Terry Dwyer: The Best Is Yet to Come

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Terry Dwyer is the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s president and chief operating officer. He began his tenure as the Center’s fourth president in April 2006.

The entertainment complex Dwyer oversees includes the 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall, the 2,000-seat Segerstrom Concert Hall, the 500-seat Samueli Theater, the 250-seat Founders Hall and a 46,000-square-foot community plaza – as well as amenities such as cafes, donor rooms, dressing rooms, artist lounges and rehearsal studios.

Dwyer’s 25-year career in the performing arts also includes stints as managing director of the Alley Theatre in Houston, the La Jolla Playhouse and New York’s Circle Repertory Company.

He was interviewed by Newport Beach Indy Editor Roger Bloom.


1. What would you rate as your major accomplishments at The Center in your four years there?

The opening of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall certainly is high on the list. We also revised the Center’s mission statement and long range plan and are making progress towards a core goal of strategically expanding our artistic and education programs broadening and diversifying our audiences. We have raised capital campaign and endowment funds in excess of $65 million. I am also very proud that we have significantly increased commissioning and production of new dance and music pieces that are attracting new audiences and helping ensure a dynamic and relevant future for the Center. And our Off Center, Free for All and Plaza Event series have attracted many thousands of new attendees to the Center and helped the Center become even more of an inclusive, welcoming and fully accessible cultural resource for the community.


2. What is your major unrealized goal for The Center?

I have two goals that are “in process” and I hope soon will be achieved. The completion of the capital campaign is the first, and the second is the launch of a new performance festival featuring strikingly innovative companies of national and international note.  The festival as we envision it will add to the eclecticism of our programming, provide new ways for the Center to engage the community and strengthen its role as a catalyst for creativity and innovation.


3. About what percentage of programming is geared toward revenue production and which percentage is more discretionary – that is, more artistic or experimental in focus?

The Center’s goal is that one hundred percent of our programming reflects the finest examples of performance genres, whether in dance, musical theatre, jazz, cabaret, classical music, avant garde theater, performance art or indie rock. We focus on artistic excellence, potential for audience engagement and relevance. Nothing is programmed solely for the sake of revenue.


4. What is your all-time favorite TV show?

I have four: “30 Rock,” “Weeds,” “Dexter” and “Mr. Ed.”


5. You’ve had performing arts leadership roles in New York and San Diego prior to coming to the Performing Arts Center. Do you see any differences between the East Coast and West Coast performing arts “scenes”?

 The arts scenes on both coasts are rich, stimulating and often quite different. That’s to be expected given the differences in cultural traditions, political environment and even climate. The West Coast is incredibly diverse economically and socially and features an expansive geography, all of which strongly impacts the art created.  This diversity of our community is a strength to be explored and celebrated, and there is no question that the Center must do so as part of solidifying its status as both a valued cultural and civic resource to all of Orange County.



6. Have you seen any uptick in fundraising or donations so far this year? What are you projecting going forward?

We are seeing a small but steady increase in the number of donors, although the gifts tend to be smaller than in the past. This is encouraging in a way in that, despite the challenging economy, people remain committed to supporting the Center and the arts.  We are adjusting to these new realities as we plan our future with a central goal being to ensure our programs remain relevant, of the highest quality and accessible to all.


7. Tell me what The Center is doing to develop the next generation of audiences.

We have launched a number of new artistic initiatives focused on engaging existing audiences and enticing new attendees to experience the Center.  We are committed to making the Center more accessible and inclusive – economically, socially and artistically – to younger and more diverse audiences from every corner of Orange County.


8. What was your first car?

A Honda 305 ”Dream” motorcycle …. and then an International Harvester Scout.


9. What do you see The Center looking like in five years?

The Center will have strengthened its position as a cultural leader of local and international significance. People in Orange County and the Western region will look to the Center for the finest examples of great performance in all genres, disciplines and traditions. The halls and plaza will vibrate with the energy of the diverse and enthusiastic audiences we engage.  And they will know that they can look to the Center to experience the future of performing arts in America. Our resolve to program with excellence and remain accessible and relevant will be unshakable, and all our programs will reflect the full diversity of Orange County. The “Center Experience” will be unrivaled as a cultural, educational and entertainment resource for all throughout the community.


10. What is your favorite ice cream?

Ben & Jerry’s  “Cherry Garcia.”





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