Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On!

There was The Ancient One this morning, sitting in seat #2 in the jury box in a courtroom . . . on the set of TV series Boston Legal at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, CA. The witness being questioned had just made an "earth shaking" response to a question from one of the defense attorneys. And the room began to shake. Silence for a moment. Then the actress in the witness chair shouted, "What's going on?" A crew member calmly responded, "An earthquake." Designated crew members ushered us out of the studio in an orderly fashion. A few minutes later, we were sent off to an early and extended lunch period, only to be readmitted to the sound stage 1½ hours later after a thorough safety inspection.

When we first exited the sound stage, there was little information. Cell phones were on everybody's ears. But circuits were over loaded. The Ancient One tried to call Donna but kept getting error messages. Then his phone rang. It was a call from son Bill in New York. He was calling to see if the California Cohanim were okay. Then he informed me that the quake was reported as being a 5.6 with an epicenter in Chino Hills, about 29 miles from downtown L.A. (and probably 15-20 miles from the studio).

What a curious wonder we discover in our modern technology. After experiencing the shaking of the quake, I learn the details on a mobile phone call from the other side of the country as Bill reports what he is watching CNN.

There is something oddly exciting in going through a quake at a dramatic moment in the filming of an episode of a TV Series on a studio sound stage. When we all returned from lunch and returned to the set, there was this strange feeling that something had changed, that not everybody was as focused on their work as they were in the morning before there was "a whole lot of shaking going on."

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Ideal Husband @ CCPT

Oscar Wilde's The Ideal Husband has one more weekend to run at Culver City Public Theatre (CCPT). Performances will be nest Saturday and Sunday (August 2 & 3) at 2:00 p.m. In Paul Carlson Park (Motor at Braddock Avenues)

Below are some pictures taken at the Saturday, July 26 performance. (Hopefully, names will be added later but The Ancient One is working this week and decided it was better to show the pictures even if he can't give the actors the credit they deserve until he has a bit more time.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sluefoot Sue & Pecos Bill at CCPT (Encore)

After my problems with the photos of yesterday's performance of Sluefoot Sue & Pecos Bill (see previous post following this one), I retook pictures today using a flash in the hope I might lessen or get rid of shadows. As a result, I switched out the pictures in the previous post. And now I add some additional pictures from today's performance. First, a cast photo:

L to R: Josh Gren, Donna Donnelly, Blake Anthony, Derrick Billitzer, Heidi Dotson (Playwright and Director [kneeling], Sharon Munfus, Dean Edward (top), Nicole Nelson and Barry Nackos

Next, the vanquished, yet beloved, Clarence the bear who loses a wrestling match with Sluefoot Sue:

Catfish McGraw proving he's a "thinking man.:"

Ma, incognito:

And, finally, Widowmaker, one nasty horse who has "sent 13 men to early graves:"

And a closing thank you to an incredible audience today. Why, those kids loved the show so much that a couple of the toddlers kept trying to run on to the stage. Credit should also be given to a couple of very quick fathers who caught those kids before they could join the cast.

For information on Culver City Public Theatre (CCPT) and this summer's performance schedule, click here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sluefoot Sue and Pecos Bill @ CCPT

It was a very bright, sunny day as the 2nd weekend opened for Culver City Public Theatre's 2008 season. I had the camera and got some great pictures, except that the blending of sun and shade on the performance area made it difficult to make all the faces clear. Anyway, I do present the following from today's performance of Sluefoot Sue and Pecos Bill with apologies to actors who are not totally recognizable. [Note: I retook pictures on Sunday, July 27 and switched out the following for the originals. I used a flash in the bright sunlight and, while not totally successful, I was able to make the actors' faces a bit more recognizable.]

Donna Donnelly (Ma)

Dean Edward (Orlo Hightower) & Sharon Munfus (Louisiana Lu)

Josh Gren (Catfish McGraw), Nicole Nelson Sluefoot Sue) & Blake Anthony (Pecos Bill)

Josh Gren (Catfish McGraw) & Eric Billitzer (Caterpillar Pete)

Barry Nackos (Marshall Doom)

Pecos Bill & Widowmaker

Sluefoot Sue and Pecos Bill runs Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00 noon through August 24 at Paul Carlson Park (Motor and Braddock) in Culver City. Bring the kids for an hour filled with pure ole Wild West fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The New Season is Underway (CCPT)

The 6 week 2008 season of Culver City Public Theatre (CCPT) began last Saturday. The Childrens' Popcorn Theatre presentation of Sluefoot Sue and Pecos Bill, written and directed by Heidi Dotson opened CCPT's 10th anniversary season. It is a rollicking, hilarious 1-hour journey through the old west and the good guys do come out on top at the end. It will run every Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 noon though August 24.

