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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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LAYT introduces youth to acting – and a new culture


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Young actors and actresses rehearse ahead of their auditions for “Arabian Nights.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre encourages mastery, self-confidence and a sense of belonging for students of all ages, according to the aspiring thespians who recently auditioned for the fall production of "Arabian Nights."

Founded in 1990 under the umbrella of the Los Altos Recreation Department, LAYT’s stated goal is to develop skills and interest in the dramatic arts while creating a family environment where all members are respected and well treated.

One alumna of the program, Michaela Schwartz, 22, appeared in 21 LAYT shows and co-produced a documentary, "Dramatized" (2008), for Mountain View’s Freestyle Academy. Now a junior at Chapman University in Southern California, she majors in film production with an emphasis in directing - and she’s still passionate about LAYT.

Schwartz, whose brother Devlin also acted in the troupe, said she made her "absolute closest friends" at LAYT, where she felt empowered to develop confidence and polish her acting skills to land bigger and bigger roles. The adults involved allowed students to "move at a pace that we were more comfortable with," she added.

Acting up: Students learn about other cultures

"Arabian Nights" director Rebecca J. Ennals, artistic director at the San Francisco Shakespeare Theatre, began directing LAYT plays in high school. At LAYT, she has overseen "Great Expectations" and "Little Women."

Ennals said she loves that while LAYT shows sell out and the community supports the program, "it hasn’t totally become a machine."

She first approached Trish Files, LAYT artistic director, with the "Arabian Nights" idea, because "this is about a culture these kids don’t know much about."

"It’s a very ancient and fascinating part of the world," Ennals said of Arabia, adding that acting allows people to become "a temporary expert in … cultural traditions from other countries like India or Persia."

Los Altos High School senior Rachel Bratt snagged the role of Queen Shahrazad, sharing the lead with Rasika Raghavan - LAYT productions always feature two casts.

With rehearsals scheduled 6:30-9 p.m. four times a week, Bratt has developed a system for keeping up with her schoolwork.

"A schedule for doing homework helps keep me caught up," she said. "I have three hours between school and rehearsal, so three hours for a snack and homework. It took me a little while to get used to cramming it in that tight block, but I learned to work well efficiently, and now I look forward to grabbing my script, a pencil and water before running out the door to another fantastic production at LAYT."

Bratt said she is "super-excited" to undertake her second lead part in an LAYT show - she also played Anne in "Anne of Green Gables" in 2012.

"That was probably the best show I have ever been in at LAYT," she said of "Anne of Green Gables." "Not only did it feel professional, but everybody was such a joy to work with. The cast was so close, we really were a family. Even though it’s almost been two years, we still all keep in touch and have regular get-togethers."

Her favorite role was portraying the Dancing Hamburger in "Ramona Quimby" in 2011, which she described as "one of the most fun things I have ever done, hands down."

Supporting cast: Family is key

The recent auditions for "Arabian Nights" drew a cast of young actors and their supportive family members.

"I really didn’t want to do it for a long time," admitted Nils Forstall, 11, whose sister acted before him, but somewhere along the way, "I really started to like acting."

As Nils shared his initial reluctance to take to the stage, his grandmother, Kathy Brown, noted that her daughter Molly loved the theater. The entire family had trekked to Ashland, Ore., to see plays, as well as to New York City to see "Billy Elliot" on Broadway.

Nils had hoped for a medium-size role in "Arabian Nights" - he landed the key part of Abu Hassan.

Los Altos Hills resident Riley Breier, 11, attended the auditions with his mother, Ronda. Riley previously appeared in "Ramona Quimby" as the Old Man, in "Alice" as the Ace of Spades and in "Anne of Green Gables" as Moody Spurgeon MacPherson.

Riley has attended two Peninsula Youth Theatre summer camps and appeared in class plays in grade school.

Los Altos Youth Theatre organizers ask for a commitment, requesting that actors clear their calendars of conflicts (special instances excepted). Riley said he takes learning his lines seriously, noting that he cares about the group and doesn’t want to disappoint them.

"I really love acting," he said. "I wanted to be an actor and wanted to do more intense theater."

"Arabian Nights" is scheduled Oct. 18

through Nov. 3 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

For more information, visit losaltosca.gov/recreation/page/los-altos-youth-theatre. n


Los Altos Youth Theater auditions for Arabian Nights - Photos by Los Altos Town Crier

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