Four Reasons to Check Out Segerstrom's Off Center Festival

If you're not an art geek (like I am, admittedly), nine days of experimental music, theater and dance may not sound like your thing. But Segerstrom's Off Center Festival, which kicks off this Friday and ends on Jan. 21, sounds like the kind of off-kilter entertainment that turns the hoity-toity art world on its head just enough–yet is still fun and accessible for everyone else.

Segerstrom president Terry Dwyer says the festival–the center's first–is one way they're trying to diversify their programming and audience. (They've had their indie band series, for example, and other off-kilter performances at Segerstrom.) “We wanted to see what the community responded to, what they were interested in, and what the community was into. Hopefully we get on the radar screen of the audiences we're trying to reach,” he says.

And getting on a different audience's radar means doing things a little different–like giving a space for artists to perform in quirky settings (actors performing inside a car, or dancing on a four-by-four-foot stage), and hosting talks by locals community experts.

If the program sounds familiar, it's because it was inspired by the Under the Radar festival in New York and the Radar Festival in LA. “But the cool thing is [the festival] is tailor-made for [Orange County]–the community that's being represented,” Dwyer says. “It's contemporary, eclectic, adventurous–it's not normally what you see in OC and at the center.” (If you're interested, buy your tickets now–it seems that the whole fest is catered to a smaller audience of 100 to 300 people. Dwyer says they're hoping it will sell out.)
Here's four reasons why you  you definitely shouldn't miss it.

  • First, There's a Chautuaqua! Revival

It's a revival of the American adult education movement that was  popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies were held throughout rural America until the mid-1920s, and brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Our very own Gustavo Arellano will talk about the history of Mexican food in OC, so

Samueli Theater
January 13 at 7:30 p.m. (Gustavo Arellano),
January 14 at 2 p.m. (Erwin Chemerinsky) and 7:30 p.m. (Jim Washburn)
January 15 at 3 p.m. (Shelley Hoss)

  • Second, the Performances Sound Like Quirky Gems (and You Can Hang Out with the Artists)

For the Car Plays, the center will have 15 cars parked in a plaza in a parking lot
arrangement, and each will be a setting of a play about 10 minutes long about things that happen in cars. Performed by two to three actors, the audiences will be in
the car too.

Arts Plaza
January 14, 15, 20 & 21 at 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m.

For Ten Tiny Dances, dancers will be performing on four-by-four-foot stages. (Hence the tiny.)

Samueli Theater
January 20 & 21 at 7:30 p.m.

There's also the Starving Artists Lounge at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge held January 13 – 15 & 18 – 21, where artists and audiences will be able to talk and exchange ideas.

  • Third, the Festival is Super Affordable.

Every performance ticket is $20 each, but if you go to four or more shows, you can get tickets for $10 each. That is a steal.

  • Four, Nancy Sanchez is Performing with the Mexican Institute of Sound

Other musicians on the bill include Lord Huron with The Union Line and Reggie Watts with BLOK. How can you lose?

The Off Center Festival will be held at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 and 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. For details go to

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