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In Center Stage: Arts Complex It Was The Main, But Not The Only, Event Of 1985

December 31, 1985|HERMAN WONG | Times Staff Writer

With the scheduled opening of the Orange County Performing Arts Center only nine months away, it's not surprising that the Center easily dominated Orange County's arts scene in 1985.

For sheer magnitude, the smaller local arts organizations could hardly compete with an organization that:

- Affirmed that its $70.7-million main-theater phase will open Sept. 29, 1986, in Costa Mesa with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta.

- Stated that the fund campaign (as of Dec. 30) has reached the $93-million mark: $53 million for construction and $40 million for an operating endowment fund.

- Hired two former Kennedy Center officials: As new executive director, Thomas Kendrick, a longtime director of operations at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and as general manager, Judith O'Morr, who held the same title in Washington.

Obviously, Center board leaders believe that everything is right on track for 1986, despite the fact that the cost of the 3,000-seat main theater--and the 350-seat rehearsal studio--went up $13.4 million from the figure estimated 2 1/2 years ago. (No changes in cost have been announced for the proposed, yet-to-be-designed 1,000-seat theater estimated in 1983 at $8.2 million.)

Like other Center leaders, board president Timothy Strader expresses nothing but confidence, both in meeting the higher construction target and in signing a full-season roster of orchestra, opera, dance and musical-theater attractions.

"This is to be our final push (before the fall opening)," Strader said. "Everything points to success. It will truly be a curtain-raising year in 1986."

UP, UP AND AWAY: No, expansion and construction in 1985 wasn't limited to just the Center. Consider these three ventures:

- The Laguna Art Museum (the new name for the Laguna Beach Museum of Art) is set to reopen its landmark facility in June, 1986. An $850,000 expansion will increase the size of the facility from 9,000 to 15,000 square feet. The museum also was given an extension through 1986 on its rent-free "satellite facility" at the South Coast Plaza Mall in Costa Mesa.

- The Laguna Moulton Playhouse in October reopened its theater after a $650,000 renovation to add a 68-seat balcony (to the 350-seat main floor) and for various office and lobby revamping.

- The South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa last July started site-preparation work for its $1.5-million Artists Wing support facility (SCR's two-playhouse complex is next to the Center).

Other ventures in the works:

- The Irvine City Council and UC Irvine last August announced a preliminary plan to build a $9.5-million, 750-seat performing arts theater on the campus. To be funded by city bond monies, construction is projected to begin in 1986-87.

- The Newport Harbor Art Museum this month disclosed that its new-site search choices have been narrowed to the existing Newport Center location; two Irvine Co.-owned locales in Irvine, and the South Coast Plaza sector. A consultant's report on the proposed expansion, which could cost up to $20 million, is being awaited.

- Freedman Forum, a proposed $6-million, 2,300-seat theater-in-the-round for musicals in downtown Anaheim, in October won preliminary approval from the Anaheim City Council. Final city approval on structural construction is pending.

COMING ATTRACTIONS, PART I: The pending visits of American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Opera seem to support the Orange County Center's long-touted aim to be a "world class" complex.

Beverly Sills, general director of the New York City Opera, was here Nov. 18 to announce that her company--the first attraction to be signed for the initial Center season--will appear in Orange County on Jan. 14-25 in 1987. "Carmen," "Madama Butterfly," and "Candide" are to be presented.

Baryshnikov, artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, here Dec. 19, said his New York-based company will perform "The Nutcracker" for a Dec. 9-14 engagement in 1986.

This production, directed and choreographed by Baryshnikov, will play Orange County first, then Los Angeles for the company's usual two-week holiday run at the Shrine Auditorium.

The Orange County Philharmonic Society, presenter of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Orange County concerts since 1962, said it expects to present that orchestra's regular series at the Orange County Center. The society said it also is negotiating for single-concert appearances by other major orchestras, including the Cleveland and Chicago symphony orchestras.

According to Kendrick and Strader, the Center is also continuing talks with other organizations, such as the New York City Ballet, the Shubert organization (the impresario of musicals) and the Joffrey Ballet.

COMING ATTRACTIONS, PART II: At one time, relations were rather combative between the local performing organizations and the Center over the question of booking.

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