Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grease's Emily Padgett Talks Shop

Emily Padgett, currently starring as the good-girl Sandy in the touring production of Grease, sat down for a chat. (Yes, she wears wigs on stage.) She gave us the scoop on opening night in Orange County, what it's like to work with Taylor Hicks who plays Teen Angel and more.

Originally from Lewisville, North Carolina, Emily has always had a big-time love for performing. She grew up listening to Broadway cast albums her parents played around the house and since then, she's been hooked on theater. After studying dance and working in community theater, she moved to New York City to live the Broadway dream. And she IS living it. Emily has toured with the 25th anniversary production of CATS and also appeared in Legally Blonde as well as in Grease on Broadway.

We wish you all the best Emily!

Friday, April 24, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Orange County-native Amy Tsai for designing the winning poster for The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, a new musical which is currently receiving its developmental production at the Center. Amy's artwork was selected as the top pick by the creators of Samantha Brown, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. The poster is currently being displayed in the lobby of Samueli Theater where the show is playing through May 3. The first place prize also included six free tickets to the show and the opportunity to show five pieces of original art in addition to the poster.

The poster (pictured above with the artist) was designed by Amy to look like something Samantha Brown, the teen-aged protagonist in the musical, would draw or scribble on her notebook during a class. Amy said she was inspired by Samantha's struggles over her future and could relate to the character. Amy, a graduate of UCLA, said she is pursuing art and writing.

The Center's Education Department held the poster design contest and invited area artists to submit entries. The second-place poster designed by David Vargo is also on display in Samueli Theater.

Thanks to everyone who entered the poster contest!

P.S. If you come to a performance, let us know what you think about the winning posters.

Guest Blogger's Reactions to Samantha Brown

Center Scene's guest blogger, Jacob Matsumiya gives his thoughts on the new Broadway-hopeful musical, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, which is receiving its devlopmental production at the Center now through May 3.

Jocob writes:

Let me be the first to admit that I love big musicals. From Wicked to The Lion King, the spectacle, the production numbers, the million dollar sets and costumes; they are a completely thrilling theatrical experience. But what a lot of times these million dollar shows lack, what most shows lack for that matter, is a feeling of being alive. Alive in the sense that the artists, the performers, and the audience are sharing in an evolving and active theatrical experience. What most of us experience when we attend touring productions of shows is a static theatrical experience. The show was written and locked at least a few, if not several, years prior to the performance. The actors have rehearsed the piece extensively and the music is set in stone. Not to say that they can’t be enjoyable and moving pieces of theater, because they can be, but in a way they are a piece of art that has been completed and is on display to enjoy and appreciate. They can be as I said, static.

What I had the pleasure of experiencing tonight when I attended The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown was most definitely not a static piece of theater. Still in its developmental stages, I had the rare chance to watch a piece of artwork being created. Playing before an audience for the first time, the show is still being reworked, songs are being rewritten and cut, staging is evolving, costumes are still incomplete, and the actors are still finding their character’s voices. But that was the thrill of the experience for me. I felt somehow more connected to what was on stage then I ever have with other shows I attended. Not because the piece was especially resonant with me, but because I felt somehow that I was taking part in the creative process. Sharing in the creation of a new work of theater. Having the chance to see something that no one has ever seen before. Watching artists at work. That is what made the experience so special for me.

Yes the show is a moving, thoughtful, poignant and intelligent piece of theater. The music and lyrics are phenomenal, so fresh, and so relevant. (By the way you can listen to music from the show and more songs from the gifted songwriting team of Brian Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan online at On a deeper level, what was more moving and much more of an experience than any aspects of the show was having the chance to see a musical in its developmental stages. To see an evolving and fleeting piece of art. No one will ever have the chance to see that exact performance again. To experience that, to feel that while watching a show, well that is akin to a religious experience for a theater junkie like me. Thanks to the cast and creative team behind The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown for an extraordinary night of theater. And thanks to the Center for supporting the development of theater and giving artists a chance to showcase their works. The arts are a vital part of our society, and especially in these economic times, it is even more vital to ensure that amazingly gifted people like the team behind this work have the chance to keep doing what they do best. Because it would be a much less interesting world without them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Taylor Hicks to Perform on American Idol

Taylor Hicks is going back to the show where it all started - American Idol. AI's season five champ will be a guest on Wednesday (April 29) night's program. Hicks will perform his song, "Seven Mile Breakdown" from his latest album.

Hicks will go from Idol to Angel when he appears at the Center in the touring production of Grease which runs April 28 - May 10. In Grease, Hicks plays the role of Teen Angel. He made his debut in the role last summer. Hicks said Grease is "such a great opportunity to visit old fans and new fans across the country while bringing them a great Broadway show!”

