Thoughts from the Publisher: Sept. 25, 2008

neena-new-headshot.jpgBy Neena Strichart

As a rule, I stick pretty close to home. Whether it’s work, entertainment, dining out or visiting friends, my personal hamster wheel is quite small. Need proof? I have a 5-year-old car with just 21,000 miles on the odometer. I feel comfortable in my own neighborhood and, like in the theme song for the television show Cheers, I prefer to be where “everybody knows my name.”
Last Saturday evening I threw caution to the wind and ventured out of my corner of the world. I filled my car’s gas tank, grabbed my passport and my mother and headed to La Mirada to have dinner with my friends Kathy King and Mark Long. After a fabulous home-cooked meal, we drove just a few blocks to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts to see their latest production. As we approached the entrance, I could hardly believe my eyes– before me stood a half dozen or so members of the Signal Hill Historical Society waiting their turns to enter the theatre. Sheesh! How funny we would all show up on the same night– and so-o-o-o-o far away. Seemed kind of Twilight Zone-like to me.
Anyway, we quickly found our seats and sat down for a thoroughly enjoyable performance of Souvenir– billed as a fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins. Never having heard of Jenkins, I was in for not just entertainment but a bit of a history lesson as well. According to the press kit I was able to procure, Florence Foster Jenkins was an eccentric socialite who believed she was a great soprano. Although nothing of the kind, she nevertheless performed in concerts in the 1930s and ‘40s to sold-out rooms, including what she considered her greatest achievement– an appearance at Carnegie Hall. Her benefit concerts were her gifts to her fans– yet ironically they were there to mock her and to make sport of her “majestically awful” singing voice. It is said that she mistook the laughter as either cheers from admirers or jealousy from competitors.
La Mirada Theatre sure struck gold when they found Linda Edwards (Jenkins) and Carl J. Danielsen (Cosme McMoon) to deliver this two-person show. Edwards performed magnificently as the excruciatingly tone-deaf Jenkins while Danielsen entertained us as the story-telling piano accompanist who protected his operatic songbird with love and care. Besides remembering lines and songs, Edwards had another grand task– she had to sing badly. For me it would have been a breeze, but Edwards had to really work at it because she is an incredibly talented singer. (My dad used to say that Jack Benny could only play the violin so badly because in fact he was an accomplished musician.) She proves her worth in the end– that performance alone was worth the price of the tickets.
Wanting to venture out of town? Go to for information on this season’s offerings. Heck, La Mirada isn’t all that far!

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