New York-based singer-songwriter Emily Nicholas has a strong connection to Bakersfield in terms of friends, family and local theater.
And for me and many other local residents, it's been a joy to see the Bakersfield High School graduate grow into a standout performer with a unique style.
Nicholas will perform back-to-back concerts at Stars on Sunday. A few words of warning, however: Don't put off buying tickets. The first show, at 4 p.m., is nearly sold out, and Nicholas said tickets for the 7:30 performance are going fast. Also, though Stars is a dinner theater, no meals will be served at either performance but beverages and appetizers can be purchased separately.
Unlike her appearance last summer at The Empty Space with Emily Danger, the band she fronts, Nicholas will be backed by a trio at Stars made up of two local musicians and a member of her band.
"Char Gaines and I will be sharing piano duties," Nicholas wrote in a recent email. "My violinist, Cameron Orr, will be playing as well as local Soulajar favorite Brian Boozer on drums."
Nicholas has been singing professionally since obtaining her master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2010.
A versatile performer, she has a wide repertoire, everything from opera and Broadway musicals, to cabaret and rock, as well as her own compositions. Her astounding four-octave range allows her to take surprising vocal leaps within any one song -- often while attacking the piano keyboard with furious energy.
The show at Stars is being presented by In Order to be Heard Productions, a partnership of Nicholas, her husband, John Patrick Wells, and Doug Cheesman. Both Wells and Cheesman formerly lived in Bakersfield and were active in improv and other productions at The Empty Space.
Improv training for kids
In my book, learning improvisational skills is an excellent way for children to learn how to think on their feet.
For those who aren't sure exactly what improv is, think of it as a disciplined form of ad lib with no memorization involved.
When kids are young, skills like these are great for building teamwork and overcoming fears of speaking in front of a group. And these are things that will come in handy in their adult years no matter what their career choice turns out to be.
Which brings me to David Lee Rock of Tonicism Productions, whose 10-day Team Improv Intensives starts on Monday at The Empty Space.
Typically, said Tonicism coordinator Guinevere PH Dethlefson, the class begins with a 45-minute warmup that includes word association games, category games, energy/focus games and group-think games.
"Dave teaches each game and highlights what it is teaching in a fun and engaging way," Dethlefson said. "He reminds students the many ways in which they can use improv in their day to day life with real world applications."
After the warmup, the emphasis shifts to a particular theme for the day. This can range from doing mime work to developing characters and emotions or speaking gibberish to storytelling, scene building and performance teamwork. The course ends with a stage performance on July 5.
The class is designed for children in fourth through eighth grades. Enrollments will be taken through Wednesday. Parents can register their child by visiting Tonicism.com.
Magic carpet painting
Public services librarian Andie Apple is sending out a call for creative youths, ages 8 to 18, for a volunteer project that sounds like a lot of fun to me -- decorating carpet samples with an illustration of a favorite children's picture book.
If I were to do it, I think I'd choose "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," mainly because I like the title character's green squiggly shape.
The one-time-only Magic Reading Carpet project takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium at Beale Memorial Library.
To participate, any child under 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
"Each sample is about 18-by-24 inches and we have 150 pieces," Apple said. "The children and teens volunteering will be using paint, markers, fabric and stencils to decorate the carpet squares."
All materials will be supplied, including the carpet samples, which were donated by four local merchants: Abbey Carpet Company, Carpet Cave, Carpet Outlet Plus and Kern Carpets.
Apple noted that although the project is intended to be fun for the kids who participate, it does have a broader purpose.
"I want to make sure that everyone understands the carpet squares aren't to be taken home," she said. "They will be used at Beale and in libraries throughout Kern County for story times and other children's programs for years to come."
Given the number of samples that will be laid out on tables covered with white paper, adult volunteers are also needed.
"I'm also looking for creative adults willing to share their artistic skills to come join our team," the librarian said. "They may be needed on Monday as well as Tuesday."
Duties will include setting up and taking down chairs and tables; handing out supplies; and guiding children and teens with their artwork.
Registration is required to volunteer as an art project aide. Those interested can contact Apple at 868-0723 or write her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The project is partially funded with federal money from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services that is administered by the state of California.