The mainstage performance was Oscar Wilde's The Ideal Husband directed by Gregg Brevoort. The fine performances by an outstanding cast were augmented by spectacular costumes. Husband will run 2 more weekends at 2:00 p.m., closing on August 3. It will be followed for 3 weeks, starting August 9, by To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by John Glass and Maria Turnmeyer. The Ancient One will be appearing in that production as Judge Taylor.

Hopefully, I can post photos next week from this coming weekend's performances of Sluefoot. . . and Ideal. . . Below, I do offer one photo from last night's rehearsal of Mockingbird.

(L to R) Zander Aeroff (Jem), Billy Shaffer (Dill), Remy Beland (Scout) and Dean Edward (Atticus Finch)

More CCPT posts will follow as the season progresses.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I saw the photograph hanging by the nurse's station at the Cardiac Rehab Center this morning. It was magnificent! I suspected who the photographer was and, when he came in, I asked him. Sure enough, it was taken by Neal Patterson who I have previously recognized for his photo of a crow's nest. This time it is a photo of a dragonfly who lit at the top of the radio antenna on Neal's pickup truck where he captured the image.

Thank you for sharing this photo Neal!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rycus Rendezvous in Redondo

Roughly every 5 years the Rycus Family, of which Donna is a member, holds a reunion. The most recent was the weekend of July 11-23 in Redondo Beach. Donna, along with cousins Deana Unternaher, Ellen Wohl, Lisa Rycus and Lauren Ako, worked for well over a year planning the gathering. The official site, at which the Saturday night banquet was held, was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Redondo Beach. The Sunday afternoon picnic was held at Hesse Park, near our home in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Between the informal gatherings, the banquet and the picnic about 80 family members attended. To send out invitations, a master mailing data base was built that contained information on 87 family units, all descendants of the original Raicus. Family members are extended throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, Israel and The Netherlands. While most of the attendees came from the western U.S., there were a few from Michigan and one Toronto cousin who had recently moved to the Los Angeles area.

To provide a hint of how extensive the Rycus family is, I present the following, incredible family portrait which was taken around 1910:

While I cannot identify everyone, the picture includes the 6 children of Israel Raicus (1850-1906), the family patriarch, their spouses and children born into the family at the time the picture was taken (102 years ago). While I am a bit confused about exactly who is who, Israel's children were Peter Raicus (Rycus), Morris Raicus, Goodman Rycus, Edie Rycus, Louis Rycus, and Sadie Rycus.

I do know that Peter Rycus, Donna's Great-Grandfather is 2nd from the left in the top row. His wife, Dina Leah Kreiss is seated in front of him and their children George, Sadie and Sam are the first 3 children from the left in the bottom row. I apologize to other branches of the family for focusing on this group because Peter and young Sadie have appeared in an earlier post, seen here about 2 weeks ago. My mother was also in that picture taken in 1922 (est.)

Anyway, getting back to the Rendezvous in Redondo. One of the highlights was a PowerPoint presentation that cousin Mitch Rycus (Ann Arbor, MI) had put together for the reunion 5 years ago in Toronto. Well, we loaded it on my laptop and Mitch (below) regaled us with family history through 101 slides of photos, documents, and charts. Thanks Mitch!!!

Below is a small collection of pictures from the Sunday picnic. I know most of the "cousins" but will not begin to try and identify them here. The posting of the photos is for those who happen to stop by. (If you are family and want copies of individual shots, send me an e-mail and I will try to accommodate you.)

The last one is from near the end of the successful weekend. Donna is smiling with cousin Tommy, a professional drummer, to whom a special thank you goes for providing live music at the banquet through his jazz quartet. They were great!

So, that's a little bit about the Rycus family and the Rendezvous in Redondo. Where and when will the next reunion be?

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Day at the Races

Yesterday we were the guests of Bob Beck and the folks from Oak Harbor Financial at the Del Mar Race Track Turf Club. A wonderful day that was very much appreciated.

Donna and her dad looked very relaxed and happy. . .and that was before their horse won the 2nd race.

And, in a rare moment trying to be a sports photographer, I can tell that the winner is #1:

Thank you Bob and Millie et al. We had a great time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking West. . .

On the drive to San Diego today, we pulled into a rest area along Interstate 5 within the boundaries of Camp Pendleton. I found a spot with a good view down toward the Pacific Ocean.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Along the Strand

This past weekend was Donna's big Family Reunion held in Redondo Beach and at a park near our home in Rancho Palos Verdes. I'll be writing a long post about it in a day or so. Today, I just want to share some pictures I took on my walk Saturday morning from the hotel where we were staying (the Crowne Plaza in Redondo Beach) to the pier in Hermosa Beach. I'm not sure how far it was but the walking time was about 68 minutes (not counting the time it took for me to take pictures along the way.)

It was a brilliant, sunny morning. Below are views from the Hermosa Beach Pier first looking south toward Redondo Beach and then looking north in the direction of Manhattan Beach.

