Thursday, December 28, 2023

Fun new food, fireworks, family ring in New Year around the world

Fireworks erupt in an artful arch on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu.





A powdered-sugar dusted beignet with a frothy coffee hits
the spot anytime in New Orleans, especially for  holidays.


IF YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED to try a new recipe and do something daring in the kitchen, why not now? For this, our third annual holiday recipe column, we offer a family favorite with an Asian twist.

We're on the other side of the solstice, thank the gods, and I'm already getting seed catalogues in the mail. So I've ordered herbs for the small garden that will garnish many meals. Consider this recipe, 

We cooked this jambalaya while visiting friends
in their New Orleans home over Christmas.

and think about next summer's garden between trips to the buffet table, stove or  cookie jar.

Do make time to try a favorite recipe, perhaps something you tasted over the holidays at a company party or neighborhood soiree.

Try your hand at improvising with this tasty "fork roasted"
dish, char siu. Add some red or yellow peppers to jazz it up.

I'm most resourceful in situations where innovation is called for.  It's time honored. What better time to improvise and invent then when you're a "holiday cook" Here's a recipe that cries out for you to make it your own. It's a family favorite -- a pretty, garlic laden dish using pork, beef or chicken. Char siu is  heavily influenced by Chinese culture and came to me in Asia.

It is quick, easy and not expensive and makes a favorite, showy holiday buffet item, or on any special occasion when you want a fast, succulent and satisfying meal.  It's also a great choice if you like small plates for a main course.  Try it with a couple other dishes and present them as appetizers, making a meal of these instead of a large main course of only one offering.
A dinner out at a new restaurant is always
a good back-up at holiday time.

Char siu literally means "fork roasted." Whether you use pork, chicken, beef or tofu, the point is to get the "char." Make sure the main course is patted dry. Tofu should be drained and carefully patted with towels before the quick cook.)
If your cooking skills betray you, try dining out on
comfort food. Clifton's in Los Angeles hits the spot.

An appetizer plate of cheeses, pate, olives and fruit
makes a beautiful nosh while preparing a light meal.

SO TRY it for a special occasion or even a speedy weeknight dinner when unexpected company shows up. Heck, try it for 
yourselves for no special occasion!

It's the ultimate comfort food -- juicy pork, beef or chicken, nicely spiced, charred a bit (the marinade slightly scorched gives it its lightly burned sweetness.) Serve it with your favorite rice and a salad.

This recipe came from a sweet old Vietnamese woman we met several years ago on a bike tour. She didn't have specific measurements (like my Irish grandmother.) So improvise and use your best judgment. 
By the second time you make it, you'll know exactly how much of
everything to prepare it the way you like.
As a back-up, consider dinner out at a favorite, close-by restaurant.

Cookie met a Thai grandmother and they formed an
instant bond, communicating with her Berlitz Thai and
a fondness for cats and cooking. Ba Diem shared a recipe.


(Ba means grandmother; Diem means beautiful. This recipe is heavily influenced by Ba Diem's Chinese grandmother's recipe. You can make the dish spicier with more pepper or serve it with Vietnamese chili or dipping sauce.

Rinse and cut chicken, pork or beef. (3/4 pound to pound, depending on number of guests.) Cut into strips at least 2-3 inches wide and long or short as you like.
Marinate. Mix 3/4 to one cup of honey, hoisin and soy sauce to taste (1/4 cup or more each.) Add cup of Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, 2 smashed and minced garlic gloves, tablespoon of ground ginger, teaspoon of five spice powder, hot ground pepper if you like, generous white pepper. Rub it over the meat/poultry. Marinate overnight (or at least a couple hours) in refrigerator.
An appetizer plate of olives,
chips, cheese and sardines
can make a light holiday meal.

Roast. Let the meat get juicy and cooked through on a wire rack in a low oven. Put pan beneath for drippings to add to glaze.
Make a quick glaze by bringing the excess marinade and drippings, plus a couple large spoons of honey to a boil.
Generously brush the meat/poultry/tofu with the glaze and give it a blast of heat to char it. Slice and enjoy!

