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On The Scene - Spring in The South Bay

ON THE SCENE  by Gerrye Wong

Francis Jue in Tokyo Fish Story welcomes friends Arlene and Von Miyasaki and Calvin Wongs to show.
TOKYO FISH STORYopened in Palo Alto to rave reviews, and brought home San Francisco native Francis Jue in the lead role.  Having followed Francis’ career since way back in 1988 when he was starring inTheatreWorks production of “Peter Pan” , I was reminded by his good memory thatI interviewed him in the historic Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto. I caught  up at the theater with him to query about what’s new with this very personal young man. Asking what drew him to do Tokyo Fish Story away from his busy New York career, he replied, “The play tells an eternal story of generational change in the context of a Japanese family and restaurant, and gives us a look at the backstage depiction of the kitchen in a sushi restaurant while also saying big things about fathers and sons, artistry and affection.”   For TV fans, you’ve probably seen Francis Jue in his recurring part as the Chinese Foreign Minister on CBS “Madam Secretary” but he has been working of late on a lot of plays including “Kung Fu” by David Henry Hwang, “Paper Dolls” by Peter Himberg, “King of the Yees” by Lauren Yee and “Tiger Style” by Mike Lew.  Hopefully those shows and Francis will be gracing Bay Area theatres in the near future to bring Francis to his hometown San Francisco area in coming years. Kudos to TheatreWorks for again bringing an Asian themed show Tokyo Fish Story by Kimber Lee to East Bay audiences.  Hopefully this will attract more of the Asian American populace to theater arts in the future.

Finalists receive awards from MC Matt Keller at FCSN Talent Show.

The SECOND ANNUAL SPECIAL NEEDS TALENT SHOWCASE presented by the nom-profit organizationFriends of Children with Special Needs, was a smashing hit, bringing audience comments such as “Awesome! Amazing! A breath of fresh air.  Better than Vegas shows! Moved to Tears at this talent!  Held at the Santa Clara Convention Center Theater, 27 performers performed in 21 sequences to the awe struck crowd.  The full house of 600 attendees applauded the eleven competing finalists introduced by MC Matt Keller, whose poise and humor always has made this event full of joy. 

Lawrence Wang thrilled audience with his musical talents.
Top winners were Michael Valcour of Sacramento, Alice Jen and Lawrence Wang. Michael, who as a child was unable to speak, won with his baritone rendition of “Climb Every Mountain”.  Michael has volunteered his talent performing at Special Olympics and appeared inActors for Autism in Hollywood.  Mission San Jose High School student Alice Jen won for her piano concerto solo, “Yellow River, First Movement”. She taught herself piano at age four after seeing a pianist on television. Since beginning lessons at age 6, she has won a number of state-wide competitions, including 2016 US Open Music Competition senior division. Lawrence Wang, who has grown up with FCSN, as his parents, Albert and Anna Wang, are among the founders of the organization, won for his solo performance of the Village People’s disco hit, “YMCA” To get fully into the act, Lawrence wore a colorful red and white feathered Indian headdress as he sang and played the saxophone and drums for his rendition.  He only discovered his musical talent six years ago during his attendance at the Friends of Children with Special Needs’ summer music camp.   I liked the fact all of the participants received certificates of commendation, cash prizes and even a parting gift from the NBAChampion Golden State Warriors, no less.  You had a tough job, Judges actor Christopher Showerman, violinist Lesley Richardson, Assemblyman Kansen Chu and ABCTV Community Affairs VP Mimi Kwan, but what a great evening of inspiring entertainers.  FCSN celebrates its 20th anniversary since 10 families came together with the dream of helping individuals with special needs and their families find love hope, respect and support through integrated community involvement. They opened “The Dream Center” in 2006 offering programs, services and activities for individuals with developmental disabilities, and will hold a September Open House for its new South Bay Center.  Information:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhES25F5FZIY
LIONS VETERANS CHARITIES, INC. presented a smashing successful ‘USO NIGHT” which they said was a facsimile of shows servicemen and women enjoyed here and overseas while in United States Armed Forcesduring past wars.  This program specifically honored Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans, announced chairRoger Chinn at the William Walker Rec Center in Foster City.  This annual event featured U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier who spoke on veterans affairs in the news today.  This gala fundraiser’s entertainment enjoyed by all the patrons was tap dancing by the Grant Avenue Follies Troupe from San Francisco Chinatown and Hank Quock’s he/she costume change Lionel Ritchie act.  The night’s proceeds enables the Lions Veterans Charities, a 501 © (3) organization which represents 43 Lions clubs from San Francisco to Palo Alto, to provide multiple programs benefiting veterans.  Among these projects include annual fishing trips for servicemen and women from the Menlo Park VA Hospital and Ft. Miley VA Hospital, and providing 100 holiday gift bags and clean clothes with a March luncheon to homeless vets of the South of Market veterans clinics in San Francisco.  The organization, according to Lion Roger Chinn, also plans to start four new programs and design development for the renovation of the exercise area for Ft. Miley Hospital patients.  Determined to be of service to unfortunate veterans needing help now, the Lions Veterans Charities group recently served its annual holiday luncheon of Chinese food for veteran patients and their visiting families at the Sight Impaired Unit at the Palo Alto VA Hospital.   As Chairman Roger Chinn added, funds are always welcome to continue our good work in thanks to our servicemen who served our country and he welcomes donations as well as suggestions for future projects which can be sent toroger@chinnassociates.com.   Go Lions!


