Claire Trevor Celebrates 50 Years

Countless UC Irvine students, faculty, alumni and even Irvine community members found themselves walking through campus on Nov. 6 on a serendipitously warm autumn night, with the full moon shining joyfully and the faint sound of music tickling the air. Their destination: the enigmatic yet inviting Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), which celebrated its Golden Anniversary with an Open House from 5:30-8 p.m.

Greeting visitors were golden balloon bouquets, a jaunty jazz trio, a mashed potato martini buffet and Technicolor candles to illuminate the sidewalks. In honor of 50 years of existence, CTSA sought to mix the old and the new, with the slogan for the evening, “Bright Past, Brilliant Future.”

Jaime DeJong, CTSA Director of Marketing and Communications, explained what 50 years means to the School: “We have hit a threshold of being over 50. Now we are grown up, established. [Open House] was a collaboration of all faculty at staff of CTSA, part of an initiative of [Dean Barker’s] office to open our doors, both on and off campus.”

Honoring CTSA’s origins, the Open House exhibited in three galleries work by Ed Moses, one of the School’s founding faculty members. Each gallery highlighted a specific period in Moses’ career.

Open House visitor James said of the Moses galleries, “Each of the three rooms had different materials and topics so it was nice to see a more complete retrospective sectioned off like this.”

In addition to inviting alumni for an Alumni Open Reception, CTSA also featured a window display in front of the Claire Trevor Theatre. The display is an artistic time capsule of sorts, with photographs, props and costumes from productions spanning the decades since CTSA’s beginnings.

“The window display is an homage to everything, a glimpse at the highlights of the last 50 years. This is not even a fingerprint of all the performances,” DeJong said.

To give visitors a taste of everything CTSA has to offer, the Open House included exhibitions and performances from each of the departments within the school: dance, drama, music and art. From open rehearsals for the winter production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and performances from comedy group Improv Revolution, to dance workshops for “Billy the Kid” and rehearsals of the UCI Symphony Orchestra the Isles, the Open House schedule was packed with diverse, engaging opportunities to go behind the scenes.

“You get to see what goes on that no one gets to see, but everyone wants to see,” Dean Barker said. “Now you can see the preparation of the performances that you don’t see as a passive audience member. You see the sweat and tears. The performances’ high quality and competition disguises all of the work that goes into them.”

One of the other art exhibitions in the Beall Center for Art and Technology is Eddo Stern’s “New Works.” Stern combines video game interfaces with interactive designs, allowing viewers to create their own virtual art within the confines of a gaming world. His central piece, “Darkgame 4.0,” takes this concept and puts a full-blown science fiction twist on it.

The game requires a head piece and earphones to sync into players’ brain waves and senses as they navigate their way through a senseless world.

Second-year drama major Andrew Stewart said after playing, “(The game) felt so foreign because the moment you were comfortable moving and operating, a sudden shift could throw you into darkness. As your senses were dampened in the game, your real life senses were trying to compensate,”

All of the exhibitions sought to entertain, but mainly to enlighten.

CTSA Event Coordinator Leslie Blough spoke the Open House’s history, “Four years ago was the Contemporary Arts Center’s grand opening, which led to our first Open House. It was a success so the Open House became a new tradition, inviting UCI and the entire Irvine community.”

Dean Barker noted the importance of supporting the arts and understanding the work required to excel at them, “Everybody working in this school is a researcher. They work in an art lab, a dance lab, a music lab. Art is eternal, the basis of world culture — everything else is an add-on,” said Barker. “‘Science’ comes from the Latin word scientia, which means ‘knowledge,’ so what we do is no different. In art, we use the same tools but appeal to people in ways other disciplines cannot. We take the everyday and make it artful.”