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Photo courtesy of Michael Prince

Matthew Thompson and Jay Stodder appear in "Hooray for Hollywood."

Artistic director and playwright Michael Prince's "Hooray for Hollywood" is actually a show within a show.

Or to be more specific, it's a movie within a melodrama; it opens Friday at the Gaslight Melodrama.

"Hooray" -- the play, that is -- is set in the Hollywood of the 1940s, a period that many film buffs refer to as the golden age of movies. Part of the story concerns the making of a motion picture titled "The Sun Also Sets."

And for me, knowing that this make-believe film involves an independent production company based right here in Bakersfield makes it even more exciting.

As Prince explained, "We begin the second act with a filmed scene from that 'movie' -- Rickey Bird and the folks at Hectic Films generously helped us with the filming and editing of it."

In addition, locally based musician Jeremy Robinson scored the music.

"It looks like it's right out of the '40s," Prince said. "It's in black and white with a great film noir-type score."

The musical numbers reflect that era too, with many of the songs made popular by Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.

Prince, who's written a number of yet-to-be-produced screenplays, is obviously in his element with this particular show.

"I've always loved everything that has to do with Hollywood and the movies," he said. "So this show has been particularly fun to put together."

Although one scene takes place on a soundstage, the action is centered in and around Hollywood, ranging from the offices of two evil studio bosses to the Hollywood Bar and Grill to the world premiere of "The Sun Also Sets" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Then there's the iconic Hollywood sign, shining its beacon of hope from the nearby hills.

Prince plays one of the bad guys --Maury Mortenstone, the vice president of Big Picture Studios. Phil Beglin plays the other one, Sid Sinheart, president of the company.

"I used to perform with Phil at the Bakersfield Community Theatre in the late '90s and it's been great having him come out of retirement to perform with us at the melodrama," Prince said. "He's a real comedic talent."

Of course it wouldn't be a melodrama without a love story between two young and naïve innocents. Those characters are aptly named Holly Do-Rightly from Smalltown, U.S.A., and Vincent Van Go-For-It from Shafter.

The cast includes Jay Stodder, Matthew Thompson, Shawn Rader, Ali Dougherty, Coryn McBride, and Barb Stube-Mercado.

"That's Life," a vaudeville revue written and directed by Warren Dobson follows the main stage show.

College Heights play

A group of young -- very young --thespians are presenting three performances of "If the Shoe Fits" today at College Heights Elementary School.

Based on the title, I'm guessing the play involves either all kinds of footwear or a variety of feet -- and maybe both.

"It's a twist on the Cinderella story with fairy-tale characters appearing at random times during the story," said Virginia Childres, who's been serving as the school's drama coach for the past 13 years.

A total of 25 children are involved either as actors or as members of the tech crew. They range in age from 5 to 11.

The script was written by Jennifer Payne, principal of Eissler Elementary and Isaac Childres, Virginia's adult son who is in the process of finishing his doctorate in physics at Purdue University.

Harlem finale

Harlem & Beyond coordinator Brenda Scobey says she's in "recovery mode" after the successful finish to this year's salute to Martin Luther King and black history month.

"All of the events were fantastic but the Tuskegee Airmen really stole the show," Scobey said. "They were awesome."

World War II veterans Buford Johnson and Rusty Burns were both members of the all-black Army Air Corps squadron who trained in Tuskegee, Ala., and the stars of the closing event on Feb. 23 at Rising Star Baptist Church.

"Rising Star was packed with standing-room only for the entire three- hour presentation," she said. "At the end, the young teens surrounded the airmen with hugs, photo ops and lots more questions. It was amazingly wonderful to behold."

Art for children

Bakersfield Museum of Art is offering a four-day workshop for children ages 6 to 12 starting Monday. I've observed similar instruction programs the BMOA does and I've always been impressed with the quality of the instructors and their informal approach. It's the kind of teaching that encourages creativity and makes learning fun.

Museum instructors introduce children to various mediums and styles -- painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and collage.

Students also learn about famous artists and their different styles, as well as art techniques. And, of course, they get to do their own artwork as well.

Grants information

If you're a grant writer for a local arts organization, the Beale Memorial Library is a good place to go to research foundations that offer money for your projects.

On Friday, the Beale is offering "Finding Funders for Nonprofits." It takes place in the Gates Computer Lab on the second floor. Instructors will guide you to an online database that lists hundreds of foundations.

Even more important, they'll help you narrow down the search to sources whose criteria are suitable for your particular project or organization.

BC singers

Bakersfield College vocal music director Ron Kean was absolutely correct when he said the music of Eric Whitacre is difficult and the lyrics complex.

I learned what he meant Sunday when I had the pleasure of hearing the BC Chamber Singers perform a portion of the composer's music they'll sing at Carnegie Hall in New York this Sunday.

One piece I especially enjoyed -- as did the overflow audience at First Congregational Church -- is called "Cloudburst." In addition to the well-trained singers' voices, I was fascinated by the rhythmic percussion they created by snapping their fingers, clapping their hands, and stomping their feet.

Their interpretation of the poem by Mexican poet Octavio Paz brought images of a fierce thunderstorm that subsides into a gentle patter of raindrops falling on a roof top.