Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Viral local bride

The most viewed video on YouTube is a music video called “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, with over 6.4 billion views.Billion. Ed Sheeran is on the list of most viewed videos. On that same list is Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. Their videos also have billions of views.

Quaintly, number 29 of the Wikipedia list of most viewed YouTube videos is “Wheels on the Bus” by Little Baby Bum, with 2.2 billion hits. A Sonoma Valley couple has video on the list, too.  Theirs has only had a little over 2.5 million views, but that is not bad for a wedding video.

Local residents Amy Miller and Brad Surosky were married in 2007.  In their wedding party and amongst the guests attending were some superbly talented people. Rather than a simple toast, one of their friends orchestrated an entire production. No sappy speech read from a crumpled and wine stained sheet of paper. Singing! Dancing! A total of eleven people participated in the “toast”, and the resultant video is so darn cute that even 12 years later, it is still a very popular video. 

It is probably a video de riguerfor all brides; “Best Wedding Toast Ever – Amy’s Song”.  Good luck recreating something like that.  To do so, you will need Groomsmen and Bridesmaids who have had experience in live musical theater.  Just like Amy.  Just like Brad.

Miller and Surosky, along with their friend and business partner Stephan Stubbins, are the driving forces behind the hugely successful Transcendence Theatre Company, and the Broadway Under the Stars series. The shows are presented on an outdoor stage in 
Beautiful Jack London State Historic Park. The season concluded on September 8. 

After living in Los Angeles for eight years, the three experienced stage actors had a dream to present live theater productions in a beautiful outdoor setting. They met up with their Stubbins, who shared the vision, and began a search for a location.  Miller called it, “A very serendipitous story. We embarked on a research trip in an RV across America.” They soon became focused on “wine country”.

The travelling scouts reached a conclusion, “We choose Sonoma.” The serendipitous part of the story occurred when they were tipped off to the plans for Jack London State Historic Park. An announcement that the park was slated to close had been made just the day before.

A quick presentation to Parks representatives resulted in quite a challenge. They could use the winery ruins at the park or their shows, but they had only $83 and six weeks to put a show together as a sort of “test”. 

They passed the test and, as they say, the rest is history.  Transcendence just closed out their eighth summer season.  The totals this season read like this: 15 sold out performances, over $500,000 raised for the parks, 44 musicians, 97 songs, and over 74 different performers passing across the newly constructed stage. Those are impressive numbers for the young theater company.

This year, Transcendence produced their first full length Broadway production, “A 
Chorus Line”.  Miller directed the show and it sold out all of its eight performances in June. Three other productions followed; “Fantastical Family Night”, “Those Dancin’ Feet”, and the recent “The Gala Celebration”.

They all added up to many “Best Night Ever” events for almost 18,000 local residents and tourists. The shows are first class Broadway styled productions and delight all who attend.
The affable and entertaining Miller participates in most of the productions. Sidekicks Surosky and Stubbins perform and handle many of the behind the scenes tasks.

Now that the season is over and the stage has been struck and stored away, the work begins on preparations for the next Transcendence productions. They will present “Chicago” next summer. Soon will be pre-production meetings, casting, technical revisions, rehearsals, and finally live shows. The cycle begins again.

The team of Miller and Surosky are working on another production, one that will have a run of many decades. Their first child, a boy, is due in January. “Transcendence was my baby for so long.  I want a real baby now,” Miller said. Andthatcycle continues.

It won’t be too long now before the talented couple is adding to the “viewed” number of “Wheels on the Bus”.  While they are watching that video, check out “Best Wedding Toast Ever-Amy’s Song”. 


I wrote this in May of 2010, before my disillusionment with teaching at El Verano School. I remember this guy. What a shame.

As we all know, one of the casualties of a standards-based curriculum, where THE TEST is the driving force, is the loss of teaching the arts. Performing arts are particularly hard hit. At El Verano School, we are doing what we can to lessen the hit that drama classes have taken. 

For the past ten years or so, I have been putting on a stage show with the assistance and collaboration of my colleague, Craig Madison. We have not always had the same grade level, in fact, this year he teaches third grade to my fourth grade. But we still get our kids together and put on a show. 

The fact that we put on a play is nice, perhaps even astonishing considering how many students are involved, but I am writing about it because of a very special aspect of our production. The play is always totally improvised. There is no script, no preconceived plot, no particular direction. The entire production is fleshed out with the kids during the course of about one month before it is finally presented to the student body. 