*Hicks will not appear in the April 29 performance of Grease due to his American Idol engagement.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Preview Party: ASID 2009 Design Tour

This year, the Orange County chapter of ASID selected the Center as beneficiary for its 2009 Design Tour. The Design Tour runs through May 17, and proceeds support the Center’s education programs. This year’s Design Tour started with a fabulous preview party at Astoria’s luxurious club house. Preview party guests began their evening with champagne and strawberries in the Astoria lobby, followed by special tours of the six penthouse lofts and two flats, all of which had been transformed by the hottest local interior designers into breathtaking urban retreats. The designers were on-hand to show off their creations and answer questions from guests. After the tours, everyone gathered in the club house’s lush resort setting for cocktails and dinner created by Turnip Rose Catering. In attendance were Center President Terry Dwyer, ASID Orange County President Diane Sparacino, ASID Design Tour Chair Laura Yorba, Orange Coast magazine President Jeff Ditmire and Intergulf Development’s Marketing Manager Michael Chious. For more information on the ASID 2009 Design Tour, please visit

Top L to R: Terry Dwyer (Center president), Diane Sparacino (president, ASID Orange County), Irvine Councilman Steven Choi, Edward Sohn
Middle L to R: Laura Yorba (2009 Design Tour chair), Jeff Ditmire (president Orange Coast magazine), Diane Sparacino (president, ASID Orange County), Terry Dwyer (Center president)
Bottom L to R: Linda and Bob Thauer, Kathy and Cliff Fleming

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Awards Galore!

It was an exciting weekend for the Orange County Performing Arts Center with the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners and Russia's coveted Golden Mask Awards.

Famed minimalist composer Steve Reich won the music Pulitzer for "Double Sextet," a piece co-commissioned by the Center and performed here last year by eighth blackbird. Though he has been a finalist several times, this award marks Reich's first Pulitzer. Said Reich in the LA Times, "I said, 'You know me, I've got to have pairs of identical instruments, that's really my life's blood. And I thought, what if eighth blackbird recorded themselves, then played against themselves? I'd have two clarinets, two pianos, two percussionists -- I'm home free." NPR aired a great story about Reich and the prize yesterday - click here.

Across the globe, Russia's Golden Mask Awards were announced at the annual festival of performing arts. Celebrated ballerina Diana Vishneva, a familiar face to Center audiences, took home the Best Dancer award for her work in Beauty in Motion, another Center co-commission which received its world premiere here in February 2008. The dance production was also hailed as Best Ballet and winner of the Critic's Prize. Center patrons will have another chance to see Vishneva in action when she dances in Tour de Force: A Gala Dance Spectacular featuring the dance world's brightest stars on May 21.

Congratulations to Steve Reich and Diana Vishneva!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ASID 2009 Design Tour: Urban Living at Astoria

The ASID 2009 Design Tour officially opens to the public Tuesday, April 21 but a couple of us got a sneak peek with Center President Terry Dwyer when he filmed an interview at the Astoria towers. And what we saw was spectacular! This year’s tour focuses on urban living for the first time and the ASID designers managed to capture the modern and cosmopolitan feel of a thriving metropolis in the six penthouse lofts and flats to be showcased in the tour. Astoria is a brand-new high rise complex in Irvine.

The views from the floor-to-ceiling windows were out-of-this world and the expansive indoor and outdoor spaces were full of cutting-edge design from green living to this year’s hottest colors and trends. One dining room had a large glass Dale Chihuly chandelier hanging above the dining room table and another dining space incorporated a sleek wine cellar. We saw leather walls, spa-like bathrooms with every amenity you could possibly imagine and enormous closets. In the living room of Penthouse 1301, there was a large glass cocktail table with a blown-up photo of the Center’s signature sculpture, Fire Bird, which is outside of Segerstrom Hall. It was a creative way to incorporate the tour’s beneficiary. Tour proceeds will benefit the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s acclaimed education programs which reach 500,000 students throughout Southern California.

There’s still time to get ticket to the preview party on Sunday, April 19. For more information on the tour (runs through May 17) and tickets to the preview party and other fun events, please visit:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Calder String Quartet to Perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno April 14

For those of you who can't wait for the Calder String Quartet's upcoming performance here (with Sarah Cheng) in our 2009-2010 Concert Series - you're in luck! Tonight, April 14, the Calder Quartet will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with indie rock outfit The Airborne Toxic Event. Be sure to tune in!

Inspired by the innovative American artist Alexander Calder, the Calder continues to expand its unique array of projects by performing traditional quartet repertoire as well as partnering with innovative modern composers, emerging musicians and performers across genres. The group was awarded the 2009 ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) for Adventurous Programming Award in recognition for its exciting programming and collaborations.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Interview w/ Avenue Q's Ben Schrader

Avenue Q cast member Ben Schrader took time out of his busy performance schedule to answer some burning questions we had about his experience on the touring production, which is currently playing Orange County. The Q&A with Ben was captured by our brand-new flip cam. Click above to see the full interview and find out what Ben really thinks about his co-workers, the puppets, what he's liked about performing at the Center and lots more insider-information about the show. Avenue Q is here through Sunday, April 12. For more Avenue Q information and interviews, please visit our facebook page

Many thanks to Ben - see you on Broadway!