Caroline Young's latest art work shows a monkey doing a selfie.

Our favorite artist, CAROLINE YOUNG, is helping us celebrate the Year of the Monkey with three new pieces of art from her paintbrushes featuring monkeys.  The latest are entitled Monkey Photobomb, Monkey BFF and Monkey See, Monkey Do.  She will be showing these and her other beautiful works of art at San Francisco’s Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, April  Down in the South Bay, Caroline will be showing her latest and greatest at the Saratoga Rotary Festival held at West Valley College April 30, May 1. So don’t monkey around – get over to see Caroline’s latest works and bring home one of her latest monkey paintings. One monkey painting given to me 12 years ago by Caroline, has indeed been a happy fixture in my home and as she predicted, brought me good health, happiness and good fortune since then. Thank you, Caroline.

   Monkey See – Monkey Do painting of noted artist Caroline Young

Caroline Young, who is based at her Reno studio, has always been well known for her Chinese maidens and whimsical floral paintings as well.  She always tries to tie some Chinese folklore for each of her paintings, as she is a lover of Chinese history and folklore.  Always generous to Asian American charitable causes, she helped my 1987 newly founded Chinese Historical and Cultural Project raise funds to build a museum of Chinese American history.  I will never forget meeting Caroline in San Francisco’s fishermen’s wharf the exact hour of the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 where she was donating and signing lovely posters for the CHCP fundraising drive.  CHCP Board Directors Mabel Lai, Muriel Kao and Lillian GongGuy joined me driving up to San Francisco to meet Caroline so you can imagine how deep that memorable meeting is imbedded in our minds where we could see the fires erupting in the nearby Marina District close by and feel that momentous shaking together during this very large earthquake which actually damaged and shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge in its wrath. I’ll always treasure her words about monkeys where she says “People born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be brilliant, charismatic, mischievous and resourceful.”  From my monkey corner, thank you, Caroline for those insightful words!
SELF HELP FOR THE ELDERLYwill celebrate its 50th anniversary with the 2016 LONGEVITY GALA May 9 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, a presentation will be a fashion show by the YiFei models featuring traditional Chinese dresses inspired by the late artist Mr. Chen YiFei’s paintings.  A well renowned painter, movie maker and founder of the top fashion house and design firm in China, Mr. Chen was a longtime supporter of Self help, so his widow, Mrs. Sophia Chen is presenting this special show in honor of the group’s 50th anniversary.  During the evening’s festive atmosphere, long time supporters Eva Lai-Kit Jones, Rosalyn Koo and Linda Wang will receive the Friend of the Elderly Award 2016.   Recipients of the Golden Family Award 2016 will likewise be very loyal Golden Anniversary supporters The Au Family, The Tsai Family and the Tu Family.   I always love this event because the immense lobby is always filled with over 100 delightful and interesting silent auction items to pique my shopping instincts, and all for a good cause.   Join me in celebrating Self Help for the Elderly very important Golden Anniversary by attending this well deserving group’s benefit event.  There’s still time to join the supporters to throw your help to Self Help by coming to this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary. www.SELFHELPELDERLY.ORG   415 677 7668.

Choreograpgher Melissa Matsuura plays a bride in Kilusan Pilipino production at UOP

Upon granddaughter Melissa Matsuura’s invitation to come to her club’s celebration of the 20th Pilipino Cultural night, off I went with her parents Kelly and Gary Matsuura and grandpa Calvin,  to the University of Pacific campus where the Kilusan Pilipino Club presented on stage PATULOY ANG PANGARAP, which the program explained means “continue the dream”.  The group’s ambitious 3 1/2 hour program told a story ofFilipino immigrants working in the Watsonville strawberry farms as they faced the discriminatory laws and atmosphere in the depression years of the 1930’s.  Actors telling of the difficulties faced by Filipinofarm workers when jobs were scarce, and anti-Asian laws were passed, were Patrick Lugo, Vincent Vo, Frankie Perkins, Joshlyn Arellano, Andrew Canton, Ieda Torio, Bradley Ramos and Florencio Burgalon.

