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One Band, Two Movies, A Cocktail...And A Theatre Company In Distress

December 16, 2008

Last time I wrote about Santa Cruz, I described the unparalleled experience of eating a deep fried Twinkie (DFT) on the beach. I've had many good times in that laid back coastal town. Just last weekend, for instance, my couple of days in the city featured an array of cultural delights including a treat for the taste buds in the form of probably the most delicious cocktail I've ever imbibed in my life, not to mention a couple of good films and a wonderful evening spent in the company of a local Irish music outfit.

One aspect of Santa Cruz life that has made visits very worthy in the past has been the work of the city's preeminent theatre company, Shakespeare Santa Cruz. As such, I was alarmed to receive an email forwarded from a friend while I was in town but which I ironically didn't receive until I returned to my office, about the emergency state of the company's finances. If the Board doesn't raise $300,000 by Monday 22 December, the 27-year-old organization may have to close down. The San Jose Mercury News followed-up with a story about the crisis in yesterday's paper. A few months ago I had the pleasure of profiling SSC's then new artistic director, Marco Barricelli, for a profile in American Theatre Magazine. If anyone can pull the company out of this traumatic state of affairs, Mr. Barricelli can. He's a great artist, a strong manager and, as someone who's been through cancer, a survivor in the deepest sense of the word. Santa Cruz will not be the same without SSC and neither will the country's non-profit theatre scene for that matter. I wish I had known about SSC's financial woes when I was there over the weekend. Not that I could have written a check for $300,000 or anything like it. But I would definitely have made a beeline for the theatre. I would have bought a ticket to see the current holiday production of Wind in the Willows, tried to find out more about how things are going over there and talked about the company's situation to all the locals I chatted with over the weekend.

On a slightly brighter note, here are some brief impressions of four highlights from my latest weekend in Santa Cruz:

1. The Wild Rovers at the Poet & Patriot Pub: This local, eight-member Celtic folk-rock band got a friendly if squat-looking downtown bar hopping until at least one in the morning when we left, with its lusty rendition of Pogues and Dubliners covers and fiery/sweet arrangements of traditional folk songs.

2. Milk: I wouldn't normally dream of going to the movies in such a sunny coastal place as Santa Cruz. But it rained torentially all day Sunday, so there wasn't much to do except hit the flicks. The gamut of emotions I felt while watching this biopic was extreme, ranging from sadness about the senseless deaths of Harvey Milk and George Moscone to amazement that equal rights issues have come so far in 30 years to anger that they haven't come far enough (viz Prop 8.)

3. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: The perfect antidote to Milk. Lots of dick jokes and a touching story of young love. Enough said.

4. The Josephine at 515 Kitchen and Cocktails: Whenever I visit 515, my favorite spot for drinks, food and conversation in Santa Cruz, I order a champagne cocktail at the bar. Emily, the bartender, made me a drink I'll never forget when she flavored my glass of bubbly with ginger-infused Bulleit bourbon and a hefty twist of lemon. The Josephine, as it's called though no one at 515 seems to know why, is the best cocktail I've ever had in my life, hands down.

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