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Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin live streams on Sunday, May 10 to benefit Laguna Playhouse

For the first time ever, on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10 at 5 p.m. PST, Hershey Felder comes to audiences with a live stream, from Florence, Italy with his hit production of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin!

To support some of his home theaters during these challenging times, Felder decided to do this special performance.

“We are very grateful to Hershey Felder and his dedication to the Playhouse and his fans by making this one-time-only event available to our patrons. Tickets to this production are entirely tax-deductible, so not only will our audiences have a wonderful time celebrating the very patriotic Irving Berlin on Mother’s Day, they will be supporting the Playhouse as well. It’s a wonderful two-for-one opportunity!” says Ellen Richard, Executive Director. 

Berlin gave America its voice 

In this tour-de-force performance, award-winning musician, actor, playwright, and producer Hershey Felder brings to life the story of one of America’s foremost composers. From the depths of anti-Semitism in czarist Russia to the streets of New York’ Lower East Side – and ultimately all of America and the entire world – this is the story of an immigrant boy who gave a country its voice.

Even if you don’t know Irving Berlin by name, you’ve heard plenty of his songs: “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” – the list goes on and on. Now you have the opportunity to experience the quintessential American composer through the performance of an immensely talented actor, pianist, and playwright. 

Hershey Felder piano

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“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” live streams on Sunday, May 10 at 5 p.m.

Felder has previously performed as George Gershwin, Beethoven, and Chopin, and in Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, he takes on the role of one of America’s most prolific and iconic composers. Felder’s masterful creation of character and performance features Berlin’s songs performed by Felder, as well as stories about Berlin’s life and how he created the music we still love today. Don’t miss this memorable show – hailed as “richly entertaining and ultimately touching” and a critics’ pick by the Los Angeles Times

A note from Hershey Felder

Dear Friends,

Over the past 25 years, the stages of many theatres across the United States have been my home for eleven out of twelve months each year. Yet, for the first time in all these years, I find myself at that elusive “home,” here In Florence, Italy, the place where the many things I have collected over the years live, and where the dog is king and allows me to visit from time to time. It was here in this city that the Piano and Opera were invented and the city was the centre of the Renaissance, where even today every molecule is still infused with art. It is a place that I had hoped, when all was said and done some years from now, would be the place where I could make music, write and create, and then simply fade away with the most beautiful sunset that ever was. I could never have imagined that it would be because of such world tragedy and sadness, that I would find myself at “home.” As otherworldly as it is here, I am still drawn to the many theatres that have given me homes over the years, and so together we have created a nationwide event paying tribute to America’s greatest songwriter, Irving Berlin. Proceeds from this event will benefit each of the many participating theatres throughout the nation. 

To present this event, we have recreated here in Florence the set of Irving Berlin’s home on Beekman Place in Manhattan, and we have a film crew that has been safe and in quarantine here in Florence. If you’ve seen the production some time ago, there is some new additional material that speaks to our times, as well as a few surprises. Because audiences always request the now infamous “audience encore,” we have even made it possible for you to ask your questions by cell phone text directly to me during the encore section, and I will answer live, just as I do in the theatre. And yes, we will be coming to you live from our stage at 1 a.m. in Italy, 5 p.m. on the West Coast, 7 p.m. in the Midwest, and 8 p.m. on the East Coast, in honor of the beautiful theatres across the nation, and in honor of all the Mothers on this unusual and special Mother’s Day. I look forward to seeing you then! 

The performance is available for a tax-deductible price of $50 contribution per household for viewing on Smart TV, computer, smart phone or tablet. Viewing will be available for an additional 72 hours post live performance. Once purchase is confirmed, participants will receive a confirmation email followed by a reminder email on the day prior to the event with a viewing link and an instructive video demonstration for viewing on your device. Participants will also receive a receipt from Laguna Playhouse for the tax deduction. The proceeds will benefit the Laguna Playhouse. To purchase, click here.

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Laguna Dance Festival receives $5K grant from FOA Foundation

The Laguna Dance Festival wishes to thank the FOA Foundation for its generous grant of $5,000 in support of the nonprofit’s Summer Intensive Program. This week-long dance education and coaching class is designed for pre-professional students ages 14 and up. 

Executive Director Joy Dittberner states, “Currently scheduled for June 15-19, 2020 at LBHS Dance Studio, we are hopeful live instruction will be possible. Contingency plans are under development in the event social distancing remains in place. The show will go on!”

