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Laguna Playhouse presents a special stripped down to the abs holiday event Dec 10 & 11

Laguna Playhouse brings back last year’s sensation in an all-new outrageous holiday event, The Skivvies: I Touch My Elf, with two performances only on Monday, Dec 10 and Tuesday, Dec 11 at 7:30 p.m. 

Laguna Playhouse couch

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Courtesy of Laurenmolina.com

Lauren Molina co-stars in this holiday comedy at Laguna Playhouse

Broadway’s Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley return to the Laguna Playhouse for two nights of the most outrageous holiday show of the season. This undie-rock, comedy pop, award-winning duo perform stripped down, mashed up versions of holiday favorites and more. Expect to see ukulele, electric cello, and an array of zany instruments as well as many special guest artists performing along with, and some even in their own “Skivvies.” 

Tickets range from $51 - $56 and can be purchased online at www.lagunaplayhouse.com or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling (949) 497-2787 ext. 229. Prices are subject to change.     

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Tony’s Treehouse donates to Laguna Food Pantry to meet needs of holidays

Over the last couple of months, volunteers of the Tony’s Treehouse have teamed up to gather items for their food drive benefiting the Laguna Food Pantry in hopes that it would give the Pantry a little jump start for the increasing needs of the holidays. 

Becky Martinez, founder of Tony’s Treehouse, which was started in memory of her son, says, “I think we collected over 500 items, over that time period, and were able to meet up with Anne Belyea and Pantry volunteers recently for a ‘photo opp’. I love how they service our community in such a kind, compassionate and dignified way; no one is turned away. And no one need walk away hungry.”

Tonys Treehouse Anne

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Laguna Food Pantry Executive Director Anne Belyea and volunteers

Martinez continues, “Next year, 2019 will bring the 20th year of Tony’s Treehouse (December 23), and I’m looking to plan some special activities to celebrate my son’s life. His little 9-year-old spirit impacted many on earth, and Tony continues to make lives better even in his absence.”   

Tony’s Treehouse is a nonprofit organization based in LB. It was founded in memory of Becky’s beloved little 9-year-old boy named Tony. The legacy he left his family and friends is one of giving, loving and living life to its fullest extent. 

On December 23, 1999, during an hour-long stable ride with his family in Palm Springs, Tony’s horse suddenly bolted. The small 55-pound boy would have fallen off of the horse, but his foot became trapped. The horse ran at full speed. 

Tonys Treehouse donations

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Food donated by Tony’s Treehouse

Becky says, “We lost him hours later at the hospital. Together with his older brother Danny, both boys took many opportunities to help the needy and less fortunate in their community. Digging deep into their pockets, they would give to the homeless. 

“So, in celebration of both Danny and Tony’s charity and generosity, we found a way to reach out to families and children who are in need. Our group of family and friends, numbering well over 150, volunteer in our various activities, from providing meals for the homeless to distributing food and clothing to the working poor of Orange County.”

For more information on Tony’s Treehouse, go to www.tonystreehouse.org.


Stephen Bishop performs holiday show at Mozambique on Dec 15

Grammy and Academy Award nominee Stephen Bishop will perform a special holiday show at Mozambique on Saturday, Dec 15 at 9 p.m. Enjoy the sweet sounds of holiday music on a wonderful winter Saturday in Laguna Beach. 

Stephen Bishop guitar

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Courtesy of Stephen Bishop

Bishop will perform a holiday show at Mozambique for a night of festive fun

Over the course of the four decades of his career, Bishop has written and performed the theme songs for many beloved movies including Tootsie and Animal House. He’s also released iconic hits including “On and On”, “It Might Be You,” “Save It For A Rainy Day,” and “Separate Lives.” 

In addition to Bishop’s performing and recording accolades, his songs have been recorded by a who’s who of artists including Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Johnny Mathis, David Crosby, The Four Tops, Beyoncé, and Luciano Pavarotti.

To view Stephen playing his hits earlier this year, click here.

To view his iconic Midnight Special performance of “On and On”, click here.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased here.

Mozambique is located at 1740 S Coast Highway.


The tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet

By Yuika Yoshida and Diego Gallego de Dios, LBHS students

In partnership with Brush & Palette newspaper

On Friday, Nov 2, the Park Avenue Players held the opening night of their fall play Romeo and Juliet in the Artists Theatre. The show ran for two weekends and closed on Sunday, Nov 11. 

“We haven’t done a Shakespeare play since I came here to the high school four years ago. They had done A Midsummer Night’s Dream the year before I came, so I wanted to make sure that each generation of students had an opportunity to work and hear the text,” said drama teacher Alexis Karol. 