Set your sights on something new, daring and exciting for
the new year.  Here we are on NCL's new cruise ship
Viva. The Speedway is a three-level race track. 
UP NEXT: Why not plan that cruise or trip to Rome, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Tokyo or the Andes??? Maybe it's a cruise you're yearning to take.  Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, Viva, is made to order for fun.  Its imaginative design beckons for independent travelers who want the pleasures of cruising without the crowds. Artful spaces encourage small groups, gourmet dining or visits over a cocktail with friends. Our New Year's column ushers in 2024, with the hopes we'll stretch and challenge ourselves.  If you've always wanted to plan a trip to a specific country -- perhaps Ireland, Norway, Austria or the Netherlands -- now's the time! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a new twist on travel, art, family, nature and more.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Holiday time around the world is celebrated with lights, parades, fun

The Wynn in Las Vegas goes in for the holidays in a big way. Like everything in this exciting,
colorful city, it's larger than life and attracts lots of attention outside the theater. 



The historic Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif., is famous for its
elaborate holiday displays. They attract thousands each season.

Dubai, UAE, features a Riverland Christmas Parade
each holiday, with a Christmas market and afternoon teas.
WHEN WE STARTED DATING nearly 18 years ago,  Bruce Keller and I decided to create
new holiday traditions.
That meant traveling, something we both love.  So what destinations have been our favorites over these past 17 holidays?
WE LIKE being around people of all ages -- no dreary "seniors only" haunts for us.  We enjoy the mix of young and old, the gathering of families and watching how other cultures celebrate and connect.  
It's exciting to use snippets of a language we're learning, to try it out as we order local foods and beverage specialties. Even a few phrases in the tongue of your host country opens doors, makes friends.

"Cookie and Keller" enjoy San Francisco's famous Fire
Engine Tour, fun anytime, especially during the yuletide.
What determines where we go? First, the place must have holiday lights. We're sentimental about that.
Sao Paulo's "Ponte Estaiada", is a cable-stayed bridge, lit up
each holiday, a beautiful sight over Brazil's Pinheiros River.
Its official name is the
 Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge. 
Then, it must offer fun photographic possibilities. It doesn't have to be "warm" but if  it's in snow country, there must be easy access to a "warming hut" and toddy.  There needs to be theater, museums -- culture -- so we can see a play, gallery or concert and learn something.
WE'VE CELEBRATED the holidays in both the northern and southern hemispheres.  We've seen Santa dive in the Great Barrier Reef and load up presents in a helicopter in Cabo, Mexico. We've sipped mulled wine with Swedes and munched on tasty gingerbread "pepparkakor." 
We've celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas simultaneously with friends, admiring the menorah as well as their Christmas tree.
A menorah and Christmas lights accent the holidays in
a friend's home. He believes in honoring both celebrations.
WE'VE GAMBLED happily in Las Vegas, and once saw a spectacular Cher show on Christmas Eve in Caesar's Colosseum. She wore a sexy "Mrs. Santa" costume for one number and a dozen other costumes, all seasonally apropos.
Seattle's Space Needle and Christmas tree
complement one another's lights.

We’re all in favor of doing the traditional thing -- spending the time with loved ones at home which we do occasionally.  But we also love seeing how cities around the world transform in December. Europe, South America, Australia and the Pacific Islands are  exciting places to spend the year-end holidays. Shortly after Halloween, and into the New Year, villages and cities offer sights to please from small, storybook Christmas markets to over the top light displays.  
 Celebrity Cruise decorates
 each ship's Centrum with trees
 and baubles during the holidays.
One resort in Bora Bora created a wonderland around the pool, encouraging us to bask with a cocktail, and admire palms festooned with lights. Santa appeared in a swimsuit with bikini clad elves in tow.
Here in the U.S., hundreds of cities jazz it up with lights and imaginative displays. Las Vegas can't be topped for spectacle. In Paris, the streets are a dream, from Moulin Rouge to tiny squares tucked away between the Louvre and Eifel Tower.

Always showy, Moulin Rouge goes over the top with holiday
. The food is classic French fare, and dining at the Moulin
Rouge in Paris on New Year's Eve is memorable and great fun
 UP NEXT: If you're still celebrating -- and we hope the answer is "yes" -- we invite you to continue globetrotting with us to see what the world eats as we usher in the new year. We'll toss in an easy recipe from Vietnam.  From one holiday to the next, keep the buzz going, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature, family and more.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Lights up on Honolulu's trolley and best holiday lights in the country

Magazine's top city lights
Honolulu is aglow with city lights, and Waikiki Trolley takes holiday revelers to the highlights.

Bruce Keller enjoys a visit with
Frosty the Snowman in Honolulu.




