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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VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE

Ben Lomond’s Mountain Community Theater delivers with world-class production now through May 28, 2017.

The Bottenberg & Horner Report

Mountain Community Theater presents the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, directed by Peter Gelblum. The production opened at Ben Lomond’s historic Park Hall on Friday, May 5, and continues on weekends through Sunday, May 28. The cast includes: W. Scott Whisler, Daria E. Troxell, Robin Aronson, Correll Barca-Hall, Ashley Sue Perry, and Sasha Voigt.

Bottenberg – “The cast was brilliant, brought the right level of believability to big emotional roles with a wonderful understanding of the comedy of the book. The ensemble played so well with and against each other. Strongly and professionally directed. Pace and timing was great, balance of the humor and the sadness so well done. A wonderful play – balancing long standing family issues and unhappiness with a satisfying resolution. So much fun to be immersed in a good play with good players. Mountain Community Theater is a gem.”

Horner – “A realistic portrayal of the everyday that lifts the characters out of daily drudgery to tap into the submerged reservoir of dead-end re-visited, re-considered, and ultimately rejected. Family, conceit, insecurity, introspect…and hope, misplaced then re-kindled and re-purposed. Through the characters, we gain courage for living to individual potential without fearing judgement. Perception is not necessarily fact and we learn, with sparkling wit and biting humor, that we are all yearning for our own version of the glittering bauble and that you-must-have-the-wrong-number phone call for a first date on Saturday night. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is pure voodoo…it’s just a pinprick but it makes its point. As always, an enthusiastically packed house at Park Hall, chuckles and laughter to the rafters. And how old is Spike, exactly?”

Tickets and info: http://spike.brownpapertickets.com/ | https://mctshows.org/

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Not So Friendly Skies – SLV Residents Move to Stop Proposed Jet Flightpath

By Mary Andersen

A new flight path has Happy Valley and Los Gatos/Saratoga residents angry and eager to move it to the San Lorenzo Valley. Some claim that, since their homes are worth more than ours, the path should be shifted out of their neighborhoods and onto ours.

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Photo by Sean McLean

We already have a flight path. It’s called BIGSUR, or BSR, and it routes over downtown Santa Cruz, Pasatiempo, west Scotts Valley, north through SLV to the Summit Skyline area, to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This path is still in use today and supports older aircraft not equipped with satellite navigation.

In March 2015 the FAA, as part of their Next Generation Air Transportation program (NextGen), implemented a new path, called SERFR, which travels from the coast at Capitola, over Happy Valley and Los Gatos summit towards SFO. This path was designed to accommodate a wide range of aircraft with satellite navigation capabilities. SERFR is low, loud, and concentrated. The FAA says they can fix that.

Neighborhoods under SERFR lodged thousands of complaints. With the assistance of Congressman Sam Farr they organized Save Our Skies Santa Cruz and were later joined by Quiet Skies NorCal. They created a proposal for a new flight path, called DAVYJ, over the City of Santa Cruz, SLV, and communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Keep in mind, this new path would be in addition to the BSR flight path we already have. The proposal was endorsed by Farr and 1st District Supervisor John Leopold.

Community groups from the coast to the airport rejected the Quiet Skies NorCal proposal noting that it eliminated noise for those under SERFR by increasing noise and airplane traffic for communities under the proposed new DAVYJ flight path. In addition, DAVYJ was offered up as the only solution, when in fact other proposals submitted by groups closer to the airport were ignored.

In March, Supervisor Leopold wrote that the proposal constituted a “regional solution” that had been “worked on by all community groups throughout the area.” Congressman Farr stated in his newsletter that he hand-delivered the Quiet Skies NorCal proposal to Michael Huerta, Administrator of the FAA, assuring him that it was “the ideal solution.” Both assertions were false – residents under the proposed DAVYJ flight path in Santa Cruz and SLV were neither informed nor invited to provide input.

In April, Congressional Representatives Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, and Sam Farr appointed 12 elected officials (+12 alternates) to a Select Committee on SFO Arrivals. Their charter has been to analyze items labeled “feasible” by the FAA, accept community input, and report to Congress with a set of recommendations.

When the FAA released their study in May, Santa Clara and San Mateo County community groups were frustrated to see that their recommendations were not included. Only suggestions from Quiet Skies NorCal were addressed including the flight path shift to SLV. And the FAA made clear that, while feasible, DAVYJ would be similar to SERFR in its noise impact to SLV. It would be lower, louder, and more concentrated than any flight path we had experienced in the past.

The Select Committee asked why DAVYJ was the only option presented. The FAA said that DAVYJ was the only option offered by Congress. To their credit, the Select Committee is open to other options.

As you might expect, the issue is a political football. In Santa Cruz County SERFR lies primarily in Congressman Farr’s and Supervisor Leopold’s districts. Both SERFR and the proposed DAVYJ are in Supervisor Bruce McPherson’s and Congresswoman Eshoo’s districts. Low flying DAVYJ vectored planes would severely impact Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s district and the path itself would impact the City of Santa Cruz.

The irony is that the FAA is a $16.4 billion organization with thousands of credentialed aviation experts. Yet, laypeople hoping to remove a flight path from over their homes were allowed to design a new flight path over other communities. That new flight path, DAVYJ, over SLV and Santa Cruz, is currently being vetted by elected officials with limited aviation knowledge, who will then submit recommendations to congressional representatives with even less aviation knowledge, who were misled into believing it was a regional solution when it is not.

