Two of Orange County’s most well-known arts leaders are stepping down from their positions.
South Coast Repertory announced that Managing Director Paula Tomei will step down at the end of the current season—SCR’s 60th and her 44th, with the last 30 years serving as managing director. She will remain in the position through August 2024.
Irvine Barclay theatre announced that Jerry Mandel, an Orange County performing arts veteran who built a legacy developing local performing arts over the last 26 years, is stepping down as President of Irvine Barclay Theatre on December 31, 2023.
“It has been an honor and distinct privilege for me to not only serve as South Coast Repertory’s Managing Director for the past 30 years, but to spend my entire career working here,” Tomei said in a statement. “Throughout that time, I have been continually inspired by and fortunate to have worked with remarkable artists, dedicated staff and incredible community leaders and supporters who embraced SCR’s vision at every turn. My heart is full of gratitude to have played a role in the extraordinary growth of SCR and to have had the opportunity to serve the theatre and our community. There’s no greater joy in life than doing what you love, and for me, I was one of the lucky people who experienced that every day.”
“It is an honor to work alongside Paula Tomei. Her proven record of stewardship and her tremendous respect for South Coast Repertory has anchored the theatre with the vision and resources it requires to stay relevant into the future,” Artistic Director David Ivers said in a statement. “I am deeply indebted to her for her personal and professional support during very challenging times. She will be missed dearly, but her inspiring legacy will no doubt remain a part of our future trajectory.”
As SCR’s first and only managing director, Tomei has been instrumental in leading the organization through numerous periods of growth and change. That included The Next Stage Campaign, which raised capital for the expansion of the theatre facility, resulting in the addition of the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage, technical shops, administrative offices, Theatre Conservatory classrooms, and the reconfiguration of the former Second Stage into the 94-seat Nicholas Studio. Tomei co-led the theatre through the pandemic shutdown and subsequent reopening to live performances, starting with Outside SCR at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 2021. That new initiative has brought theatre to the historic Mission for the past three summers.
During SCR’s 50th season in 2013-14, she continued this work with the establishment of the Founders Endowment, honoring Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson, which created resources to fund special artistic opportunities.
“I leave SCR knowing that it will continue to advance and enrich the lives of so many under David Ivers’ artistic leadership,” said Tomei. “David is a passionate, thoughtful leader who cares deeply about the community. South Coast Repertory deserves a co-leader who will work alongside him to navigate future challenges and new opportunities and chart the changes to best serve both the art and the community. I look forward to cheering them on from the sidelines and as an audience member.”
Her leadership and service to the Orange County arts community earned Tomei numerous awards, including Arts Orange County’s Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award.
The Board of Trustees is organizing a search for her successor.
Jerry Mandel is credited with keeping Irvine Barclay Theatre active during Covid and overseeing the staff efforts to ensure the Barclay could emerge from the pandemic-related shutdowns as a strong and valuable community asset.
The theater’s post-Covid programming features more top-tier performers of interest to a broader audience base, an expansion of classical music offerings, and the launch of a new Global View series featuring renowned artists from around the world. The venue also increased its support of programmatic activity created by local cultural, artistic, and educational organizations.
“I have been blessed to have had a wonderful career,” said Mandel in a statement. “As former President of the now Segerstrom Center for The Arts, I had the joy of completing a world-class concert hall. As President of the Barclay, I was fortunate to see the theater emerge and evolve into one of Orange County’s premier venues. Now, I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to my roots at UC Irvine where it all began.”
Mandel will serve in an advisory role at University of California, Irvine (UCI), working with Brian T. Hervey, Vice Chancellor of University Advancement and Alumni Relations on university fundraising programs, alumni relations, and development initiatives. Mandel previously spent 20 years as a senior academic administrator in higher education, including serving as vice chancellor for University Advancement at UCI.
“Jerry dedicated his career to elevating performing arts and education throughout Orange County,” said Irvine Barclay Chairman Bob Romney in a statement. “He changed the face of philanthropic support for the performing arts during his time leading Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and then as President of the Barclay.”
Mandel will continue to actively support the community through his service on several nonprofit leadership committees, including UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts Dean’s Arts Council, Life Savers of Orange County Board of Directors, Langson Institute of Museum and California Art Advisory Board, and the Orange County Music & Dance Capital Campaign Committee.
A jazz musician at heart, Mandel will continue his weekly performances at local restaurants Bayside and Bistango, along with special appearances at Campus Jax, The Drake, and Lugano Privé.
Prior to joining Irvine Barclay Theatre, Mandel served as President and Chief Operating Officer for the Orange County Performing Arts Center (now Segerstrom Center for the Arts) from 1997 to 2006. In this role, he oversaw the operations of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious performing arts centers, including the design and construction of the $250 million Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Mandel was awarded the 2019 Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award by Arts Orange County for his visionary arts leadership, and the Golden Baton Award by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County in 2021.
Dr. Craig Springer, Irvine Barclay Theatre’s Executive Vice President, will take over as President on January 1, 2024. A 40-year veteran of the professional performing arts industry, Craig Springer became Executive Vice President of Irvine Barclay Theatre in April of 2021. His responsibilities include oversight of all programming, operational management, marketing, and fund-raising elements of the Barclay’s operation.
Prior to joining the Barclay, Dr. Springer was President of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and Chrisman Executive Director of the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. Before his time in Santa Barbara, he was Executive Director at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.