Since surviving the pandemic of 2020 Bea continued eating all of her meals at home. Even after the crisis had passed, although she ventured out for work and various activities, for Bea, one dinner was much like the next. Her meal consisted of a plate of rice or noodles covered in veggies, chicken, and cheese, and she zapped it in the microwave. She lived alone and loathed housework and cooking, so anything that kept those to a minimum was a plus. Continue reading
2020 has been quite a year for us all. For those missing the joys of live theatre, Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) has quite a treat in store this December. In keeping with all the safety protocols in place to keep audiences and actors safe from the pandemic, SCP is mounting a streaming run of Once on This Island. The show, based on the book My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, has book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the duo who originated Seussical and Ragtime. Once on This Island opened on Broadway in 1990. It later began an award-winning West End run in 1994, and more recently enjoyed a Broadway revival beginning in 2017. At present, a Disney+ film adaptation is in work to bring the show to an even wider audience.
Once on This Island is a mystical story of love, sacrifice, and acceptance set in the French Antilles archipelago in the early 1900s and is extremely topical today. The show is packed with lively Caribbean inspired music and dance that will delight the entire family.
SCP is pulling out all the stops with high production values akin to those used in the film industry as well as in professional stage productions recorded for streaming during this unusual time. The performers will be recorded live while remaining safely distanced, and they will record their vocals separately in isolation to remove risk to each other. They’ll perform all of their action for the camera themselves, costumed, outdoors, in front of a green screen, and post-production “magic” will place them in closer proximity as required by the staging. Music Theatre International will provide the instrumental music via performance tracks recorded by a live, professional studio orchestra.
This unusual setup (for community theater at least) will allow audiences to stream a pre-recorded live performance from the comfort and safety of their homes and still support the arts community. This also allows the performers to work together (albeit a little further apart than can be achieved on a normal stage) and share in the thrill of creating theatrical moments to move their audiences. The advantage of being online is that audience members far and wide can enjoy this production.
The cast includes:
- Samantha Houston
- Samantha Mills
- Avishi Phadke
- Patricia Pitpitan
- Jamari McGee
- Willow Mae
- Jeffrey May Hyche
- Eric Ward
- Beth McClellan
- Naomi Evans
- Kyrie Timbrook (vocals by Juanita Harris)
- Victor Ragsdale
- Letitia Burton
- Amarech Mendez
- Samora Stephens
- Dave Gammad
- Jessica Herrera
- Leonardo Diaz
- Milan Whitfield
- Riley Blackwell
- Rebecca Borrison
- Sophie Sontaag
The staff includes:
- Director/Choreographer: Gary Stanford Jr.
- Vocal Director: Justin Pyne
- Producers: Bruce Campbell and Brenda Jackson
- Stage Manager: Alyssa Houston
- Production Manager: Kyrie Timbrook
- Costume Designer: Jo-Ann Birdsall
- Video and Audio Post-Production: Kevin Surace
The show runs as a video on demand offering 5-20 December 2020; Mondays – Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. These digital performances will be available for four hours beginning at the listed “curtain time” for each performance.
Tickets are $24.95 plus a $2.79 ShowTix4U service fee per ticket and are available through sunnyvaleplayers.org and directly through ShowTix4U at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/17692. Patrons can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
SCP has not let the pandemic get them down. Because of the need for performers to share their art safely during this time, SCP has given rise to SCP Digital. Offerings beyond Once on This Island include varied concert and theatrical performances to keep the arts alive in the local community and beyond.
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By Ande Jacobson
As I sit huddled at home as many of us have for almost eight months now, I see the world outside my windows, and I interact virtually with friends and family via phone, via text, and via Zoom (and boy do I look forward to those Zoom sessions). I never thought I would be living through a worldwide pandemic, and yet here we all are. In the US as I write this, we are also only a few days from the end of being able to cast our ballots in the most important election in almost a century. In response to this election, rather than sitting back and waiting, I am heavily engaged in some necessary volunteer work for the Biden campaign as I mentioned in my recent essay, Taking Action! As I read reports of daily happenings, these words are looming large:
WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America
Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action.
