Dunbar desperados rock the stage
This coming weekend, folks from throughout Sonoma Valley are invited to attend the Dunbar melodrama, this year titled, “The Deadwood Desperado, or, A Mother’s Grief.” Don’t be mislead by the ironic title, this is actually not a grief-filled show at all, but a hilarious family-friendly melodrama complete with sound effects, costumes, slapstick antics, a twisting plot line, a saloon matron with a secret past, a crooning, blind femme fatale, a bumbling band of cowboys and two-bit crooks and lots of audience participation.
Professional director Kate Kennedy, who tamed this unruly cast of 55, brings out the best in these student actors, fifth-graders all. The Dunbar melodrama is a tradition not to be missed. Lots of families from around the Valley like to pack a picnic dinner and hang out on the beautiful lawns before the show. That way, they can place their chairs in the optimum spots to catch all the action. Tickets are available at the door: $10 adult, $5 child, or $25 family package. Concessions and staking claims for picnic spots begin at 5 p.m., shows start at 6 p.m., and the dates are Friday May 23, Saturday May 24, and Sunday May 25.
If you have questions, would like to make a donation to the program, or are interested in purchasing ad space in the playbill, contact Kate’s able assistant and outreach volunteer Shannon Lee at email@example.com or 996-3352, or send a note directly to Dunbar School fifth-grade play, 11700 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen CA 95442. Because it’s open seating in a huge field, there are always “day of” tickets available, too.
This is the perfect family entertainment for Memorial Day weekend. If you have school-aged children, from any school in the Valley or beyond, you will all be entertained by the antics of Kate’s charges. Grandparents are especially invited. Bring the whole family for a fortunate escape from the busy-ness of a Sonoma weekend. Out on Cunninghame Field, beneath the specimen oaks, you’ll find contentment and relaxation, away from the tasting rooms of downtown Sonoma. By the way, last week (in the online version only, I believe) I mentioned Max Cunninghame, a former principal of Dunbar School, whose name graces those beautiful fields. What I didn’t mention, and what is quite remarkable, is that Mr. Cunninghame was Dunbar’s principal for 32 years, guiding Dunbar from a four-room school to a campus with 12 classrooms, a multipurpose room and an administration wing.
Other beloved principals at Dunbar have included Larry Westlake, Jerald Tuller, Ken Limon, Rosemary Haver, Micaela Philpot, Bethany Wilson, Lauren Ekman, Leticia Cruz and Claudia Berkman. Dunbar’s present principal, Melanie Blake, joined the school in 2009. Rosemary Haver was the principal 22 years ago when the melodramas began, giving the plays her enthusiastic support when introduced by Squire and Suzy Fridell. Hence, the name of the stage where the children perform, Haver Stage.
Who writes this wacky stuff?
A simple fact that few folks know is that Squire Fridell who, along with his sweetie, Suzy, was the first director of the Dunbar melodrama, is also the playwright of the four plays that the Dunbar players cycle through from one year to the next. Each year, Squire has to rewrite the appointed script, making sure that each child who wants a part gets one. He’s become a sort of genius at finding the right part for each kid, playing off their innate personality and abilities. We thank Squire for making sure this tradition continues and we praise Kate for her fortitude and talent in turning an unruly bunch of 55 kids into credible actors. Huzzah! as the Bard would say.