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What a difference a year makes. 
This time last year, Orange County arts organizations were just emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, adjusting from Zoom fatigue and posting everything online, and still putting safety first.
Now the masks are coming off, the vaccination cards are being tucked away, and almost everything appears to be returning to pre-pandemic programming. 
Voice of OC’s talented team of arts writers have scanned the schedules, talked to the organizers and culled the calendars to bring you the best of fall 2022 — and, in some cases, a peek at what’s coming up in 2023. It looks like the ambition level has been raised up a notch, perhaps making up for lost time. 
Here’s a look at what’s coming up in the Orange County arts and culture scene.
The elephant in the room as far as visual arts go is the grand opening of the Orange County Museum of Art’s new, $93 million building in Costa Mesa. Four exhibitions will help inaugurate the Morphosis and Thom Mayne-designed structure, located in the heart of Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
But that’s not all that’s happening this fall. In contrast to last year, when art institutions were still under the spell of COVID, there seems to be a reawakening this year, with new and refreshing exhibitions sprouting up everywhere from Brea to San Clemente. Here are only a few of the most noteworthy ones. – Richard Chang
When: Opening Oct. 8; hours will be: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
Where: OC Museum of Art, 3333 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa
Cost: Free
Contact: ocma.art
Decades in the making, the new home for the OC Museum of Art is finally opening Oct. 8. Four new exhibitions are opening as well: “13 Women,” honoring the 13 women who founded the Balboa Pavilion Gallery, the original institution that later became the Newport Harbor Art Museum and subsequently OCMA; “Fred Eversley: Reflecting Back (the World)”; “Peter Walker: Minimalist Landscape”; and the return of the California Biennial, 2022 edition. A multimedia outdoor sculpture, “Of many waters…” by Sanford Biggers, will also be on display. The museum will open at 5 p.m. Oct 8 and stay open for 24 hours for a grand opening party. Admission is free during opening events, and for the next 10 years, thanks to a generous donation.  
When: Starts Nov. 3; hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. every day, except closed on Mondays
Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach
Cost: Admission is $12 general, $9 for students 18 and older, seniors and military, free for children 12 and younger; some events during the festival are free
Contact: 949-494-8971 or lagunaartmuseum.org
Laguna Art Museum is presenting its 10th annual Art and Nature Festival, a multidisciplinary exploration and celebration of art’s myriad engagements with the natural world. The festival’s featured artist is Rebeca Méndez, who will create an immersive, 360-degree video art installation titled “The Sea Around Us.” Other A&N artists will be Kelly Berg and Robert Young. The festival will feature a free family festival; a keynote lecture by Sylvia A. Earle, National Geographic Society explorer in residence; and free admission and programming during the First Thursdays Art Walk on Nov. 3.  
When: “Dissolve” runs Sept. 24-Dec. 10, hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; “Echoes” runs Sept. 24-Jan. 14, hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Where: University Art Gallery, 712 Arts Plaza, Irvine (on the UCI campus); Langson IMCA, 18881 Von Karman Ave., Suite 100, Irvine
Cost: Free
Contact: imca.uci.edu
The UCI Langson Institute and Museum of California Art will present two concurrent exhibitions for the first time. “Dissolve” will comprise 20 works – including two new commissions – by artists who explore modes of transformation across mediums in their diverse practices. It will be presented on UCI’s campus at the University Art Gallery. “Echoes” will pair artworks by California Light and Space artist Peter Alexander with California Impressionist paintings from which he drew inspiration and admired. With pieces spanning from 1896 to 2020, the group show will feature 14 Impressionist works from IMCA’s collection, along with 11 of Alexander’s resin sculptures, canvases, works on paper and a painting on velvet. Alexander, who had a retrospective at OCMA in 1999 and once lived on the Balboa Peninsula, died in 2020. 
Honorable mention: “Pure, Unadulterated Joy” at Brea Gallery (through Dec. 4); “Houdini Unchained” at Muzeo (Oct. 8-Jan. 22, 2023) and “Guo Pei: Art of Couture” at Bowers Museum (Nov. 12-May 14, 2023).
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Orange County is bringing the heat, literally and figuratively, with a slew of spooky, cultural and educational events this upcoming fall season. Just as the summer heat remained strong entering autumn, so will be the county’s festive spirit. From an immersive book festival to a Dia de los Muertos celebration, Orange County has an event for anyone to get social and gathering this fall. – Kim Pham
When: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Oct. 2
Where: Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa
Cost: Free admission & parking
Contact: kidsbookfestival.com
The annual children’s book festival in Orange County is a free event for children, their families and educators to get connected with the local and national people behind their favorite children’s books, including authors, illustrators, storytellers and advocates for literacy. Visitors will have the opportunity to purchase books and get them autographed at this event if they are not already entertained by one of the six different stage presentations on display. 
