Mountain Community Theater Presents: The Cherry Orchard

By Julie Horner with David Leach, Dave Halper, and Tom Goldrup

Mountain Community Theater masterfully exposes the folly of human inaction in their production of Anton Chekhov’s final masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard, opening Friday, November 22 at Park Hall in Ben Lomond and running weekends through December 15. Directed by Bill Peters, a renowned professor at San Francisco State known for his Shakespearean genius, this is “a work of art that embraces the whole variety of life.”

Chekhov, who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history, wrote The Cherry Orchard in 1903. The play opened at the Moscow Art Theatre in January 1904 in a production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski, who is credited for evolving the naturalistic performance technique known as method acting. In method acting, actors deliver sincere and emotionally expressive performances that fully identify with the character they are portraying.

The story unfolds in the Crimea region of Ukraine. 

“The Cherry Orchard is a comedic drama about a Russian family, landed gentry, basically the idle rich, but they are falling on hard times and their estate is for sale.” The estate includes a magnificent cherry orchard, famously beautiful, which also now must be sacrificed due to the family’s inextricable debt. “The culture has changed, the children got caught up in not knowing how to make a living, the free labor was gone,” says Dave Halper, who plays the role of Yepikhodov, the estate clerk. 

“It’s happening to all of us. The play is very down to earth, there’s no grandiosity in any of it. If you don’t pay the mortgage, the estate is going to be sold. The characters are very human, very relatable. You’ll see people you know in these characters. Not because they’re a buffoon or a thug or a character out of the norm. It’s your brother, your neighbor. You’ll recognize yourself in the characters,” says Halper.

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Tom Goldrup and Jim Goldrup in “The Cherry Orchard”

David Leach, who plays the role of Leonid Andreieveitch Gayev, an eccentric family member who embodies the aristocracy’s decadent life of leisure says The Cherry Orchard seems like classic tragedy but it was written as comedy. “Chekhov wrote these pieces as a slice of life. He lets it unfold before you, you get to know the characters. He’s exposing humanity at its most real,” says Leach. “And we’re fortunate to be working with a director who sees it as it was written, as comedy.” 

Tom Goldrup, who plays A Stranger, a passer-by who encounters the Gayevs as they laze around on their estate, has been to Ukraine three times. “Going to the Ukraine, I fell in love with the people and the place.” Tom has been with Mountain Community Theater since 1983, the year after they opened. This is his 19th play. “I’ve worked with everyone before, like a family together, it’s a great cast…Bill has a great crew.”

“Our director, Bill Peters, when the audience comes in, they’ll feel like they’re coming into a family, a real theater experience,” says Halper. “He also has this ability to bring out the human in the actor. As an actor, we have a natural tendency to project, be bombastic, be a little louder. Bill has a way of bringing it down to a conversational level. I’ve worked with him three times now. He’s got the ability to bring me down to a place I’d never thought of going as an actor.”

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Left to Right: Rick Kuhn, Sarah Albertson, Aki’o Nanamura in “The Cherry Orchard”

“Bill takes the time to explore the motives, the moments as they occur between people, that give texture and life, that make the whole production glow. There’s so much that is unwritten that Bill brings to the surface. Why did Chekhov say that twice? Why did he repeat it over here? Bill explores the depth of the process, fleshes it out,” says Leach.

Goldrup agrees: “I’ll second that, make that unanimous…we all wanted to audition. We all worked together doing Julius Caesar. He’s a great director to work with, a great human being. Bill would say, ‘Why don’t you try it this way, speak to me.’ It’s what you look for, that kind of understanding of the author and a subject. To have that opportunity to explore Chekhov under Bill’s directorship was not to be missed.”

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Tom Goldrup as “A Stranger” in “The Cherry Orchard”

Chekhov studied Shakespeare closely, and his works are intertwined with Shakespearean motifs. David Leach explained, “They’re both brilliant writers, but Shakespeare repeats his words – it’s finely crafted – he was exploring the beauty of the language.” Chekhov comes at it a different way. “He’s exploring the opportunity of life, exploring the beauty of the human experience. A completely different angle and just as completely amazing.”

