A Look at Orange County’s Arts & Culture for Fall 2021

There’s no question that COVID-19 triggered a profound crisis in the presentation and performance of the arts — in Orange County and in nearly every community in the world.

For more than a year, people were prevented from gathering indoors, and outdoor celebrations were limited or canceled as well. Artists and arts and culture organizations did migrate their programming and practices online; however the limitations of the two-dimensional computer screen eventually became quite apparent. Can you say Zoom fatigue, anyone?

As the months passed, the advent of vaccines and widespread mask wearing — as well as the lifting of state restrictions — have led to a cautious reopening of the arts in Orange County. Delta and other variants have given us some pause, but the vast majority of local arts organizations are proceeding ahead with their 2021-22 seasons. Some offerings are quite ambitious, while others seem to be putting safety first.   

Voice of OC’s talented team of arts writers have scanned the schedules, calendars and websites to bring you the best of fall 2021 — and, in some cases, a peek at what’s coming up in 2022. While things aren’t quite back to “normal,” the resiliency, hard work and talent will be on display once again on stages, in galleries and in public places throughout the county of Orange. Here’s a look at what’s coming up.

Visual Arts

While things are looking brighter than a year ago, O.C. visual art institutions are still suffering from the impact of the pandemic. The top three major art institutions aren’t really presenting anything that interesting, except, perhaps, for the Bowers Museum later this year.

And what has happened to the Orange County Museum of Art? Well, the new, $93 million, Morphosis-designed building in Costa Mesa is still under construction, and won’t open until October 2022. In the meantime, the temporary space, OCMAExpand in Santa Ana’s South Coast Village — which had demonstrated some creativity and vision — has shut down permanently and rather inexplicably. Plus, OCMA’s website is now the obscure ocma.art. (It was ocma.net for decades, then ocmaexpand.org, which led to a dead end until Thursday night.)

The relative absence of the major players leads us to look for hidden gems and diamonds in the rough. So here are a few exhibitions worth venturing out for. (Note that some require advance tickets or reservations for health and safety reasons.) –Richard Chang

‘The Resonant Surface: Movement, Image and Sound in California Painting’

Where: UCI Institute and Museum of California Art, 18881 Von Karman Ave., Suite 100, Irvine
When: Sept. 11-Feb. 19. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Cost: Free

While UCI IMCA’s future on the UCI campus is still a bit vague, the institution continues to use the old Irvine Museum space on Von Karman Avenue. The newest exhibition offers selections from the museum’s holdings — including the venerable Buck Collection — through four thematic lenses: correspondence, rhythm and abstraction, dynamism and flux, and visual music. Artists will include John Bond Francisco, Agnes Pelton, Gordon Onslow Ford, Lee Mullican, Oskar Fischinger, Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell.

‘In Living Color: The Art of Henrietta Berk’

Where: Hilbert Museum of California Art, 167 N. Atchison St., Orange
When: Through Jan. 15. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Cost: Free

Henrietta Berk proves that there were talented women coming out of the male-dominant era known as the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Inspired by teachers Richard Diebenkorn and Henry Krell, Berk used bold colors that verged on fluorescence, and brash, vigorous brushstrokes. This exhibition, curated by Orange County’s own Gordon McClelland, will highlight 43 of Berk’s often-overlooked, yet impressive achievements.

‘Kim Abeles: Smog Collectors, 1987-2020’

Where: CSUF Begovich Gallery, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton
When: Sept. 18-Dec. 18. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays
Cost: Free

Kim Abeles is already a known quantity in the West Coast art world. What may not be as well known are her series of works made through collecting air pollution particles. “Smog Collectors, 1987-2020” features more than 30 years of Abeles’ ingenious investigations exploring the environmental impact caused by airborne particulates, including a series of plates featuring past presidents’ portraits. The artist herself will give a lecture on campus on Oct. 20 and will engage in conversation with fellow artist José Lozano on Nov. 6. The Oct. 20 lecture will be live streamed.

