World premiere of Nathan Gunn Flying Solo opens in limited run at the Laguna Playhouse on April 4

Laguna Playhouse presents the sixth show in its 97th season, the world premiere of Nathan Gunn Flying Solo, written and directed by Hershey Felder, with musical direction by Michael Bagby. It begins previews on Weduesday, April 4; will open on Sunday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m. and continue with performances through Sunday, April 22.

Executive Director Ellen Richard comments, “What an honor to be presenting this world premiere of a new work by Hershey Felder with the incomparable Nathan Gunn.” 

America’s leading baritone Nathan Gunn sings selections from classic American musicals, contemporary songs, and a little bit of opera fun in his personal story, Flying Solo.

In this world premiere, a moving and musical journey, this “Sexiest Man Alive” (People Magazine) recounts how he became an elder of his heritage, the Scottish Clan Gunn, and learned what life is really about. 

Adds Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham. “That voice! Our subscribers and audiences are going to enjoy the best of Broadway and more, with one of the great baritones of all time, right here on our Playhouse stage!”

Nathan Gunn has made a reputation as one of the most exciting and in-demand baritones of the day. He has appeared in internationally renowned opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera, and others all over the world. 

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Photo by Joshua Spencer

Nathan Gunn Flying Solo begins previews on April 4

Mr. Gunn is working on a number of creative projects that will premiere over the next three seasons, in which he is a collaborating artist with the creative teams. These include projects with producing companies such as the English National Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Beth Morrison Projects, and are created with some of today’s leading and cutting edge composers.  

Hershey Felder (Director/Playwright, Our Great Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Bernstein, Berlin, Beethoven), his performances named among Time Magazine’s 2016 Top 10 Plays and Musicals, has played over 4,500 performances of his self-created solo productions at some of the world’s most prestigious theatres and has broken box office records consistently. 

American Theatre Magazine has said, “Hershey Felder is in a category all his own.” 

He has been a scholar-in-residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music and is married to Kim Campbell, the first female Prime Minister of Canada.

Michael Bagby (Musical Direction) is a native of Iowa, earned a DMA in vocal coaching and accompanying from the University of Illinois under the direction of Julie Gunn. He completed his Master’s at the University of Michigan where he studied with Martin Katz. Bagby has been afforded opportunities not only as a pianist and coach but also as a singer and conductor. 

Submitted photo

Hershey Felder (as Beethoven), writer and director

The Scenic Design is by Hershey Felder; Lighting Design - Richard Norwood; Projection Design - Brian McMullen; Sound Design - Erik Carstensen; Production Stage Manager - Annette Elena Nixon. 

This season is generously underwritten by The Hale Family. Additional Season Sponsors are South Coast Plaza, Haskell White, Surterre Properties, Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders, Gelson’s, and Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin.

April performances will be Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday and Saturday at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. There will be no Thursday performance on April 12 at 2 p.m. There will be an additional Sunday performance on Sunday, April 15 at 5:30 p.m. The show runs through April 22. 

Tickets range from $55 - $80 and can be purchased online at or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling 949-497-2787, ext. 229. Prices are subject to change. 

The box office is open Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until show time on performance days); and on Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

For a full listing of credits for the talented members of the production and behind the scenes team, go to the website listed above. 

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd. Call (949) 497-2787 for more information.

Where’s Maggi – the answers!

Keith Greer was “on it” … He knew first thing where to find this mural, on Glenneyre, between Alta Vista and Upland. Did you know where this is?

Keith is a Laguna walker, as are several of our correct answering winners: 

Rich Harkey, Bundy Kinder, William Kail, Catherine Toohey, Janene F, and Bonnie Drury.

Thanks for playing! Look for a new challenge on Friday.

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Whodunit? Thurston’s Forensics Team is on the case!

Story and photos by MAGGI HENRIKSON

There was a gruesome crime aboard the Pilgrim on Monday morning. Well, at least there was evidence of a crime. But was there a murder, and who did it? Team Thurston will find out.

The Thurston Middle School Forensic Crime Team is a club of about 40 students, led by social studies teacher, Michelle Martinez. In a mock simulation, the club learns about science and technology, analysis and investigation – with a little creative writing thrown in, as the students make the script for the crime that will play out.

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Lead investigators Keegan Thomas and Cassidy Morgan

The year is 1585, and the place is Roanoke. Queen Elizabeth I sent a group of settlers to establish an English colony on the island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. The colony was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh. (By 1590 the entire colony had disappeared without a trace, but that’s a mystery for another day.)

Thurston’s Forensic Crime Team club has scripted a scenario whereby Sir Walter Raleigh has a nearly identical brother who is murdered in a case of mistaken identity. Did John White do it? He was pretty mad at Raleigh’s decisions and treatment of the natives. Circumstantial evidence links him to the crime, but science needs to play its part too.

Fast forward to 2018, and enter the Thurston team’s technology. For starters, on the deck of the Pilgrim (in this case, it’s christened the “Royal Ark”), docked in Dana Point Harbor, they have “blood” spills to analyze and there appears to be an axe used. Chilling!

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Tess Genske gets ready to operate the student-created underwater GoPro robot

Next, there’s someone logging in everyone who had access to the crime scene. Then the search crew arrives. There’s no body found yet, so they’ll use their underwater robot go-pro camera to search the salty depths. Maybe the body sank beneath the waves. 

There’s a Thurston first-team of crime scene investigators and a second team to thoroughly scour for every bit of evidence. There are witness interviewers, team evidence collectors and medical examiners, coroners and real body bags.