PAGANS REVERED mistletoe. My Norse ancestors thought it protected them from lightning and thunder. Druids believed that fire encouraged the gods to speed spring. So lights and mistletoe have a long history on Earth.
Homo erectus didn't have holiday lights a million years ago, but that's when the first fires
We found this oddly shaped
mistletoe, a parasite, on Oah
were likely 
built, for warmth, cooking and later to ward off wolves and demons, real or imagined. Today, holiday
lights shine in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens and the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Lights shine across the globe
from Tokyo to Rio, Arkansas to Oregon, Virginia to Los Angeles, Hong Kong to London. In Washington, D.C., Phoenix and San Diego, the U.S. is "lit" for the holidays.
Nowhere is the spectacle more appreciated than in Hawaii, where Honolulu's lights take center stage.
One of the stops on Waikiki Trolley visits Santa's
sleigh where this visiting family takes a selfie.

The much loved Waikiki Trolley is aglow with its own lights
as it transports locals and visitors around to city lights

WE MET travelers from Asia, Australia and the mainland on a recent Honolulu tour.  All were enjoying the spectacle via Waikiki Trolley's  Holiday Lights Tour. It's a family oriented, fun tour that takes riders to see the Christmas illuminations in downtown Honolulu. Highlights are the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations at Honolulu Hale --  city hall. Christmas music is played on the trolley, encouraging a happy holiday mood.

  NOT ALL the lights on this page today are part of the Honolulu trolley's tour. We've added a few of our favorite lights photos from other cities. Here's what's in store, if you've booked the Honolulu tour. 
First, while waiting to board the bus -- at the 7 p.m. 8 p.m., or 9 p.m. tour options, we recommend you check out the food trucks nearby. We had a difficult decision deciding between Thai and Mexican and opted for a fabulous meal of several kinds of tacos.
Trees are beautifully lit throughout
the country, here in Washington D.C.
Honolulu's lights are splendid, too.

 It was tasty Mexican street food -- delicious, freshly prepared tacos -- chicken, fish and beef.  Friendly service and tasty fare put us in the holiday spirit and we recommend Tacos de Cacheton for a reasonably priced treat, cooked to order, served with a smile.
While Honolulu's Christmas trees and outdoor displays are surrounded by lights, other cities offer carnival rides, street fairs, seasonal food specialties and hot spiced drinks. In the UK, expect roasted chestnuts. In Colombia, try roasted corn.  

  THE TRADITION of yuletide lights in Honolulu dates to 1987 when a month-long holiday event was named “Honolulu City Lights.” The City Holiday tree was originally decorated with strings of colored lights and a traffic signal control box was used to change the colors. The trolley became a natural part of the fun, with its cheerful clang, and decorations to attract passengers and spread cheer.

Rockefeller Center's lavish display in New York
is one of the city's most visited holiday exhibits.

    It took years for the holiday light tradition to cross the Pacific. On the mainland, it began in Menlo Park, New Jersey, when Edward H. Johnson assembled the first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson was a friend of inventor Thomas Edison in Edison's Illumination Company. He hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. He gilded the lily, creating a revolving mechanism so the tree was both illuminated and moving. 
Tacos de Cacheton on Ala Moana Blvd.,
offers delicious fare for before or after
enjoying a city lights trolley tour.

So get in the holiday mood.From Maine to Arkansas, Arizonato Louisiana, Colorado to Maryland, Texasto Virginia, city lights are waiting.You can join an organized city lights touror if  there isn't one, create your own.Get three or four families together, have apotluck first or plan a gathering for cookiesand Christmas carols, with toddies andpunch.  Then embark on your own tour.Newspapers feature the most colorfulcity lights, so you know where to go. to book or formore information on City Lights Tour.
The holy candelabrum, the menorah, adorns hundreds of Honolulu homes, reflecting the culture of the 10,000 Jewish residents in the city. 
In other spots around Oahu, Kaneohe transforms its Namoku Street into "Christmas Tree Lane" and revelers can also find lights in Kaimuki, Waikele, Waipahu and Mililani, considered Kaneohe's holiday hot spot.  
    House Beautiful magazine each year lists the best city lights in America.  The lights of Honolulu made the magazine's top ten again. Here's the link.
 Best city lights in the U.S.

So trees everywhere are aglow, and Santa's sleigh is loaded for kids of all ages.
If you're vacationing in a city, or relaxing in your own town, a holiday lights tour wherever you are will put you in the proper yuletide spirit -- guaranteed.
A menorah shines a light of hope on on downtown 
Honolulu.  Jewish culture revolves in the 
city around services at Temple Emanu-el.

