Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Society: Peninsula Volunteers honor authors at salon

Janet Duca Norton / Daily News Anthony Chan as Dennis, left, and Amanda Andrews as Miss Sandra at the premiere reception of All Shook Up on Feb. 23, 2012. ( Janet Duca Norton / Daily News )

You engaged us; you entertained us and you educated us," Peninsula Volunteers' President Kimber Sturm said to the five Bay Area authors who headlined the 21st annual Authors Salon, benefiting the Volunteers' programs for Peninsula seniors. Books Inc. partnered with the Menlo Park-based Volunteers organization that has provided a wide variety of quality services for 64 years.
Co-chairwomen Anne Flegel and Diane Rosland welcomed 302 guests to the literary luncheon at the Sharon Heights Country Club on March 4.
San Francisco Attorney Sheldon Siegel, author of several bestselling novels, performed moderator duties.
Prize-winning historian and co-founder of Mother Jones magazine Adam Hochschild focuses on four British families to tell the story behind World War I, in his "To End All Wars, A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918."
He attributes his interest in the war to several of his mother's family photographs and a book. Two of her uncles fought in the war.
Los Angeles Times Editor Jim Newton chose to write "Eisenhower: The White House Years" because he recognized the problems of the 1950's were similar to what our country is experiencing today: Bitter divisions between the Republicans and the Democrats; a faltering economy; China and Russia's threats to U.S. security and civil unrest.
He changed his original opinion of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 33rd president, after studying recently released classified documents that demonstrate a productive presidency rather than a so-called "quiet time" presidency.
Annie Barrows call herself "a rare species, a crossover," because she writes both children's and adult stories. She described the year of work required to finish her late aunt Mary Ann Shaffer's "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society." It stayed on the bestsellers list for a year.
Barrows, who is the author of the successful "Ivy and Bean" children's series, says writing for children is different. She views her books as a key to freedom of thought for her young readers; these stories present alternate ideas to those proposed by their families.
Author and Stanford professor Ellen Sussman presented her best-selling novel, "French Lessons." She uses settings that she has experienced to frame her characters and also says she digs deep inside herself when she creates her characters and their experiences.
Stanford Medical School professor Abraham Verghese, M.D., and the author of the bestseller "Cutting for Stone," said he became a writer to help with the practice of medicine. "I became a writer to capture the truth that a scientific paper cannot capture."
He also related how books can give a quiet epiphany. When he was a boy in Ethiopia, he read "Of Human Bondage." "I took it to heart," he said. "It spoke to me and encouraged me to become a doctor."
Seen applauding the authors and collecting autographed books were Salon originator Beverly Nelson; past chairwomen Linda Dickenson, Fran Eastman, Trenna Knutsen and Marge DuBois; and sponsors Ann Griffiths, Roz Morris, Betty Ogawa and Edward Goodstein.
Menlo Park-based Peninsula Volunteers has pioneered in providing services for Peninsula seniors with the goal of helping them to live independent, interesting and useful lives. Executive Director Bart Charlow described the organization with a metaphor about the fountain that is the focal point of the patio at Little House, the Roselyn G. Morris Activity Center. "It's a fountain for quality of life, not a fountain of youth," he said.
Event proceeds benefit Rosener House Adult Day Services, Meals on Wheels, Crane Place and Partridge-Kennedy apartments and the Little House Center.
Premiere of 'All Shook Up'
"All Shook Up," the fun Foothill Music Theatre play featuring Elvis Presley songs from the 1950s, received a standing ovation at the sold-out Feb. 24 premiere at the Lohman Theatre.
It's a high-energy show that depicts a day in "a little square town" when a black leather jacket attired roustabout named Chad (played by Tony Di Corti) rides his motorcycle into town.
There are mistaken identities, romance and marvelous music. Some of the songs driving the story included "Follow That Dream," "Fools Fall in Love," and "Blue Suede Shoes."
Director Milissa Carey said she it is a relationship story with themes of diversity and acceptance, which are presented with a sense of humor.
It was the first leading role for Anthony Chan (playing Dennis, the nerd) and the first musical for Foothill Conservatory graduate Warren Wernick (playing Dean Hyde, the over-protected son of the mayor (played by Molly Thornton).
"Rehearsals are good but, I'm always struck by the opening night audience that makes it a shared experience, a live moment," said Carey. "It's ephemeral. The next night will be different."
Seen congratulating the cast were Carla Befera, Foothill Commission President Carla and Rich Stevenson with members Ann Rando and Mady and Mel Kahn, and Foothill-DeAnza Board of Trustees member Bruce Swenson and his wife Barb.
The show has been sold out every weekend. A few tickets were available at press time. For information call 650-949-7360.

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