Since before I reached voting age, I’ve held strong opinions on several issues that have never gone away. When I was in junior high school, I remember having a spirited debate with one of my favorite teachers over the just-recorded Roe v. Wade decision. We were on opposite side of that debate, and we were both invested in our perspective, but we also had great admiration for one another. We didn’t resort to any mean-spirited attacks. We did use personal stories to back up factual data that we presented. We told those personal stories to emphasize our positions, not to degrade or berate each other.
In the fall of my first year at university, I was excited to vote in my first gubernatorial election. On that ballot, in addition to the gubernatorial race, an infamous proposition – California’s famed Prop 13, the Jarvis-Gann initiative – was in the balance. I came home on several weekends that fall, and I swung by my old high school to talk with a few of my former teachers. I opposed Prop 13 because of the implications for what it would do to the schools in the state. Sadly, all of my former teachers voted for it along with legions of other CA voters. Three years later the state surplus ran out, and CA schools faced the beginning of a continuing funding shortfall that is still in play today.
In the 1980 presidential election, I was again poised to use my voice at the ballot box, but this time, as a young, idealistic university student, I really wanted to change the world. I didn’t want Reagan. I disagreed with the majority of his platform, and I thought he would hurt the country and specifically my family. At the time I also didn’t want Jimmy Carter, so like many other idealistic university students, I voted for John Anderson in that election. I learned a very important lesson that year. While it’s nice to think that a third party candidate can shake things up, the reality is that until we remove the money from politics, the only candidates that truly stand a chance are from the two major parties, and anything else is at best a protest vote, and at worst, a spoiler causing real damage. This has been born out in several subsequent elections where the popular vote went one way, and Electoral College another.
In the years since then, I have continued to vote in every election carefully researching the candidates and the issues, and casually discussing them with family and friends. I remember a heated discussion during the lead-up to the 1984 general election amongst fellow students and staff at work.
Until the last 20 years or so, I’ve voted strictly on the issues crossing party lines on occasion depending on the individual candidate’s platform and record. Since about the year 2000 I haven’t done that. The partisan divide has gotten so extreme that I can’t.
In 2016, I started writing some articles on social media and on at least one political website leading up to that election. That one felt different. I wanted to do something more, but I wasn’t sure how to get involved, so I wrote. I also had conversations with a very knowledgeable friend that percolated. We all know how 2016 turned out. That year, I had some very serious conversations with some good friends on various sides of the political divide. Since then, I’ve watched, I’ve listened, and I’ve written or spoken out. It wasn’t enough. Over the last four years, I’ve been more scared than I can ever remember being, and I’ve seen sides of some friends that I didn’t know they had. I still care about the issues, but it goes deeper than that now. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic that the United States is utterly failing to contain, our lives truly do depend on the outcome of this election. Beyond the pandemic, we’ve got a climate crisis that has been building for decades and must be addressed or nothing else will matter. You can’t tell stories if your species is extinct.
Being tired of feeling helpless and just voting, I decided to do more. Lots more. I’ve been spending some time each day volunteering for the DNC on their text team to help Joe Biden win this election. I started out texting voters. The DNC trains volunteers to use their tools. They are so supportive with volunteer moderators, staff members, and the vast community of volunteers all working together to help reach voters. We listen to voter concerns, give them verifiable, factual data, and we provide critical information on how they can register and make their voices heard.
Before long, I joined the text moderator team, and now I’m helping other volunteers reach voters on a daily basis. Even though I retired a few years ago, I’m finding a lot of the skills I developed throughout my career are coming in handy, and the sense of community and purpose is invigorating.
It’s getting busier, and soon it will be over, but instead of just sitting at home wondering and waiting, I’m doing something tangible. I’ve already voted. Now I need to continue to help get everyone out there who can vote to do so.
