Friday, June 3, 2011

Take in a bit of history with your theater - by Judge Jim Gray

Do you want to treat yourself to great theater for a truly modest price? Get tickets for the upcoming production of "The Hiding Place," based upon Tim Gregory's original adaptation of the autobiography by Corrie ten Boom.
The show will be performed at Vanguard University's Lyceum Theatre in Costa Mesa at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays June 10 through 25, by the American Coast Theater Company, a resident professional theater group that performs at Vanguard during the summer season.
The play is set in Holland, and tells the story of ten Boom and her family of Christian watchmakers. The story begins in 1937 with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the family's watch shop, and goes on to describe what happened in their small town after the Nazi invasion of Holland. Several of the family members joined the Dutch Resistance movement, and all of them helped build a secret room onto their small family house where Jews and political prisoners hide from the Nazis.
So yes, this is a "Diary of Anne Frank"-type of story with the central figure naturally being ten Boom, while she and her family quietly shelter Jewish refugees in their small house during World War II. And we follow the story after a Dutch Nazi collaborator betrayed them, and also follow how their subsequent experiences affected them and so many other people after the war ended.
But there is more because the play also shows us much of ten Boom's human side as this heroic lady shares her doubts and frustrations about her faith, and how as the story progresses she increasingly turns to her religion for strength and comfort — and is richly rewarded for that decision. So, in essence, this becomes a beautiful story about how ten Boom's faith ripens and grows.
Finally, this story is even more meaningful because ten Boom died in 1983 on her 91st birthday here in Orange County, where she had been living with friends.
The second presentation of the summer season is the classic "Godspell," and it will run at the same time Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays July 15 to Aug. 21.
As you probably know, this is a refreshing yet powerful musical that is fun for the entire family. Taking elements from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, this contemporary adaptation tells the story of Jesus while also spreading a message of kindness, tolerance and love through engaging characters, wacky story reenactments and truly memorable songs. In short, if you are looking for really good and uplifting theater, the Lyceum Theater at Vanguard University is the place to be.
But to me that is not a surprise, because they have also shown great insight and wisdom by including my musical revue "Americans All" as their first show of their regular season for the three weekends beginning Sept. 16.
Thereafter their season will include "To Kill a Mockingbird," based upon Harper Lee's great novel about racial tensions and civil rights; "A Child's Christmas in Wales," a musical tale from the traditional old-fashioned Christmas classic by Dylan Thomas; "The Servant of Two Masters," a farcical comedy from 18th century classic Italian art comedy; and Harry Connick Jr.'s classic musical comedy "The Pajama Game."
Ed Arnold of KOCE's "Real Orange" told me that he believes the performing arts students at Vanguard are as accomplished as any other college students he has ever seen, whether they are from UCLA, Berkeley, UC Irvine, or anywhere else. I have been a season ticketholder for several years now, and I completely agree with him. Come and find out for yourself, because I know you will be truly pleased with what you see.
Tickets for the summer productions can be bought at or (714) 610-6424, and for the regular season, including "Americans All," at or (714) 668-6145. The Lyceum is on the Vanguard University campus, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
And don't forget to come to the Heritage Museum's Music Festival from noon to 7 p.m. to hear some great bluegrass music and provide great experiences for your children and grandchildren! The museum is at 3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana.
You will have a great time. And when you do, track me down and say hi!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

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