclimated in the process.”
The dancers spend up to eight hours per day working on their pieces. Lynch said with all the hard work they put in, it’s the freedom they share that makes their performances special.
“I always feel like if you allow yourself to be open that you can develop something new and I think thats what we really try to do at NCI is allow the freedom for these choreographers to be open-minded,” Lynch said.
For more information on the 2019-2020 season at Irvine Barclay Theatre, visit thebarclay.org.