“It’s very funny – it’s like life, like life ought to be – full of fun even if it is full of errors as well.” – David Leach

Halper, who has been with MCT for five years, invites everyone to experience The Cherry Orchard. There’s a little music, a little dancing, but mostly it’s about human interaction. “Come see the show, you’ll enjoy it.” 

He also encourages anyone with an inkling to become involved in the theater. “MCT is open to everyone, it’s a very friendly and supportive group. If somebody is curious about being involved in theater, come be on stage crew, do technical stuff, walk into an audition. If you want to be part of the fun, you don’t have to be on stage. You’re not committing to anything you don’t want to commit to. This is an opportunity to be part of the community experience.”

The Cherry Orchard opens Friday November 22nd and runs four weekends through Sunday December 15th at Ben Lomond’s historic Park Hall, 9400 Mill Street. 

Friday and Saturday performances: 8 p.m. | Sunday matinees: 2:00 p.m.
Community Night: Saturday, November 30, all tickets are two for $20.
Post-show champagne reception on opening night Friday, November 22nd.
Talk-backs with the cast and director after the performances on Sunday, November 24 and Saturday, November 30. 

General tickets are $20; Senior and Student tickets are $17.
Tickets from Brown Paper Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3617997
Mountain Community Theater: https://mctshows.org

“The Russians adore their past, hate the present, and fear the future.  How sad it would be if we forgot that the future we fear turns slowly into the present we detest, and the past that we adore.” – Anton Chekhov

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Left to Right: Sarah Albertson, Aki’o Nanamura, Tom Goldrup, Jim Goldrup, Dave Halper, Scott Kravitz, and David Leach in MCT’s “The Cherry Orchard”

The Cherry Orchard Cast: Sarah Albertson, Jocelyn McMahon-Babalis, Nat Robinson, Scott Kravitz, Helene Simkin Jara, Sequoia Jones, Jim Goldrup, David Leach, Rick Kuhn, Alie Mac, Aki’o Nanamura, Dave Halper, and Tom Goldrup.

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Julie Horner

© 2019 Julie Horner – Mountain Community Theater Presents: The Cherry Orchard – November 22 through December 15, 2019.

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Another New Year to Celebrate

Session drummer and host of the popular Hot Jazz Swing Night at Santa Cruz Food Lounge shares why every New Year is so special.

By Tom Leitzke

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening disease (cholangiocarcenoma, or bile duct cancer) and told there was an 80% chance I had only 1-7 months left to live and that very best case, if everything goes as well as possible, I have less than two years to live. At the time 10 years ago it was an 8-hour surgery that had a 25% mortality rate. 2008 was a year of treatments that included radiation and chemo. I had a recurring tumor in 2012 but there has been no evidence of cancer since.

Last New Year’s Eve was the 10th anniversary of my surgery. From this experience I have learned more than ever to appreciate every day. Three years ago, I rewired (normally referred to as retired) and moved from Campbell to Santa Cruz. My “rewirement” is filled with my wife, Roxanne, and me doing everything we like to do – and for me, the opportunity to play music with whoever wants to play.

hot_jazz3_Tom Leitzke‎ by George T. Zaferes

One of my favorite gigs is called HOT Jazz Swing. We have been at it for almost a year now. I am honored to be playing with guys like Adam G Swanson (four-time Old Time World Champion piano player), Kylan DeGhetaldi (multiple tours with the internationally acclaimed band Postmodern Jukebox), and when he’s available, Nigel Armstrong (Concertmaster for the Santa Cruz Symphony). Performing with such talent is beyond my wildest dream.

How did HOT Jazz Swing start? I saw a video of a piano player and a drummer doing a Ragtime duet and it just felt like me. I discovered Kylan DeGhetalti lived in Santa Cruz – he founded the Santa Cruz Ragtime Festival – and I sent him a message. About a month later we connected and played several gigs together. We added Adam G Swanson about five months ago. It’s Adam and Kylan doing Dueling Pianos with me sandwiched in the middle on the drums. Ironically, that video I originally saw featured Adam Swanson on Piano and Danny Coots on drums, and now I get to be doing exactly what I had envisioned from watching that video.

