Our Laguna: 'Lagunatics' pulls out all the stops

"Lagunatics" ended its 2010 run Saturday, too bad for any folks who missed it.

In the opinion of most of the audience and more than a few of the cast members it was the best "Lagunatics" ever.

How funny was it?

My computer died Saturday morning with five years of stories lost, but I laughed so hard that night at the antics on Forum Theatre stage, I ached.

Pat Kollenda's star turn as a nun, directing a chorus singing Ha! Laguna, instead of Hallelujah was sidesplitting and tailor-made for her brand of ham.

As a writer, I am in awe of the talents of Bree Burgess Rosen and Chris Quilter, who come up with the most delicious lyrics year-after-year, plugged into absolutely perfect music. I mean, what kind of geniuses comes up an opening number, "Hilarious," set to "The Dawning of Aquarius"?

"The Franking Rhapsody," a parody of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was a tribute to retiring City Manager Ken Frank, who was in the audience with his wife, Nancy.

It was the piece de resistance of the show in which the entire cast participated and it got a standing ovation, as did Frank.

"I am so fond of Ken so I am pleased we did a bang-up job," Quilter said.

Frank admitted he had not known who Queen was prior to the show.

"But I do now," Frank said.

One has to wonder what Randy Hatfield will do with that gold lame jacket he has worn for years in the show's annual roast of Frank.

And where will the authors find a target as worthy of their talents?

In Quilter's words in the program:

"Our shy and now retiring city manager, Ken Frank, has thrown in the towel after a scant three decades on the job. We fully intended to gnash our teeth and rend garments, but we lack dental insurance and a decent costume budget. So we will keen instead."

Jokes aside, No Square Theatre is always in search of funding.

"We are growing like crazy," Burgess Rosen said, before the live auction of a role in "Lagunatics" and a week in "The Retreat in Laguna."

A silent auction also raised badly needed funds.

"But nothing puts the 'not' in not-for-profit quite like theater," Burges Rosen said.

The acquisition of the Veterans Memorial Building on Legion Street has allowed No Square to do all the things it thought it would do, "if only." Rehearsals for the February concert, "Radio WHIK 2," was held at Legion Hall. No Square Singers held open mic nights there, rehearsed and performed "Lagunatots" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and rehearsed the 2010 "Lagunatics" in the building they share with Laguna's veterans.

Last summer — whenever that was — No Square offered children an intensive five-week workshop and master classes with Broadway and television actors in conjunction with David Greene's Musical Theatre University. The project culminated in a concert and staged performances of "The Secret Garden," "Into the Woods" and "Light in the Piazza."

But wait! There's More!

"Miss Linda" Haylett, stage manager for "Lagunatics," is conducting a "Nutty Nutcracker" workshop, which started Wednesday, for a performance on Dec. 12. For more information, call (949) 715-0449.

Auditions will be announced for the February production of "Mame," in which Burgess Rosen is set to play Mame and Roxanna Ward will appear as Vera Charles.

Besides a pitch for donations, Burgess Rosen also thanked gala sponsors K'ya Bistro, who catered the event; Mark West, Avalon and Bex wineries; Laguna Board of Realtors and Affiliates Charitable Assistance Fund and the lodging establishments that help fund arts and arts organizations that bring tourists to town.

Also: Crevier BMW, Stu News Laguna, Ketel One Vodka, dentist Mark W. Brisley and the Festival of Arts Foundation.

Friends of the Laguna Beach Library

Best-selling author and former Laguna Beach resident T. Jefferson Parker considers himself an entertainer.

Lucky for his fans his stage is a computer, with actors created by his fertile imagination.

Among those fans, the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, who were entertained by Parker at the 2010 annual dinner, held Oct. 28 at the Laguna Beach Woman's Club.

Parker credits the confluence of his life's experiences (including the early exposure to books) and the places he has experienced it for making him a writer.

He describes his first book as a love story to Laguna, written in one of the cottages on Third Street that now languishes in Laguna Canyon.

The title of the book was "Laguna Heat." It was not well received by the critics. A Los Angeles Times writer said the best thing about the book was the cover — a devastating blow, particularly since he had told everyone at his day job that the review was coming out.

"I walked into work, walked to my cubicle and everyone I saw was very sympathetic," Parker said. "I was completely defeated."

The day got worse. The entire staff was ordered to report to the mall of the complex, where they learned they had all been fired because a project had been canceled.

"We were given two weeks to find another job," Parker said. "I called my bank and asked what my net worth was. It was $800 and I decided then and there not to look for another job."

Susequently, he was called to meet with the publisher of "Laguna Heat," who asked what his next book was about.

"All I knew was that it would be a thriller set in Little Saigon [which became the title of Parker's second book]," Parker said.

The characters he had in mind were the second best surfer in Laguna, his older brother, a severely handicapped veteran who is married to a beautiful cabaret singer who is kidnapped.

Asked by the editor what happened next, all Parker could say was "I don't know."

He scribbled some notes on a napkin and left New York, figuring he had shot himself in the foot.

"Two weeks later, my agent called and said we sold the napkin for $30,000," Parker recalled.

"Many years have transpired and I am still doing the same thing," Parker said.

He is currently working on his 19th book, still with the same intent.

"Whether I write in Laguna Beach or Acapulco, I always write with an eye for entertainment," Parker said

He wants his books to draw in the reader like he was drawn in as child to the wonders of reading.

And his is a craft that gets better with age.

"It's not like horse or pitcher who is done at 30," Parker said. "I am a much better writer now than I was when I wrote 'Laguna Heat.'"

He urged the audience to keep reading, paperback or classic, and certainly his books.

The mission of the friends is to help the library promote reading and provide the books.

They also raise funds for projects such as the recent refurbishment of the children's section of the library and exterior improvements — much accomplished with the cooperation of the city and residents.

"The board voted at our last meeting as thanks to the community to make every Lagunan a member of the Friends of the Library," board President Martha Lydick announced at the dinner.

It must have been a popular decision. The whole board was re-elected by acclamation.

Serving with Lydick: Vice President Sandy Hovanesian, Secretary Angela Irish, Treasurer Peggy Ford and Directors at Large Diane Connell, Dee and Karl Koski, Magda Herliska, Karyn Philippsen, Nancy and Howard Pink, Randy Ray and Terry Smith.

Happy Birthday to me

I would be ungrateful if I did not acknowledge how touched I was that people who had heard me whining about working on my birthday, which fell this year on election day, took steps to cheer me up.

I don' t think I would have gotten sympathetic phone calls from sons and grandchildren if they had known I was going to have the biggest birthday party in town, an impromptu celebration at the Marine Room organized by Elizabeth Pearson, with the help of Anne Johnson, including a cake.

They even remembered that I get snippy when people ask me if I wanted to be Lois Lane when I was a kid.

Huh? Lane was a sidekick to Superman. Reporter Brenda Starr had her own comic book!

Serving the cake was fun. Hearing at least a couple hundred people singing "Happy Birthday" is an experience I will never forget — a memory I will always treasure.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributors are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond at, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92651. Call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot!@latimes.com.

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