Installation view of the “Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates” (1992) and “World Leaders in Smog” (2019) by Kim Abeles at CSUF Begovich Gallery. On view Sept. 18-Dec. 18. Credit: Image courtesy of CSUF Begovich Gallery.

‘All that Glitters: The Crown Jewels of the Walt Disney Archives’

Where: Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
When: Dec. 12 – June 19, 2022. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
Tickets: $10 for children 3-11, $25 for adults

Starting in December, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art will dip back into the Disney well with “All That Glitters: The Crown Jewels.” Visitors will be able to check out jewelry and accessories from the movies “Titanic,” “The Princess Diaries” and other Disney and 20th Century Studios favorites.

“All that Glitters” will be divided into three sections that will explore how jewelry is used to tell stories. Objects will include crowns, tiaras, watches, rings, earrings, bracelets, tie pins and more. This will be your chance to see the crowns and tiaras Anne Hathaway wore in her “Princess Diaries” movies from 2001 and 2004. Wow. 

A couple of other shows worth checking out: “9-11/9-11” an animated film by Mel Chin at the Grand Central Art Center (through Nov. 14); and “Ufora’s Imaginary Museum,” a project by Rob Mintz and Dalibor Polivka, at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (Oct. 2-30).  


While last year’s celebrations and events typically took place over Zoom, events this year are starting up in-person again, bringing a bit of normalcy back into everyday life. Here are a few local events that may help relieve some of the loneliness felt during the past year. – Kristina Garcia

Día de los Muertos at the Bowers

Where: Bowers Museum (in the courtyard), 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
When: Oct. 24. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free

Día de los Muertos, translated from Spanish as “Day of the Dead,” is a cultural celebration part of Hispanic tradition. Families gather around their ofrendas, translated from Spanish as “altars” or gravesites, to honor their deceased relatives with gifts of favorite foods or other offerings. 

The holiday is celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 every year; during these sacred days, it’s believed that the border between the spirit world and the real world comes down and families are reunited to celebrate the lives of those they’ve lost. 

This year, families can celebrate Día de los Muertos at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Visitors can bring photos of their loved ones to put on the museum’s ofrenda, while enjoying live music from Joel Aceves and Los Cuates, and entertainment from folkloric dance group Relampago del Cielo. 

For those who would like to stay home but still enjoy the festival, a recording will be available on Facebook and YouTube one week after the event takes place. 

Black History Parade & Unity Festival

Where: Anaheim. Specific location TBD.
When: Feb. 5, 2022
Morning blessings: 9 a.m.
Parade: 10 a.m. to noon
Unity Festival: Noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free

The Orange County Heritage Council traditionally hosts the Black History Parade & Unity Festival every February to celebrate Black History Month. This year the parade and festival took on a virtual approach as a way to abide by social distancing guidelines. 

But next year’s celebration is already in the works, as the OCHC announced on its website that the Black History Parade & Unity Festival will be returning on Feb. 5, 2022 in Anaheim. 

Information about the Black History Parade & Unity Festival on the OCHC website will be updated as the event draws near. 

Haemil and ‘Land as Kin’ at the Muckenthaler

Where: The Muckenthaler, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton

When: Sept. 23. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Cost: $30 non-member of Muck membership, $20 student/senior, $15 with Muck membership

“Land as Kin”
When: Oct. 28 through Dec. 9. Noon-2 p.m.
Reservations opening soon

Returning to the Muckenthaler Cultural Center is a Korean traditional music “Haemil” team who will be performing pansori. Pansori is a Korean genre of musical storytelling performed by a vocalist and drummer; the performance is usually characterized by expressive singing and stylized speech. 

The “Haemil” team will be bridging “the gap between different cultures, educating and entertaining through traditional and modern instruments,” according to the Muck website. 

An exhibition opening soon Oct. 28 at the Muck is called “Land as Kin.” It is being presented as part of a series of exhibitions “featuring artists with ties to the land Fullerton inhabits,” according to the Muck website. 

