Making a big play

Crowds of onlookers gathered at the Main Beach cobblestones Sunday afternoon, where members of Laguna's No Square Theatre and Arts Commission gave a colorful performance of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies," to celebrate the arrival of warm, sunny weather and a new performing arts initiative.

Hosted by the Pacific Symphony and No Square, "OC Can You Play?" invites the public to tickle the ivories and create their own performance on a piano at Main Beach, donated by Phil Taylor and painted by local artist Philip Womack.

"Our mission is to make performing arts more prevalent in a town that is mostly known for its fine art," said No Square founder Bree Burgess Rosen. "Performing arts is every bit a part of our culture as a box of paints. I think having a piano on our beach is a terrifically eclectic and perfect match."

The piano, one of 20 placed throughout Orange County, will remain on the cobblestones through Feb. 6, and is open 24 hours a day to anyone who wishes to play.

The performing arts crew got the crowd moving with performances of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Java Jive." Soon, they drew in several more volunteers including Laguna Beach High School music teacher Roxana Ward, accompanied by some of students; a solo performance of "Rhapsody in Blue;" and a visiting professor from New York University who performed a duet with his wife.

"There's already a crazy little hub of culture going on," Rosen said. "We encourage novices and virtuosos alike to come down for an impromptu or planned performance — from classical to rock, 'Chopsticks' to Chopin. The more creative or theatrical, the better."

The event will also feature a variety of contests, including a "Piano Scavenger Hunt" where you can visit all 20 pianos for a chance to win season tickets to Pacific Symphony and "Best Video," which gives filmmakers a chance to score concert tickets with a winning video of a piano performance.

Laguna's participation in the county-wide event was made possible by a grant from Ken and Nancy Frank, which funded the transportation of the piano, as well as a nominal fee from the City to use the cobblestones.

Other pianos are located at South Coast, Downtown Disney, the Irvine Spectrum Center, the Block at Orange, downtown Brea and one near the Mission in San Juan Capistrano.

Also among the hosting sites are the Orange County Performing Arts Center; Irvine Barclay Theater; the University of California, Irvine; The Lab in Costa Mesa; Great Park in Irvine; Downtown Fullerton; OC Parks-OC Zoo; OASIS Senior Center in Newport Beach; Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley; downtown Santa Ana; the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center, city of Mission Viejo, and Hoag Hospital in Irvine.

For more information and contest rules, visit http://www.pacificsymphony.org/OCCanUPlay.