Website: www.sanlorenzovalley.info/

Petition: www.change.org/p/faa-stop-the-quiet-skies-norcal-proposal-which-seeks-to-move-an-sfo-flight-path-to-sc-slv-sv

Facebook: www.facebook.com/flightpathfacts/

Join the meetings: flightpathfacts@gmail.com

Additional contributors: George Wylie, Nancy Gerdt, Glenn Lyons, Roz Alley, Alastair Fyfe, Jacqui Rice, Beth Carlisle, Terry Hollenbeck, Thomas Andersen, Colleen Miller, Clifford Stow, Jennifer Parks

Puttin’ on the Ritz – Mountain Community Theater Presents Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

By Julie Horner

“What knockers!,” I wanted to burst out, but the creaking double doors to Park Hall’s hallowed downtown Ben Lomond performing arts theater parted freely with a humorously haunting ‘scree’ without my having to rattle any hardware…jokes about ogling impressive accoutrement or rolling in the hay aside.

Rehearsal for Mountain Community Theater’s current production, Young Frankenstein, was underway so I took a seat unobtrusively near the entrance. The voices of a dozen or so actors filled the space – I’d stumbled upon the scene when the villagers have just discovered that the monster, newly sentient with an “Abby Normal” brain, has broken free from Frankenstein’s laboratory and has gone missing among the misty streets of the nearby village.

Based on the book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks – he of the infamously funny movie, which I can say is probably my favorite of all time – MCT is pulling out the stops and putting on the Ritz with this dramatic romp with meticulous nod to detail.

“He’s loose, he’s loose, he’s loose!” the villagers sang, imaginary implements, rakes, torches, and broomsticks thrusting into the air to punctuate the urgency. With a few words from Director Daria E. Troxell, Igor (pronounced “eye-gore”), played by Galen James-Heskett, swept from near where I watched toward the stage. “Where are you, you big ugly brute!” he exclaimed, and disappeared with a mournful cry as the villagers rushed from all quarters to their places on stage.

Galen’s older sister, Whitney James-Heskett, stepped in then to choreograph the next scene while Daria took a quick meal break to chat with me about MCT’s latest offering.

This is Diana’s 3rd show with MCT as director. She told me there are 18 actors in Young Frankenstein ranging in age from 16 to 60-plus. While many actors are regulars, she says, some drop in occasionally when life allows and some are new. “I hope there’s at least one new person with each production.” SLV resident, Jennifer Hennig, who grew up in theater, joins the chorus, returning to the stage after a long hiatus. She finds the experience “fun and exciting.” Benjamin Canant, who takes on the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein – played in the movie by Gene Wilder – calls his appearance “a triumphant return” from his last stage role when he was 15.

Canant says, “It’s a gigantic role with a lot of singing.” He said, “Daria likes to stay close to the movie – a lot of the same scenes, a lot of people’s favorite jokes. Most of us have seen the movie and we’re all on board to bring the movie to life.” He was invited to audition for part. “Obviously, I’m a fan – I love Gene Wilder’s work. This was something I had a shot at and seemed like a fun thing to do.”

Galen said that he auditioned specifically for the role of Igor. It’s his first show with MCT but he worked with Daria in Santa Cruz County’s Little People’s Repertory Theater (LPRT) when he was younger. “Daria is trying to stay true to the original,” he said, accents and all.

Karen Solomon has been with MCT since the beginning and now plays the role of Frau Blücher. “Certain parts I get magnetized to, the Wicked Witch, Mame. I love Cloris Leachman. She was a debutante from Chicago – she was gorgeous – I knew I wanted to play her.” Karen was at the theater that night to be measured for her costume.

Designer Alaina Boys says proudly that she’s starting to become known for her costumes. “My costuming gets good reviews!” She continued, “This show will be a bit tricky – but ingenious thrift store finds help.” She’s done several shows with MCT. “It’s my fifth time costuming in some form or another since 2012 – I do at least one show a year.”

Back on stage the search for the Frankenstein monster continued. Inspector Kemp is played by David Halper. “I think it’s time we pay a visit to this young Frankenstein!” he proclaims in a perfect Germanically Transylvanian accent, “Do some ‘schnooping!’” From the house Daria counts in a clutch of agitated villagers: “Five, six, seven, eight!” They exchange their lines then bustle off, pitchforks bristling, to continue the hunt. At the same time a bewildered looking monster lurches off the opposite way. A near miss.

The human behind the monster is Scott Kravitz. He told me, “I’ve been acting for a while and was looking for a part that suited my eyebrows.” He described the challenge of the role: “Even though I don’t have a lot of lines to hide behind, I have to express the emotional impact of being alive again – trying to fit in and failing miserably.”

Scott has been acting in the valley since 2003 after moving here from New York in 2002. “I love working with MCT – I’ve been actively involved for 10 years. It’s a great group, a lot of really nice theater. It’s quality at the community level.” And there’s always room for more actors, he says, and stage hands, prop builders, costume designers. “I think that everyone at some point of their lives should be involved in theater, to be part of something so much greater than themselves. Theater is an ancient and sacred tradition – every character I’ve played has something to teach me.”

Tickets for MCT’s Young Frankenstein are available at Brown Paper Tickets: http://frankie.brownpapertickets.com/

On the Web: https://mctshows.org/

Box office: 831-336-4777

Mountain Community Theater: 9400 Mill St. Ben Lomond, CA 95005

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Know an outstanding local artist, actor, craftsperson, author, musician, wine maker, or microbrewer you’d like to read about in the San Lorenzo Valley Post? Send email to: leap2three@gmail.com

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