Western Ballet dancer makes mask kits for seniors

Natalie Young
Courtesy of Natalie Young
Local ballet dancer Natalie Young displays the mask kits she made for residents of a senior community.

By Kaley Kwan
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Western Ballet dancer Natalie Young, a rising senior at Los Altos High School, recently partnered with the Mountain View-based ballet school to produce mask-making kits for residents of the Brookdale senior living community in Redwood City.

Young – whose grandparents live at Brookdale – said the idea originated from her concern about seniors, who are at especially high risk if they contract COVID-19.

“This really is a lot about bringing my community together, especially my ballet community. No one expected this pandemic, and it has hit a lot of people hard,” said Young, who joined Western Ballet at age 6. “I just wanted to keep my community in touch. (By) making masks, you can bond with your family and work together.”

Assisted by her family, Young added that her goal is to provide 260 mask kits to Brookdale residents. Each kit consists of precut fabric with lines drawn for sewing. The kits also come with filter material and, if necessary, sewing needles and thread.

When she and her family began to run out of fabric, Young said she turned to Western Ballet, which had extra fabric to donate.Young reached out to the families of the Western Ballet community to help her make the mask kits. Volunteers sign up using a Google form.

For more information on Western Ballet, visit westernballet.org.

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TheatreWorks to livestream ‘Hershey Felder: Beethoven’

Town Crier Report

Following “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin: Live from Florence,” which streamed worldwide in May, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is teaming with Felder again.

A livestreamed performance of “Hershey Felder: Beethoven,” based on the original stage direction by Joel Zwick, is set for 5 p.m. Sunday. Streamed from Italy, Felder will bring Ludwig van Beethoven to life through the eyes of a Viennese doctor who spent his boyhood by Beethoven’s side.

Those who buy tickets can watch “Beethoven” live online or view a recorded performance in the 72 hours that follow.

Felder is a performer, playwright and director who has starred in solo shows as Claude Debussy, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Fryderyk Chopin and Leonard Bernstein. In this show, he embodies Beethoven and Dr. Gerhard von Breuning, who as a boy spent time by the composer’s side and cared for him in the last years of his life. The performance features some of Beethoven’s greatest works, including “Moonlight Sonata,” “Ninth Symphony” and the “Emperor Concerto.”

Tickets are $55 per household. For tickets and more information, call 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.

Pear opens ‘This Street’ for streaming

Town Crier Report

Pear Theatre’s final show of its 2019-2020 season opened last weekend in an online format and is slated to be available for streaming for three more weeks.

“This Street and the Next,” a recorded play written by members of the Pear Playwrights Guild, replaces the originally programmed “Side by Side” by Stephen Sondheim. “Street” is set to be streamed to patrons beginning Friday, with the collection of short videos being viewable at any time and in any order.

“It has become obvious that a digital production of ‘Side by Side’ by Sondheim is not possible for us,” artistic director Sinjin Jones said. “Although we previously secured the rights to a stage production, the rights to stream ‘Side by Side’ are simply not available at this time. While we hope to be able to present this show in the future, for now we have to shift gears.”

Jones added that, “In connecting with patrons and looking at feedback from the digital incarnation of ‘Pear Slices 2020,’ we decided to use this gap in programming as an opportunity to double down on some of the things that make Pear Theatre unique.Our Pear Playwrights Guild, our commitment to developing new work, and our commitment to community are all things that we want to emphasize during this time.”

“Street” uses overlapping narratives to explore the strength of the human spirit in the most difficult of times. The stories were devised through exercises and conversations among the writers, local artists and musicians.
View from ‘The Street’

In one, audiences see a couple whose wedding plans changed due to the pandemic; in another, a man living by himself examines the difference between alone and lonely while under shelter-in-place. In a third narrative, two men navigate online dating; in a fourth, a married couple – the husband an essential worker and the wife just beginning a cooking show video blog – explores the demands and meaning of work. Audiences can see these individuals throughout their time in shelter-in-place, a wandering minstrel helping to connect their stories.

While four stories make up the “Street” section, another six or so – more monologue in nature – connect to the “Next” part of the title. Pear Theatre has involved two local musicians, Derek Bernard and Drew Weber, to develop music specific to this show. Over the course of production, Pear will be asking patrons to fill out surveys to help guide certain aspects of the production, incorporating audience feedback into the final product.

In addition to providing tickets for viewing the videos, “Street” also will offer a virtual backstage pass, allowing access to the videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes looks.

Based on feedback from backstage pass users for “Pear Slices 2020,” Pear will add more context, simplify the release schedule and allow for more special access. Pear also plans to host at least five live digital events in connection with the production – including two talkbacks – to provide more opportunities for patrons to connect with one another and with the artists involved.

Subscribers and patrons who already have tickets for “Side by Side” will automatically receive access to the new production. Others may purchase a $15 ticket to the “Street” collection of videos or a $30 ticket that also includes a backstage pass and live, interactive digital events.