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Harbormaster and OC Sheriff’s Office Dive Team Supervisor, Larry Packard, demonstrates for Mrs. Martinez and her students underwater recovery techniques

On hand to help with instructive, real-life underwater search and recovery methods is Larry Packard, Harbormaster and Supervisor for the Orange County Sherriff’s Office Dive Team. And on hand, via Skype and a camera robot she can control, is Mrs. Martinez’s daughter, Noelle, who is a real-life forensic scientist, beaming live from her home in Scotland. She gives pointers and advice (“Lift the cover by the corner to reveal the body. You don’t want the fabric covering the body to touch the ground.” …And other such useful tips.)

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Eww! Forensics expert uncovers the “dead”…and it’s not Sir Walter Raleigh!

Can I join this club? It looks like so much fun. I wish I were in seventh grade again. And all the students seem to be having a blast, while still learning all the appropriate curriculum-required background.

Cassidy Morgan is the co-lead investigator with Keegan Thomas, both eighth graders. Cassidy said she loves it and it’s her second year in the club. She’s learned to take evidence, “First fingerprints, and then you process the evidence. You wash it in water, then soapy water, and water again.” Keegan, in his third year in the club, said, “Even if I’m not going to use this for a career, I’m learning life skills and science, for sure.”

The culmination of the story will result in a mock trial held at Thurston on June 1 (at the Black Box theater – public can come, but there’s limited seating). Last year’s murder resulted in two trials, so 24 club members got to play the jury. We’ll just have to see how John White’s defense holds up this year. His defense or conviction will be backed up by a virtual reality video created by the team to simulate what happened.

Mrs. Martinez created the club with the backing and support from an Innovation in Education grant from Cox Communications. Martinez designed the program to teach students how to analyze and apply critical thinking to real-life problem solving. For the past three years, Cox Communications has provided Innovation in Education grants for the program, which follows Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) standards for 21st Century learning.

When she’s good, she’s very good; Mae West in Dirty Blonde at Laguna Playhouse in limited run, April 26-29

Experience Mae West at her best as she returns in Dirty Blonde at Laguna Playhouse in a limited engagement consisting of only six performances between April 26 - 29. 

Dirty Blonde was a winner of the 2000 Theatre World Award, nominee for the 2000 Tony Award for Best Play, and nominee for the 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play. 

Audiences explore the phenomenon of the legendary Mae West, one of America’s most enduring and controversial pop culture icons, in this sparkling romantic comedy with music about a guy, a gal, and their mutual admiration for one voluptuous blonde.

Magically woven into the story is a celebration of songs and laughter of Mae West’s racy life and saucy career. The New York Times described it as “Hands down the best new American play of the season...” and said it allowed “…Mae West to shock and delight once again.” 

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd. Call (949) 497-2787 for more information or visit

Water District urges support for PMMC’s proposed recycled water treatment system


Laguna Beach County Water District officials urge customers to support the Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s proposed recycled water treatment system.

The project would save about 5.5 million gallons of water a year, according to Renae Hinchey, general manager of the district.

“As the water district’s second largest water user next to the city, the project will not only decrease the center’s water usage, but also decrease energy usage associated with water usage,” Hinchey said recently.

Hinchey urges the public to write letters of support for the project, which can be helpful in applying for grants to fund the construction of the treatment system, which will also reduce sewer discharge from the Center.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Pacific Marine Mammal Center is proposing a recycled water treatment system

The project includes construction of a 2,000 square-foot concrete pad to support the installation of an ozone building, in which machines clean and treat stored water, as well as sand filters and recovery tanks.

Also proposed are concrete hardscaping, a walkway behind the facility, a 5,000-gallon isolation tank, storm water conveyance features, deck and walkway drains and a retaining wall. A fence would have to be moved 10 feet into the gravel lot at the north end of one of the two lots on which the facility sits.

As proposed the project meets the requirements of providing filtered, temperature controlled, ozonated and/or chlorinated fresh water, according to the City staff evaluation of the concept. 

The concept was approved by the City Council. 

All costs associated with building, installing and maintaining the system, related improvements and fence relocation would be borne by the Center. However, the improvements become the property of the City, which owns both 20612 and 20652 Laguna Canyon Road, according to Assistant City Manager Krista Johnson.     

Center Executive Director Keith Matassa spoke at the March Laguna Canyon Conservancy Dinner to introduce the proposed project to the conservancy members, who stay abreast of any major projects in the canyon.  

Hinchey and Water District board member Debbie Neev attended the dinner to express the District’s support for the project.

“We are very excited about the project,” said Hinchey. “It will raise public awareness for water conservation and recycling and conserve our most precious natural resource.”

Matassa said he will be available to speak to other groups if requested. For more information contact John Kinney at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Krista Higuchi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The 49th annual Laguna Beach Trophy Invite took place on Saturday: 1,850 athletes competed

Photos by Scott Brashier

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Another successful Laguna Beach Trophy invite took place last Saturday, continuing a long tradition of excellence for this 49-year-old track meet. 53 teams and 1,850 athletes competed.

Back in the mid 1930s, Orange County consisted of 12 high schools, 10 of which were lumped into the Orange League regardless of size. Red Guyer recognized this inequity and the lack of any high school competitions for the county’s smaller schools.

Due to this inequity, Laguna Beach hosted the first “minor” division track meet in 1937, and thus began the annual Trophy meet held almost every year until 1983. 

 During the 1970s, Laguna’s State Champion Eric Hulst attracted elite runners for special one, two, and thee mile races featuring Southern California’s top long distance runners. By the later part of the decade, the two-day meet annually attracted athletes from more than 60 schools.

The Trophy Invitational was resurrected in 2010 for schools of all sizes, and the track was named the Eric Hulst Track. The meet features the “Eric Hulst 3200” for both boys & girls.


Click on photos below for a slideshow by Scott Brashier

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