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Arts season blooms with theater, symphony and more

OC School of the Arts: Matthew Morrison

Officially launching Orange County’s theater social season with “Stagestruck!,” a heady blur of theatrical vignettes, elegant fare and entertainment by one of its own – Broadway/TV talent Nicole Parker – South Coast Repertory did what it does best: produce a party that had guests feeling like they were playing a starring role.

Sipping blood orange martinis, they cruised a salon bedecked with mini-sets evoking past SCR productions, including “Amadeus,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Heiress” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Snapping selfies, they viewed enlarged versions on the ballroom walls of the Westin South Coast Plaza, transformed by SCR’s scene and prop shop into a regal chamber showcasing stately white  columns, a glossy white dance floor and sapphire blue-draped tables topped with clouds of white orchids and hydrangeas.

“SCR gave me my passion for what I do; it’s where everything got started,” said the vivacious Parker, who, after guests dined on New York steak and bacon-wrapped shrimp (not to mention mini chocolate theater masks), belted out show tunes and praised SCR’s impact on her life as a young actress. She would always be grateful for the support of her fellow adult actors, she said. “They helped me with my focus and commitment.” Sally J. Anderson was gala executive chair.

PSO Milestone: Celebrating a decade since the Pacific Symphony opened the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, it was opening night jitters all over again for maestro Carl St.Clair, baton poised to lead the orchestra as Russian-American pianist Olga Kern played Sergei Rachmaninoff’s haunting “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

“I’m just as nervous as I was 10 years ago because, with each concert, I want us to come closer together, to respect classical music even more, to understand what a treasure we have in the musicians of the Pacific Symphony,” St.Clair told guests at the gala pre-performance dinner staged at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel. “Ten years from now, I want our symphony recognized as the beacon of artistic achievement of the great Orange County – with your support!”

Support was the buzzword during speechmaking at the event, chaired by Jo Ellen Chatham. Symphony President and CEO John Forsyte generously praised gala underwriter South Coast Plaza, season sponsors The Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, the symphony’s new board chair Joann Leatherby and Michelle Rohe, underwriter of Kern’s performance.
Gala attendees were also thanked for their support with a gift from the symphony, a bow- tied CD featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. “Put them in your cars, but watch the speed limit – you might find yourself racing with excitement!” Forsyte said.

Surf and song: With iPhones held high to record each move, patrons of the Orange
County School of the Arts Foundation watched alum Matthew Morrison execute a slick song and dance routine beachside at the Balboa Bay Resort, kicking off the institution’s 30th anniversary season. Widely recognized for his work on stage (“Finding Neverland,” “Hairspray,” “South Pacific”) and television (“Glee”), Morrison has been nominated for Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

“It’s so great to be standing here tonight celebrating 30 years for the OC School of the Arts,” said Morrison. “I’m so proud to say I’m an alumnus of this school and, sometimes, I wish I could go back; I had such amazing and inspiring teachers. Right out of high school, I went to New York, not knowing a soul, then a year later landed my first Broadway show. It was all due to the preparation and training I got at this school. Thank you for making the dream come true for me.”

World premiere: A giant of commerce and the arts, he was always bigger than life, but there was Henry T. Segerstrom, looming even larger on the silver screen at the Regency Lido Theater, starring in the world premiere of the story of his life.

Produced by PBS SoCal, the nearly one-hour documentary, “Henry T. Segerstrom: Imagining the Future,” was more than a predictable tribute. It was a highly detailed telling of the life of a visionary who helped turn lima bean fields and a dairy farm into one of the world’s toniest retail centers, South Coast Plaza, and the world-acclaimed Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The exclusive screening was co-presented by PBS SoCal and the Orange County Film Society. “I am so emotional right now,” the film’s executive producer, Maria Hall Brown, said after the show. “I am so grateful  that Henry trusted me with this. I am so honored; I just hope I did him justice.”

Loretta Swit to portray Eleanor Roosevelt at the Laguna Playhouse

Courage. Insight. Vision. Strength. Faith. Determination.

Those are the qualities two-time Emmy winner Loretta Swit has come to admire in former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt as she tours in a one-woman show about her life.

Set for four performances November 3-6 at the Laguna Playhouse, “Eleanor Roosevelt, Her Secret Journey,” takes audiences into her living room in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1945. The action begins when President Harry S. Truman invites her to head the American delegation to the newly created United Nations. Knowing this would be a significant step, she reviews her life before accepting the offer that ultimately lands her on the world stage.

What has she learned from Roosevelt that she can apply to her own life? “Not to be afraid to be afraid,” says Swit.

What does Roosevelt’s life teach us? “I think she would say, ‘How much do you want to learn?’ And, I would agree with her.”

New Art Museum Award: A self-taught plein air master painter is the inspiration for the Laguna Art Museum’s new Wendt Award, to be bestowed upon arts advocate/philanthropist Yvonne Boseker on November 13 during a gala dinner at The Ranch at Laguna Beach.
 Formerly called the California Art Award, it was renamed to honor Laguna Beach artist William Wendt, who was a founding member in 1918 of the Laguna Beach Art Association, later known as the Laguna Art Museum.

Avid collectors of California art, Boseker and her husband, Dr. Edward H. Boseker, who died in 2008, established a fund at the museum for the preservation, restoration and exhibition of its historical California art collection.

The event marks the first time a museum award has been presented off-site. The Ranch
at Laguna Beach highlights the pristine beauty of the region and its appeal to artists such
as Wendt, organizers say. Information: 949.494.8971, ext. 219.

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