Celebrity Sonnets offered a night of surprises at The Avo Playhouse in Vista, California. Local university professors, theatre columnists, actors, dancers and musicians read Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the event turned out to be a welcoming environment for artists to perform.
Pamela Shekinah Perkins tiptoes on stage in flowing purple. She opens a journal to say, “Let’s see what Willi’s been writing about me.” Perkins reads Sonnet 130, “My mistress…if snow be white, why then her breasts are dun…” and peaks down her blouse at her bosom and gives a nod. She reads on, “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head…” Pamela touches her hair and says, “Hmmm, that’s right.” She also reads Sonnet 148 while occasionally looking at a small frame with “Will’s” photo and saying, “That’s my Willi.” Pamela explains that society tells us what beauty is, but we can find beauty with our heart… “…just like Willi did with me.”
Pamela commands the stage with her impressive communications and performing arts background. Perkins was recently featured in The Vagina Monologues at the Lyceum Theater in San Diego. She is the President and CEO of the company Human Communication Institute LLC and author of The Art and Science of Communication (Wiley Publishers, 2008). Perkins is a dynamic motivational speaker, organizational communication consultant and executive coach at HCI. Whether a last minute replacement in the show or not, her preparation is astounding and leaves a lasting impression on her audience, just like she apparently did with “Willi.”
Antonio “TJ” Johnson & The Brutha Earl Band soothed the audience with all-original blues music blending their own words with those of Shakespeare. The band includes keyboards, drums, guitar, saxophone and of course Johnson as the humorous front man. Johnson sang, “You can always say I love you with Shakespeare’s words,” incorporating Sonnet 29 and a smooth saxophone, played by Rocmarvelous. Johnson wrote the gospel-inspired song “King Lear” in the summer of 2005 about those troubled, rainy days and our search for happiness during which we don’t bother to look to the sky. In between soulful singing, Alex Sandie, President of the San Diego Shakespeare Society, presented a dramatic monologue with a Sean Connery-like Scottish brogue in his kilt and Scottish regalia. At the end of the evening the band received many complements. In Johnson’s words, “We are available for parties. And we love to get paid.” Johnson can also be seen in The Fantasticks at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado June 5-July 26 and he is available for booking at www.joutofjob.com.
Other performances included Susan Abernathy and her twin sons, Frederick and Joshua, who stood at their mother’s side in Scottish regalia. The twins are about nine years old and are very cute—each introducing a sonnet for their mother. One of the twins played the bagpipes along with another bagpiper as people entered the theatre. Susan is the Renaissance Mary Queen of Scots for many San Diego Shakespeare Society events and can be heard in the group Vox Nobili Singers.
Other highlights included local dancers from the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and Tangocentric Dance Project as well as SDSU’s Professor of Japanese studies, Yoshiko Higurashi, who gave a passionate performance of Sonnet 29. Higurashi recited, “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes” in Japanese after Steven Jensen performed the sonnet in English.
Jenni Prisk and U.S. Navy Commander Jeffery Myers appropriately acknowledged Memorial Day this May 25, 2009. CDR Myers gave a history of how Memorial Day came to be and said a few touching words before we joined in silence remembering those who fought and died for our freedom.
Charlie Riendeau, a local actor and funny guy, tried to make light of being the last to read. He gave some explanation of Shakespeare’s sonnets and then read Sonnet 3 about youth and age. Riendeau is a bit of a celebrity in San Diego, often performing at The Avo Playhouse, Moonlight Amphitheatre, NVA Theatre and any theatre you can name in the area, and is known to say he holds the keys to the Old Globe Theatre.
Celebrity Sonnets wouldn’t have been possible without WordsWork Project Consultant Sandra Ellis-Troy; Artistic Advisor Kathy Brombacher; the staff at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, along with President Alex Sandie and members of the San Diego Shakespeare Society. The Avo Playhouse is one of two theatres operated by the City of Vista, and the Moonlight Amphitheatre is the crown jewel of The City of Vista where there is great support for the arts. Many theatre people get their start at the Moonlight and the amphitheatre is a supporter of all the other small theatres in North County San Diego. On summer nights the dilapidated amphitheatre is transformed for fabulous Broadway musicals. The productions are always eye-catching and attract talent from San Diego and beyond.
Due to the passage of Proposition L, The Moonlight Amphitheatre has a new stage house with a grand reopening on Saturday, July 4, 2009, offering a family music festival and fireworks. Scheduled for the summer season 2009 are 42nd Street, Phantom, and Cats. Moonlight Cultural Foundation’s Executive Director Diana Aaron announced funds are still needed for the new stage house sound system and to address this need The Avo Playhouse will host a fundraiser, “Moonlight Memories,” on June 6. The Moonlight Amphitheatre’s new stage house is a highly anticipated event that will continue to help support events like Celebrity Sonnets and other local theatres.