Since its debut nearly 30 years ago, the Barclay has hosted world-class performances.

The Barclay celebrates 28 years of curtain calls

Former Orange County Register theater critic Paul Hodgins writes about the enduring appeal of Irvine Barclay Theatre, which opened in 1990.


The Irvine Barclay Theatre started as a dream that could only have been born in Orange County’s master-planned community: a unique collaborative project shared by the City of Irvine, UC Irvine, and the private sector.

I remember the ambition of the plan, which seemed both logical and risky. Would Irvine’s reputation as an urban utopia accommodate this unproven concept?

As the 750-seat theater took shape, I realized why the site had been chosen. It sits at the symbolic front door to the campus, anchoring one side of a broad plaza near the administrative building and main library. “The site had to be highly visible,” Douglas Rankin, the Barclay’s founding director, told the Los Angeles Times. “It had to (serve) both the school and community.”

At the Barclay’s opening on Sept. 30, 1990, it was clear that architect Larry Cannon had pulled off a triumph. Sleek, symmetrical and stylish, the 50,000-square foot building announces its presence with a projecting glass walled lobby that invites the public to enter.

From the beginning, the Barclay’s programming matched its bold new looks. Rankin brought in unusual dance companies from around the world and gave local musicians and actors a welcome venue. The theater’s intimate size, broad proscenium stage and superb acoustics serve all arts disciplines.

With 28 performance seasons under its belt, the Barclay recently upgraded infrastructure and, under director Jerry Mandel, is now exploring new programming directions.

“I’m broadening the base of our programming to bring in a wider group of people,” said Mandel, who was president of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, adding: “We’re more integrated with the community than ever.” 

Over the next few months you can enjoy a diverse collection of dance and music performances, and even comedy by UCI alumnus Jon Lovitz.

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