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Lexy Fridell’s one-woman show; Jack London book group

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Sylvia Crawford/Glen Ellen Columnist

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The girl in 14G

Certainly this is not news to anyone who saw Lexy Fridell’s solo show this past weekend at Chateau St. Jean Winery: Wow! That woman is talented. Hilarious at times, then poignant and touching, she is a talented actress, with a singing voice to match. I was duly impressed with her control, be it comic, operatic or melodic.

To admit the truth, I hadn’t seen Lexy on stage since she starred in the first Dunbar Melodrama … quite a while back (but who’s counting?).

Early in July, Sweetie and I trekked up the hill to watch Lexy perform in “One Singular Sensation” (courtesy of dear Stephan Stubbins). Lexy’s short skit with song, “The Girl in 14G” was hilarious, yet with pitch perfect song and various voice permutations of different characters. We loved it.

As did the audience. The sustained round of applause for our local girl, now a professional actress, was more than just a “welcome home,” it was a grand display of thanks for a great performance.

Later, when Lexy returned to the stage for a rendition of Spamalot’s “The Song That Goes Like This,” she again proved her worth and talent.

After the show, I waited by the “stage door” to greet Lexy, and to congratulate her. Of course, she was gracious and kind, and as beautiful in person than she was on the stage. Obviously Squire and Suzy as parents have a lot to be proud of.

Of course, I had to ask Lexy, “What is Paul Ruebens really like?” Lexy worked with him in the “Pee Wee Herman Show” in New York and I’ve always admired Ruebens. Lexy quickly responded with a whole paragraph of good thought about Ruebens, all stated with such sincerity that it was easy to know she meant it. “He’s creative and ever so kind,” she noted, adding, “He still sends me a birthday card every year.”

Right seat wrong night

As for that visit to Transcendence Theatre’s first show of the summer: It was great in all ways. I especially send a shout out to kind and thoughtful house manager Daniel Waters, who found us seats when ours were otherwise occupied.

What? Oh dear, I misread my tickets and came on the wrong night. Yes, I was acting out the proverbial “day late, dollar short” scene. Sitting down in our assigned seats (right next to dear friend Pina Brocco, whom I hadn’t seen in years), I was shortly booted by the “real owner” of the seats that evening. She took a brief look at my tickets and snapped, “Your tickets were for last night,” which to my dismay was true. Red-faced and totally embarrassed, I apologized and skedaddled.

As I rushed out (not so easily accomplished with cane in hand in those crowded rows), I saw my friend Jill Dawson, volunteering that evening. Briefly explaining my predicament, she said, “Let me get my manager, he can help.”

That turned out to be Daniel and help he most certainly did. Happily and quickly, he placed Sweetie and me in front-row, center-aisle seats. I was so grateful and acknowledged that was far more than I deserved. But Daniel’s kindness was just what I’ve experienced all along with everyone I’ve met from Transcendence. Their aim is not merely to provide a great show for locals and tourists alike, but to make us feel good while we’re there. As further evidence of that, the first time I attended a Transcendence show two years back, I went to say hello to Stephan Stubbins after the show. He greeted me like an old friend, and even introduced me to his parents. What can I say, but sweet guy … as it seems all of the folks at TCC are.

John Barleycorn

Fellow Bouverie docent and Jack London scholar Susan Nuernberg sent me a reminder note about the next Jack London Book Discussion Group. The meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 18, beyond the upper parking lot in a cool and lovely live-oak grove. Last round, we sat on picnic tables, shared wine and great cookies while folks shared their interpretations of Jack’s “John Barleycorn.” Was it true? Was it an exaggeration? Was Jack as plagued by alcohol as that novel implied?

Among the guests at that book discussion were Jonah Raskin, another Jack London scholar with a vast knowledge and affection for the man. His comments added to the story immensely and his further knowledge enriched our book experience.

Another guest at that meeting was Tarnel Abbott, Joan London’s granddaughter. Her personal information about Jack and Charmian were great enhancers to the discussion.

As Joan’s granddaughter, that makes Tarnel Jack’s great-granddaughter … while I know that to be a fact, I somehow find it an odd fact. To me, Jack London feels so contemporary, just too much still “alive” to have such descendants.

Obviously that is Jack’s gift to all readers. The immediacy and power of his voice on paper convinces us of his life, and liveliness. Although an illusion, it feels so real.

And none more so than when you sit under a copse of trees with other Jack London readers and share your own take on his illustrious stories.

White Fang and Call of the Wild

For years, I taught his two children’s stories, “White Fang” and “Call of the Wild,” to sixth-grade students. At the time they weren’t books I would have necessarily chosen. But they were ones that principal Francine Maffei included on our sixth-grade reading list. In time, I learned to truly appreciate London’s books (and Francine’s valued wisdom, as well). London’s stories were not merely valuable because he was a famous, local author (hence affording a great field trip to the park, where Greg, the ranger, once shared the secret staircase with my surprised and fascinated students), but London’s books were captivating and easily readable, even for those boys who generally didn’t enjoy reading.

Along the way, I had several parents complain, “Why do you assign these depressing, violent books to young children?” Certainly, I understood their concerns, particularly those from parents of sensitive, young girls. But carefully, I explained the value of the books, their appeal to most of the students. In the end, no parent ever forbade their child to read London’s stories, and I am glad of that. I still see their value today.

Charmian’s biography of Jack

The Jack London Book Discussion Group is led by two scholars, Susan and her friend, poet and professor, Iris Jamal Dunkle. Together, they keep the discussion rolling, lively and on topic. This July 18, the group tackles Charmian’s tome on her soulmate’s short life in Volume I of her biography, “The Book of Jack London.” In September we will discuss Volume II. Right now, the only place that you can purchase this book is at the State Park.

When I recently called, they promised me that I could get a short, and free, pass to run up to the House of Happy Walls to pick up the two volumes. At almost $50 it’s a good thing they comp the parking for that brief visit. I suggest you get your books today.

Fisticuffs and a long marriage

Meanwhile, Susan has been up in my old stomping grounds visiting the Oberon Saloon in Eureka. She’s there as the guest of the Humboldt County Historical Society to report and comment on a fist fight between Jack London and William H. Murphy, that apparently took place at that saloon in 1911.

We understand that the fight will be re-enacted, though Susan will not be involved in any fisticuffs, we hope.

Our suggestion was that she stay at the beautiful Eagle House Victorian Inn on Second Street, not far from the saloon. That’s where my parents met. Mama a waitress at the Boun Gusto Restaurant in the Inn, Papa a worker with Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. He was looking for a good Italian meal at Joseph Massei’s Boun Gusto in the Eagle House, but ended up with a long marriage and three good kids, I among them. Hooray!

Enjoy your stay in summer foggy Eureka, a true respite from Sonoma Valley.

Garden in the Sea

Good news this week from both Quarryhill Botanical Gardens and Glen Ellen’s Wine Country Film Festival.

Film Festival news first: On Sunday, July 27, the WCFF is holding a special event at The KenWood Restaurant. It all begins at 5 p.m. with a reception, a silent auction and an optional dinner. Following dinner the award-winning film “Garden in the Sea” will be shown. After the film, Bill Foss, and invited guests will discuss how art can enlighten, inform and transform our environment.

KenWood Restaurant and Bar is located at 9900 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood.

Net proceeds go to the 28th Wine Country Film Festival. WCFF is a local, legacy cultural event dedicated to bringing awareness to the environment, the arts and world cultures through the powerful medium of film and meaningful discussion. For more information, go to the Wine Country Film Festival website.

Looking for docents

Quarryhill’s good news is for folks who are seeking a great volunteer opportunity. Crystal Helmer, Quarryhill’s marketing director, tells me that they are seeking volunteers for their adult and, especially, for their student tours.

Crystal writes, “Quarryhill provides education for all ages and has a special youth education program for Sonoma County elementary students.

During the 2013-14 school year, Quarryhill hosted 41 classes and could have accommodated more, had there not been a shortage of volunteers. Quarryhill believes in investing in our youth and encourages children to spend time in nature, so they grow up to love, appreciate and protect it.

Since its founding in 1987, visitation is at an all time high. In order to meet the growing demand, Quarryhill needs more volunteers.

There is a wide range of volunteer opportunities to suit your personal interests, including elementary education docents, adult tour docents, flower surveying, nursery work, garden maintenance, office assistance, special events, and visitor center/gift shop sales, to name a few.

If you want to be a docent, either adult or elementary, but are afraid you don’t know enough about plants, don’t worry. You don’t need to have a botanical background to be a docent. Quarryhill staff will teach you everything you need to know. Classes for new docents will be held on Wednesdays from Wednesday, July 30 through Wednesday, Sept. 3 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

To sign up, call Corey Barnes at 996-6027 or email him at cbarnes@quarryhillbg.org.

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The Folks in Glen Ellen column also appears online. Look for it at www.sonomanews.com/category/lifestyle-history. Or look for my name, way at the bottom on the home page at sonomanews.com. Want to see your own name in the news? Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before your desired publication date.