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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Henfling’s to Reopen in Ben Lomond – A Neighborhood Hub Embraced

New owners, Erin Maye Zimmer and Josh Miller invite you to the new Henflings of Ben Lomond

By Julie Horner
We’re working through the final stages of the liquor license with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and making sure our neighbors are comfortable. It’s our goal to distinguish ourselves from previous owners and really run it with some integrity and make sure that it serves the community. We feel it’s a really important hub for Ben Lomond. This is where everybody comes together and supports each other. It’s the life of the town, and one of the big reasons why we love Ben Lomond as much as we do. To have it dead…it’s eerie. Everyone’s kind of on edge. “When are you going to open?”We’re definitely anxious to give that date but we also need to tread lightly. It’s not set by us, it’s set by the ABC and the State. We’ve done all the health inspections – we haven’t gotten the final word – and we’re waiting for some new equipment to finalize behind the bar – but we want to make sure we have everything dialed in for the inspector. There were a couple of things he wanted to see get done, but he was very excited with what he saw so far.

It’s good to see things get a little TLC. And little by little it’s coming along.
It’s still Henflings – we did not want to take that away. We’ve repaired or replaced everything but the kitchen sink. Everything has gotten a thorough scrub-down. More than one. It was playing 99 layers of filth on the wall – we were takin’ em down and passing ‘em around – I tell ya, it was nasty. We have all new equipment behind the bar: Ice machine, dishwasher, commercial freezer. We’re actually waiting on another new sink. We’re re-doing all the lines, got all new taps coming in. We’ll still have the eight beers on tap that we had before, but we’ll also have IPA and ciders – Erin’s more knowledgeable about what’s popular at the moment.

We’re likely going to do a soft opening to get all the kinks worked out. We have a new point of sale system, and we’ll want to make sure everything’s functional there. We’ve got employees coming back and some who are new.
The kitchen has all new equipment. It will surpass the old taco stand reputation in a big way. If anyone asks, I’m a chemist…I’m just pitching in. Everything that doesn’t have to be done by a contractor, we’ve done by hand. The floors are all new. We’re waiting for new lighting, especially around the bar area and the stage. It’s all been dialed in by Mountain Service Company, making sure that the venue doesn’t bleed energy.

The bathrooms are nice and sturdy now, both men’s and women’s got a complete overhaul with doors that actually close and a sleek vintage appeal. The fire department did some work on the electrical – they had to replace breakers for safety reasons. The ceilings are scrubbed and stained, and we saved many of the dollar bills that were stuck up on the ceiling…we wanted to retain part of the history. The lucky few – the ones that popped – got their dollars photocopied into new framed art in the bathrooms. You can’t actually use the copies of the bucks to buy beer, but the art is a nod to the old days at Henflings.

We’ll have live music, mostly on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we’ll have big acts then. We’re trying to cut back on the during-the-week stuff to make it more inviting and less a burden on the local community. Barry Tanner is helping set the standard. We want people to feel invited when they’re coming here, and a lot of that has to do with the atmosphere and the environment and the respect people pay to the environment.

We are starting a brand new business. Erin has been behind the bar for years. I made up a 30-page business plan and the community stood up and said, “These are the right people.” Henflings is owned by the Ben Lomond fire station and we’re looking to remedy the lack of information about the history of Henflings. According to legend, the building was originally located up Love Creek and was relocated in 1949 to its current location in Ben Lomond. It’s a legendary venue with a storied past.

And we have amazing plans for the back deck area.

We’re hoping to open by the end of November, once the neighborhood and the County are satisfied. We’ve weatherproofed the windows and we’ll be dropping some sound-dampening curtains that go down after 10:00 pm. We’ll have a good solution for any local noise concerns. The marquis is being relocated out of the western window, and the liquor licence is pending – we’re just about ready. We’re using every hot second that we’ve got while we’re closed to make sure we do as much as we can to the place, because it’s not going to close again if we have anything to say about it.
Every day, every hour we have – we have a 4-year old – everything we’ve got is going into this place right now. This is the one chance we’ve got. We want to make a strong impression when this place opens.

Love Henfling’s again on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HenflingsBarNGrill

Copyright November 18, 2018, Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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

More about Henflings of Ben Lomond

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Music has always been a part of the roadhouse culture, personifying the spirit of freedom and independence. Our very own Santa Cruz Mountains provide a glimpse into the classic roadhouse culture at Henflings Roadhouse Tavern in Ben Lomond. For many, Henflings epitomizes the history and tradition of Ben Lomond. In the 1950s Henflings Tavern moved from its original location on Love Creek Road to its current site off Highway 9 next to the Ben Lomond fire station. The name is the family name of the original owner. The land is still owned by the Henfling family, but the tavern is not run by them.
For more than six decades, locals and visitors alike have frequented this favorite watering hole. Henflings plays host to everyone from the Ghost Mountain Riders to the saltiest of locals, and is a historic notch on any band’s live music belt.
“For anyone who hasn’t experienced Henfling’s, it’s an unusual recipe in itself. Imagine a lively roadhouse setting, with a rough-hewn bar and rough-hewn bar patrons. Add a nice little seating/dance area and a perfectly presentable stage. Top this all off with an astounding mix of Americana music, legendary blues and slack-key guitar, jumping jazz and sweet acoustic ballads. Now stir in a spicy medley of top-line acts from all over the world. Not only is there not a bad seat in the house, there’s hardly a bad inch in the house. The unusual setting makes for musical events that are uniquely intimate.” – Ann Parker

Welcome Fairies and Earthlings

With the intensity of Scorpio, the craftsmanship of Virgo rising, and the joy of personal contact from a Libra moon, Ben Lomond craftsman, Robie Hiroz, makes magic and music in the mountains.