Though admission is free, lunch is not. Bring enough money for the books and food you may want to purchase. Click here to find out which food vendors will be serving at this event and which professionals in the children’s book scene will be present and/or presenting. 
When: 2-8 p.m., Oct. 22
Where: Dana Point Community Center, 34052 Del Obispo St., Dana Point
Cost: Free
Contact: 949-248-3536, danapoint.org
The City of Dana Point Recreation Division is teaming up with Dana Point Police Services for yet another year to deliver two family-friendly Halloween-themed events in one day. The “Halloween Spooktacular” will be set up indoors with games, crafts and mazes, while the “Trunk-or-Treat” activity occupies the outdoor space. This “Trunk-or-Treat” spin gives children a chance to learn about Dana Point’s police services, such as the bomb squad or K-9 unit, while also providing an entertaining trick-or-treating experience. 
Children will also get an opportunity to show off their outfits in the costume parade at 6 p.m., which will take place outside, for a chance to win a special prize. While admission and parking is free, the City of Dana Point Recreation Division encourages guests to bring extra money for food truck purchases as well.
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 6
Where: Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
Cost: Free
Contact: 714-567-3600, bowers.org
The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has been hosting a Dia de los Muertos celebration for over 30 years, and even held a virtual festival via Facebook livestream in 2020 when social distancing was still in effect. Last year marked a quick recovery from the pandemic halt for this staple Bowers Museum event, where guests got to enjoy traditional Mexican music, visit the ofrenda (a memorial altar) and dance in the courtyard. 
This year’s Mexican Day of the Dead festival at the Bowers Museum will not only consist of last year’s highlights, but it’ll also feature a more elaborate ofrenda for the public to contribute a photo to during the festival or after. Additionally, other activities to participate in at this family friendly event include art making, face painting and a variety of live performances.
From the smallest community and storefront venues to the professional companies, the upcoming seasons of Orange County’s theaters more closely resemble those of the pre-pandemic era. The number of world and county premieres and newer plays previously unseen in O.C. is notable, and will give patrons plenty of choices for an exciting evening of theater. These productions should whet your appetite for Fall 2022. – Eric Marchese
When: Sept. 23-Oct. 23
When: Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim
Tickets: Starting at $29
Contact: 888-455-4212, chancetheater.com
Is there much of a connection between the worlds of wrestling and theater? You might not think so, but “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” proves the two aren’t as dissimilar as they first appear. Chance Theater is creating an “elaborate” production all its own of Kristoffer Diaz’s play, which follows the career of a professional wrestler. In letting us see the events of the story through his eyes, we’re allowed to understand his world that much better. And here’s another surprise – although the play has been around since 2009, Chance’s production is the Orange County premiere of the Puliter Prize finalist. Director Jeremy Aluma has helmed the play twice before, both times in Chicago, and he says the Chance is providing the resources “Chad Deity” needs but that weren’t available to him before. “I initially fell in love with the heart, comedy, and entertainment of the play,” Aluma says. “I found it accessible, direct, hilarious, and filled with opportunities to delight and engage an audience – all things I strive for in the theater I make.”
When: Oct. 2-23
Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets: $35-$89
Contact: 714-708-5500, scr.org
Up until 1963, Nina Simone had earned fame and acclaim as a vocalist. But the Ku Klux Klan’s bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963, had a profound impact upon her. From that point on, Simone poured her energies into becoming an artist-activist. In doing so, she crafted some of the most powerful Civil Rights anthems ever written and performed, thus finding her true calling. Christina Ham’s 2016 drama imagines how the iconic singer came to write the Civil Rights anthem “Four Women,” and it looks at how in finding her own voice, Simone gave voice to millions of black women struggling to overcome racism and stereotypes. Ham’s play depicts four women – Aunt Sarah, Sephronia, Sweet Thing and Peaches – awash in self-loathing only because of the color of their skin. In telling their stories, it features some of the most potent of Simone’s songs, including “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”
When: Oct. 26-Nov. 13
Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
Tickets: Starting at $56
Contact: 949-497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com
JoBeth Williams and Peter Strauss bring major star power to Laguna Playhouse’s world premiere, an original adaptation of “Love Among the Ruins,” the acclaimed 1975 made-for-television romantic comedy that starred Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier. The Playhouse teamed with Papazian Hirsch Entertainment to create the play, adapted by James Hirsch and Robert A. Papazian from James Costigan’s teleplay which, like the film, depicts the courtroom drama surrounding a breach of promise lawsuit in Edwardian England circa 1911. Williams takes the Hepburn role of Jessica Medlicott, an aging, wealthy grande dame and former London theater actress who’s being sued by her much younger ex-fiancé. Strauss inherits the Olivier role of Sir Arthur Granville-Jones, hired by Jessica to defend her. He’s not only highly respected and exceptionally straight-laced; he’s also considered the greatest barrister in the British Empire. The story’s major plot wrinkle is that Sir Arthur is and has been hopelessly in love with Jessica ever since a brief affair 40 years earlier.