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Backed by the HOT Jazz Swing Band, we compile Classic Jazz standards with covers of new songs played in a vintage era way – just the opposite of doing old covers to keep them new – we do new to make them old, Postmodern Jukebox Style. HOT Jazz Swing has developed an all-ages following and what really lifts my spirits is seeing smiles on people’s faces and the swing dancers helping me keep the beat!

hot_jazz2_photo by George T. Zaferes

If a Speakeasy club atmosphere and a nostalgic trip back to the sultry, swinging era jazz bands sounds appealing, put on your dancing shoes, your feather boas, handsome fedoras, and join our spirit of fun. We promise you an evening of good friends, great music, and perfect memories. The next two HOT Jazz Swing Shows are on Saturday January 13th and February 24th at the Food Lounge in Santa Cruz.

For further information of upcoming shows, join HOT Jazz Swing on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/150358638927166/

hot_jazz_6_by Julie Horner

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

On Facebook

A Simple Aesthetic

Local Artist, Nicky Gaston, Reimages the Aesthetic at Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

By Julie Horner

The community packed the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost on its final Friday to wish the business bon voyage as it prepares to move operations north of town. Local brewers, Donald and Susan Cramb, owners of Scotts Valley’s Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, were in attendance along with local artist, Nicky Gaston, their new beer label designer. Long a tasting room loyal, Nicky recently began work designing hand-illustrated labels for each of Steel Bonnet’s handcrafted brews. With a major artistic appetite, the labels are part of his freelancing efforts late into the night after his 9-to-5 in Santa Cruz.

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A full-time graphic designer currently working for NHS distribution, the parent company of Santa Cruz Skateboards – and a voracious skateboarder himself – he’ll stop by Steel Bonnet on his way back to Boulder Creek and “get a beer…maybe two!” With an impressive graphic art portfolio in hand, Nicky remembers his initial meeting with Don: “After about five minutes, Don said, ‘when can you start?’”

He began work about six months ago producing the labels in batches of four. “Don trusted my creative judgement.” It was Nicky’s design for Hop the Heck IPA – his favorite of the brews at Steel Bonnet – that inspired the aesthetic for the other labels in the series. “There are roughly five colors per graphic,” he says, and each graphic is reflective of the theme of the beer itself, rich in finite detail and saturated hues that you would find in nature. Hop blossoms are naturally green and yellow, for instance, and he’s matched the color of the real thing as closely as possible on the label. Likewise, the color of a Hawaiian sunset for the Pau Hana brew, or the tones of the forest for Bear Creek Brown, the nano brewery’s tribute to Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek; stomping grounds for the Crambs.

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Already known for his graphic artwork for Alice’s Restaurant and for the Parks Project, among others, and enthusiastic about continuing to build his freelance opportunities, the labels he’s created for Steel Bonnet will also translate to tap handles, T-shirts, and other merchandise. For Nicky it’s all about mutual respect and keeping it local. “Their beer is good, I support what they’re doing and how they make their beer. Not only do I want to work with them, I love what they do.”

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Nicky just finished the last of the 14 labels, which was in honor of Donald and Susan’s new grandbaby, Connor. “The beer is entitled ‘Conski Cream Ale’ and the graphic consists of an illustrated image of Connor after a full messy meal.” Ironically, the graphic was completed on the day of Steel Bonnet’s recent 2nd year anniversary, “which was a wonderful way to finish up all 14 images,” Nicky says. “Steel Bonnet does an excellent job at both perfecting their crafted beers and staying innovative with new limited releases of seasonal offerings.”

“Stop by Steel Bonnet’s wonderful Scotts Valley location and grab a pint of some of the best beer around!” And while you’re there, check out the new beer labels created by San Lorenzo Valley’s Nicky Gaston.