Craig and I have the luxury of having students who have seen these productions already, and they know that they tend to be somewhat, shall we say, rollicking. I could have used the word “confusing,” but "rollicking" implies a sense and joy and craziness. Putting 60 kids on stage will almost always lead to craziness. 

Truth be told, by the time we actually present the show to the audience, it is pretty tight. They all know their parts, they all have a eye patch or wig or tutu to wear. The improvisational aspect of this endeavor lasts only a couple of weeks, but the fact that the kids write their own lines, or are fed lines by me or Craig, means that there is no script to memorize. That means that they are much more willing to become their characters. All it takes is acting, not memorizing. 

Several years ago, after the three shows were concluded, a girl came up to me to offer her feelings of being in the show. This student was really, really bright. She was well traveled and very confident. What she said surprised me. She said, “That was the most important thing I have ever done.” At times when chaos is surrounding me in the first few days of play practice, I remember that student and her comment. 

In the past, the themes of the play have included time travel, live rock and roll music, dancing waiters, and sharks. And the Superintendent. So far this year, we have time travel, live rock and roll music, belly dancers, and sharks. And the new Superintendent. The show this year, called “The Witness,” will take place June 1. I'll let you know how it is coming along.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

This is a bit of a nuisance, this blogging thing.  But I think it is a good way to get some of the words out. Please give me some sort of thumbs up if you agree.

