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One Act Play At Joslyn Senior Center On Veteran’s Day

Jack Lyons Theatre and Movie Critic

Friday, November 11, 2011 marks the eighty-three year anniversary of the “Great War to End all Wars – World War I.   Once designated as Armistice Day but now known as Veteran’s Day, November 11th is a day set aside as a way to honor all American veterans.

“Return Fire”, the one act dramedy written by Alan Fitzsimons and directed by Dean Apple, tells the story of a little known incident that took place at Fort Stevens, Oregon on June 12, 1942.  It’s the first such incident of its kind – the bombing of U.S. soil by an offshore Japanese submarine.  A cast of eight locally based actors tell the story of what really happened late that June night.

The cast includes:  Dean Apple, Brooke Baxley, Jake Cohen, David Drury, Marion Pettygrove, Wesley Thomas, and Jeff Wood.  The play is set in an army barracks and along the beach at Fort Stevens, Oregon.  The burning question behind playwright Fitzsimons’ tale is: Why did the Post Commander fail to return fire on the Japanese submarine.  What was happening during the critical moments leading up to the attack and after the attack was over?

The play begins with a TV host (Dean Apple) interviewing Marion Pettygrove and Conrad Vargas two civilian veterans, who play themselves, concerning their recollections of what took place on June 12th, 1942.  The play then segues back to the time of the actual incident and we follow the action from there forward.  Two of the soldiers, PFC Jake Cohen and Sergeant “Pappy” Drury, take a light and comedic approach to the puzzling question, while, “Walnut” Thomas and the Post cook, Cookie Jeff Wood, are concerned that the incident isn’t getting the serious attention it demands.  As a way of getting the information out to the public Brooke Baxley, a reporter from the local newspaper, gets permission to interview some of the soldiers at the Army post to see if the soldiers can shed some additional light on incident.

The attack by Japanese sub I-25 fired 17 rounds of shells onto the beach but caused no real damage except for a baseball backstop in the Fort recreation area.  The larger issue is why did Army personnel fail to return fire?  After all, the country was at war, and the Post should have been on 24 hour alert.

Come to the Joslyn Senior Center in Palm Desert to find out the answers on Friday, November 11, 2011, at 7 pm for this one performance only.

Tickets are only $ 5.00 and may be obtained by going online to deanapple1@hotmail.com or by purchasing tickets at the door of the Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Senior Center, located at 73-750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert.

As a side note:  The play is being filmed on Friday evening by well known Coachella Valley Director of Photography and Videographer Renee Vargas, who is producing and directing a movie version using the stage play performance, as well as additional footage, to complete the movie which is scheduled for release in 2012.

Dinner in the Canyons 2011 was held at the Magnificent Palm Oasis of Andreas Canyon.


Story and Photos by Pat Krause

Dinner in the Canyons 2011 was held at the Magnificent Palm Oasis of Andreas Canyon. The Canyon was the Ancestral Home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Museum and all its programs. Approximately, 400 guests arrived to be greeted by Museum Officials as they walked a Red Carpet. Guests parked below and were bussed up the long driveway to the Canyons.

A cocktail reception was held in the overlook area where guests are surrounded by huge rocky areas, fantastic old palm trees, and they can also see the most spectacular view of the Valley. A flautist played traditional Indian music where cocktails were served. The guests walked another Red Carpet to the dining area.

The opening entertainment was provided by the White Rose Singers from Sherman Indian High School in Riverside. They are the first all-female Hand Drum Group, and members come from many tribes all over the western states.

Richard M. Milanovich was honored for his years of service to the Tribe. He was involved with the start of the Museum since the beginning. He was instrumental is making the Museum happen. He chaired the organizing committee and has been a mainstay at all events since. He has served in various ways for the Tribe for the last 30 years. He was gifted with a painting of the first all women tribal council. He knew and remembered each and every one of them. The painting will hang in the museum for all to see. A video was shown that told of his work with the tribes. He was truly touched by the honor.

The feature entertainer was Buffy Saint-Marie. She became famous in the 60’s with the award-winning songs she wrote and some, she sang. One song was even awarded an Oscar, and many others received other awards. She has gotten many awards for her works in behalf of the Indian Tribes.

The museum was built to collect, protect and preserve Indian culture. They want to keep their culture alive for all generations to see and share. The Museum provides exhibitions, cultural festivals and other programs to local residents and visitors to our area. They keep the spirit alive thru education, research,and the many collections of Indian artifacts.

Photos by Pat Krause

Dezart Performs 2011 Play Reading Festival Winner Opens


Jack Lyons Theatre and Movie Critic

Dezart Performs, the Palm Springs-based performing troupe, holds a play reading Festival every year in April.  At the end of the four-day festival an “audience favorite”, is selected based upon the number of ballots received with the highest marks.  The Festival winner then receives a fully produced production in December: sets, costumes, lights and sound, props, music, the works.  This season’s award-winning play is being presented at The Palm Springs Women’s Club on Cahuilla Road.