Laguna Dance stage

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Courtesy of Laguna Dance Festival 

Complexions performs “Stardust” at a previous Dance Festival

Laguna Dance Festival is one of Orange County’s major cultural events, delivering world-class dance and education for 16 years and a showcase for new and established dance companies and artists. 

The Fall Festival is planned for September 10-13, 2020 at the Laguna Playhouse. 

For more details, visit

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Last call for entries for the 22nd Annual John Gardiner Poetry Contest: deadline April 30

Only a few days remain to enter Laguna Beach Library’s 22nd Annual John Gardiner Poetry Contest! The deadline to submit poems is this Thursday, April 30. Due to library closure, all submissions must be submitted via email. Complete contest guidelines can be found on the branch website here.

The theme this year is “I believe in Superheroes.” All ages are welcome to enter, and winners in all categories will receive prizes of $25 - $100 gift certificates.

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2020 Artist Fund at Festival of Arts Board of Directors Exhibition now online

The Artist Fund at Festival of Arts is exhibiting its Board of Directors Show online in collaboration with City of Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Department, now through June 26.

On view are 30 originals by board members including Chris Brazelton, Geraldine Cropser, Jordan Dimitrov, Sharon Jackman, Elizabeth McGhee, and Wendy Wirth. Special guest exhibitors, award winners from the 2019 Art-To-Go program, include Judith Cameron, Dennis Carrie, Mark Jacobucci, Mitch Ridder, and exhibit curator Mike Tauber.

2020 Artist ocean

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“Approaching Surf,” acrylic, Wendy Wirth

A portion of each sale supports the hardship fund for artists in need. Photos of the works showing details and frames are gladly available upon request by calling (949) 612-1949. 

The Artist Fund at Festival of Arts offers delivery, shipping, and several free pickup locations in Laguna Beach and beyond. See the entire collection, sizes, and prices on Facebook here.   

2020 Artist Zinc

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“Zinc Cafe,” oil, Elizabeth McGhee

The Artist Fund provides grants to all past or present Festival exhibitors who are working artists. Hardship grants provide financial relief to those suffering from medical or unforeseen circumstances. Enrichment grants are gifts to artists that enhance or encourage turning points in their careers.

Artist applications for Hardship and Enrichment Grants can be found at

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Laguna Beach Live! presents canceled artist through streamed video 

Last Wednesday should have been the grand finale of Laguna Beach Live!’s 2020 Jazz Wednesdays Winter series featuring Kathleen Grace. Although heartbroken she couldn’t make her debut, you can still watch KG in action via the link below. 

Kathleen Grace is one of a new breed of American Jazz singers. Soulful and evocative, the critics agree: “Grace’s bright, clear voice reflects simple beauty and subtle wisdom.” (LA Weekly)

Laguna Beach Grace

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Kathleen Grace was originally scheduled to play the grand finale for Laguna Beach Live!’s Jazz Wednesdays Winter series 

As you may be aware, Laguna Beach Live! has been supporting the artists whose shows it had to cancel due to the COVID-19 crisis. This has been achieved with the help and generosity of patrons, many of whom have donated the full price of their tickets back to the organization. 

All who kindly donate the cost of their tickets receive a tax-deductible receipt and Laguna Beach Live!’s gratitude. If you would prefer a refund, click here before May 1, after which it will be presumed that you wish to donate. 

For more information and to contact Laguna Beach Live!, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (949) 715-9713. 

Kathleen Grace’s new album Tie Me to You can be found where ever music is available.

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Local artist Cindy Fletcher paints coronavirus series to help her cope with pandemic


Suzanne Redfearn, author and Laguna Beach Literary Laureate, brought our attention to Cindy Fletcher’s extraordinary painting of the sewing machine she uses to make masks. Redfearn said, “She and her daughter Liz have been sewing face masks for CHOC. I thought this was so poignant and beautiful. It speaks to both the darkness of the pandemic and the light of our humanity.”

Fletcher, a well-known Laguna artist, says, “I came across the scene after my daughter and I made masks for ourselves and our family. The machine set in a comfortable, sunny room, the bright fabrics left over from former projects now made into masks in the hope of fending off a deadly virus – what a shocking change.” 

This is one in a series of paintings Fletcher is doing to help her cope with the pandemic.

