Here's welcome relief for the clinically nosy. On Sunday afternoon, Irvine Barclay Theatre's Season Premiere Party will allow the public to poke around areas that are usually off-limits. Everyone, from the mildly curious to world-class snoops, can also take a rare peek at the artistic process that brings performances to this stage.
The open house will include short performances in the Barclay's 756-seat Cheng Hall. There will also be activities for kids and professional storytelling in backstage areas.
Cuban Flavor will play Latin jazz on the Barclay's plaza throughout the afternoon, and food and drink will be sold, with proceeds benefiting the venue's community outreach programs.
Theater spokeswoman Karen Drews says she expects as many as 2,000 people to attend.
"It's an easy way to check out [the venue]," Drews said.
Drew hopes that a variety of free mini-performances will help "break down the barriers" that keep some people from attending a full performance.
Visitors at last year's open house who had never seen classical East Indian dance were "mesmerized," she said, by a presentation by Ramya Harishankar of the Irvine-based Arpana Dance company.
About a third of the Barclay's performance dates are dedicated for use by regional and community groups. Last season, the venue was rented by amateurs and professionals, from the Irvine Chinese School to Ballet Pacifica.
The balance of the dates are split between UC Irvine student performances and the Barclay's season, which begins Sept. 24 with performances by the West African dance troupe Le Ballet National du Senegal.
The 30-minute showcases at Sunday's event will be a taste of the upcoming season.
Ballet Pacifica, which begins its Dance Concert Series at the Barclay on Oct. 23, will present a rehearsal at noon. Artistic director Molly Lynch will work with dancers Steven Inskeep and Eloisa Enerio in one of Lynch's duets, "Multiples of One," then conduct an informal question and answer session.
At 1:15, four performers from the Los Angeles-based Serakumbili Project will present music and dance from Senegal, including a dance that company spokeswoman Phylise Smith says is performed at weddings, funerals and ceremonies to mark a young man or young woman's coming of age.
The dances will be accompanied by kitero drums. Performers will explain the significance of the movements, the costumes and the music. They will also invite visitors to join them on stage. (The program repeats at 3:15 p.m.)
"We're hoping the drums call people to come and learn and see what this feels like," Smith said.
Smith teaches world dance at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and Irvine Valley College. She will be among the Serakumbili and Ballet du Senegal performers who will lead a master class in African dance Sept. 26 at Orange Coast College.
Other performances on stage include traditional poetry, dance and flute music by youngsters from the Irvine Chinese School at 2:15 p.m.
Professional storyteller Nancy McQuillan of the South Coast Storytellers Guild will spin yarns in the theater's Founders Room. The Philharmonic Society's Music Mobile will show off orchestral instruments in the Scene Shop, and on the backstage terrace, artists Bob Orso and Jennifer Dana will offer chalk art activities.
Drews said some of last year's attendees seemed to have their finest moments when the Cheng Hall stage was empty and beckoning.
"Quite a few people would sneak up on stage when they thought nobody was watching," Drews said. "One man just started singing, and later on, I saw some girls dancing. I guess they were just having their own moment in the spotlight."
The Irvine Barclay Theatre's Season Premiere Party, noon-4 p.m. Sunday. 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Free. (949) 854-4646.