PRESIDENT/CEO JERRY MANDEL HAS HIT HIS STRIDE AT THE 27-YEAR-OLD PERFORMING ARTS VENUE.
Ten years after retiring as President/CEO of the Orange County Performing Arts Center (since renamed Segerstrom Center for the Arts), Jerry Mandel got a call in October, 2015, about taking on the job of interim president of the Irvine Barclay Theatre while the board had time to fill the position. Doug Rankin, founding president of the Barclay had retired after nearly 30 years of service, and someone was needed to replace him.
“To be honest, I never expected to take on another major job in the arts again,” Mandel says, “but I didn’t know how much I physically missed being in the theatre, and I was hooked.”
Mandel, who had by this time carried his love of playing the saxophone into establishing the Jerry Mandel Swingin’ The Standards Jazz Band that had played professionally around Orange County the past 10 years, thought he would only be at the Barclay for a few months, but in June, 2016, he was asked to be President/CEO for a year, which in June, 2017, turned into continuing through September, 2018.
However, there is a caveat.
“I’m getting up there in age,” Mandel says, “and I don’t think it is fair to the Barclay or to me to have a multi-year contract, so we’re taking it a year at a time,” Mandel says.
He says of the first few months:
“Initially, it was harder than I thought it would be, but with such a great professional staff, it was made a lot easier. And, with the help of board chair Ken Rohl, an avid UCI supporter, we put together an amazing board of directors.”
A Little History
It also didn’t hurt that Mandel had been Vice Chancellor of University Relations at UC Irvine before he was at Segerstrom Center.UC Irvine provided the land and $1.8 million in construction funding to build the Barclay and is still involved today along with the City of Irvine, who contributed $11.3 million of the $17.4 million project budget, with the rest raised by the theatre’s board of trustees.
“The theatre does not report to either the city or the university,” Mandel explains. “However, the City of Irvine does provide one- quarter of the theatre’s annual budget, which varies between $4 and $4.2 million, with the rest raised by us through ticket sales, fundraising and rentals.”
As it’s turned out, the Barclay was formed as a unique performing arts venue, established as a public-private partnership overseen by a stand-alone nonprofit called the Irvine Barclay Operating Company, which reports to a board of directors that has local folks on it and representatives from both the city and the university.
The Barclay, with its 750-seat “jewel box” theatre with intimate atmosphere and superb acoustics, was created to showcase top quality artists, to provide a superior facility for local and regional arts groups and to enhance UCI’s educational mission, particularly the programs generated by its School of the Arts. The theatre building was named for Richard Barclay and the theatre auditorium for Dr. George and Arlene Cheng, all of them area philanthropists.
After 25 years, the theatre’s reputation needed a boost, so Mandel says his goals from the beginning were to provide programming that would appeal to a larger audience, to start active fundraising and, most important, to connect to the university.
Mandel’s face lights up when he talks about what’s new at the Barclay. He has implemented a Broadway Cabaret Series with such luminaries as Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune and Brian Stokes Mitchell; a Distinguished Artist Series, co-presented with UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts; a Jazz at the Barclay Series with such icons as the Brandon Marsalis Quartet, and a Family Events Series with offerings like “Petra and the Wolf.”
There are also a plethora of offerings from all musical genres, from Mandy Gonzalez from the Tony Award-winning Hamilton, “Jane Lynch Sings,” and Anne Carrere performing as the French chanteuse Edith Piaf to Montreal’s Cirque Eloize, humor writer David Sedaris, and “An Irish Christmas.”
Continuing programs include the Contemporary Dance Series, showcasing this season for the first time the Dance Theatre of Harlem; the Hawaiian Music Masters Series, the Festival Ballet Theatre Season Package (with its annual “Nutcracker”), the National Theatre Screening in HD of such favorites as “Angels in America,” Part 1 & 2,” co-presented with ArtsOC, and the UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ performance offerings.
Mandel adds that a country series is in the works and will be introduced next season.
In addition to presenting, the Barclay has developed relationships with local arts organizations, among them, MenAlive, The Wooden Floor, and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, as well as performance groups reflecting the area’s diverse populations.
The Barclay’s educational outreach is expressed through its ArtsReach program, which provides activities for students from grade school through university level. The activities parallel the mainstage programming by featuring artists from various ethnic, cultural and geographic backgrounds.
Mandel is very excited that, for the first time in its history, the Barclay has a season sponsor for its 2017-2018 season–City National Bank.
“This partnership will allow us to expand our programming, bring in higher profile artists, extend our community outreach and take our ArtsReach program to the next level,” he says.
The Barclay has been an imaginative performing arts showcase from the beginning with its unique collaborative partnership with the City of Irvine, UC Irvine and the private sector, as well as its wide-ranging programming in the fields of contemporary dance, music and theater arts. Mandel seems delighted to have been the person asked to carry on the theatre’s innovative traditions.
“These jobs involve public trust, and my job as president is to make the Barclay a better place. I’m passionate about doing that,” he says.
Mandel continues his love of playing the saxophone, performing at many venues around Orange County and beyond. He has been a Thursday night regular at Bayside Restaurant for five years and is performing in New York City at The Metropolitan Room on September 28 and October 6.
Reflecting on what he thought his retirement would entail, Mandel says:
“I only wanted to play my saxophone on a street corner in New York.”
It seems Mr. Mandel has the best of both worlds.