Friday, September 7, 2018

15000 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. 938-4064 Sunday, Sept. 9: Dan Trotta.
2 p.m.
 ELVERANOINN, 705 Laurel Ave. Sonoma. 935-
0611 Saturday, Sept. 8: Kitten Drunk, Moon Sick, Laguna Screech, Third Six. 8 p.m.
 FRIDAYFARMERS MARKET, Depot Park, 270 First St W.
Friday, Sept. 7: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.
 GUNDLACHBUNDSCHU WINERY, 2000 Denmark St. 938-5277
Saturday, Sept. 8: Angel Olsen. 7 p.m.
 HOPMONKTAVERN, hopmonk. com 691 Broadway,
935-9100 Friday, Sept. 7: Craig Corona.
5 p.m. Witherward. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Vardo. 1 p.m. Erica Sunshine Lee. 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: David Hamilton. 1 p.m.
 MURPHY’SIRISHPUB, 464 First St. E, 935-0660.
Friday, Sept. 7: Jon Emery.
9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Dan Martin and Noma Rocksteady.
9 p.m.
 MUSCARDINICELLARS, 9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood,
933-9305 Saturday, Sept. 8: Jami Jamison Band 5:30 p.m.
 PALOOZA, paloozafresh. com 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 833-4000Thursday, Sept. 13: Live Music Series. 8 p.m.
 SEBASTIANIWINERY, 389 Fourth Street East, 933-3230
Friday, Sept. 7: Poyntlyss Sistars 6 p.m.
 SONOMASPEAKEASY AND AMERICAN MUSIC HALL,sonomaspeakeasymusic. com 452 First St. E.,
996-1364 Friday, Sept. 7: Bruce and Jodi. 6:30 p.m. Sean Carscadden Trio. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Full Circle.
5 p.m. Arcosonics. 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: T-Luke. 5 p.m. Sonoma Blues Jam. 8:30 p.m. Tuesday,Sept. 11: Tim E., Bruce, and Lou. 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 12: Arcrosonics. 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13: King Daddy and the Prince of Thieves. 7:30 p.m.
 STARLINGBAR, starlingsonoma. com. 19830 Highway
12, 938-7442 Thursday, Sept. 6: Open Mic.
8 p.m.
 THEREELFISHHOUSE AND GRILL, thereelfishshop. com 401 Grove St. El Verano,
Thursday, Sept. 13: The Wailers. 9 p.m.
 TUESDAYNIGHT FARMERS MARKET, Sonoma Plaza Tuesday, Sept. 11: Chris Hanlin (horseshoe), Sonoma Jazz Society, Michael O’Neill Quintet (amphitheater) 6 p.m.
 VIANSAWINERY, viansa. com. 25200 Arnold Drive,
(800)995-4740 Saturday, Sept. 8: Acoustic Soul. 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: Clay Bell.
11 a.m.
 VINTAGEHOUSE, vintagehouse. org. 264 First Street East, Sonoma, 996-0311
Wednesday, Sept. 12: The Cork Puller Trio. 6 p.m.
If you want your gigs listed, email Tim Curley at eltimcurley@ gmail.
New things brewing at Olde Sonoma
Thinnes pour their hearts, and 32 pints on tap, into Springs watering hole
There is a plan floating around these days, proffered by the County of Sonoma, for an important facelift to the Springs area. The central corridor of the Springs, which parallels Highway 12, is slated for some big-time changes in the coming years. Community meetings are being held. Upon approval, monies will be spent to improve the slender strip running from Verano Avenue north to Depot Road.
About one third of the way up that corridor is the Fiesta Plaza Shopping Center, home of the Sonoma 9 Cinemas, several local shops and Old Sonoma Public House.
In 2010, Coley and Jo Thinnes took over a space that had been a Dollar Store and More, and a jewelry store called Una Joyeria before that. The space was remodeled completely. A sink and counter unit were purchased from a bar in Shelter Cove and carefully installed. A walk-in refrigerator, that has since been dubbed “Christopher Walk-In,” was installed. A beer tap system was brought in.
They added a familiar looking leather sofa purchased and brought over from the old Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack. It was moved into the pool room. Some dart boards, mirrors and other wall decorations were added. And Olde Sonoma Public House was finally opened for business.
Eight years later, Olde Sonoma Public House is still serving up delicious and hard-to-find brews from all over the beer world.
“People come here looking for specialty beers, something they can’t get anywhere else,” said Coley Thinnes.
Coley Thinnes‘s beer-making career began in the early days of Lagunitas Brewery. He was on the brew team at the original Ross Street location in Petaluma for eight years. Later, he was part of the crew that brewed the first batches at its current location on McDowell Boulevard. Coley helped create interesting and unique brews, including the yummy Brown Shugga.
“I learned about the art of brewing beer during my days at Lagunitas,” the thin and wiry Coley said.
One hoppy day, Coley was giving a tour of the facility to a group of teachers. A gal named Jo caught his eye, and two lives were changed. Jo and Coley were married in 2006. They live in Boyes Hot Springs, very near their pub.
Jo is an English teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma. She spends her free time at the pub with the other seven employees.
After marriage and Lagunitas, Coley ran production at Iron Springs Brewery, in Fairfax. While there, he created Sless’ Oatmeal Stout, named after the excellent Marin County guitarist Barry Sless. Coley won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup with that creation.
While dreaming of opening Olde Sonoma, Coley and Jo decided to offer something unique. They envisioned a friendly place to gather. Their motto is, “Come for the beer, stay for the people.”
Christopher Walk-In chills down 32 beers in kegs and on tap and another 50 or so in bottles or cans. Olde Sonoma also offers non-alcoholic beverages. From Europe, beer lovers can sample beers from England, Ireland, Germany and Belgium. From south of the border, Mexico is represented with a couple selections.
The pride of the big chalk board is the selection of beers from Northern California. Old favorites such as Bear Republic, Lost Coast and even Pabst Blue Ribbon are available. New, mouth-watering offerings include Dogfish Head and 101 North Brewing Company.
For those who just can’t let go of the Wine Country idea, a small but thoughtfully curated wine list is offered.
Barkeep Casey Tatarian told of the day their first shipment of Russian River Brewing Company’s heavily-hyped Pliny the Younger was delivered.
“We were given one five gallon keg,” said Tatarian. “It was gone in 12 minutes.”
While there is no hot food offered at Old Sonoma, the Mexican eatery directly next door, Taqueria Sonoma, will deliver anything on its menu. Just sit in the sunshine outside, or inside the pub itself, and the staff of Taqueria Sonoma will bring it right to you. In fact, food from any commercial kitchen can be brought in and enjoyed at Olde Sonoma.
The Thinnes had hoped to offer live music regularly for their patrons. They did for a few years, but that program is on haitus. Soon, they plan to offer karaoke every other Thursday.
Olde Sonoma is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. Seating is indoors and outdoors, and four TVs, usually showing sporting events, are trained toward the watchful eyes of patrons.
Of his role as owner of Olde Sonoma, Coley Thinnes said: “I love it. I wake up excited, thinking about the new beers we’re going to hook up. I am excited to go to work.”
Let’s hope that the county leaves the Olde Sonoma Public House alone. People love it just the way it is.