Paying the Fiddler


You’d think the Orange County Performing Arts Center would be ready to exhale after receiving $40 million toward its expansion last week from retail developer Henry Segerstrom.

Think again, says Michael Halpern, the center’s associate vice president of development.

“People think we’re going to be flush with money, but we’re not. We still have to run this place--keep the lights on in Segerstrom Hall and pay for performances onstage,” Halpern said Tuesday.

Toward that end, the center is establishing what it intends to become an annual event honoring donors who give specifically to the operating fund. It will present its inaugural Fire Bird dinner Sept. 18 in its First Tier lobby.


Sponsored by the center’s board of directors, the event--to be held under its distinctive Fire Bird sculpture--will recognize center donors who have given $25,000 and above to the fund during the past year. The center needs to raise $7 million for the fund during the coming year, Halpern said, which is about one quarter of the center’s operating budget.

Potential donors were notified in May that a Fire Bird recognition dinner was being organized and that donors of $25,000 and more would be honored. “Many of our donors had already given at that threshold,” Halpern said. “But we wanted to encourage others to participate.”

The letters triggered more than $200,000 in new gifts. “That was a very gratifying endorsement of the event and the community’s belief in the center,” Halpern said.

To honor donors, the center worked with Tiffany & Co. to design a unique pin that incorporates the image of the Fire Bird.

During the dinner, donors of $100,000 or more will be presented with the pin in 14-karat gold and a 10-point diamond. Honored at that level will be Mark and Barbara Johnson, Parker and Sherry Kennedy, Roger and Gail Kirwan, Susan and Henry Samueli, Heidi and Nick Shahrestany, George and Terry Schreyer, Steve and Karen Tsubota, and the Hester and Segerstrom family foundations. Receiving gold and ruby pins in recognition of donations of $75,000 are Ben and Carmela Du, Robert and Carole Follman, and David and Tara Troob. For donations of $50,000, pins in gold will be given to Jeanette Segerstrom, Carla Liggett, and the Reinhold Family Foundation.

Sterling silver pins, for donations of $25,000, will go to Niles Gates, Jerry and Maralou Harrington, Diane and Harry Johnson, Paul and Cynthia Stanislaw, and Lewis and Margaret Webb.


The pin, which was a collaboration between the center and event underwriter Tiffany & Co., will only be available to center donors. The jewelry company has a long history of working with the center to create items for its special events.

The center wanted a pin that was unique and would be identified with it, said Jo Ellen Qualls, the Tiffany & Co. vice president who manages the company’s Costa Mesa store. “The design belongs to the Performing Arts Center.”

Also on the Fire Bird dinner program: a tribute to Renee Segerstrom, late wife of center founding chairman Henry Segerstrom.

Renee, who died in June, was a founding member of the center’s Angels of the Arts support group and co-chaired the center’s 10th anniversary celebration in 1996 with her husband.

“Renee named the Fire Bird sculpture,” Halpern said. “And we felt it would be a fitting tribute to give her special recognition for everything she has brought to the center.”

Also on the center’s dance card for major fund-raising: the annual Candlelight Concert to be held onstage in Segerstrom Hall on Dec. 8.

Singer Harry Belafonte will entertain about 400 guests at the black-tie gala, which will also feature a performance by the Pacific Chorale.

It’s theme will be taken from American Ballet Theatre’s performance of “Cinderella,” which will be held in Segerstrom Hall during the holiday season.

Gala decor will have a “fairy-tale feeling suitable for Cinderellas,” said chairwoman Pat Rypinski of Newport Beach. Proceeds from the $2,500-per-ticket event are expected to hit the million-dollar mark for the third year in a row.

With gala invitations yet to be mailed, the event is nearly a sellout.

“We only have three tables left--30 individual seats, or 15 couples,” Rypinski said.

Cross Over the Bridge

South Coast Plaza’s new Bridge of Gardens over Bear Avenue in Costa Mesa will be launched Sept. 28 with “A Taste of South Coast Plaza.” Proceeds from the noon event, which is open to the public, will benefit the Orange County Museum of Art, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and South Coast Repertory.

Henry Segerstrom will be on hand to help christen the new bridge. Restaurants and open terraces are located at both ends.

On the invitation list: Gov. Gray Davis.


Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or at