Similarly to drama productions in the past, Karol brought in outside, professional help. Guest director Michael Irish is not only a professional Shakespearean actor, but he is also a 1999 alumni of Laguna Beach High School and a former Park Avenue Player. 

The tragic drinking poison

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Photo by Johanna Ellis

Juliet (Zoe Waters) drinks the poison

“I think there’s something really unique and special about having an alum direct, because he has literally been where the kids are. The day of our first rehearsal, he realized that he was directing these kids in a Shakespeare play that will be performed in the Artists Theatre, which is where he performed in his first Shakespearean play. That changed the trajectory of his life because it eventually became his livelihood, so it’s really special to be able to create an opportunity where he can pass that down to the students,” said Karol.

Irish and the assistant director Celena DelPizzo-Howell decided to put a modern twist on the classic. Rather than having the play set in the traditional 13th century, Irish and DelPizzo-Howell set the play in modern day Verona. This artistic choice was meant to remind the audience that these themes of love and the complexity of emotions will always be relevant to society. 

The tragic dead

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Photo by Johanna Ellis

Juliet succumbs to the poison

“We’re not setting it in the time that it was written. We’re setting it in present day, so the hope is that that will make it more accessible for our audiences because a lot of the themes in it are present today. People who don’t know Shakespeare well or haven’t studied it, tend to say, ‘oh that’s old school,’ and yes the language is heightened, but the story and the themes in it are timeless,” said Karol. 

Many students know the story of the two star-crossed lovers and the tragic ending. The 9th grade honors English classes actually read Romeo and Juliet in their curriculum, and many other English classes cover Shakespeare’s other works, such as Othello, Macbeth and Julius Caesar. The production brings Shakespeare’s work to life on the stage and offers a different experience to students, who typically encounter Shakespeare as text.

“Performing the play on stage proved very different from reading it in class,” said junior Zoe Waters, who played Juliet opposite of junior Charlie Besso as Romeo in the production. “After further analyzing it, the characters became less like these faraway, classical characters, and more like actual teenagers who are falling in love for the first time.”

The tragic Romeo

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Romeo (Charlie Besso) 

The rehearsal process was intensive for the actors, including rehearsals from 6 - 9 p.m. on weekdays and 1 - 4 p.m. on Sundays. For many participants, it was their first Shakespearean play. Karol knew the text would be challenging for the students to learn and memorize, but Irish worked one-on-one with them to help them break down the text. 

“To put on a Shakespearean play is no easy feat; it takes the focus and dedication of everyone involved in the cast. Working with the language was difficult at first, but it didn’t take too long to warm up to. Learning the lines themselves became easy once I thought about them more like music than straight prose. The fact that all of my lines were in iambic pentameter helped because if I was memorizing the wrong words, saying them out loud would sound unnatural,” said Waters.

The Park Avenue Players still have more in store for them in the drama season. Next up are their spring musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Little Shop of Horrors. Anyone on campus is invited to audition, even if not enrolled in the Drama/Theater II class. 

Stu News Laguna is proud to feature LBHS students’ writing in partnership with the high school’s journalism class and the Brush & Palette student newspaper.


Helping Hands from the Homeless: during holiday season and all year round, give the gift of work

Story and photos by DIANNE RUSSELL

Don Sciortino greets me from the counter of Laguna Exchange, the nonprofit resale boutique at 955 South Coast Highway he opened three and a half years ago. He calls it, “retail with a purpose.” Sciortino, the pastor of the nonprofit Net-Works, brought both his endeavors into play when creating the program he initiated last year, Helping Hands from the Homeless, a work incentive of Net-Works.

True to Net-Works’ mission and desire, “To create a community of relational networks in Laguna Beach that experience and express the love and power of God,” 

he started Helping Hands from the Homeless. 

Win-win for everyone

“Everything is community driven, we don’t make major changes outside of the community,” Sciortino says.

The project employs the homeless, giving them structure and work, while at the same time, benefiting those on the receiving end. It’s a win-win for all parties concerned.

Sciortino sees Helping Hands from the Homeless as an emerging solution for those who want to work, who want to “come into a new season” of life. He says, “Work (and sobriety) are essential to get out of homelessness, but it starts with work. However, it’s not for everyone. They must be hungry to get out of their situations.”

How it works

The men work four-hour shifts and Sciortino’s nonprofit, Net-Works Laguna Beach, gifts them $11 an hour for their labor. He explains, “It’s done in a way that doesn’t exploit them. Some businesses tip or donate beyond that $11.”

Many people in Laguna have used his teams at home or work for a total of 4,000 hours. The workers can help with projects at home or work, yardwork, window cleaning, car washing, dog walking, or anything else that is needed.