After a challenging couple of years for organizations and patrons of the arts alike, venues are finally back in the full swing of in-person events. This fall’s dance calendar is far from full with many dates and lineups yet to be announced including Laguna Dance Festival’s annual gala and Backhausdance which is surely planning to do something as they kick off its 20th year anniversary as a company. Nevertheless, there is plenty to see before the rush of ‘Nutcracker’ holiday performances. – Kaitlin Wright
When: 7 p.m., Sept. 24
Where: Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Ave., Costa Mesa
Tickets: $35
Contact: socalballetscene.com
SoCal Ballet Scene was founded in 2019 by Rena Kamariotakis, a ballet dancer and ballet teacher in Orange County. The organization aims to bring greater awareness to local ballet artists and companies and is presenting its inaugural festival at the Robert B. Moore Theater in Costa Mesa. The mixed-repertoire program features a collection of works, ranging from classical to contemporary ballet, performed by local ballet companies and an ensemble of freelance artists that reside here in SoCal. The current program includes Vitor Luiz, former Principal Dancer of the San Francisco Ballet and current Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine, dancers of the Kenneth Walker Dance Project, Pacific Ballet Dance Theater, and The Realm Company.
When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 26
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets: Start at $29
Contact: scfta.org or 714-556-2787
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre Artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung has crafted a fantastical work based on childhood memories of Bangka, the oldest district in Taipei and a street artist called Thirteen Tongues. Cloud Gate’s signature blend of Eastern and Western dance forms creates a mystical world where ancient and modern coexist. In “13 Tongues,” the company’s fusion of techniques will be set to a soundscape that begins and ends with the sound of a single handbell and fuses Taiwanese folk songs, Japanese nakashi tunes and electronic music. 
The Times calls Cloud Gate “Asia’s leading contemporary dance theater.” The company tours extensively worldwide, but also holds regular seasons in theaters at home, and stages annual free outdoor performances in cities and villages of Taiwan, drawing an average of 30,000 people per performance.
When: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 3
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets: Start at $29
Contact: scfta.org or 714-556-2787
Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company Bodytraffic makes its Segerstrom Center debut with a mixed repertory program that includes some of its most celebrated works. The program includes Baye & Asa’s rhythmic and bold “The One to Stay With,” and Matthew Neenan’s “A Million Voices,” which was shown at Jacob’s Pillow and is inspired by the music of Peggy Lee. “Pacopepepluto,” choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo is set to the songs popularized by ‘the king of cool,’ Dean Martin in the ‘50s and ‘60s and Micaela Taylor’s “Snap” is a take on social pressure with deconstructed versions of songs by James Brown.
The company’s trajectory from L.A. to nationwide recognition can be traced by mile markers like being named United States cultural ambassadors to the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, a 2016 Hollywood Bowl performance with the LA Philharmonic and an international tour that took them to Moscow and St. Petersburg for the CONTEXT Diana Vishneva Festival, and The Hague for The Holland Dance Festival.
A quick look at the fall schedule of our local classical music presenters and performers would leave one with the impression that we’re back to business as usual, the pre-pandemic norm. But closer scrutiny reveals some adjustments have been made. Along with the usual Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, there is a greater diversity both in the repertoire being offered and in the musicians performing it, with a noticeable uptick in the representation of women in both categories. Societal tremors come to the concert hall this autumn and winter in the form of music to the ears. – Timothy Mangan
When: 8 p.m., Oct. 11
Where: Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets:$48-$268
Contact: philharmonicsociety.org
The young Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla — or just Mirga for the tongue-tied — is one of the more exciting things happening on podiums these days. Her musicianship combines a keen intellect with a physical prowess that is equal parts athletic verve and balletic grace. She brings her Birminghamers with a terrific program of Vaughan Williams, Elgar (the Cello Concerto, with Sheku Kanneh-Mason) and Debussy (the cinematic La Mer). A bonus: The Jewish Rhapsody by the neglected Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg, a composer she has championed with resounding success.
