Jewish community well represented in local ‘Star’ awards
By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO — The 2010 Star Awards at the Balboa Theatre, for volunteers in San Diego’s Arts Community, opened with the shooting-star energy of Culture Shock ‘s dance ensemble. These kids, with bodies as pliant as rubber, did their fast-moving break dance and bebop routines to a cheering audience. The Star Award Singers, seasoned professionals, Kate Alexander, Kyrsten Hafso and Ira Spector, accompanied by pianist Rayme Sciaroni, sang about the volunteers and the arts organizations with original lyrics to familiar tunes. The first group of award winners were already on stage as the program got off to a snappy start.
Unfortunately, as the performances and awards continued, some technical difficulties, such as getting the Wonder Morton Organ elevated from the pit, and changing from one act to the other, caused lagging delays. This resulted in the show’s lasting over two hours without intermission. However, the adroit MC, the J Company’s exuberant director, Joey Landwehr, managed to engage the audience during the lulls with clever antics and a tap and slap exercise resulting in sounds of rain while the Organ inched its way upward. The magnificent tones, which emanated from this ornate instrument played by Chris Gorsuch, were worth the wait.
Other outstanding performances included the J Company On the Town Singers in an impressive medley of Broadway show tunes, with individual singers belting out solos. The American Rose Theatre’s talented young performers did excerpts from the musical, “Thirteen,” and a string quartet from the San Diego Youth Symphony gave a fine-tuned performance of a Tchaikowsky piece. The North Coast Singers, a choir of young girls dressed in black, sang two selections with beautiful blend and ethereal tone quality. The Mojalet Dance Collective, a modern dance company from Rancho Bernardo, presented an interestingly choreographed and executed work, and the lead singers from the Lyceum Theatre’s cast of “Smokey Joe’s Café” performed several enticing songs with verve and pizzazz,
Most significant were the more that 50 volunteers honored during the evening from organizations as major as the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera companies to the J Company and the Mt. Helix Academy.
The Jewish Community was well-represented at this event. Francine Ginsburg was the award winner from the San Diego Center For Jewish Culture. She heads the Jewish Film Festival. She eloquently answered one of MC Landwehr’s questions about her role as a volunteer. Dr. Laurie Greenberg was honored by the J Company Youth Theatre and Maddie Houts was named “an emerging star” by the J Company Youth Theatre. She was one of two young people who offered words of appreciation to the Gold Star Honorees, Arthur and Molli Wagner.
Arthur Wagner, a native of the Bronx, received his Ph.D. in Theater from Stanford. He served as the first chair of the Theater and Dance Department at UCSD and helped establish it as one of the most highly regarded programs in the country. He also played a key role in reviving the La Jolla Playhouse. In retirement, he continues to support theater and dance organizations in San Diego. Molli has served as a member of UCSD’s Oceanids organization, raising funds for scholarships for UCSD arts, and with other charities. Their standing in the community was reflected by some of the people who were present to honor them such as Irwin and Joan Jacobs and Dana Fayman.
In Arthur Wagner’s remarks, he lauded the cultural offerings now available in our city and compared them to the offerings in 1972 when only the Old Globe’s Summer Shakespeare Festival presented actors of professional caliber. Now, there are three companies who use equity actors year round. No other major city exceeds that.
According to Arthur Wagner, “If the sciences and engineering serve as the “head” of our society, then the arts are its heart and soul.” And the engine that keeps the arts organizations running are the large cadre of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers such as those honored last Monday evening, Sept. 20, at the Balboa Theatre.
Wingard is a retired San Diego Symphony violinist and a freelance writer on the arts