By Julie Horner

With steady hands rough and stained with varnish, Robie slowly takes the top of the fiddle off with a butter knife. The top releases. “The seal breaks – makes that sound – POP! Scares you at first,” he says. A four-inch crack running parallel to the neck where it meets the upper bout has necessitated a visit to Robie’s Fiddle and Banjo Shop in Ben Lomond. In business for 17 years refurbishing violins and banjos from an outbuilding behind his home that he built and named “The Saloon,” this is a visit home to where this fiddle, salvaged and refurbished from a prior lifetime, was purchased nearly a decade ago.

Once the top is removed, Robie repairs the crack with wood glue and clamps, easy enough. While he’s got the fiddle open, he is compelled to practice a new technique that he has recently discovered that coaxes a warmer tone from the old wood. “First, using little thumb planes, I shape the inside of the fiddle’s top to get more sound. Then I shorten the base-bar (a wooden ridge running nearly the full length of the top’s underside), which allows the bass tones to take over. You get richer tone even in the high strings, and the low strings have that growling sound.”

Wiry and unstoppable at 78, Robie retired in 2010 after 33 years as the graphic arts teacher at Santa Cruz Harbor High School. His specialty? Having fun with the kids. “Especially break dancing!” His philosophy in teaching is this: “If you make a mistake, it’s good, because it will take you someplace else where you’ve never been.”

Robie’s been playing banjo since he was 27 and fiddle for about 19 years, he says. He used to bring his banjo and fiddle to his classroom to practice. “I like the banjo, it’s exciting, but my heart is with the fiddle. I love those Irish melodies…and not fast…I like to get the beauty of it. The classic Irish melody.”

His craft is evident in projects large and small on his sunny quarter acre, including the old-time saloon (which doubles as his workshop, complete with a miniature bot-bellied stove) and a wee elf house handcrafted to exquisite detail inside and out. His latest idea shrinks the elf house to doggie size, and he has begun selling these custom canine dwellings at Mountain Feed & Supply in Ben Lomond. The hand-made sign on latest doghouse reads: Welcome fairies and earthlings! “Each one is different, and I get faster as I go.” Each doghouse takes about two weeks of solid work to make.

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Robie Hiroz – Robie’s Violin and Banjo Shop, Ben Lomond, CA

Clara, Robie’s wife of 56 years, inspired him to take up the fiddle. She plays with the Cabrillo orchestra and with quartets at Ben Lomond Library, he says. They’ve known each other since they were kids. “I think I was seven. I first saw her in church playing violin as a youngster, her brother playing piano. She fixed someone’s fiddle for them and I thought, maybe that’s something I can do! He’s discovered after nearly 20 years of working on them how to make them sound good.

Robie repairs and refurbishes banjos and fiddles. He also makes his own banjos. Known by word of mouth and open by appointment, “I usually have about 30 full size fiddles on hand, and many smaller sized ones for youngsters. Come to the shop to try all the fiddles!”

You can also find Robie playing banjo or fiddle once or twice a week at Mountain Feed, usually noon to 2:00. “…playing out there in the sun…been doing that for about six or seven years. People especially seem to enjoy the Irish music. I enjoy talking to the people. Astrology is a big deal for me, too, and I sometimes get a chance to discuss that with folks.”

Robie’s Violin and Banjo Shop | 831-336-4625 | cahootshome@cruzio.com

Copyright 2018 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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When Least Expected

By Julie Horner
Today I was hugely humbled by the generosity of the folks at Valley Churches United Missions. What started out as an opportunity to conduct an interview for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin turned into an unexpected “we can help you.”As some know, I lost my high tech job back in February and have had trouble finding a replacement. I applied for unemployment insurance for the first time in my life. Months have passed and I’m now at the end of my ability to maintain the mortgage and will be taking in a renter (or two) to try to keep head above water while I continue to look for work.

I’m the one who donates to things I feel passionate about. I’m not the one who asks for help. Now the fork is on the other plate. Thank you VCUM for coming to the rescue with bags of food and grocery store gift cards, and for letting me know that I can apply for food stamps and emergency mortgage assistance. Thank you for reassuring me that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has a story to tell and I’m not the first detached techie they’ve seen come through the doors.