Why do I support Joe Biden? Again, this goes back a few years, and I will freely admit that through the primaries earlier this year, he wasn’t the one I wanted to win, though I have admired his public service for many decades. Although I voted for Elizabeth Warren in the primary, I’d be very happy with Joe Biden as our president.
Back in October 1992, during the general campaign between Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Washington, D.C. Had I known I’d soon be sent there for work many, many times, I might have gone someplace else for that vacation, but nonetheless, I was there for a week with a very dear friend. We saw all the sites playing tourist for that week, but one thing sticks out in my mind more than any other from that trip. We got to sit in the gallery on the last day of the 102nd Congress Senate Session. It was a big day in the Senate. Three senators retired that day – Garne, Rudman, and our long time CA senator, Alan Cranston.
Those retirements and the tributes that accompanied them were touching, but even that wasn’t the thing that struck me. This was the day after George H. W. Bush appeared on the Larry King show during that campaign. One senator decided to make quite a spectacle on the Senate floor that day. He took the floor and wouldn’t yield, lambasting the Democratic nominee with innuendo and false accusations. Three senators tried to get him to stop and failed. Finally, Joe Biden got him to yield, though I don’t recall exactly how he was able to do that. What I do remember is that Joe debunked every accusation with verifiable, factual data, and then turned the body to address a critical humanitarian effort that needed immediate attention. That’s the Joe Biden I voted for. That’s the Joe Biden we need in the White House.
Please vote like your life depends on it, because it does.
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In theater or in literature, an author’s vivid imagination can be a wondrous thing. A writer can spin a captivating tale limited only by the bounds of their imagination and their ability to capture their vision in words. If told well, such a story can be divorced from reality yet still provide compelling entertainment for its audience. In this context it’s not only acceptable, it’s desirable, and viewers or readers can find escape through immersion in such a story. It can be enjoyable to suspend disbelief enough to imagine what might be, and it can even inspire people to positive action to improve a situation in reality. Science fiction has long posited potential advances, both good and bad, that are sometimes achieved at a later time. The communicators used in Star Trek in the 1960s were intriguing. They allowed people to communicate over long distances from wherever they were with a tiny device seemingly by magic. Decades later, they came to life in the real world as flip phones as a phase in the evolution of mobile technology. Granted, there were significant differences in range, clarity, and required infrastructure, but the similarities were striking given various designs inspired by the fictional story. Since then, mobile technology has advanced in the form of smart phones and devices, delighting consumers and titillating the minds of creative engineers to continue to push even further. Continue reading
Years ago, although I lived and worked on the west coast, I spent a good deal of time near Washington, D.C. on some temporary work assignments. On these extended trips with my technical team, I had some time to explore the various museums and monuments on the weekends after some very long work weeks. Little did I know that one such outing would blossom into a vivid lesson on how easily people can be swayed by exaggeration or even completely false information presented as fact, eclipsing reality in dramatic fashion. Continue reading
Writing can be a powerful tool. Written words have the power to induce strong emotions. They give us a way to record history, events, and ideas. They can entertain and inspire. In telling a story, a writer is often trying to elicit a strong response in their readers. As a reader, it can be quite enjoyable to lose one’s self in a well-told story that runs us through a variety of emotional responses.