In answer to the security concern, Sciortino says, “Vetting is critical if someone is coming to your house. We’ve never once had a problem. And they are supervised.” 

Currently, the team consists of 10 - 14 men. He gets to know them through the hot breakfasts that Net-Works provides Sundays at 9 a.m. at The Woman’s Club. Net-Works feeds 60-80 people every Sunday and has for the last three years. Friendship Shelter transports them to The Woman’s Club from the ASL.

Sciortino says, “About two-thirds of them stick around to participate. From the food comes friendship and they stay.”

Helping Hands Don at counter

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Don Sciortino at the counter of Laguna Exchange, a nonprofit resale boutique

Members of the community have rallied. Several businesses in town have used their services. Neighborhood Congregational Church hired 6 - 8 workers for a project, also Kitchen in the Canyon, Pacific Edge, Auto Repair of LB, and KX 93.5 radio station. 

“Four or five businesses have hired guys full-time,” Sciortino says. 

Backing has also come from the students at LCAD, who painted vests for the team.

Even with this support, of course, they need more resources to help hire the team, and more opportunities for places to work. He says, “Service to the City could mobilize a lot of homeless. Ideally, the City would participate in the solution and invite homeless to a new and better way. Public services could give them projects at parks and beaches. In turn, the workers would be giving back and showing gratitude to the City that provides them services.” 

Sciortino describes Helping Hands from the Homeless as, “a fresh start and a restart to give the back confidence and structure to their lives. The program has gotten 30 people off the street by finding work.” 

Provides structure and purpose

“The program gives them the gift of something to do,” Sciortino admits. 

In a Stu News article last year, one of his workers said, “Before this, I didn’t know what to do with my day, so I’d crash out in the shade near the lifeguard station. It’s rewarding to be out here, to feel I’m giving back. If you give back, you get back.”

Sciortino also partners with Auto Repair of LB to provide some of the workers with cars. The recipients are screened, and donations are appropriately given to those who are ready to go to work, or single mothers to get to school. “And for a time, they can live in their cars, which is a first step,” he says.

On the Helping Hands from the Homeless website, the question is posed, “What if there was a way for our local homeless residents of Laguna Beach to give a helping hand back to the community; working alongside local businesses, serving local residents, and improving the way of life and lifestyle of Laguna Beach? What if somehow this program was grounded with a rock-solid oversight team, both administratively and on the ground at each and every jobsite and service opportunity?”

Well, this program already exists, however, more community resources are needed.

Sciortino says, “With more funding, we could double or triple the workload, and they could also do jobs for free, for those who couldn’t afford to hire them, such as mowing lawns for the elderly for no charge.”

Helping Hands jewelry

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On Mondays and Wednesdays, members of the homeless community come into Laguna Exchange to make jewelry to sell in the store

During the holiday season and all year round, Sciortino says, “Additional funds would give hours of work and the opportunity to let us work on your property or business, you can be part of a bigger plan to help homelessness.” 

What can residents do other than hiring them or donating? He says, “Volunteer to be on a work team or just come and meet them on a Sunday. Only when we spend time and break bread with people and share stories, do we make a connection.”

Lives change

Sciortino’s parting comments get to core of the program, “It’s lots of hard work, but in a wonderful way. When their lives change, we change, and our hearts expand.”

Looking to the future, he says, “It’s exciting, piece by piece, it’s coming together, and it continues to evolve. Once homeless, it doesn’t always mean staying homeless.”

Helping Hands from the Homeless is a project of Net-Works Laguna Beach. To learn how you can get help, call Don Sciortino at (714) 231-1230 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Protect Your Home “Fire Smarts” seminar offers unique suggestions and strategies, Dec 3

On Monday, Dec 3 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at Mozambique’s Shebeen Bar, Diane Armitage of the Armitage Real Estate Group is sponsoring a “Fire Smarts: Protect Your Laguna Home” free seminar. VIP speakers Ruben Flores, Landscape Designer of Laguna Nursery, and Laguna Beach Fire Department representatives will be sharing their advice and tips. 

Protect Your fire

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Fire safety is an important topic in Laguna Beach 

While the massive fires rage on the north side of L.A., residents wondering if there’s anything they can do to mitigate fire hazards around their homes businesses in Laguna Beach are invited to attend the free seminar to learn more. 

The seminar will explain how fires can be mitigated before they reach that magnitude. Also discussed are the many actions you can take now to not only help your home or business survive a fire, but create a working emergency plan in advance for you and your loved ones in the event of a fire occurring.

The panelists will be talking about physically protecting your home, creating a smart landscaping option, and preparing an emergency pack-and-plan strategy. A Q & A session will follow the speakers.

