"AROUND SUNOL" by BREE K. JAMES


January 20, 2003

FAME MAY ONLY COME to some - say, the guy picked by "The Bachelorette" on television last week - for fifteen minutes, but at Sunol Glen School it comes six times each and every school year. Sunol moms Miki Whitfield and Paulette Beemiller have evolved FAME, the Fine Arts and Music Education program, into a real happening for the students. Not satisfied with simply playing a piece of music and showing a work of art, these terrific volunteers create a memorable interactive experience.

The program takes place in the auditorium, with three classes at a time as the audience. Most recently, the students were introduced to the genius of Vincent van Gogh through his evocative "Starry Night," and the powerful music of Gustave Holst's most notable work, "The Planets."

Miki and Paulette modify the content to make it age appropriate for their audience, which, in this case, meant explaining Van Gogh's mental imbalance to six-year-olds. I'm telling you, these ladies are awesome. The students learned about Van Gogh's use of complementary and analogous colors to express mood, as well as the elements of line and texture.

Holst's composition gave musical representation to only seven of the nine planets; he did not include Earth, and when he created the work in 1914, Pluto had not yet been discovered. Student volunteers from the audience were costumed to represent the planets and, in the upper grades, were challenged to guess which planet each movement of the music represents. The fabulous FAME docents explored the mythological personalities of the planets and the concept of dynamics in musical composition.

I know I've written about this program before, but I can't say enough about the value of volunteer commitment like that of Miki and Paulette. They always go the extra mile, and have been doing so for many years. The joy they find in giving of their time and creativity is inspiring. Next month, they're featuring "The Wedding March" from "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner, and Modigliani's "Bride and Groom." Miki told me they're calling the presentation "My Big Fat FAME Wedding," spoofing the popular film. I'm planning on slipping into the auditorium for this one!

THE MELODRAMA WITHIN: As the sands of time sift through the hourglass, so go the days of Sunol Repertory Theatre. Like any good soap opera, you can count on an SRT season for as much excitement behind the scenes as on the stage. Cattle Clare has become Cattle Clark, or Carl, or Clay…the name is yet to be decided, but the gender is clear, the story's cattle rancher is now a fella.

No, we're not THAT soapy - it's not a transgender story line or anything, but Summer Sandlin, cast as Cattle Clare, has left the role due to her commitment to her college classes and part-time job. Klay Kunkel, who joined SRT last year as a member of the technical crew, has stepped into the part; thus, the cattle-driving girl became a cattle-driving guy. Klay, a Kilkare Woods resident and researcher for Lam Corporation in Fremont, will still help out with technical duties as his stage role allows.

SEGUE TO CREW: Speaking of technical duties (ooh, smooth transition, huh?), I promised to introduce SRT's handy crew this week. The versatile and dedicated Derek Johnson will once again take charge at Technical Director. Derek is part of a small group of Sunolians who have created the faux company, "Somebody's Gotta Do It," and whatever it is, community service-wise, he does it.

Derek's crew this year includes Sunol Glen grad and Foothill High School freshman Martin Smith, who has been involved in SRT since he was knee-high to a cricket. He started out renting pillows to audience members for 25 cents to soften the wooden auditorium chairs, moved on to the tech crew, and surprised us all with his acting chops in last season's "Caught in the Villain's Gaze."

Patrick Foster, also a Sunol Glen grad and now a Foothill High senior, will once again man the video camera to record the shows. Tech veteran Greg Davis will help out in the booth as he's done the past eight years, and Mike Brown joins the crew for his first taste of SRT fun. The estimable Irv Tiessen will again contribute his prop making mastery.

Last I heard, there was a new episode of our pre-season soap opera involving Laurie Walker's dog grooming duties causing her to give up her part as Kay Nien, possibly leading to Stage Manager Barbara Egbert stepping into the role…tune in next week, same time, same paper!

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