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The Crowd: SCR takes center stage at gala

September 26, 2013|By B.W. Cook
  • Yvonne Jordan, Sophie Cripe, Julianne Argyros, Bette Aitken and George Argyros with a Taittinger Champagne aerialist at SCR's 50th Anniversary Gala.
Yvonne Jordan, Sophie Cripe, Julianne Argyros, Bette… (Debora Robinson,…)

There was a time, not many years ago, when Orange County was the cultural stepchild of Los Angeles. Boy, have things changed. Today, on many fronts, the O.C. leads the charge in such areas as the performing arts, visual arts, healthcare and scientific advancement, and all the while enjoying a standard of living that is enviable worldwide.

The proof of Orange County's cultural achievement was displayed Saturday evening at a first-class event marking the golden anniversary of South Coast Repertory. The 50th celebration unfolded on the grounds of the theater in Costa Mesa, which was the vision of two men who began their journey in San Francisco in the early 1960s as young actors wanting to follow their dream of creating a lifelong career in a business that takes no prisoners and has no mercy.

Martin Benson and David Emmes left San Francisco and landed in the O.C. at a time when it was still mostly a rural, agrarian-based economy, only beginning to show the signs of mid-20th century prosperity in a new age. The asphalt on the 405 San Diego Freeway had barely dried, Henry Segerstrom as a young man was busy laying the foundation for his future empire, and the Irvine Company still had herds of cattle grazing on the hillsides.

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But the two actors from the city saw the region as the perfect fertile ground to build their dream. First, even though the population was small, there was money in the county, and it was money in the hands of men and women who had a sense of cultural destiny. Second, there was absolutely no competition.

So, South Coast Repertory, which began with other names long forgotten, was born in the garage of one of the founders' home and in its infancy was a theatrical company that lived out of the back of an old station wagon.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary gala, the romantic stories of decades past were shared with more than 400 of Orange County's most influential citizens, who came together on this one night, dressed to kill, to tell the world that the O.C. is every bit the cultural adult as is its sister city 55 miles to the north.

The crowd arrived at South Coast Repertory exiting their cars as valets whisked them away to enter an elegant al fresco arena carpeted in gold and hung overhead with billowing ivory silk awnings.

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