Only 30 seats are available and reservations are required.

To RSVP, visit www.armitagerealestategroup.com. Appetizers will be served and drinks will be available for purchase at happy hour pricing for event attendees.


18th Annual Homeless Christmas Breakfast hosted by Laguna Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Dec 15

On Saturday, Dec 15, from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m., Laguna Presbyterian Church will hold its 18th Annual Homeless Christmas Breakfast. Guests will be treated to breakfast, musical entertainment, and gifts including backpacks and sleeping bags. 

Last year, the church served 70 guests and had 25 volunteers.

18th Annual larger crowd

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70 guests attended last year’s breakfast

Ed Sauls will serve as master of ceremony and pastor Don Sciortino will give the opening prayer at the event organized by Rick Shoemaker of Laguna Presbyterian Church.

“This is what Christmas is about,” Shoemaker said.

18th Annual dining

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The 2017 Annual Breakfast for the Homeless drew 25 volunteers

Boy Scouts from Troop 35 will serve as wait staff, while Brian and Sue Back will organize the kitchen “staff.” Missy Palino and Jennifer Baker from Girl Scout troops have assembled 100 decorated hygiene kits for the guests.

Laguna Presbyterian Church is located at 415 Forest Ave. (949) 494-7555.

For more information, go to www.lagunapreschurch.org.


2018 Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition selections will be displayed at City Hall during December

The City of Laguna Beach Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition will display up to 12 selected designs throughout December at City Hall. In addition, selected artists will be presented certificates at the City Council meeting on December 4, at 6 p.m.

2018 Childrens snowman

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach Twitter

Children’s Holiday Palettes will be a delight to see

The City’s Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition is a project of the Arts Commission open to children ages 5 to 17. Entries were accepted from children that reside or attend a school or art program in Laguna Beach.

City Hall is located at 505 Forest Ave.


Get a Laguna-specific Emergency Kit Backpack

In an effort to help residents be prepared for a disaster like the Malibu and Paradise fires, Laguna Beach has become the first city in Orange County to offer emergency kits. 

The Laguna Beach specific Emergency Kit Backpacks are now available for purchase thanks to the City. The kit includes an AM/FM hand crank radio with flashlight and cell phone charger, 4-in-1 gas and water utility shut off tool, glow sticks, bio-hazard bags, nitrile gloves, N95 mask, 54-piece first aid kit, duct tape, emergency poncho, solar blanket, and personal hygiene kit. Additionally, the kit contains emergency plan templates and disaster specific information. Each red backpack will feature an official City of Laguna Beach seal. 

Get a Laguna backpack

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Get your Laguna-specific emergency backpack

Residents can purchase the Laguna Beach specific Emergency Kit Backpack for $50 on the City’s website at https://bit.ly/2DlnFGy or in person at the Susi Q Community Center, 380 3rd Street during normal business hours. No profits are being made from the sale of this backpack. 

“Let’s get prepared,” said Jordan Villwock, LBPD Emergency Operations Coordinator.

For more information, contact Villwock at (949) 497-0389.


Local artist/illustrator team launches book at Quorum Gallery on Dec 6 during Art Walk

Join Quorum Gallery for a book launch and signing with local author Andi Paulin and illustrator Ellen K. Gladis, as they present “Paris by Carousel,” a how to travel Paris with kids guide. The event will be held at Quorum Gallery on Thursday, Dec 6, from 6 - 9 p.m. 

Paulin will read the prologue from her first book; Gladis will be available for the book signing too. Original watercolors from the book will be available for sale and copies of “Paris by Carousel” will be available for purchase. 

Local artist book cover

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Don’t miss an exciting book signing by local author and artist at Quorum Gallery during Art Walk on Dec 6

Paulin is local Laguna Beach mother of three and entrepreneur who started Toezies in 2006 and sold it in 2012. While staying in Paris with her children for five weeks, she fell in love with the carousels located throughout the Parisian neighborhoods and often tailored their days around them while visiting local attractions, cafes, markets and shops.

Gladis is a local Laguna Beach artist and Newport Beach resident. She works in multiple mediums including Gold Leaf and specializes in Realism/Impressionism. Her work is versatile from canvas art to murals, transforming hotels, businesses, and private custom homes. Her client list includes the Four Seasons Hotel, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and Pavilion Lido. Gladis is inspired by the beauty of the world and her travel experiences. 

Quorum Gallery is at 374 N Coast Hwy. The gallery features the work of 12 well-known local artists that work in a variety of media. Nestled in the heart of gallery row in Laguna Beach, Quorum Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in town and has been part of Laguna’s thriving art scene since 1963.

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