“Land as Kin” is inspired by the relationships shared between Southern California native people and the land in California. The exhibition takes a look at everyday objects, photography, maps and other bodies of work to show these connections and relationships. 

OC Trans Pride 2021: Our Home! Our Future! 

Where: LGBTQ Center On 4th, 305 East 4th St., Santa Ana
When: Oct. 9. Noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free

The LGBTQ Center OC will be celebrating the resilience of the trans community in Orange County during Trans Pride 2021. Last year’s Trans Pride took place over Zoom where speakers, workshop panelists, musicians and artists gathered virtually to raise mental health awareness through music, art and storytelling. 

This year’s Trans Pride will be taking place in-person at the LGBT Center on 4th. In order to attend the event, face masks are required and guests must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result from the past 72 hours. The event will be providing food, resources and workshops for the community — more information about the event will be updated over time on its Eventbrite page. 


Theaters and other performing arts venues have begun taking steps to open back up and offer the kind of works they’re best known for. The Orange County theater scene is among the most vibrant and significant of any in California — or elsewhere. Here are three productions of the 2021-22 season you won’t want to miss. – Eric Marchese


Where: Chance Theater, 5522 La Palma Ave., Anaheim
When: Sept. 24-Oct. 24
Contact: 888-455-4212, ChanceTheater.com

Playwright Dael Orlandersmith wrote her hard-hitting drama nearly 20 years ago, yet it couldn’t be more timely, given the Black Lives Matter movement and other recent earth-shattering cultural developments. The Orange County premiere of this multi-character memory play looks at the subject of racism within the Black community and the obstacles it raises for people of color. A memory play that’s been referred to as “exquisite” and “provocative,” it focuses on two characters whose fates become tragically intertwined. Orlandersmith won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the play was a 2002 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, so Chance’s production should prove noteworthy.

Khanisha Foster is directing Chance Theater’s O.C. premiere production of “Yellowman.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Chance Theater

‘A Shot Rang Out’

Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: ​​Oct. 2-Nov. 6
Contact: 714-708-5555, scr.org

In this world premiere, subtitled “a play in one man,” South Coast Repertory’s past and future join forces in a compelling new play about the present. After a long period of isolation, an actor returns to the stage, alone and shaken. This is his story – his moment of reckoning – relating what led to his seclusion. Along the winding journey, he draws inspiration from movies and theater, reflects on missteps and unravels mysteries of love. Directed by Tony Taccone, Artistic Director David Ivers takes the stage in a play written specially for him by one of SCR’s most celebrated legacy playwrights, Tony Award-winner Richard Greenberg (“Take Me Out,” “Three Days of Rain”) in what promises to be a memorable theater experience.

‘Little House on the Prarie: The Musical’

Where: Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple Street, Westminster
When: May 27-June 19, 2022
Contact: 714-893-8626, WCPstage.com

For those planning further into the spring, what could be better than a show that gives the musical theater treatment to one of the most beloved series of books in American literature? Playwright Rachel Sheinkin (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) adapted the last four books of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series about a frontier family – her own family, the Ingallses. Acclaimed film score composer Rachel Portman (“Emma,” “The Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat”) has penned the show’s music, with lyrics by Donna DiNovelli. The resulting 2009-10 stage musicalization takes place in the 1880s, when the U.S. government opened up lands for settlement in the Dakota Territory. Southern California theater veteran Patricia Miller directs this Orange County premiere production, which depicts the hardships of the Ingalls family as it moves westward, battling adversity every step of the way.

Classical Music

The post-pandemic season schedules of our local classical groups look a lot like the pre-pandemic ones: same names, same pieces, call it back to normal. Read the fine print, though, and masks and vaccination verifications will be required. Maybe there will be less coughing. – Timothy Mangan

St. Lawrence String Quartet

Where: Samueli Theater, 615 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa
When: Sept. 21, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $29-$89

Despite recent interest in his music written for the concert hall, Erich Wolfgang Korngold is still better known for his swashbuckling Hollywood film scores of the ’30s and ’40s. The formidably insightful St. Lawrence String Quartet arrives at the intimate Samueli Theater for a welcome exploration of the Viennese composer’s seldom heard chamber music, including a sampling of songs (with soprano Monica Schober), the Third String Quartet (from his Hollywood days) and the ripened Romanticism of the early Piano Quintet, Op. 15 (with pianist Stephen Prutsman).