Dancers in University of Pacific Pilipino cultural Night program

Interspersed between the story line drama were traditional Filipino cultural dances as well as music which tried to depict the feelings and atmosphere of the times.  Excellent dance routines were shown, and it was hard to remember these are just students enjoying putting together musical tribute song and dance for their club’s annual event.  All of the  musicians, dancers and singers deserve a big round of applause, but even more so the Head Coordinators Kevin Hernando aside Pranava Singh with Head Coordinator Shaow Ian Paez close behind. There would be no story without script writers so more bouquets to Jay Sanidad, Bradley Ramos and Richard Fialos.  The immense cast and crew should be loudly applauded for its ambitious very long show which showed a lot of after-school time and thought put into such a well-done performance.  What a shame all of that work is only used for 2 performances of this showpiece chronicling the early history ofFilipino immigrants to the US. 
Once again a wonderful program titled ”ROAD TO SUCCESS IN THE MODERN WORLD” is being offered by the Lee Shiu Summer program to young people.  Since 1998, Dr. Lee Shiu and Dr. Jennie Mui Lee have initiated and sponsored various leadership programs at several universities in Hong Kong with the mission to nurture talents for the modernization of China.  In 2016 Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong will organize a four week program which will cross the borders of Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing and bring together 80 students from Hong Kong, Singapore, China and the USA in July.  Students from Harvard and Princeton Universities, National University of Singapore, Peking, Fudan and Sun Yat-Sen Universities in China will be joining students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in this study program.  This has and will continue to be a wonderful program for young people to learn from their fellow students, mentors and visionary leaders from around the world, thanks to the sponsorship of this Lee Shiu summer program and its founders, Dr. and Mrs. Lee and Jennie Shiu.

At Ellen DeGeneres TV show, Carole Yamaguchi and Gerrye Wong watch from the audience

It’s always fun to celebrity watch, and so with excitement and much-sought-for tickets, Carole Yamaguchiand I traveled to Burbank’s Warner Bros Studios to watch the ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW being taped for television screens the following day.  In a very organized manner, the many ticket holders are kept in waiting rooms, one being the Ellen Store to give you an opportunity to buy Ellen logo merchandise, of course.  So by the time you are seated in the screening room one is full of eager anticipation and ready to scream and applaud when the star, Ellen comes out behind the famous curtains.  She is as likeable in person as on screen, and although she didn’t dance with us, we joined the audience in dancing, singing, yelling and laughing to all of her sharp repartee and humor. She is known for her give-aways on her program, and although we didn’t win, like others in audiences on subsequent shows I watched, a trip to the Bahamas, $1000 cash or tickets to her famous 12 days of Christmas gifts show, we did go home with a $150 gift card to CVS and tickets to a major league baseball game of our choice, and a WONDERFUL FUN afternoon with Ellen.  Thus, two happy Northern California ladies returned home with a nice bounty and happy tales to tell. Thanks ELLEN.  Added destinations traveling southward from Silicon Valley in four short day getaway with fellow adventurers Dali Jones and Muriel Kao were the coastal town of Cambria on Highway 1, Danish facsimile a la California settlement of Solvang, Central coast golf paradise of Alisal Ranch, Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, tour of Griffith Park, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Walk of Fame, and women’s delightful hobby of shopping wherever we found open stores.
Want to see in person Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi, Bonnie Blair, Brian Boitano, Brandi Chastain, Carly Patterson and Jonny Moseley? Then come to the inaugural RED WHITE AND BLUE BALL, a family friendly gala for the entire family celebrating the Olympic spirit. To be held April 20, 7-10 pm at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the event will feature both Winter and Summer Olympians, entertainment, children’s activities, an International Food Village and much more so be sure to go and experience it all . And be sure to wear any combination of red, white and blue evening casual attire to add to the festivities. Info: www.alwaysdream.org or Dean Osaki – dean@alwaysdream.org.

California poppies give an orange glow to hillsides off the Grapevine section of Highway 5 in Southern California

The best part of traveling this season is seeing hillsides aglow with our California state flower – the California poppy. It reminds us of the wonders of nature around us.  Enjoy this shot taken going over the Grapevine  of Highway 5 in Southern California.