Local artist sewing machine

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Cindy Fletcher’s painting – one in a series about the coronavirus pandemic

“I have several other paintings that are larger and are not completed yet. I decided to record the images that the coronavirus has brought that were unheard of just weeks ago. The first painting is a man wearing a mask in the midst of a busy urban setting. I found it startling to see someone that felt that level of protection was necessary in a city in our country. Within a week from starting on that painting masks became ubiquitous and traffic on city streets came to a screeching halt. New haunting scenes became common,” says Fletcher.

“Another is a close-up of hands washing. The fact that simple soap and water is our best preventative is wondrous in its simplicity and at the same time deeply problematic that that is all we have. There are so many images that are poignant that I have a lot of material.” 

Local artist masks

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Sample masks and the donated fabrics, elastic, and pipe cleaners that are used to make the mask crimp over the nose 

“My daughter and I have only just begun making masks. She has temporarily returned home from Rotterdam where she lives and works as an engineer, and she is busy working remotely. We began sewing this weekend. 

“A friend of ours is involved in an organization called the Healthcare Mask Collaborative that was put together by Stephanie Oddo. It’s 250 sewers and a network of people rounding up all the supplies that has made 16,000 masks that have been distributed to a long list of hospitals, senior care facilities, daycare facilities, and the military. Five thousand masks were sent to Guam and distributed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.” 

Fletcher encourages anyone who has cotton, thread, elastic, or the ability to sew to go to and join the effort!

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Local artist Brynne Cogorno offers art tutorials on YouTube and free coloring book pages


“Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now,” said artist Dorothea Tanning. 

Of course Tanning wasn’t referring to the pandemic, but right now we could all use a little help staying sane, so Laguna Beach resident and artist Brynne Cogorno decided to do something about it.

Cogorno says, “About three weeks ago, when COVID-19 cases started showing up in the U.S., I sat down, more like paced back and forth in my studio, trying to wrap my brain around what was happening. I knew I had two choices: freak out, cry, get angry, which all happened by the way, or shine my light out onto the world. I thought, I could offer free coloring pages on my website. I designed a coloring book two years ago celebrating my 10th anniversary of designing and illustrating as an artist. Sharing my coloring pages was the perfect thing to do because I already had the art saved on my computer. It was something that I could act fast with. I put the pages on my blog and started sharing on all my social platforms.”

Click here for Brynne’s free coloring pages.

Local artist sawdust

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Photo by Cydette Vikander

Brynne Cogorno at her booth on Preview Night at the Sawdust Festival

A longtime (12 years) exhibitor at the Sawdust Festival, Cogorno went to the University of Colorado at Boulder (Class of ‘07) where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing. She says, “I knew I wanted to start my own business as an artist as soon as I graduated. I’m a believer of magic, I’m an empath, I’m an internal optimist. I think donuts are cute, especially the ones with sprinkles. I’m a giver, and I love spreading my light, it just feels good.” 

In 2009, Cogorno started Backward Prints with the goal of spreading happiness and smiles to all. “I started with an eco-friendly stationery line which later developed into a women’s and children’s apparel collection. I’ve been a printmaker for over twelve years. I used to hand print my cards, but then fell in love with screen printing. I do all my own screen printing in my garage. I like switching things up, so I dabble in different mediums from time to time. I taught myself how to sew a few years ago. It’s come in handy because I’m now sewing face masks and selling them off my website.” 

Coping in precarious times

As we all know, animals are a tremendous comfort, especially in the midst of challenging circumstances, and it turns out Cogorno’s timing in getting a dog couldn’t have been better.

Local artist Harley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Brynne with Harley, her French bulldog 

Cogorno says, “In times like these, we just have to adapt and adjust. I have moments when I need to stop and feel all my feelings. I wake up every day and send a prayer to my friends and family, to everyone on our planet. I ask myself, ‘What are you grateful for, and what’s in your control?’ And then I read a page from The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo. I sip my coffee while my six-month-old French bulldog Harley snores on my lap. I lucked out with deciding on getting a dog this year. Harley has been my emotional support animal for sure. He comforts me and reminds me to laugh and play, and he loves unconditionally. He’s the best assistant a girl could ask for. He sleeps a lot while I sew masks in my studio. Its adorable.” 