     The 2011 Festival and Audience Favorite is  “The Old Bird”, a comedy written by playwright Lynn Wells Nelson, directed by Charles Rinaldo, and starring Louise Tonti as Jeanne Clement, the world’s oldest person at 122 years of age.

     Also in the cast are: Louise Ross as Nicole, Jeanne’s young friend, who offers strong support (there is wonderful on-stage chemistry between the two women), Andrew Hamling as Henry, John Alex Houlton, as Bernard, and Peter Nicholson as the Reporter.

     Louise Tonti has always been a fine actor.  But, as the 122 year-old Jeanne Clement she is absolutely triumphant.  She was born to play this role.  Every look with those wonderful dancing eyes, every gesture, every nuance of her performance is a delight to watch, and rings so true.  For example, watching Tonti age and grow older before your eyes, these are mesmerizing moments not to be missed.  Her performance is not cliché, in that she affects old age, one actually feels one is in the presence of a real 122 year-old person. Great stuff!

     The story is set in the 1960’s in Paris France.  The action takes place in a Paris apartment, on a park bench and in a nursing home.  The story, in my opinion however, is more suitable for a TV documentary rather than a play.  By employing a series of quick scenes spaced between longer scenes, the play’s construction blunts the pacing and forward movement of the narrative.   When the play settles on character development and dialogue, even for a short time, the piece seems to gather momentum. Also, I feel the addition of some French/Parisan mood music would have bridged those somewhat long scene changes.

     Just when things begin to get interesting between the characters, as in the longer scenes, we jump in another direction only to begin more quick scenes.  I wanted to know more about Henry (Hamling) and Bernard (Alex-Houlton), and even the Reporter played by Nicholson – all supporting roles nicely played, but alas, it was not to happen.  Having said all of the above, the performance by Louise Tonti mitigates any perceived “negatives” and is worth the price of admission alone.

     The production produced by Michael Shaw and Daniela Ryan is wonderfully served by a functional set designed by Randallyn Curry; with lighting by Dylan Feldman, and is technically supported by Clark Dugger. There are only a few more performances left to catch this entertaining show. For reservations and tickets call 760-322-0179 or go online to www.dezartperforms.com .

Palm Canyon Theatre Presents Irving Berlin Musical

Jack Lyons Theatre and Movie Critic

December is almost always a Christmas-themed month when it comes to entertainment and the theatre and the movies in particular.  The Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT) has decided not to break with that tradition.  They have, however, chosen to present a somewhat different approach to the normal Christmas season story.

     Irving Berlin’s wonderful score from the movie “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen, becomes the basis for turning the perennial Christmas movie favorite into a stage-book musical from R & H Theatricals of New York, directed by PCT founder Dr. William Layne.

     Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are pretty much imbedded in the minds of moviegoers, and are tough acts to follow, along with Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen if one is planning to produce a stage version.  Undaunted and not intimidated by the beloved movie, the Palm Canyon Theatre mounted its version with a wonderfully technical production, complete with a revolving stage, “Cyc’s” of Vermont, and New York City, and pleasing musical tracks selected by Music Director David McLaughlin.  J.W. Layne, the theatre’s Artistic Director and resident Scenic Designer, has few equals when it comes to sets and lighting designs.  This production has both a sweep for its larger scenes and the intimacy required for the more poignant moments

     Luke Rainey as Bob Wallace (the Bing Crosby role), and Erik Bradley as Phil Davis (the Danny Kaye role), are faced with the challenge of stepping into some pretty big shoes.   But Rainey and Bradley’s efforts pay-off as they infuse their own particular brand of comedy and singing efforts into the PCT production.

      The story in short, revolves around two army buddies (Rainey and Bradley) who go into show business following WW II, becoming big television stars during the 1950’s.    

When word reaches them that their old army commanding officer, General Waverly (Ken Lindsey), who is having difficulties in keeping open a Vermont Inn he has sunk his entire Army retirement into, the two decide to bring their TV show to the Vermont Inn for a Christmas TV Special as a way of helping generate publicity and customers for their former commanding officer and his Vermont Inn.

      Along the way, they meet two show business singing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes (Nikki Hock and Jamie Leigh Walker).  Rainey and Bradley take an immediate liking to, and quickly incorporate the “Sisters Act”, into their planned TV Special.  From there it’s a case of boy (Rainey) meets girl (Hock), boy loses girl, boy finally gets girl.  There are a lot of production numbers, gorgeous costumes, and dancing sequences that make  “White Christmas” a pleasant Holiday divertissement.

     The show performs Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm through December 18th.  Call the Box Office for tickets and reservations at 760-323-5123.