The Hermosa Beach part of the walk was done along The Strand, a combined pedestrian/bicycle path that runs between the sand and beachside homes. I had never walked in this area before and was amazed at many of the homes. Below are a few pictures I took of some corner houses that caught my eye. If you look closely, you will notice that some are very wide along the face but not very deep.

The first one was my favorite! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Prey, Prey, Prey

It was sort of a John Sandford reading orgy. Consecutively, I read 3 of Sandford's Prey novels; Silent Prey (1992), Mind Prey (1995) and Mortal Prey (2002). These mysteries, published over a 10 year period, are part of what I believe is now an 18 book series featuring protagonist Lucas Davenport. Why these three? Other than my liking Sandford's work, they all were part of a large selection of his books available recently at the local Costco. (Now you know how I select what I read most of the time.)

Silent Prey begins with the escape, during his trial, of a vicious, drug-addled, insane pathologist murderer, Michael Bekker, who had previously been captured (and maimed) by Davenport in Eyes of Prey. Bekker's forte is slowly torturing and killing his victims after removing their eyelids, in the name of science, so he can see into their souls and study them as they die. After his escape, victims reflecting Bekker's MO start showing up in New York. Then Davenport, who has left the Minneapolis Police Department, is hired by the New York City Police Department to find Bekker and, surreptitiously, root out some "rogue killers" within the NYPD. Davenport does manage to pull off both feats with his usual panache and Sandford's storytelling dexterity.

In Mind Prey Lucas is back in Minneapolis, now as Deputy Chief of Police, the focus is less that of solving a murder than it is trying to rescue kidnap victims, a noted psychiatrist and her 2 daughters, before they are murdered. I just knew I would enjoy reading the entire mystery when it started with this opening sentence: "The storm blew up late in the afternoon, tight, gray clouds hustling over the lake like dirty, balled-up sweat socks spilling from a basket." What a graphically wonderful description! The story did not disappoint and the ending result held a very pleasant surprise that I won't share here.

Mortal Prey offers a different twist. Davenport is in St. Louis, on loan to the FBI, as they try to capture hit-woman Clara Rinker, who Lucas has faced before. She is out to gain revenge on some local mob figures who had failed in trying to get her killed. Lucas, while respecting what the FBI "does well," makes contact with some retired St. Louis detectives. They succeed in uncovering a lot of important intelligence using their street smarts, something which the FBI, the story suggests, "does not do well." There are plenty of twists, turns and close calls. In some ways, Rinker is one of the more likable foes Davenport has faced. While the mystery was a spellbinder most of the way, the ultimate ending was a bit anti-climatic.

According to my count, I have now read at least 10 of the 18 Prey mysteries. After 3 in a row I plan to take a bit of a hiatus from Sandford and Lucas Davenport. But I know that I will return and eventually read the full series.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Who Are Those Girls?

Nearly 28 years ago when Donna and I first really met, she came from Los Angeles to visit me in Springfield, IL. While she was there, we went through a carton of old family photos which included the below picture:

I mentioned to Donna that I knew who the girl on the right was but had no idea about the other girl and the man. Donna knew who they were. The picture was taken sometime in the 1920-22 range; we aren't exactly sure. The man is Peter Rycus, the blond girl is his daughter Sadie and the dark haired girl is Martha Morritz. The girls represent a friendship that eventually led to the bringing together of 2 families.

Peter Rycus was Donna's great grandfather. Sadie, who met her husband Abe Max at my parents wedding, is Donna's maternal grandmother. Martha, who later married Bill Cohen, is my mother. Sadie and Martha were close friends. There is no way they could imagine that 60+ years after this picture was taken, Sadie's oldest granddaughter (Donna) would marry Martha's youngest son (now known by his children as The Ancient One). Their friendship was the beginning of a trail that led to the combining of two families that was formalized when Donna and I married on January 1, 1981. (Actually, the blending of the families came in 1972 when Abe and Martha, both widowed at the time, married each other.)

Occasionally, we have had to assure people that Donna's marriage to me was not incestuous. While it is true that my mother-in-law is my step sister, we are not related by blood. When my kids explain the full range of relationships within our family, e.g. Donna is my step niece as well as my wife, it is reminiscent of that old song, "I'm My Own Grandpa."

We do have fun explaining it all to those who are curious.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Doing It Up With Tiles

My morning walk on some weekend days takes me through the grounds of Vista Grande School, about 2 blocks from home. It is a typical California school with all classrooms opening to the outside. [It's takes a while for those of us who grew up "back east" to get accustomed to schools with no interior hallways.) Some time ago, in a move to brighten up the school ground, a series of colorful, ocean-themed panels made of tiles were mounted on brick walls around the campus. I did remember my camera yesterday and finally took some pictures to share:

Together they bring back memories of singing about an "octopus's garden." That seems fitting for my 300th post. Enjoy!