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Posts tagged ‘local celebrity’

Broadway in my Backyard

Saturday 6/12/10, 8pm showing
“Rent” at the Sixth Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa

So I’m a little biased. I’ll admit it upfront. My sister and Stephanie St. James were best friends in junior high and high school. They went through the same EXCEPTIONAL music program at Santa Rosa High and were taught by Dan Earl. Being some of the few “mixed” kids in town, Stephanie is like a cousin to me.

Stephanie has been touring and traveling the world doing what she does best, wailing and rocking the mic, but spends much of her life far away from us in New York and Los Angeles. We saw her last year (I believe) in San Francisco when “Oprah Winfrey’s: The Color Purple” came to town. Stephanie had the role of Squeak but I wanted to hear more. (You can imagine with a name like Squeak, her character’s voice didn’t feature the full rich sound I know she inhabits) When we heard that she’d be performing here in Santa Rosa, my sister and I jumped all over it.

Stephanie St. James Lighting it Up

Thank you, my dear sister Colleen, for treating us all to a wonderful Mother’s Day gift by taking us to the Sixth Street Playhouse. I am embarrassed to admit I had never attended a show there. For someone that spent her whole life in theater as a child, you think I’d go more!

I had only seen the movie version of Rent and knew that I was in for a treat to see it live. If you aren’t familiar, the story covers a year in the life of a group of friends that have no money, lots of dreams and problems, and many have AIDS. It’s a snapshot of love and pain, loss and joy.

The whole cast really did a great job but the two standouts for me were Stephanie as Mimi and Shannon Rider as Maureen. Maureen is talked about through the whole play and finally arrives (on a motorcycle, no less) just before intermission. She’s all rock and roll atop a table calling for a boycott against “the man” (my words) and fighting for artists to exist in a space they have claimed for themselves. It’s was a really funny protest including “Moo’ing at The Man” but what I’m really trying to get at is she is all fire and sex on a stick. I won’t mention that her voice is stage perfect. You know when you go to a show and the singers are “meh”? She is the opposite of “meh”. I was told that she is also the lead singer of Miss Kitty and The Big Dogs, a group I’ve heard plays locally. I absolutely MUST check them out now.

You know my feelings for Stephanie as a person but her voice is the opposite of “meh”. I should’ve brought tissue because I was struggling to keep it together throughout the whole second act. Flirty, fun, sexy, tragic, sad and loving are what she brought to the stage. We are so lucky that the stars lined up so she could come back and perform at home. I will miss her when she gets back on the train out of town but I’m so glad I was able to show my support and get my socks knocked off at the same time.

If you want to see Rent, it’s playing until June 27. Get going!

Colleen, Jennie & Kerry beaming at Rent!


Snoopy & The Peanuts Gang

The Charles Schulz Museum & Research Center in Santa Rosa, CA
Saturday 4/11/09

Growing up as a kid, I thought everyone had a lot of Snoopy in their lives. See, I live in Santa Rosa, CA and that’s where Charles Schulz lived most of his adult life. The local ice skating rink is the Redwood Empire Ice Arena or Snoopy’s Ice. The Christmas shows they put on are the best, a cherished childhood memory. Walking around town you see Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie Brown uniquely decorated and in the most unusual places. I can see a Woodstock from my bedroom window!

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an ice skater. I trained for a short period of time before switching to roller skating but I spent some time on their grounds. Across from the rink there is a pro shop where you get your Snoopy memorabilia, get fitted for new skates or an get an outfit. But if you were to climb the ramp to the second floor you would see an unfolding collection of Peanuts gang memorabilia. Comic strips, pez dispensers, t-shirts, pillows, stuffed animals, ad infinitum. The space was packed and fairly small. I haven’t been there since I was a child, I don’t even know if it still looks like that. But that was the worldwide destination of lovers of all things Snoopy.

I lived in Southern California for several years and while I was gone they went and built a world class museum! The Charles Schulz Museum & Research Center is very much an art gallery. I think the target audience is a 10 year old boy, Peanuts aficionados, and comic strip/commercial artists. The bottom floor right now is really taken up with the Peanuts and NASA connection. There’s quite a history between Snoopy and the space program. There are some models of space craft, actual pieces of space equipment and a ragtag module and costumes for kids to pretend “Spaceman”. It was really fun to watch a large group of excited kids bang on the pieces and parts in a whirlwind of imagination and space travel.

The outdoor garden is whimsical with plenty of art. We really liked the holographic birdbath. There’s a spotlight shining on the surface of it and with a little adjustment to your placement, you can see Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie all skating on the ice. Woodstock is even riding a Zamboni! It took a few minutes to figure out the theme but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a hologram!

My 3 year old wasn’t real excited. She can’t read yet so the comic strips, which are obviously everywhere, were wasted on her. Large black and white reproductions are on the walls and in cases throughout. We did enjoy their education center where we did arts and crafts. I liked the recreated home office/studio of Mr. Schulz. It seemed to be they dismantled his office and brought the whole thing in. That was cool.

My bank is right down the street from the museum and every time I drive past, I look for Charlie Brown’s kite stuck in the tree. With all the new cartoons and cable channels and Charles Schulz’ passing away, I thought my daughter would grow up in a world where she didn’t know Snoopy. Instead, his presence and legacy grew even stronger in his adopted community. Thanks for all the childhood memories.

Childhood Memory

Childhood Memory

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