When: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 2
Where: Samueli Theater, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets: Starting at $29
Contact: scfta.org
Founded at the Colburn School in Los Angeles in 2010, the Calidore String Quartet has since become heralded as among the leading chamber ensembles on the planet, winners of an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2018. The young musicians bring a typically probing program bookending Beethoven’s early Op.18, No. 6 with Smetana’s touching String Quartet No. 1, “From My Life.” In between they offer the world premiere of the String Quartet No. 2 by young American composer/harpist Hannah Lash, a commission of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
When: 8 p.m., Nov. 11
Where: Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Tickets: $23-$168
Contact: philharmonicsociety.org
The sheer virtuosity of Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov’s playing is enough to recommend him to any classical music fan, novice or aficionado. But he also has a kind of musical charisma that comes along only once in a great while, making him a can’t-miss listen. Luckily Orange County has become a regular stop for him. For his latest Philharmonic Society recital he brings a big program (for the big hall) of Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Ravel, capped by the ecstatic mysticism of Scriabin’s Sonata No. 5.
A change from summer to autumn in OC means reveling in the cooler temps with new restaurant openings and family outings. Find one to suit your mood and wallet below. – Anne Marie Panoringan
When: Opening Oct. 8
Where: 3333 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa
Cost: varies
Contact: ocma.art
Part of the new Orange County Museum of Art is its plant-forward café and coffee bar named Verdant. Helmed by executive chefs Ross Pangilinan and Nick Weber, the 75-seat dining room will serve organic, California fare for lunch six days a week (closed Mondays). Situated on OCMA’s Terrace level, Verdant’s beverage program will also pour curated cocktails and wine selections. Expect creativity and class (and at least one seafood dish) from these Patina Group alumni. Bonus: Verdant catering services are available.
When: Early October
Where: 21058 Pacific Coast Highway, #M238, Huntington Beach
Cost: varies
Contact: kailounge.com
Debuting in early October, Kai Lounge at Huntington Beach’s Pacific City will house multiple facets of Japanese cuisine within its second floor destination. Included in the 6,500 square foot establishment, a yakitori bar promises a sensory experience as patrons view their meals cooked over traditional robata grills. In addition to multiple dining rooms, a dedicated whiskey room will double as an omakase speakeasy serving 18-course dinners to a limited number of seats. Considering this concept is from Wild Thyme– the same restaurant group that created Newport Beach’s Shorebird, it’s sure to draw a crowd.
When: Oct. 28; Nov. 3
Where: Ritz-Carlton, 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point
Cost: $170-$190
Contact: exploretock.com/ritzcarltonlagunaniguel
There’s date night, and then there’s date night done by Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. The monthly series began in August with a smokin’ pop-up by Heritage Barbecue and continues through November with a Diwali Festival of Lights event planned by the resort’s chef de cuisine and New Delhi-native Sanjay Rawat next month. Stroll the Dana Lawn while feasting at multiple stations specializing in tandoori meats and Mumbai-style chaat (small bites) before indulging in dessert.
In November, chef Richard Sandoval of signature restaurant Raya will present a Mayan tequila and copal ceremony alongside Shamanic practitioner Nataline Cruz.before serving a four-course dinner. Learn more about both dinners and purchase tickets via Ritz-Carlton’s event page on Tock. 
When: Now through Oct. 31
Where: All Kura Sushi locations
Cost: varies
Contact: kurasushi.com
Happening through Halloween, this teaming up of entertainment speaks to Generation X plus the kid in all of us who likes to play with their food. The nostalgic 80s video game icon has taken over this revolving sushi brand with bright decor, animation videos and user-friendly accessories like Pac-Man or ghost keychains and cable protectors to be won after emptying 15 plates (a.k.a. The Bikkura Pon Prize System) into the designated disposal slot. One doesn’t even need to eat sushi to enjoy dining there, as Kura’s expansive menu includes more than seafood – think soups, desserts and tempura veggies. Use the restaurant’s app to add yourself to the waitlist in Irvine, Cypress, Garden Grove or Brea.
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