A World of Difference

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At five years old, most of us are thinking about kindergarten.

Manyang Reath Kher was thinking about survival.

The Sudanese civil war raged for twenty-two years of his life, separating Manyang from his family in Akobo when he was four years old.   He grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia, where famine, disease, and death were part of everyday life.

Then, a traumatic experience ultimately led to a rare opportunity–and brought Manyang to the United States.   Within a year of arriving, he had created the nonprofit Humanity Helping Sudan Project, to end starvation and create resources in his homeland.

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Celebrating the “Fire”

(Book cover design by Azaan Kamau/Glover Lane Press, and used with permission.)

(Book cover design by Azaan Kamau/Glover Lane Press, and used with permission.)

James Baldwin was definitely a “soul on fire.”

His brutally honest writing style evoked the experience of living in a world dictated by prejudice and social injustice.    A number of his books, like his controversial 1953 novel Go Tell It On the Mountain, became classics.   Besides being one of the leading black authors of his time, he was a passionate civil-rights activist–working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior and Malcolm X, in the early 1960s.

This year, James Baldwin would have celebrated his ninetieth birthday.  And professional actor and cultural conservationist Charles Reese, a/k/a The Charles Reese Experience, is educating people on the life of this extraordinary author and activist.

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Talent In His Corner

carrie hamilton theatre1Veteran performer Joe Orrach knows all about boxing, tap dancing–and survival.

And he puts all three of them together in an electrifying one-man show, In My Corner, which opens at the Pasadena Playhouse‘s newly-renovated Carrie Hamilton Theatre this week.

In My Corner is Joe’s autobiographical coming-of-age story about a Puerto Rican/Italian kid who grows up in New York and comes to terms with his relationship with his father.  To tell his story onstage, Joe utilizes a live band, a speed bag, jump rope, his tap dancing and boxing skills–and his own considerable gifts as a storyteller.

Joe talked about his background, the creation of In My Corner and what audiences can expect to see, when he takes the stage.

In My Corner opens at the Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre at 7:30 this Thursday, May 15th, and runs in tandem with comic Amy G’s Entershamement.   Shows alternate times each evening from May 15th through May 31st.  Here’s the link for show times and more information.

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A Visit With “Zora”

letters from zora1If iconic author Zora Neale Hurston were around today, what might she say about her life and times?

To answer that question, playwright Gabrielle Pina uses what she did say.

By dramatizing some of Zora’s letters and combining them with original music by Dr. Ron McCurdy and historic images from the 1920s, Gabrielle has created a multimedia show, Letters From Zora, which brings the gifted artist to life as a warm, spunky and vulnerable woman, who is “the life of the party” even as she wrestles with self-doubt.  After selling out all its performances at the Pasadena Playhouse last summer, Letters From Zora has returned for a limited run.

Gabrielle, who is also an award-winning author and a guest professor at Pasadena City College, talked about the process of creating Letters from Zora and what she, as a writer, has taken away from the experience.

Gabrielle Pina’s multimedia show, Letters From Zora, runs from Saturday, May 10, through Sunday, May 18th, at the Pasadena Playhouse.

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Chronicling the Facts

christine michaels2

Journalism equals creating an accurate record of history, as it’s happening.

And that’s exactly what soon-to-be-graduate Christine Michaels has been doing, during her time at Pasadena City College.

As Editor-in-Chief of PCC’s  independent student newspaper, the PCC Courier, Christine and her staff have covered some landmark stories.  Events at Pasadena City College, over the past two years, have included a major calendar change, questions of shared governance, the opening of the new Center for the Arts, major sports victories, scandals and, of course, the recent “disinvitation” of Academy-Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, as PCC’s 2014 commencement speaker.

Two days prior to the announcement that Black had been re-invited to speak, and had accepted the invitation, Christine talked about on-campus issues, her experiences with the Courier and her goals for the future.

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Teaching in a Country of Contrasts

micah sittig 7In 1998, Micah Sittig decided to take an evening class in Mandarin Chinese at Pasadena City College.

That class sparked his interest in PCC’s Chinese language program–and began a journey he couldn’t have imagined.

Today, Micah is an international educator, who has just moved back to the U.S. after ten years of teaching both physics and math in Shanghai.  Prior to that, he taught English in Tianjin–and spent a summer in Princeton’s intensive “immersion” program for advanced study of the Chinese language, Princeton in Beijing.

Micah talked about learning the Chinese language and culture, as well as his experiences working in the People’s Republic of China, and offered some learning resources.

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