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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for January 2016

SCR's RED Brandishes Vivid View of Art World

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Saturday, Jan 30, 2016

Check out SCR's production of RED for artistic inspiration, then take it to the next level with special discounts to three So Cal museums.

It begins with a question, "What do you see?" Soon a debate over art and commerce brews between 20th-century abstract expressionist art titan Mark Rothko and his new assistant in Red by John Logan, on South Coast Repertory's Segerstrom Stage, Jan. 22-Feb. 21. Tickets are now available at Founding Artistic Director David Emmes directs this Tony award-winning play and looks forward to examining a dilemma many artists face.

"I'm interested in the issues of art and the idea of how one finds a way to pursue it and, at the same time, pay the bills," said Emmes. "It's still difficult today for artists to make their way-visual artist, actor, playwright, whomever-so what do you have to do? I hope audiences come away with a deeper insight into how hard is it to make your way in the world."

Veteran stage and screen actor Mark Harelik will take on the role of Mark Rothko. His film and television credits include Election, Jurassic Park III, Trumbo, HBO's "Getting On," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "The Big Bang Theory." Harelik has performed on Broadway in The Light in the Pizza, Mrs. Warren's Profession and The Normal Heart. His past productions at SCR include In a Garden, The Hollow Lands, The Beard of Avon, Search and Destroy and Cyrano de Bergerac. Harelik also is an accomplished playwright. His plays include The Legacy, The Immigrant, which was adapted into a musical of the same name, and Hank Williams: Lost Highway which he co-wrote with Randal Myler.

Playing Rothko's assistant, Ken, is Paul David Story, who appeared at SCR in the NewSCRipts reading of Death of the Author. On Broadway, Story was in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. His film and and television credits include "Body of Proof," "Nip/Tuck," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and American Violet.

Red begins in 1958, when Mark Rothko is at the height of his glory. In a converted gym, deep in New York City's Bowery, he has begun work on the biggest commission in the history of modern art-and everything is at stake. As canvases are stretched, paint mixed and feverishly applied, Ken's answers to "What do you see?" turn into questions and become more probing-and provoking-with each brush stroke in this heart-stopping play about the nature of art and artists.

Tickets start at $22. Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 25 years of age and under, full-time educators, seniors and groups of 10 or more. For complete information, visit:

Added bonus: your ticket will get you discounts to three local museums. 


UCI Men's Basketball: A Winning Season

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Monday, Jan 25, 2016

The City of Irvine is known for its ground-breaking Master Planned community, its world-class,  high-tech corporate park, and even its thousands of acres of protected, open spaces.

But did you know that it also has a championship, Division I college basketball team right in its own backyard?

The UC Irvine Men's Basketball Team is fresh from winning the Big West Conference in 2015 and is well on its way to repeating in 2016.

Not only did the Anteaters make it to the NCAA March Madness Tournament for the first time in school history last year, but they nearly defeated three-time national champion Louisville in the second round. 

In other words, when it comes to the UCI Men's basketball team, things are looking up.

(Photo Credit: Jason Roberts)

It would be easy to say that the Anteaters owe their recent success to the arrival of Mamdou Ndiaye. Obviously, the 7'6" junior from Dakar, Senegal stands out in a crowd. His fellow teammates insist that he's just as nice as he is tall. 

"He's a 7'6" Teddy Bear," said former teammate Daman Starring. "He wouldn't hurt a fly and he genuinely cares about people."

But on the court, the Teddy Bear has earned a serious reputation as a fierce competitor. After shooting 70.7 percent from the field as a freshman, he also earned the Big West Conference Defensive Player of The Year award for a season in which he made 25 straight field-goals in a six-game span from Jan. 2-25, just one field goal shy of the national record. 

 (photo credit: Duke Burchell)

This season, Mamdou Ndiaye leads a veteran team that is getting accustomed to success. Ten returning players, including Luke Wilson, Alex Young and Mike Best, round out a squad that brings post-season tournament experience to this year's campaign.

Games at The Bren Center are electric, filled with students and Anteater Pride. For local Irvine residents, it's a chance to see fast-action, competitive collegiate basketball right here in our own hometown. 


(photo credit: Duke Burchell) 

There's still a chance to jump on the Anteater bandwagon this season...

Remaining Home Games:

Saturday, January 30th      UC Santa Barbara(7pm)                  

Saturday, February 13th      Cal State University at Northridge(7pm)

Saturday, February 20th      Hawaii(7pm)                               

Wednesday, February 24th      Long Beach State(7pm)

Thursday, March 3rd      Cal Poly SLO(8:30pm)

Get The Full Schedule Here 

You can also tune in to KUCI 88.9 FM to hear the radio broadcast of each game.

