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History of Irvine Barclay Theatre

During the 1970’s, a group of community leaders, guided by their conviction that the performing arts are the “soul” of a city, advocated for the creation of a community-based performing arts facility. After years of discussion, meetings, committee research and community activism, a unique public-private partnership — comprised of leaders from the private sector, the City of Irvine and the University of California (UCI) — emerged. The nonprofit Irvine Barclay Theatre Operating Company (IBT) was chartered in 1986 to manage the design and construction processes and to program and operate the venue once it opened.

The City of Irvine contributed $11.3 million, mostly from voter-approved bond issues, to the $17.4 million project. Irvine Barclay Theatre's board of trustees raised $4.3 million from private sources and UCI provided a 2.3-acre site for the building as well as $1.8 million in construction funding. The Barclay, as it is commonly called, opened to the public on September 30, 1990, on time and on budget.

The 50,000 square foot venue was designed by the San Francisco firm of Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons, which had been selected by competition. Noted architect, Larry Cannon, designed the building in a style sometimes referred to as “Bay Area modernism.” It’s a design that remains durably appealing.                      

Over the course of more than 30 seasons, the intimate 756-seat venue has maintained a distinguished record of excellence, attracting audiences not just from Irvine, but from throughout Southern California. Irvine Barclay Theatre's annual presentation of dance, theater, music, and spoken word is unique in Orange County due to its diversity, quality, and scope.

From its inception, IBT’s mission was threefold: support the production, marketing and sales needs of community cultural organizations, assist UCI in achieving its educational mission, and present unique experiences of artistic and social importance for Orange County audiences. Remaining true to that mission, IBT has, for three decades, operated as an important resource and partner for a broad range of community arts, educational and social organizations, university programs, and civic engagement activities. Irvine Barclay Theatre has hosted as many as 220 public events in a single year. Over 3 million people have attended 5,100 events since opening. 

Irvine Barclay Theatre has been honored twice with Arts Orange County’s Outstanding Arts Organization.

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