With the ubiquity of text messaging, the internet, email, and social media, many of us are thrust into the role of writer as well as reader on a daily basis. We share ideas and concerns as we connect with friends and foes, often making new friends along the way. We debate, we cajole, we support, and we entertain through our written exchanges. And sadly, we can sometimes push people we care about away. Continue reading
Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a prominent professor of American history at Boston College, has gained notoriety in the last several months as the author of a popular series entitled “Letters from an American” which appear on her website as well as on her professional Facebook page on a nightly basis. She began writing these letters in early November 2019 in response to numerous questions she received trying to make sense of the political events of the day. In these letters she provides a nightly roundup of the day’s political news, and along the way, she provides lessons delving the depths of American history to show where many of these ideas and tactics originated. On April 1, 2020 (after she was well into her nightly series), her latest book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, was released. In this book, she describes what she refers to as the American paradox. This paradox is based on the principle that throughout American history, equality depended on inequality. She shows how this paradox started before the founding of the country and ripples throughout our nation’s history driving much of the division we see in American society today. Continue reading
As I mentioned at the end of Part 3, something was sorely missing during the dark years when I wasn’t involved in any organized ensembles. I still played my instruments at home and whenever I would drop by my mother’s house to visit. At some point during every visit, I would play a little ragtime or Chopin on her piano. She really didn’t want me to get my own piano because she was afraid that I would visit less often if I could play comfortably at home. Also, she really enjoyed it when I would bring my clarinet with me and play along with her for a bit. Still, between my own personal practice, the occasional simple duet with mom, and attending professional productions from time to time, I still had a pretty big hole in my life. Work was going well, and I eventually married a very dear friend. The marriage didn’t last, but it would turn out to be a very pivotal point in my life, especially musically. Continue reading
In December 2018, TCK Publishing released a new science fiction novel, Kill Code, by Clive Fleury. This gripping dystopian story is packed with action, intrigue, and a hero who might just have bitten off more than he bargained for as he tries to right the wrongs he’s seen all too often. In a not-too-distant future look at the little blue marble in space, the planet is ravaged by climate changes. The planet, and especially the Los Angeles area, has heated beyond all imagination, and there are really only a few hours of daylight that are even partially tolerable. The oceans have risen so quickly that weekly measurements show massive encroachment on waterfront areas, and humans have been pushed further and further inland. Over the top of it all, corruption is rampant, normal citizens have lost almost everything, and Hogan Duran wants to do something about it.
Duran is a former soldier and disgraced cop living in squalor with his former police partner, Max Creeling. Creeling is now wheelchair bound after a shooting that ultimately got them both removed from the police force. Instead of just squeaking by, Duran wants to make a difference. After years of scrambling to get what work he could, an opportunity finally presents itself that Duran just can’t ignore. The prestigious National Security Council (NSC for short) beckons to him to join. Well to be fair, Duran had applied and been rejected several times, but finally he’s invited to take the entrance exam. There’s just one small problem. The test can be deadly. If that weren’t bad enough, Duran comes to realize, beyond the challenges of getting in, there are some terrible secrets that are even more dangerous.
The book is short, only 149 pages, and it moves very quickly, much like the pilot of an action-packed television series. This is not surprising given Fleury has produced, directed, or written several projects for television and film, so he knows those mediums well.
The story is told in first person from Duran’s point of view, so the reader can only know what he knows. The reader learns Duran’s and Creeling’s backstories early on, and when Duran makes his way to the gleaming NSC headquarters to try to win entrance into the elite NSC forces, several other characters are introduced, each with secrets in their past that unfold to Duran slowly throughout story. As such, some of the supporting characters are a little underdeveloped or single dimensional because Duran can be fooled, and by extension, so can the reader. Although portions of Kill Code read a bit like a script, Fleury adds plenty of descriptive material to allow the reader to easily visualize the settings as Duran experiences them.
There are a few minor editorial issues such as using the subject form “Max and I” when it should be “Max and me” as an object, but they can generally be forgiven as the reader digs into this fast-moving, near-future world.
In addition to being Fleury’s first novel, Kill Code is the first book in a series under development. While the series may well take the reader in numerous, unexpected directions, this particular story doesn’t so much resolve as setup the next installment of the story. As such, the last chapter ends abruptly, leaving the reader hanging. Still, overall the book is an enjoyable read, and even though the world is dystopian, it provides a nice escape from the current world’s reality.
Kill Code is available in both paperback and digital formats.