Nicky Gaston:

www.instagram.com/nickygaston | http://ngcreativeco.com

Steel Bonnet: www.facebook.com/SteelBonnetBrewing
20 Victor Square B, Scotts Valley

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

https://www.facebook.com/San-Lorenzo-Valley-Post-107557427361672/

Harmony in the Valley of the Moon

By Julie Horner

Two girls sit singing in an old Chevrolet, fiddle and mandolin in playful duet and voices blended together in sweet harmony. The Chevy, though firmly grounded and rusting resolutely on Boulder Creek acreage among a dozen other relics of bygone byways, makes one imagine this pair hitting the road, Thelma and Louise, Devil-may-care.

Formed by long-time friends, Justine Lucas and Lee White, Moonshine Jelly got its start in San Francisco driven by Justine’s innate gift for songwriting and Lee’s ability to easily harmonize. Both women are accomplished multi-instrumentalists who are at ease accompanying themselves on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. Joined by Kent Kessinger on acoustic guitar and 5-string banjo, the trio captivates with a blend of original and traditional songs. Moonshine Jelly uses dynamic harmonies and bold arrangements to explore music influenced by Celtic, Eastern European and Americana genres with a pinch of gypsy jazz for piquant.

And there is strong sense of the gypsy wanderer among the members. Lee is a full time musician who splits her weeks between Boulder Creek, Oakland, and San Francisco, fiddle strapped to her back ready to busk on the street, join music friends for impromptu performances, or teach. A fiery singer, Lee says, “I love to harmonize.” And she’s obviously gotten good at it. To her it’s about the atmosphere, the sound. You can hear Lee’s vocal strength on her CD recorded with The Gallowglasses, a San Francisco Bay Area-based Celtic band.

She also studies traditional song in its native tongue from around the world. Songs sung in a foreign language with unfamiliar rhythms and unexpected harmonies is exceptionally haunting to listen to and is a passionate course of exploration for those who learn it appreciatively as a cultural treasure to preserve and hand down.

Lee grew up in a musical family and learned to “go with the flow” at a very young age picking up old time, Celtic, and bluegrass music by ear from her folks and their contemporaries. She began to study fiddle formally at age 11, but it wasn’t until she went to Alasdair Frasier’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School at Camp Campbell in the Santa Cruz Mountains that she “unlocked the desire” to play with her peers.

A true roving spirit, Justine literally ran away to join the circus and spends most of her time on the road performing for circus, clown, and sideshow troupes on the West Coast of the US and traveling internationally with a variety of circus productions. Touted as an extraordinarily gifted minimalist avant-garde singer-writer, she captures audiences with her storytelling. Lee says, “Justine has this wonderful personality” that enables her to network easily and engage with audiences live and through film and her audio recordings.

Justine has produced two solo CDs, and Lee joins her on the latest, “Untangling.” Although Moonshine Jelly is relatively new, Justine and Lee have several atmospheric YouTube videos that showcase their exquisite musical ability as a duo and as a trio with Kent. See Moonshine Jelly on YouTube.

Kent is an Oakland-based filmmaker whose area of interest centers upon homelessness, human freedom, and migration issues. His work takes him around the world to capture evocative, often troubling politically charged subject matter. From Honduras to Mexico, Skid Row to the Rainbow Gathering, his talent documenting human experience through film translates plaintively to the ear with Moonshine Jelly. Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Kent is influenced by Doc Watson, Philip Glass, Jose Gonzales, and the Rev. Gary Davis. See documentaries by Kent Kessinger.

These three free-spirited musicians don’t let moss grow too long under their feet. After their upcoming show at Boulder Creek’s lille aeske Performance Series on Friday, May 29, they’re off to concerts in Oregon, Humboldt, Seattle, and Vancouver. Hot fiddle, intimate vocals, unpredictable harmonies, and formidable songwriting and musical strength will carry this bluegrass-Celtic-gypsy-swing folk band straight into your psyche.

On the web: http://www.moonshinejelly.org/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moonshine-Jelly/453880751460211

(c) 2015 Julie Horner.

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.
Email: leap2three@gmail.com

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