Pacific Symphony Indoor Performances

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Sept. 30, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $29-$89

Conductor Carl St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony return for their first public concert inside Segerstrom (the season opener) with some old favorites. The lovable and now venerable pianist Emanuel Ax joins the musicians as soloist in Mozart’s ebullient Piano Concerto No. 17 as a prelude to Tchaikovsky’s surefire Symphony No. 5, long a specialty of the group. The concert opens with the symphonic premiere of Wayne Oquin’s “Tower Ascending.”  

Les Violond du Roy with Avi Avital

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Oct. 23, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $28-$268

The mandolin isn’t usually thought of as a classical instrument, but the Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital, complete with contract with Deutsche Grammophon, is making a go in establishing it as one. The Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents him in a concert with the Canadian chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy performing Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto as well as concerted works for other instruments by Bach and Vivaldi arranged by Avital for his own.


Theaters went dark over a year ago, forcing dancers to confine their movement to compact spaces and laptop video screens, but the wait is finally over. Curtains across Orange County are set to rise this fall with a mix of performances from world-renowned ballet companies, local favorites, and exciting up-and-comers. With COVID still looming, the “normal” schedule of touring companies remains light as we look into 2022, but it’s a start. – Kaitlin Wright

Micaela Taylor’s TL Collective

Where: Musco Center for the Arts, 415 N. Glassell, Orange
When: Sept. 24, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20-$53
Contact: muscocenter.org, 714-997-6812

Named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2019, Micaela Taylor’s TL Collective is finally getting the chance to tour with a stop at Musco Center for the Arts after a weeklong residency. Taylor will bring “Drift” and “90Sugar” to the stage with narratives that include an individual’s ever-changing relationship to self and the inner mindset of young adults in the hyper-paced modern world. TL Collective is described as a company that fuses contemporary modern dance with hip-hop and folds in theater and acrobatics, bringing to life a new dance movement style called Expand Practice, which encourages individuals to “expand their mind, body and narrative.”

Micaela Taylor’s TL Collective will perform “90Sugar,” a piece about a whimsical, fantasy spin on life as a young adult in this modern world. Credit: Photo courtesy of Musco Center for the Arts


Where: Sherman Library and Gardens, ​​2647 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar
Residency dates in the Sherman Gardens: Thursdays, Sept. 23-Oct. 14 from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 15 from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Performance date: Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Orange County’s resident dance company is starting a special, site-specific dance residency commissioned by Sherman Library & Gardens. This collaboration invites spectators to watch and engage with the dancers as they hold a month’s worth of rehearsals in the gardens leading up to an evening-length performance. Artistic Director Jennifer Backhaus and Backhausdance company members present eclectic and dynamic works that exhibit both fluidity and strength. 

Dancers Ellen Akashi and Samuel DeAngelo will perform with Backhausdance during the Orange County-based’s company’s residency at Sherman Library and Gardens. Credit: Photo courtesy of Adrien Padilla


Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $39-$119

The Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet company makes its Segerstrom Center for the Arts debut year as it celebrates its 15th anniversary. BalletX is known for commissioning choreographers internationally to develop innovative and bold works that expand the vocabulary of ballet. The company dancers have been named “among America’s best” by the New York Times and are paving their way across landmark performance venues including the Kennedy Center, the Joyce Theater and Jacob’s Pillow. 

