Irvine Barclay Theatre announces a leadership transition

IRVINE, CA: Irvine Barclay Theatre has announced that its founding president, Douglas C. Rankin, will be stepping down August 31 after nearly 29 years at the helm. He will continue as a program consultant through early 2016 to ensure continuity of leadership during the transition.
Mr. Rankin commented, “It will be the Barclay’s 25th anniversary season. I arrived on the scene an additional four years earlier in order to help the team design, fund, construct, equip, staff and program the building which opened in fall of 1990. At a symbolic level, the 25th anniversary seems like a good time to pursue some other things before retirement. As our friends know, my wife, Leila, and I love France and visit there regularly. One of our personal interests will be exploring the option of establishing residence there.”
Irvine Barclay Theatre Operating Company was founded in 1986 as a unique public-private, nonprofit partnership including the City of Irvine, the University of California, Irvine and a private sector board of directors and professional staff with representatives from its two public partners.
Mr. Rankin worked with the City of Irvine, UCI and the San Francisco-based architectural firm of Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons to refine the design concepts and participate in the construction management process that would result in today’s Irvine Barclay Theatre. Richard G. Sim, an executive with The Irvine Company at the time, became the theatre’s founding chairman of the board of directors and the two of them were vital in raising over $5 million in private funds to augment the available public funding for the $17.6 million (1988 dollars) facility.
Dick Sim recalls: “The effort required to bring Irvine Barclay Theatre into being was tremendous. There were countless meetings with potential donors, city and university officials and community leaders. But in the end, it all got done and the theatre opened on time and on budget, a rarity in these types of projects. The Barclay has proven to be well worth the effort.”
Irvine Barclay Theatre opened to the public in the fall of 1990. The intimate 756-seat theatre, named Cheng Hall after the late philanthropists, George and Arlene Cheng, is operated by an independent nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors, various committees and a professional staff headed by Mr. Rankin. Under his leadership, the Barclay has earned a reputation for diverse, often challenging programming in dance, music and theatre, frequently providing audiences with unique opportunities to experience extraordinary national and international artists not seen elsewhere in southern California.
Mr. Rankin’s passion for dance has made Irvine Barclay Theatre a nationally known leader in presenting contemporary dance companies of national and international prominence. He introduced Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to southern California in 1991 and Mark Morris Dance Group in 1994, and foreign companies ranging from Israel’s Batsheva to France’s Ballet Preljocaj.
Mr. Rankin co-founded the New World Flamenco Festival in 2001 with Emmy Award-winning dancer and choreographer, Yaelisa. The Festival has presented many of Spain’s and America’s major performers as well as some of the art form’s most innovative voices and rising talents including Maria Benitez, Antonio Canales, Soledad Barrio, and Israel Galvan.

The Barclay also became a leading presenter in the new circus movement. Mr. Rankin introduced Montreal’s Cirque Eloize to southern California. During one of its visits, the company was provided the opportunity to develop and premiere the work, Rain, which became an international hit touring around the world for six years. In this genre the Barclay has also presented the West Coast premiere of Aurelia’s Oratorio by Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter, Aurelia Thieree, and the newest star among Quebecois companies, Les Sept Doigts de la Main (the Seven Fingers of the Hand).
Brilliant musical events in the theatre’s intimate setting have included Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites and a young Audra McDonald in one of her first solo recitals. Legendary jazz artists, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and folk singer, Arlo Guthrie, became frequent visitors.
In addition to presenting activities, Mr. Rankin and the Barclay have developed relationships with dozens of local arts and educational organizations, among them the Nutcracker producer, Festival Ballet Theatre; community chorus, MenAlive; Santa Ana’s esteemed educator, The Wooden Floor; and classical music presenter, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Rankin observed that, “you know you’ve been around a long time when, during an appointment, your ophthalmologist comments that he performed at the Barclay as a young man with the Irvine Chinese School and that his daughter has participated in one of the many local dance school recitals that occur each June.”
The Barclay was a leader in recognizing the changing cultural diversity and its impact in Orange County. Since opening, the theatre has served as a performance venue for many groups in the Chinese, Korean, Indian and Persian communities including local organizations such as the Irvine Chinese School, the Ektaa Center and Bravi-9. As a presenter, the Barclay has introduced extraordinary international cultural projects ranging from the National Ballet of Senegal to the nine-hour Chinese opera, the Peony Pavilion. Eclectically, it is also a leading West Coast presenter of contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music.
In the theatrical vein, author and humorist, David Sedaris, has made the Barclay a regular stop, while over a decade ago, the late Spalding Gray performed several of his famous evening-length monologues to spell-bound audiences. Most recently, the London Harry Potter spoof, Potted Potter played to capacity, all-ages audiences.

UCI’s involvement has been equally diverse. The Claire Trevor School of the Arts has performed work at the Barclay ranging from West Side Story to symphonic concerts. The relatively new law school held its first graduation ceremonies there. The medical school regularly hosts its “white coat ceremony” at the Barclay, welcoming each new class of medical students. The university has sponsored appearances by international figures including the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev. Its faculty and students enjoy access to the Barclay’s presentations and the dance department, particularly, has developed special collaborations with visiting artists. A variety of UCI’s multi-cultural student organizations are annual programmers at the theatre.
Sally Anne Sheridan, a former city council member and mayor of Irvine, was a leading visionary and proponent for the theatre along with the late UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason who both saw the theatre as a bridge between the campus and community. “I consider Irvine Barclay Theatre to be an important part of my legacy in public service. I have often said that the arts are the soul of a community. Doug has done a magnificent job in making the theatre relevant to the community in so many different ways.”
Jennifer Cheng, daughter of George and Arlene Cheng, and member of the Barclay’s board of directors commented, “My parents, immigrants who prospered in this country, were so proud of their investment in the theatre. They made their contributions with the stated goal of encouraging others like themselves to become involved and committed to the betterment of their adopted community. They were close to Doug and appreciated, as I do, his respect and leadership.”
Mr. Rankin concluded, “It’s been a distinct privilege to be part of building this first-rate facility and program here in Irvine, and seeing its regional impact grow. I am grateful to the community, to the Barclay’s staff, to the volunteers and supporters, for the opportunity of being involved with this great venture for almost 30 years. It has been a labor of love for Leila and me.”
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