Click here to find out about tickets to remaining home games.

Fun on the Farm

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016

          January to March is planting season at the new location of the Native Seed Farm. My daughter's interested in plant science from studying about Gregor Mendel at school and is probably headed this direction for her college career, so we volunteered with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy last Saturday morning to go out and see just what this "native seed" farm was all about.

       We arrived at 8 a.m. and was cheerily greeted by Rachel Lambert, resident expert Seed Farm Stewardship Coordinator, who was rearing to go and plunge us into our task to stave off our early morning chill. She elaborated as we geared up with knee pads and gloves on the Latin names and types of "teenager" plant-lings that had been grown from seeds harvested in fall that were back now from being sent off to the "plant nerd" specialty nursery to rear before coming back to the farm for us to continue work on. With names like Slender Leaved Cliff Aster, Slender Buckwheat, and California Croton, these hardy little plants live up to their names and more.      

       As we dug in the dirt along our perfectly plowed row, inquisitive minds wanted to know, "Why do we need to cultivate plants in a farm like this one?" Rachel explained, "Helping out at
the Farm is a great way to learn about the native wildflowers you may glimpse along the many hiking trails in Irvine. In just a few short months, the baby plants you're putting into the ground now will flower and bear seed. Those seeds will be used to restore habitats within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks which provides food and shelter for our rare and beautiful local animals, like the Coastal Cactus Wren and the Quino Checkerspot you're giving back to Mother Nature and helping us expand the Farm's impact in habitat restoration from our growing fields."

      Four hours later and 250 plants in the ground, we rounded up the trowels, spacing flags, and wagons and headed back to the staging area to take a tour of the "baby" plants that were planted from seed 3 weeks earlier on the other side of the fields. Lupines, chia, and alfalfa had all sprouted to show off the first fruits of labor at the new Portola/Jeffrey location. Rachel jokingly remarked that we could look closely, but "go find your own chia to blend in with your
smoothies, please." We all giggled and then I realized, of course, how alike and interconnected we are to the environment all around us and that Irvine couldn't be doing a better job on enhancing its open spaces than an activity like this.

So I'll pause and make a public plea here for your help in our community, if you like playing
in the dirt and need something to do this Saturday, consider volunteering on the Native Seed Farm by going online to registerfor your account and joining our land management extraordinaires this upcoming weekend! With 15,000 plants to get into the ground by March 31st, it's going to take more people than the gung-ho folks at last week's kickoff pictured below to continue this ambitious work.

Happy Spring Planting!

‘Innovation Rocks!’ from concept to fully-flowered float on New Year’s Day

Posted by: Laura Berthold Monteros
Posted on: Wednesday, Jan 06, 2016

Six months ago, all there was of Destination Irvine's Rose Parade float, "Innovation Rocks!" was a concept drawing.  Gradually, the float took shape with the creative work of welders, sculptors, artists, floral designers, and even mechanics and engineers.  Finally, hundreds of volunteers covered the float in tiny seeds and fresh roses. 

Hilton IrvineIn Irvine, artists and architects have come together to transform three of its hotels, The Irvine Marriott, Hilton Irvine, and Embassy Suites Irvine.  With easy access to John Wayne Airport and the Irvine business district and only minutes from the beach and theme parks, the three offer all the amenities to make a stay comfortable and memorable.

IR float titlesBut first to the float.  Photographer Ramona Monteros took a lot of great shots of the moving, flower-covered sculpture that represented Irvine to 700,000 parade-goers and another 80 million viewers around the world.  The happy anteater and spinning gears charmed the audience as the bubble machines added an element of pure fun. 

The pictures tell the story

Innovation Rocks trio

Look for some of the touches floral designer Lyn Lofthouse mentioned in "Bringing ‘Innovation Rocks!' to Life" and "On with the Flowers": mums on the gears, delphinium shooting out of the taller flowers and Billy buttons and hyacinth root forming the centers of the low ones, the statice fur of Peter the Anteater.  Note also the use of roses and the delightful way chemistry and research are presented, as well as the handsome profile of UC Irvine's mascot. 

Peter profileThe Irvine Marriott began its $35 million remodel with the Great Room, reimagining the lobby to serve as a gathering place as well as an entry point for guests.  The work of local artists graces the space, which features alcoves and movable seating with a coastal vibe.  The tech-savvy M Club just off the Great Room will offer a modern take on the traditional concierge lounge.

