Tuesday, Jul 03 2012 05:03 PM

CAMILLE GAVIN: Yes, 'Grease' is still the word

By The Bakersfield Californian

The Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys of the fictional Rydell High will be strutting their stuff at Stars on Friday with the opening of "Grease."

Sheryl Cleveland, the director, says the show will be much more like the original 1971 musical than the 1978 film version, which starred John Travolta as Danny and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy.

Related Info

'Grease'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Stars Restaurant Theatre, 1931 Chester Ave.

Admission: $50-$54; $30 students

Information: 325-6100

'Playful Minds'

Opening reception: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Younger Gallery, 1340 Truxtun Ave.

Admission: Free

Information: 324-9000

GO & DO

"The movie really focused on Danny and Sandy," Cleveland said. "What we're doing is very much of an ensemble show with golden opportunities for everyone to have their moments of shining."

Lead roles in the Stars production are played by Cody Garcia and Bethany Rowlee, with Shay Burke as the tough-talking Kenickie Murdock. Rosie Ayala has the part of Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies.

"We have quite a few newcomers and a lot of veterans," Cleveland said. "There are 18 in the cast and their ages range from 15 to 40."

Char Gaines is vocal director and Kelci Lowry did the choreography. Kathi Lowry, Nichole Heasley, Jodi Mitchell and Sarah Torrente are in charge of costumes. The music will be played by a live band.

"Grease," by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is filled with songs and lively dance routines. The story is set in 1959 and involves teenage rebellion of that era, gang violence and pregnancy. It also includes onstage smoking but, said the director, cigarettes are fake so the audience doesn't need to worry about inhaling tobacco smoke.

Cleveland, who directed "Urinetown" last summer at Stars, teaches math at Golden Valley High School. She once aspired to be an actress, however, and took drama classes during her student years at Indiana University and at Ball State.

"I realized that it was a great hobby but you can't make much money unless you're really famous," she said. "So I started taking math classes."

She doesn't regret her dramatic studies and still finds them useful.

"Those acting classes are a big help in teaching math students," she said.

Ceramics show

A learning experience awaits visitors at Friday evening's opening of "Playful Minds" at the Younger Gallery, the second annual Ceramic Artists of Kern County exhibition.

Nicole Saint-John of the Arts Council said there will be a functioning potter's wheel provided by Dan Slayton of Cal State Bakersfield. Several Bakersfield High School students will demonstrate its use during the reception.

"We also will display ceramic in its different stages from greenware to glaze-fired," she added, "and we show the different techniques on wall posters."

One of the 15 artists exhibiting is Yvonne Cavanagh, who teaches ceramics at BHS. She's also the winner of this year's Beautiful Bakersfield award in the individual art category.

"I was actually really surprised and humbled by winning the (award) since I was nominated among a very talented group of people, Danny Lipco, Peggy Darling and Shari Fortino," Cavanagh said in an email. "It is very rewarding to be recognized for making your hometown a better place."

In addition to being a ceramics teacher at BHS and her individual creativity, Cavanagh was saluted for bringing the state California Arts Educators Association annual meeting to Bakersfield last November. This is the second year the Arts Council has held an exhibit devoted to ceramics, and Cavanagh is pleased that it brings more awareness to this particular kind of art.

"It is such an incredible medium with such versatility," she said. "You can sculpt, paint, draw, throw on the wheel, create tiles and so much more with clay."

A graduate of BHS herself, Cavanagh said her initial enthusiasm about becoming a ceramicist began when she was a student there.

"It was the class I took in high school from Kathy Kalson that led me to making ceramics my career," she said. "And I am so grateful to my principal David Reese for keeping it alive and flourishing at Bakersfield High School."

By the way, Kalson is one of the artists exhibiting in "Playful Minds."

Cavanagh has a series of five vases in the show, which she created on the wheel and then decorated with carving, lines and an addition of grog, a sand-like material to give added texture to the starbursts on the vases.

"I let myself play with decoration while thinking about celebrations," she said. "I gave them all a blue hue to create that sense of magic that comes with night-time festivities."

Latino Book Award

Delano native Yolanda Espinosa Espinoza has been honored with a first place in Young Adult Nonfiction for her book, "El Caracol," by the International Latino Book Awards. Espinoza, who taught social studies at Walter Stiern Middle School until her retirement in 2008, now lives in Bakersfield and spends part of the year in Rosarito, Mexico.She told me in a phone conversation that the book is based on the life of her father, the son of immigrant Mexican field workers who grew up working along with his family and living in labor camps in the San Joaquin Valley.

At a young age he contracted tuberculosis and spent two years in a sanitarium in Springville before recovering from the disease.

Espinoza explained the title of her book by saying "snail" is the English meaning of the Spanish word caracol. But for Spanish-speaking people, it is a metaphor for the twists and turns of life.

Incidentally, I learned from checking the Latino Book Awards website that Pam Munoz Ryan, another author with local roots, was honored in two categories at the June 5 ceremony in New York City. Ryan won the Best Educational Children's Book award written in English for "The Dreamer," and Best Young Adult fiction in English or bilingual, for "El Sonador."

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