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Segerstrom Center plans 'Off Center' performance festival

November 9, 2011 |  6:00 am

Segerstrom Center Mariah Tauger
Building on the concept of alternative and youth-oriented offerings it launched in 2008, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is announcing Wednesday that its first “Off Center Festival” will run Jan. 13-21. Minimalism and eclecticism are among the creative approaches; affordability is a guiding principle with tickets $20 for each performance, discounted to $10 each in multi-show packages. 

Music, theater, dance and a variety show infused with intellectual as well as entertainment value will take place in the Costa Mesa center’s two smaller venues and outdoor plaza; next-door neighbor South Coast Repertory will lend its Nicholas Studio for one of the plays.

“Ten Tiny Dances” (Jan. 20-21), billed as “an experiment in confined space” devised by Portland, Ore., choreographer Mike Barber, will take place on a 4-by-4-foot square stage inside the Samueli Theater. The repertoire will include new pieces created for the occasion by Southern California dance makers Meg Wolfe, Melanie Rios and Jennifer Backhaus.

“The Car Plays” (Jan. 14-15, 20-21), overseen by Paul Stein, former artistic director of L.A.’s Moving Arts troupe, offers 10-minute scripts that not only are set in automobiles, but performed in them, with actors and audience sharing a car's cabin. A ticket will get you admission to one of three separate five-play sequences performed in vehicles parked on the center’s plaza. New scripts that South Coast Repertory commissioned will be included.

Normal stages will suffice for “ReEntry” (Jan. 18-20) and “The Word Begins” (Jan. 19-21). “ReEntry,” in Founders Hall, is a 2009 documentary play that creators Emily Ackerman and KJ Sanchez scripted from interviews with U.S. Marines and their families, about the experience of returning from combat in Iraq. Sanchez, an alumna of Anne Bogart's SITI Company, is directing the production by her new documentary-theater troupe, American Records. "ReEntry" opens this month at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky, where SCR's new artistic director, Marc Masterson, included it in the final season he picked for his former stage.

“The Word Begins” is a hip-hop theater piece written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews; it premiered in 2007 and was seen at the Los Angeles Theatre Center earlier this year as part of the RADAR L.A. festival. Staged in SCR’s Nicholas Studio, it will double as an entry in SCR’s Studio series, marking the company’s first dip into the hip-hop theater genre.

“Chatauqua!” (Jan. 13-15), by the New York-based National Theater of the United States of America,  draws on the tradition of traveling tent shows that originated in the late 1800s at Lake Chatauqua, N.Y. -– an early manifestation of edu-tainment in which lecturers played a prominent part alongside musicians and all manner of vaudeville-type acts.

What’s promised in the Samueli Theater is an event described as “specially created for Orange County, with material drawn from the history of the area.” UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky (Jan. 14 matinee), writers Gustavo Arellano (Jan. 13) and Jim Washburn (Jan. 14 evening) and charitable foundation executive Shelley Hoss (Jan. 15) are the speakers.

The musical one-nighters in Founders Hall are calypso-inspired L.A. musician Lord Huron (Jan. 13), comic/musician Reggie Watts (Jan. 14) and the Mexico City-based electronic act Mexican Institute of Sound (Jan. 21).

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Photo: Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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