Renovating 495 guest rooms and suites in two phases from August to October is the largest part of the project.  Meeting rooms, the fitness center and pool will also be updated.  The project is scheduled for completion in October.

The Embassy Suites Irvine is on track to complete the upgrade of its guest suites in early spring with a modern "California-fresh" look and vintage regional artwork.  The 10-story atrium will bring together communal areas and continue to offer daily complimentary breakfast and a hosted bar in the evening.  The meeting rooms and lobby are also being updated.  There will be more than 150 Wi-Fi access points throughout the hotel.  Peter smiling

The renovations in the Hilton Irvine, pictured here, include guest rooms, meeting space, exterior remodeling, a glass enclosure for the swimming pool, and a covered patio for outdoor meeting space.

Orange County in general and Irvine in particular have a multitude of offerings for travelers who come for business or pleasure.  The local hotels make sure their stay brings as big a smile as that anteater who glided down Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena last Friday.

Filed In: Dining

North Italia Opens in Irvine

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Monday, Jan 04, 2016

Irvine Starts the New Year with its Newest Restaurant


I've been waiting patiently. 

Ever since LBA Realty announced that a new anchor restaurant was coming to Park Place, I've watched with anticipation as the new building took shape. Finally, as 2015 came to a close, North Italia opened its doors, bringing a traditional italian menu with a modern twist to Irvine.

North Italia is creation of restauranteur Sam Fox who has already achieved local success with his health conscious eatery, True Food Kitchen in Fashion Island. Like its sister restaurant, North Italia also features a scratch kitchen. The decor may be modern and on trend, but the menu celebrates the time-tested tradition of homemade goodness.

I knew that I would be a fan of North Italia's dinner menu of handmade pizza and pastas, so I decided to make my first visit during a more unconventional time; a weekend brunch. 


The first thing I noticed was the light.

Floor to ceiling windows bathe the spacious dining room with warm, California sunshine. Large, operable windows lead out to an 1,800 square foot patio that make a seamless transition from indoor to outside dining. One wall of the restaurant features a busy, expo kitchen while the other is home to an inviting bar with ample seating. A great place to relax with a cocktail after work or to watch a ballgame on the weekend. 


Since brunch is always a reason to celebrate, I started my meal with one of North's crafted cocktails, The Molto Fresco; a delicious concoction of Ketel One vodka, Campari, muddled grapefruit and fresh italian oregano. 


The menu featured not only expected egg dishes ( The Fried Egg Sandwich with applewood-smoked bacon, campari tomatoes and fontina cheese looked especially yummy ) but there was a creative collection of starters like Zucca Chips, Grilled Artichoke and Arancini, fried mushroom risotto stuffed with scamorza cheese and served with red sauce. 


Pizza is a must at North and The Pig is a meat lover's delight, with pepperoni, soppressata, salami italian fennel sausage on top of perfectly crispy crust. 

I loved every bite of the Strozzapreti; fresh pasta made with chicken, roasted mushroom, spinach, toasted pine nut and parmesan cream. 

After sampling the varied menu, the biggest challenge at North Italia may be saving room for dessert. But there's always room for a little Affogato, a simple scoop of vanilla gelato with warm espresso poured on top.

North Italia may be the newest player on the Irvine dining scene, but I predict it's winning combination of service, setting and savory menu will establish it as one of the city's best. 


Casting Call for Pageant of the Masters Volunteers

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Friday, Jan 01, 2016

Do you enjoy art, theater and music?

Have you ever thought about posing on a stage?

Do you enjoy being in the spotlight?

And can you stand still for 90 seconds?

Perfect! You could be a volunteer cast-member in the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.

The world-famous Pageant of the Masters is looking for volunteers to participate in the 2016 summer presentation of "Partners"

People of all sizes and ages are needed to be cast members in the world's most famous presentation of tableaux vivants (living pictures). No theater experience necessary.

Casting call is a fun experience for all involved. Prospective volunteers will be measured and photographed, enjoy refreshments and meet the behind-the-scenes pageant staff. No theater experience is necessary. The only requirement is the ability to stand still and have fun.

Don't like being on stage?  There are other fun ways to help out. Volunteers are needed for positions in the wardrobe, make up, and headdress departments, as well as cast area coordinators and refreshment servers, among other positions.


Festival of Arts
Irvine Bowl (backstage)
650 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651        (949) 494-3663



Friday, January 8              7pm - 9pm

Saturday, January 9         7pm - 9pm

Sunday, January 10         2pm-5pm

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