Art tutorials on YouTube

Even though Cogorno put her tutorials on YouTube before our current stay-at-home restriction, this is the perfect time to access them. 

“After seeing so many people go live on Instagram and Facebook (examples: yoga, workout classes), I figured why not teach art? I taught an abstract watercolor class on FB Live, which was a lot of fun, but the video quality wasn’t that great, so I decided to film and post on my YouTube Channel. 

To access the video, click here.

“I’m really happy with that decision. It just works better for me with walking others step by step on what to do. Also, I’ve been teaching art classes at the Sawdust for more than five years. I love teaching art! Truth is, I’ve been wanting to do more with my life. I love being an artist, and teaching at the Sawdust, but I just felt like something was missing. I think creating these art tutorials was the missing link. It brings me great happiness putting these classes together each week.” 

Local artist cactus

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Page from coloring book – “Prickly Pear Cactus”

She’ll be adding another watercolor class in the next few days. 

“I’m still learning and growing with figuring out all the ins and outs of how to put the classes together, film, edit, and social sharing. Woah, it’s a lot…but I’m always up for a fun challenge with a positive outcome.

“I’ve teamed up with Sawdust as well, and they’ve been sharing several of my posts so we can get free art out to as many people as possible.” 

Backward Prints is born

“People often ask me why I named my business Backward Prints. Let me tell you, it’s a rather interesting story. Growing up I always felt different. I didn’t really feel like I fit in with the popular crowds, I was an introvert, and shy. But, because of enjoying all that alone time, I found myself making and creating art. In fact, I started selling stained glass to my dad’s coworkers. As I grew up, I decided to go off to college and major in art. It was hard because so many people around me thought I was crazy for majoring in something that wouldn’t promise me a way to make money. 

“I had so many people that seemed to doubt my dreams of becoming a business owner as an artist. This fueled my fire and made me want to follow my heart and show these people that I could and would be a success! This year I celebrate 12 years of owning my business. Every day I wake up and know the reasons why I started Backward Prints – my purpose in life is to inspire others to follow their dreams. I teach art classes to pass on my knowledge in my community, and I continue to be there for those who reach out to me for support with their endeavors.”

Right now the extra time on our hands affords us a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of free art lessons and coloring book pages – don’t miss out.

The entire coloring book can be purchased on the Backward Prints website.

For more information on the tutorials and Cogorno’s other merchandise, go to

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Laguna Art Museum announces Permanent Collection available to browse from home

Laguna Art Museum’s Permanent Collection is now available to browse from home. The collection consists of over 3,000 works from the 19th century to the present day. Significant examples from all periods of California art are represented online.

Included in the collection is artist Margaret Garcia, a Los Angeles-based artist. She studied fine art at USC, and afterwards continued to teach and lecture throughout the region. Primarily a muralist, Garcia has produced a great number of them throughout the Los Angeles area, and some were particularly influential during the 1984 Olympics. 

Laguna Art Garcia

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Margaret Garcia, “Romance”

Garcia’s work consists of colorful, vibrant, and expressive oil paintings rooted in the tradition of Chicano art. In her artwork, Garcia hopes to embrace the dense culture and history of Los Angeles, and to celebrate Chicano tradition.

To view the collection, visit

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Laguna Playhouse announces updates to upcoming schedule of shows

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Laguna Playhouse has announced the following updates to its 99th and 100th seasons respectively. 

Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham and Executive Director Ellen Richard state, “We are monitoring the CDC and our state and local officials closely regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our audiences, creative partners, and staff, so we have re-scheduled and/or canceled some of our upcoming productions. Like you, we are looking forward to the glorious day we can have our doors open and our theatre creating art once again on its historic stage.” 

The Playhouse is happy to announce that Hershey Felder’s Monsieur Chopin, originally slated for April 2020, has been rescheduled to October 2020 as a special performance in the Playhouse’s centennial season. All ticket holders for Monsieur Chopin will be automatically transferred to the new dates, and ticket buyers will be contacted directly with details. 

Laguna Playhouse outside

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Laguna Playhouse announces schedule changes due to COVID-19 

Also rescheduled is the special performance of Rocky Mountain High, A Tribute to John Denver, which has been moved to January 7-10, 2021. The Playhouse is also, in conjunction with the creative team for Ann, the one-woman play about Texas Governor Ann Richards, currently in discussions about bringing this popular play back as a special performance in the coming year. New dates for the Official Blues Brothers Revue will also be announced at a future date. Currently, the world premiere musical To Sir, With Love has been cancelled. 

