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September 27, 2023

Funny Papers Again Column | Youngsters on Stage and Field Always a Welcome Sight

I was very pleased with myself after hammering out a column well before the deadline with only one more proofreading before I sent it off to Ryan well in time for him to do his magic to make it ready for Wednesday publication. It relieves the pressure of nearing the Monday deadline with if not a word is written come the weekend. Well, the pressure is now back because something happened. It’s like this:

The written column can in fact be run the following week, and it will still be current, so that is one factor. Another is that its words will probably not be accepted by all and that is usually something I try to avoid, so I can let it rest for a few more days. What happened was two groups of youngsters inspired my muse, and not being one to question that influence, here are the stories.

I don’t know when exactly it was I became aware that if one were going to perform in stage productions, plays and musicals and melodramas and such, then one should have a good reason for doing so. This is my reason: Human beings sometimes need a break from their daily lives. That’s it. Simple only because some actors explanations sound like a theater arts major’s thesis and I can’t understand them.

So, for me it is just giving folks a respite for a few hours every few months and that is possible here in King City, where directors need roles running the gamut from 6 years to 76 years (note to directors: I am only 70). One such production ran for a couple weekends, last show was four days ago, on the Chalone Peaks Middle School (CPMS) campus and I was able to attend a performance, and sure enough for a couple hours I forgot all about my life outside the theater. In fairness to all performers, I’ll make references without actor’s names from here on out.

A few minutes before curtain, I admitted my ignorance of the origins of the night’s offering of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Junior” to two fellow audience members, commenting I had only seen clips from the Gene Wilder movie. The father-daughter duo cited Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” in which Mr. Wonka was a character. This book spawned the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and the 2005 musical using the original book title.

Crews are not actors, so I can freely say I was very entertained by Director Anna Foraker’s generous use of her actors to present a series of short vignettes to tell the story of Charlie Bucket (it’s really all about him and not Mr. Wonka as the title suggests) with a wonderful use of revolving set pieces. Ms. Foraker, whom I call Cybele because when we first met that is how she referred to herself, is the theater arts instructor at CPMS who, one student informed, has staged productions in the past.

For this production the call went out to the combined school districts, so talent came from not only the middle school but drew high school veteran performers and first-time actors from the lower grades. Because I was there as just a lover of the arts, I really didn’t investigate enough to know who was the youngest and oldest performers or their respective schools, but assume they came from near and far; and they came in droves.

There were 44 cast members listed on the program, and it seemed at times the whole lot of them were on stage at once singing and dancing sometimes in between dialogue scenes, sometimes during those scenes; it was a wonderful way to tell the story. The dance sequences were well done; the choreographer having been well taught by a master dancer. There were some fine performances — Wonka, Charlie, Candyman, a grandfather and one very animated young lady in the ensemble. A nice night in the theatre. Hopefully we will be treated to more performances on the Chalone campus in future.

***

Some moons ago I was seated down the third base line at Chavez Ravine one day when the Giants were unfortunately losing to the Doggers, and as usual I had my vintage Rawling’s Willie Mays autographed glove with me in hopes of catching anything LA fans might throw at me in the parking lot. My seat was in a sparely populated (read “pricey”) section and a mid-30s foursome, obviously from the East Coast, were seated two rows behind with nobody in the row between, and while their conversation revealed they were true baseball fans, they cared not which team prevailed; it was a bit irksome to speak truth. And the four of them were probably wearing clothing and accessories worth tens of thousands of dollars.

At one point a fellow close by asked how old my glove was, and I said I had purchased it in 1972 for softball use (Nina’s Cantina rules, yeah!!). One of the young men behind asked if Willie Mays was the autograph and I replied in the affirmative to which he frankly replied, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars cash for it right now.” About 10 heads from seats close by all turned toward the guy, me included, and a voice said “Call his bluff, dude,” to which his very attractive ladyfriend said in an even tone, “He isn’t bluffing.” The look the four of them gave me assured me he was serious. I turned him down; the glove remains with me.

I relate the story because as I passed by the ball field at city park last Saturday, I thought of my glove and how much I miss baseball; especially coaching youngsters, which I did in both Greenfield and Salinas years ago. Young people learning and participating in our national pastime is a great thing, and I hope you folks attend some games no matter the level this coming summer.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].

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