Times Staff Writer

California’s First Lady paid her first visit to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa Tuesday morning, and right away got an invitation to the Center’s 1986 opening.

Gloria Deukmejian responded with a big smile, “Since you’re inviting me publicly, I can tell you right now, yes, I will make it--and let George adjust his calendar.”

Her remarks brought laughter from her coffee-and-croissant audience of 200 Center and City of Costa Mesa representatives, including Center board members D. James Bentley, Henry Segerstrom, Diane Dailacis and Florence Schumacher, and Mayor Norma Hertzog.

During the folksy, one-hour visit, Mrs. Deukmejian toured the backstage and first-level seating areas of the 3,000-seat multipurpose theater currently under construction, as well as the 300-seat “black box” facility that is also being built. Both facilities are scheduled to open Oct. 1, 1986.


Center officials pointed out that all of the $63 million thus far raised for the Center (toward an overall $85.5 million to construct and endow the multi-theater complex) is from the private sector.

“I’m really impressed by what I’ve seen here. It’s remarkable what they are doing, both in the construction itself and in the community support,” Mrs. Deukmejian said after the ceremony.

No, she added, this was strictly a personal visit and not an official trip for her husband. “I was invited, and I told them I’d be delighted to come by,” she said (Tuesday, she also visited the library-cultural center in San Juan Capistrano and a shelter for battered women in the south county area.

“You know, we’re neighbors of Orange County (the Deukmejians’ longtime home is in Long Beach), and I’m counting on seeing many performances at the new Center,” she said.