All ticket holders for Ann and To Sir, With Love are being invited to support the Playhouse by applying their balance for those shows to their 2020/2021 season subscription. By doing this, subscribers can help ensure that the Playhouse remains able to produce high-quality productions for the next 100 years. 

Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre is continuing to educate students via remote access. Conservatory classes resumed the week of March 30 online and the Youth Theatre is exploring ways to create virtual mini-performances remotely. Workshop classes have been paused until fall. Summer camps are currently still scheduled to start at the end of June, as long as it is safe to do so. 

The Playhouse has also announced its Thank You Orange County Heroes program, dedicated to frontline employees ranging from grocery store workers to doctors and nurses, and all others working daily in the community risking their lives to keep everyone safe. These first line workers are entitled a pair of complimentary tickets to any show of the Playhouse’s centennial season. 

For more information, visit

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Laguna Playhouse to provide behavioral health outreach to youth through arts wellness program

Laguna Playhouse is proud to announce a new partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency to provide behavioral health outreach to Transitional Age Youth (TAY) and hard to reach young adults.

Laguna Playhouse will provide innovative theatrical solutions to outreach to these individuals and groups to create awareness regarding behavioral health conditions including mental health and substance abuse disorders, and break the stigma surrounding them. 

The Playhouse will reach out to at-risk students in college and traditional educational settings as well as too hard to reach individuals such as at-risk foster youth; veterans; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth; youth who tend to be underserved due to cultural or linguistic barriers; and youth who have experienced trauma and the effects of addiction in their lives. 

For more than fifty years, Laguna Playhouse has worked with young theatre artists through its Education and Youth Theatre Programs. Twenty years ago, the Playhouse began to address the topic of behavioral health in its plays through its Theatre for a New Generation Series. These performances include panel discussions with counselors and other licensed professionals. 

In 2017, Laguna Playhouse started its TheatreHope program, which provides outreach to homeless and food insecure youth, veterans and military families, individuals with disabilities, and youth effected by addiction. Recipients of TheatreHope are provided free tickets and transportation to the theatre to see an uplifting play, receive a tour of the theatre, and have the opportunity for discussion sessions with cast and crew. 

TheatreHope has provided respite and hope as the motivational spark for self-sufficiency and has allowed the Playhouse to forge tight relationships with over two dozen service organizations serving Orange County’s youth such as Project Hope Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Human Options, Second Harvest, Laura’s House, and Glennwood House to name a few. 

“Our ability to collaborate with dozens of service organizations in Orange County over the last few years along with the expressed need for behavioral health services for youth in Orange County has allowed us to develop an innovative approach to link youth to behavioral health services,” said Doug Vogel, Director of Development for Laguna Playhouse.

Laguna Playhouse’s newest outreach program, conceived and created by Director of Youth Theatre and Education Dylan Russell, provides behavioral outreach through a program called “Our Stories.” 

This program will work hand in hand with the Playhouse’s Theatre for a New Generation plays and with TheatreHope to target underserved youth by expanding its efforts addressing behavioral health issues. 

The Our Stories Program will work with targeted groups at colleges and universities and other nonprofit organizations serving TAY and at-risk young adults by inspiring the participants to creatively explore their significant life experiences through storytelling and playwriting. These stories may include moments of trauma, life challenges, or moments of healing and transformation. 

In some instances, these stories will evolve into plays that will be performed for a larger group or community. The end result is a cultivation of knowledge and awareness about behavioral health issues and increased access to behavioral health services offered in Orange County. 

“There is nothing more powerful than to have your story heard and acknowledged by others,” says Russell. “The Our Stories Project allows the storyteller’s experience to be seen within their community and the listeners to hear that they are not alone in their experiences and in the healing process.”

According to Russell, Laguna Playhouse is on the cutting edge of the Arts in Health movement – to promote arts and wellness through cross-sector collaborations between public health organizations, arts and culture organizations, and community development. Theatre and story-based projects generate sustained community participation, provide an engaging way to “teach” about behavioral health, and contribute to protective factors such as social support, empathy, and resilience.

“The theatre provides an imagination passport for children that elevates their dreams to what is possible like nothing else,” said Project Hope Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Friend.

For more information on Laguna Playhouse, visit

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