Valley Churches United Missions is here to help keep mountain residents from becoming homeless. If you have a chance, please consider donating money or groceries and pet food to San Lorenzo Valley’s wonderful Valley Churches. If you live in SLV and need a hand to see you through, please know that you are welcome. www.vcum.org/

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

https://www.facebook.com/SanLorenzoValleyPostNews/

Tilting Gravity ~ Kenny Hill, Gentleman Luthier

By Julie Horner

A solo classical guitar breathed seductively into the winter chill as I let myself into the Hill Guitar Company showroom in Ben Lomond, CA. Gentleman luthier, Kenny Hill, sat just inside, momentarily absorbed in music making, hands wrapped purposefully sensuous around one of his own instruments. The music was written by someone he knew, “It’s a lovely piece, full of tucks and folds.”

Master builder of contemporary nylon strung classical guitars in San Lorenzo Valley since the 1970s, Kenny Hill enjoys a personal and well-rounded relationship with guitar making. He started out as a guitarist – an aspiring classical player – who began making guitars as a hobby “to get a more complete feel for the instrument as an extension of the music, to understand the instrument more biologically.”

He played professionally for a few years then dropped out of the scene briefly in the 80s. He got back into it after the earthquake. “I got really shaken up…I was on 17 and wrecked my car.” He came back to guitar making with a more businesslike approach. “I got organized, more realistic about running a business. It was a second beginning.”

Now with worldwide renown, the secret ingredient for him is his lifelong immersion in the instrument as a player, a composer, and a builder. “It gives me a certain insight,” he says. He developed his own uniquely personal guitar building style based on classic Spanish traditions and global influences, pulling from a number of different inspirations to “produce something very full of life for players and for audiences…capable of playing adventurous new music” while still holding true to rigor. “It makes for a great feel.”

Admitting to having a certain creative arrogance from youth, “I wanted to keep my artistic purity pure, so I ignored the past.” Part of his second beginning included realizing that he was a fool for not learning from the ones who came before. “I was a presumptuous schmuck.”

“We tend to be lone wolves, very opinionated and stubborn, which can make for a lot of boondoggles and blind alleys” in making a fine instrument.

The instinct to break barriers remains; to be “tilting the gravity a bit.”

“Innovation is finding a need that no one knew they had. And it helps to be right about it and persistent. I find what pleases me, that’s the best way.” He gets flashes of insight which compel him to straddle different aesthetics. “I love finding something completely new and unexpected. I revere the work of the future.”

Quality is “under the hood” in the engineering that makes his guitars excel. “Playing a guitar, you’re embracing it, caressing it with both hands – that’s one of the things that’s so magical about it.” He explained that nylon strings are softer, more embraceable, and the tension is lower for a more relaxed instrument. “It’s more dynamic, you can shape the sound. I want the player to be able to coax whatever they want out of the guitar. It’s a matter of flavor and style, the guitar will give you back whatever you can put in.”

“Some guitar makers are trying to find an engineered formula, trying to predict outcomes.” Kenny creates things that suit his fancy. Most of the time he doesn’t know what he’s doing going in, he says. “I’m making strokes, seeing patterns emerging.”

He notes that custom guitar makers, especially in the US, enjoy three kinds of prestige: Which famous artists buy your instruments, how much you charge, and how long you have to wait for the instrument to be made. “I don’t like that. I’m a musician.” But of course he’s flattered when a big time artist picks up one of his instruments. “Great musicians inspire me. I become inspired as a maker, a player, as a person.”

Top classical guitarists from around the world revere Kenny Hill guitars. “We have a very good reputation,” Hill says. “And I answer the phone.”

He’s swamped with custom orders right now. When asked how long it takes to build a custom guitar, Kenny says he “puts it together like a meal. Any guitar is made out of 4 or 5 kinds of wood from all over the world. It’s a little bit like selecting ingredients, you want good quality ingredients. I get them from the source.” A Hill guitar takes a few months to build once an order is placed.

“I want to see the instruments getting into people’s hands. I love it when young, upcoming players get one. My most satisfying client base is young kids taking up the instrument and taking it seriously. It becomes part of their growth, part of their musical evolution,” he says.

For Kenny the joy of guitar making is everything from “the wood, the tools, the satisfaction of the craftsmanship, the cross-cultural relationships, an opening of the world – it’s got the whole thing.”

“And it’s very cool to be here in the valley – an ideal, marvelous place to be based.” For his family, the village atmosphere, plus the cultural stimulation from Santa Cruz. “It’s a great springboard.”

“We’re trying to make the world a better place, it’s pretty simple, through affection for the guitar. We’re not destroying resources, not taking away from more important things in life, we’re not bad for your health. It’s low impact in a global sense but high impact on the quality of the person’s life.”

“The intensity of thought, the hope in every living soul. Making guitars has vitality and impact and gives me a great deal of pleasure.”

On the Web: http://www.hillguitar.com/

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hillguitarcompany/

Phone: 831-336-9317

Email: showroom1@hillguitar.com

Kenny Hill performs monthly at Casa Nostra and has a CD, Pilgrimage.

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

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner