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Megan Spector, 10, proves a strong ‘Annie’ in Pickwick Players production

May 15, 2010 2 comments

Jessica Brandon hugs Megan Spector, Claire Summy and Jacklyn Jardel following performance of "Annie"

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – In the current Pickwick Players production of Annie, Megan Spector, 10, a fourth grade student at Solana Highlands Elementary School is a stand-out in the title role at the Moxie Theatre on El Cajon Boulevard.  Come fall, she plans to try out for the play Snoopy and has no idea what part she might land.   Whatever she gets, she says she will be happy.

At her side during a post performance interview were two other members of the mixed juvenile and adult troupe, Carlton Oaks Elementary School students Jacklyn Jardel and Claire Summy who played the orphans Pepper and Victoria respectively.   Next time, perhaps, one of them will get a lead role in Snoopy.   Although the children compete with each other for parts, they are friends off-stage. Once out of their costumes, the young actors give no indication who is the star and who is in the supporting cast; they’re just enthusiastic grade school students, coming off the adrenalin high of a good performance.

Pickwick Players has several goals, explains Jessica Brandon, who is president of the drama organization as well as an adult cast member. She played  Mrs. Greer, a member of Daddy Warbuck’s household staff, and one of the singing Boylan Sisters on the radio show at which Warbucks announces a $50,000 reward to people who can prove themselves Annie’s parents.

“Pickwick Players is in its third year,” Brandon said.  “It was founded by Lisa Goodman three years ago and the ambition always has been to have a children’s theatre company where the children aren’t having to pay to be in the productions, and they are getting the experience of working on theatre productions and being on stage.”

Asked if pay-to-perform was a major problem, Brandon responded, “There are a lot of theatre companies out there and for some of them it is more about the money than it is about the process or the experience.   Our goal is to let any kid from any background be able to have the same opportunity to learn and to grow, and there are lots of kids here. There is so much self-esteem built being on stage.”

Megan’s mom, Sheri Spector, beaming over how well Megan overcame a bout of laryngitis in time for the Depression-era musical, said her daughter has enjoyed meeting and working with other student actors from other schools and also performing with the adult actors, which “was a new experience for her.   She has been in kid shows but never had worked with adults before.”

In the play, Annie sings “Tomorrow” to a woman (June Cole) selling apples instead of to a dog – the troupe concerned that an untrained dog might cause havoc on the stage. Annie also charms such adults as Oliver Warbucks (Brett Daniels), his private secretary Grace Farrell (Alisa Williams), and President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Shattuck).  On the other hand, she infuriates the director of the orphanage, Mrs. Hannigan (Dawn Marie Williams), while being the acknowledged ringleader of the orphans who sing of their “Hard Knock Life.”

Annie is  a big part for a small girl, but Megan proved herself equal to the challenge– not surprising for a young actress from whom ecstatic teachers have been demanding encore “Tomorrow” performances since she learned the song as a preschooler.

Every member of the audience views plays through the eyes of his or her own interests.  As one who always has been fascinated by U.S. Presidents and by Jewish history, I was pleased that three U.S. Presidents and three well-known Jews were included in the script, some having parts on stage, others mentioned in allusions.   Franklin Roosevelt was on stage, while Herbert Hoover was blamed for the Depression by people living in “Hoovervilles” and Calvin Coolidge was remembered as the man who declared that the business of America is business.    Two Jews represented on stage were a be-robed Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (Greg Bass) and Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau (Mark Spencer), who warns FDR about a militarizing Germany.   The financier and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch supposedly is on the other end of a phone conversation with Warbucks.

For my grandson, Shor, who has a pet dog named “Buddy,” the show was enjoyable – but something seemed missing without Annie crooning to  her dog Sandy.

For Megan, not only because of her chance to star is Annie an important play.  “It kind of teaches you a lesson how if you keep dreaming you might get what you want,” she said.  “If you have a strong dream, keep dreaming it.”

Kudos to producers Cameron Williams and Renee Levine and to Raylene J. Wall and Carolyn E. Wheat, respectively director and assistant director.  Alisa Williams, a teacher at Carleton Oaks, not only portrayed Grace, but also served as the show’s choreographer, while Kirk Valles was musical director.

Annie has one more performance, a matinee on Sunday, May 16, at 2 p.m.  Call 619-756-6955 to see if there are any tickets left.

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Harrison is editor of  San Diego Jewish World

San Diego’s Historic Places: Miramar National Cemetery

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment


Jackson, Principi and Muro unveil dedication plaque as Leopard, left, looks on.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Miramar National Cemetery was dedicated Saturday, January 30,  2010, by two members of Congress and ranking officials of the military and Veterans Administration with promises that San Diego will once again be able to bury the bodies of its veterans—and not only their ashes—before the end of the year.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which has served San Diego since the mid 19th century ran out of room in 1966 for gravesites, although inurnments in the columbarium continue to this day. That has meant that any San Diego veteran or spouse desiring to be buried in a casket, and not cremated, had to go to another national cemetery with the closest one being in Riverside, California.

This has worked a hardship on all veteran families in San Diego, who had to choose between a gravesite somewhere else or an urn here in San Diego. In particular, this caused a hardship for Jewish veteran families desiring to observe the religion’s traditional prohibition against cremation.

Alan Miliefsky, California commander of Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., said another feature of the cemetery – pre-location in the gravesites of crypts—will make it easier for military burials to be accomplished within the quick time frame of 24 to 48 hours that is typical of a Jewish funeral. Having the cemetery on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station also will mean that buglers from the Marine Corps Band such as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which played at the dedication ceremonies, will be available to sound the customary “Taps” at military burials.

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, said that the plans for the cemetery include “a combination of natural and man-made designs” using California native plants in such a way that the cemetery will be considered “a garden of heroes.”

The congressman paid special tribute to Retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Cardenas, board chairman of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Support Foundation, who helped organize a 10-year-drive to build a new national cemetery in San Diego County. Joking that the general was “a general pain in the butt,” he said that Washington would never have responded as it did without his prodding.

The congressman also surprised many in the audience by thanking a disgraced former colleague, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who now is serving a term in federal prison following conviction in a bribery trial. Filner and Cunningham—respectively a liberal Democrat and a Conservative Republican—had many clashes, sometimes even bitter ones, but Filner said it was important to remember that Cunningham, who previously had been an ace pilot in the Vietnam War, had initiated the effort to have a new national cemetery built in San Diego. Acknowledging that Cunningham made mistakes for which he is serving the sentence, Filner added that Cunningham also did some good, especially for veterans. Filner’s impromptu comments, though controversial, were received with applause.

Congresswoman Susan Davis, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, commented that with the construction of Miramar National Cemetery, San Diego, with one of the highest veteran populations in the country, will again have a choice “when it comes to their funeral arrangements.”

The two Congressional representatives preceded to the podium Kirk K. Leopard, whose job as director of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery will be expanded to include the directorship of both cemeteries.

Leopard said the 313-acre cemetery on the west tip of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near the Nobel Drive exit of Interstate 805 will be built  in phases, with the first phase to include approximately 11,500 conventional gravesites, 4,500 in-ground cremation sites, and 10,000 colambarium niches. Eventually, he added in an interview, there will be combined space for 162,000 caskets and urns, which he estimated will be filled within seven decades.

Fort Rosecrans just this last December recorded its 100,000th funeral. One of the reasons that Miramar will be able to accommodate more burials than Fort Rosecrans, said Leopard, is that the ground will be dug 10 feet deep, instead of five feet deep, and each site will be able to accommodate two caskets.

Although the first phase of cemetery construction is not expected to be completed until 2012, a portion of the first phase is planned to be ready by September of this year, when the first burials will occur, according to Leopard.

Part of the reason it took a decade for the cemetery to reach this point was the presence of two endangered species on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station — the California gnatcatcher and the fairy shrimp.  Land was set aside for both the gnatcatcher, a bird known for its catlike mewing call, and the shrimp which breeds during the rainy season in vernal pools, remaining dormant the rest of the year.

The keynote speaker of Saturday’s ceremony was Steve L. Muro, acting undersecretary for memorial affairs. He said that Miramar will have a memorial wall constructed to honor soldiers who were lost at sea, missing in action, and are prisoners of war, so that their families will have a place to symbolically visit them. He paid tribute to Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives, who received a standing ovation from fellow members of the audience, and also remembered John Ibe, a strong local advocate, now deceased, for the Miramar National Cemetery.

One of the names most mentioned during the ceremony was that of Abraham Lincoln, whose famous Gettysburg Address in 1863 dedicated one of what today is a 131-unit system of national cemeteries. It was Lincoln who ordered cemeteries to be set aside to honor those who would give their lives defending their country. In his Gettysburg Address, the 16th President also predicted that the world would little remember what was said that day – but in that he was mistaken.

Among other speakers was Anthony Principi, who had served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs during President George W. Bush’s administration and who, Muro noted, was one of the top administration officials who had pushed for locating a cemetery at Miramar.

A former U.S. Navy officer, Principi, a resident or Rancho Santa Fe, said he anticipated that he might someday be buried in this cemetery himself – a sentiment also expressed by another speaker, Maj. Gen. Anthony L. Jackson, who is commanding general for the Marine Corps installations in the Western United States.

In the ceremony emceed by KGTV/ Channel 10’s Bob Lawrence, there were numerous other dignitaries who did not speak, but who were recognized, including San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, and two Medal of Honor recipients: Jay Vargas, who fought in Vietnam, and Walt Ehlers, who was decorated for his bravery on D-Day during World War II.

The dedication ceremony began with a musical prelude by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band under the direction of Staff Sgt Victor Ney, and ended with Marines rendering a three-volley rifle salute and the playing of “Taps” by Sgt. Austin Hunt, bugler. In between there was a presentation of the colors by an honor guard from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar; the playing of the Star Spangled Banner followed by a medley of the songs of the various branches of the Armed Services; a prayer of dedication by Chaplain Ronald Ritter, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony in which the dignitaries donned hard hats and wielded shovels; and the unveiling of a plaque by Jackson, Principi and Muro. The plaque said:

“Miramar National Cemetery Dedicated to the Memory of All the Patriotic Men and Women Who Answered Their Country’s Call to Service.” Below that inscription were the names of Barack Obama, President of the United States; Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Steve L. Muro, Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery Administration. The plaque carried the Dedication date of January 30, 2010. 

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Women’s History Museum sponsor June 4 wine, cheese and chocolate festival

May 15, 2010 1 comment

 SAN DIEGO (Press Release)- The San Diego Women’s History Museum will sponsor a wine, cheese and chocolate festival from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, June 4, in the Spanish Village section of Balboa Park, with  commemorative wine glasses to be awarded to the first 500 attendees.

Dozens of well-known chocolatiers, wine and cheese vendors will participate by offering samples of their wares for tasting and enjoying. As well, attendees will be entertained by San Diego’s Queen of Boogie Woogie, Sue Palmer.  The festival was so well received by the public the last years it
sold out two days prior to the event date.  More wine, cheese and chocolate lovers will be accommodated this year in the larger space.

The Festival is held to promote and support the on-going activities at the Women’s History museum located at 2323 Broadway.  This includes both cultural and educational exhibits, lectures, vintage clothing presentations, school tours and a well-developed college student intern program.

Various gifts, including the wine glasses provided by Prudential California Realty, and $195 Vouchers for Skin Care and over $300 in Discount Cards for local restaurants will be available to festival attendees. Paper goods, meanwhile, have been donated by Comerica Bank.

Tickets for this year’s festival can be purchased on line at www.WomensMuseumSD.org.  Prices are as follows: Advance Ticket $25 After May 30 – $30 Group of ten or more $20 each VIP $50 (includes reserved seating and drink vouchers.)

To learn more about the festival, contact the museum’s Executive Director, Ashley Gardner, ashley@womensmuseumsd.org or at (619) 233-7963 or visit the museum’s website www.womensmuseumsd.org for more information.

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Preceding provided by San Diego Womens History Museum

Millionaire American filmed Israel’s history in color

May 15, 2010 5 comments

Staff Report

SAN DIEGO–Our correspondent in Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel, Ulla Hadar, sent along to us video footage of a television newscast devoted to the discovery of American millionaire Fred  Monosson’s color movie footage of pre-state and early Israel.   The video literally has bounced and forth across the world, as she  received it from Michael Rassler, executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara and former chief executive of the UJF in San Diego.

For most people, Israel’searly  history is in ‘black and white,’ but Monosson–a wealthy Boston raincoat manufacturer and Zionist–had access to the most sophisticated color film camera of its time, and was welcomed wherever he went. 

His film cannisters were about to be thrown out by his family, until someone decided to take a look at what was on the reels.  The result, astounding to Israelis, is a look back at the nation’s history — in color.

Here is a link to a short Israeli TV documentary, with English subtitles, on some of the events, scenes and people that Monosson saw:  http://www.blip.tv/file/2915188.