For tickets and more information, call 254-1148 or visit thepear.org/this-street-and-the-next.

TheatreWorks launches Musical Making Workshop Monday

Town Crier Report

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s Musical Making Workshop for Bay Area high school students is set to begin next week.

Students will learn songwriting and storytelling skills from professional theater artists three times a week in two-hour sessions over Zoom, Monday through Aug. 14.

Led by TheatreWorks teaching artist and playwright Joanna Glum, the program will cover the basics of theatrical songwriting and storytelling. The workshop also features guest instruction by award-winning composer and librettist Min Kahng and TheatreWorks resident musical director William Liberatore. Students will work with the professional theater-makers and have the opportunity to compose and craft their own music-driven scenes, all inspired by the theme of “2020.”

Glum is a film and theater-maker, director, writer, teacher and actor. Her works have been developed at the Philadelphia and Edinburgh Fringe festivals. She was a finalist for the 2018 American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition and semifinalist for the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. Glum’s experience includes film editing and production, having worked on feature films such as “Bumblebee” and “Lady Bird,” and having created original documentary theater pieces. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in playwriting from the University of Edinburgh.

Kahng is an award-winning Bay Area playwright and composer. His musical “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga” premiered at TheatreWorks in 2017. The production won seven San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle awards. Kahng also has won a Theatre Bay Area Titan Award for Playwrights and is a resident playwright with Playwrights Founda-
tion.

Liberatore is TheatreWorks’ resident musical director and has worked as a choir director at Gunn High School for more than 30 years. Liberatore has conducted more than 40 shows, including the world premieres of “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Prince of Egypt” and “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga,” as well as TheatreWorks productions of “Tuck Everlasting,” “Sweeney Todd” and others. He has been a frequent recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Direction.

To register for the workshop and for more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit theatreworks.org/education.

LA Stage Co. takes summer classes online

By Christina Cheng
Town Crier Editorial Intern

A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Los Altos Stage Company from offering a slew of brand-new, virtual online summer programs.

The local theater company is hosting 24 virtual classes on Zoom, created specifically with an interactive online format, for participants ranging in age from 4 to 22 through July 31.

This year’s summer camp program is “very” different from previous years, LASC education director Jillian Cummings said. In previous years, the company hosted seven weeks of camps at Hillview Community Center. Initially, LASC hoped it would be allowed to continue its normal program, because “teaching acting and dance online is tricky, (as) being able to make physical contact with the student is helpful,” according to Cummings.

However, at the onset of the pandemic, LASC began offering its spring classes on Zoom “as a way to keep the students’ creativity flowing and also trying to find a way to employ so many teaching artists who were abruptly out of work,” Cummings said.

“We had ups and downs learning to work with the system, but have come a very long way and have a good handle on it now,” she said.

With experience hosting online classes heading into the summer, Cummings and LASC are focused on crafting interactive and engaging programs.

“As a mother of two almost-8-year-old children, I understand how isolating learning from a screen can be. I have watched my children walk away from the classroom screens and think no one would notice or care,” Cummings said. “So we researched many different ways of including students and have learned what worked and didn’t from past classes. We are stressing the interactive part of teaching and are having training meetings on how to make sure you include and engage every student.”

As a result, the virtual summer classes have shifted in focus from performance-oriented programs to ones focused on technique for older students, and creativity and physical engagement for younger students, according to Cummings. In addition, an online format has enabled LASC to invite instructors from outside the Bay Area to teach, such as casting agents and Juilliard-trained performers.

“It was a complete rehaul, but I am so excited to offer the camps we have,” she said. “It is of the utmost importance to me that the students get the one-on-one attention they all deserve. We are not about the numbers, but about the quality – and although we keep our cost down so everyone can afford the camp, we want the students to get the learning experience they deserve.”

Camp offerings

For children ages 4-6, there’s the Broadway Babies Camps. Each one-week camp runs 9-10:30 a.m. and themes change weekly. Offerings include the Out of This World Outer Space Camp (Monday to July 3) and the Magical Dreams Unicorn Camp (July 20-24). According to Cummings, participants spend the first hour learning songs and a dance, as well as playing theater games that “work well without people around,” followed by 30 minutes of crafts with the help of parents. Each camp costs $95.

For older children (ages 7-12), the Rising Stars Camps focus on a musical franchise – like Troll’s Camp, for example, slated 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. July 6-10. Those who attend the weeklong camps spend each day learning a song and dance from the musical along with time to make crafts, according to the LASC website. Each camp costs $145.

In addition, LASC is slated to host various multiday classes for participants of different ages, including a theater makeup class, private vocal coaching sessions, a Broadway scene study class, a puppetry class and an audition preparation workshop, among others. Costs range from $35 to $150.

For registration and more information, visit losaltosstage.org/virtual-summer-camps.


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