BalletX dancers Andrea Yorita (left) and Shawn Cusseaux (right) will perform with the company at Segerstrom Hall on October 16. Credit: Photo courtesy of SCFTA

ABT Presents an Alonzo King World Premiere, ‘Bernstein in a Bubble’ and ‘ZigZag’

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: March 2022 (Specific dates not announced yet.)
Contact: scfta.org or 714-556-2787

Segerstrom Center for the Arts and the American Ballet Theatre announced Thursday a three-year deal making American Ballet Theatre the official dance company of the center. The partnership will include world and West Coast premieres and engagements each spring through 2024. The first among these will be a mixed repertory program of a world premiere by Alonzo King, and West Coast premieres of Ratmansky’s “Bernstein in a Bubble” and Lang’s “ZigZag,” featuring songs recorded by Tony Bennett. These three performances are scheduled for March 2022.


Autumn culinary activities in Orange County thrive thanks to weather that cooperates most of the year. From family-friendly festivities to cultural celebrations to excuses to sip and savor, this rundown avoids the virtual route in favor of fresh air. – Anne Marie Panoringan

Run Around the Farm at UC South Coast Research

Where: South Coast Research and Extension Center, 7601 Irvine Blvd., Irvine
When: Oct. 16. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: $15-$65 (non-runners can attend plant sale and expo for free)

Possibly the best kept secret in Irvine, the South Coast Research and Extension Center of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (a.k.a. UC ANR) is hosting its first annual 5k/10k/Kid’s Pumpkin Fun Run on Oct. 16. Participants will explore the 200 acres of farmland as folks run/walk through groves of citrus, persimmon, apples and more. Kids joining in the fun run can select a pumpkin off the vine upon completion of the race, while 5/10k runners receive a shirt and medal in addition to their own squash. A succulent plant sale, plus opportunities to chat with UC ANR experts about gardening, insects and other topics will also take place. 

One of many crop fields at South Coast Research and Extension Center. Credit: Photo courtesy Jason Suppes

SteelCraft’s Hispanic/Latinx Cultural Event

Where: SteelCraft Garden Grove, 12900 Euclid St., Garden Grove
When: Sept. 18. Noon to 8 p.m.
Cost: Free

The Garden Grove branch of this shipping container food hall concept is wrapping up its free Summer Culture Series with live performances, a maker’s craft market and kid-friendly activities associated with the Hispanic community on Sept. 18 starting at noon. A portion of the proceeds raised from this event will benefit Orange County United Way. Musicians such as Mariachi Romanza plus Ermando and the Nando’s are scheduled to perform. Spend the afternoon browsing various vendors and grabbing lunch while enjoying lively tunes.

The dining area of SteelCraft Garden Grove. Credit: Photo courtesy SteelCraft Garden Grove

Tastemakers of Orange County 2021

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Oct. 13. 6-9 p.m. (general admission starts at 7 p.m.)
Cost: $95-$135

Tastemakers is an annual fête organized by the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA for short). Held on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Julianne and George Argyros Plaza, a gathering of OC’s eclectic chefs will be serving up small bites of their respective cuisines. Restaurants include Modern Filipino Kitchen by Aysee, Little Sister, Hendrix Restaurant and Bar, Sessions West Coast Deli, Brodard, Harley Laguna Beach and Bluefin. A silent auction and opportunity drawing will also be held.

Chef Azmin Ghahreman of Sapphire Catering preparing dinner at Tanaka Farms. Credit: Photo courtesy of MaxLove Project

MaxLove Project Farm-to-Fork 10th Anniversary Fundraiser

Where: Tanaka Farms, 5380 ¾ University Drive, Irvine
When: Sept. 25. 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $350

Scheduled for Saturday evening, Sept. 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine, this annual outdoor dinner benefits MaxLove Project, a nonprofit focused on reducing health risks and improving the quality of life for youths surviving cancer. Wagon rides, a cocktail hour, presentation, live auction and dancing are part of the evening’s festivities. Chef Azmin Ghahreman of Sapphire Catering will oversee the locally-sourced meal, while chefs from Electric City Butcher, O Sea, Adya Fresh Indian Flavors and Orange County School of the Arts present a selection of appetizers. Tickets are available at www.mlpfarmdinner.org.