Paris at night during the yule is a sight to behold.
UP NEXT: Christmas is celebrated in tandem with Hanukkah in many households around the world, where a Christmas tree and menorah co-exist in harmony in thousands of living rooms. We take readers on a tour of some of our favorite holiday sights and displays through years of spending holidays abroad. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live -- holiday time and all year long.  Be generous, forgiving and kind and let's make it a memorable and peaceful 2024.  

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Christmas stocking of theater treats draws crowds, kudos in San Diego

Cygnet's final holiday show in its longtime venue in Old Town features a spirited production
with a genuine heart, the classic "A Christmas Carol" featuring the gifted Sean Murray as Scrooge.



(and courtesy theater marketing departments)

UNLESS YOU'RE a real Grinch, you'll find something to tickle your funny bone with a raft of rousing productions on the boards now playing in the San Diego area.
This theater loving corner of the state is recovering from COVID's blow which left houses dark, stages bare and seats empty.
We're among happy legions celebrating live theater's rousing comeback.
Jefferson McDonald and Mathew McGloin delight for a holiday
encore of  "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" at North Coast Repertory Theatre.
We visit 15 San Diego theaters on a regular basis, proud that the city is blessed to have many enchanting theater venues. As grateful members of the audience we give thanks for talented actors, directors, designers, marketing pros and volunteers whose patient persistence keeps us in the limelight. Happily, we offer our annual holiday roundup of "the best on the boards" in theater loving San Diego.

NORTH COAST REPERTORY THEATRE: After an imaginative sell-out performance of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the popular "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" returns to delight holiday crowds Dec. 15-31. It's a fast-paced blend of comedy and virtuosic musicianship, with two accomplished actor-musicians presenting personal anecdotes, music snippets and bits of musical history. The intimate house offers excellent seating and a pleasing mix ranging from musicals to world premier dramas, comedies and classics.  The steady, creative hand of artistic director David Ellenstein crafts a season that satisfies older patrons while drawing new younger crowds.  He gives imagination a whirl with a lively blend of familiar comforts and new challenging work.  

Cygnet's charismatic artistic director Sean Murray, in
night cap, stars in a spirited "A Christmas Carol." 
  Capping a rousing, beautifully acted run of "The Little Fellow....." a risque comedy about a flamboyant madam, Cygnet Theatre in Old Town presents its popular holiday show through Dec. 26.  Cygnet's engaging  "A Christmas Carol," features artistic director Sean Murray's clever adaptation with the versatile Murray himself perfect as Scrooge. A fine 7-person ensemble puts magic, music and imagination in this beautifully rendered adaptation. As Cygnet wraps its tenure in Old Town, it prepares for its new, renovated home at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Performing Arts Center at Liberty Station.  Cygnet is also sponsoring a one-woman show featuring the music of the legendary Billie Holiday. "Lady Day" at Emerson’s Bar & Grill recounts Holiday’s life story through the songs that made her famous.
Gifted actor Bryan Banville plays the lead role of
Buddy in ''Elf,'' at Welk Resort Theatre. A terrific cast,
endearing songs, spirited dancing and fast paced 
  scenes are sure to enhance the Christmas spirit.

THEATRE AT THE WELK. The beautifully designed theater, at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido, presents a delightfully uplifting production of "Elf, the Musical." A comedy with soul, it's based on the children’s book and hit Will Ferrell movie about a human boy, Buddy,  raised as a Christmas elf at the North Pole.  A polished cast plays multiple roles as Buddy returns to New York City to find his human family and restore the spirit of Christmas to the jaded Big Apple. Award-winning San Diego actor Bryan Banville plays the lead role of Buddy with tenderness, vulnerability and a voice to melt even the heart of a scrooge. Flashy choreography, multiple costume changes and a first-rate ensemble make this fabulous holiday entertainment for kids of all ages.  Nov. 18-Dec. 24.

Girl singers with flair and beautiful harmonies from the
"R*E*S*P*EPC*T" sell-out join guys from "The Million
Dollar Quartet" in a holiday extravaganza at Lamb's.

LAMB'S PLAYERS THEATRE: Following a brilliantly acted "Jane" -- a riveting, flawlessly delivered take on Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre " -- Lamb's Players presents a polished and tuneful show with favorite top-drawer singers.  "R*E*S*P*E*C*T*F*U*L*L*Y Christmas," runs through Dec. 24. It's a lively vocal creation featuring casts of both "RESPECT" and "Million Dollar Quartet" with a nod to holiday favorites. If you saw either of these first-rate productions at Lamb's, you're in for a musical treat as these tuned up guys and gals collaborate for the holidays.

The Plaids present a jazzy holiday
treat at San Diego Musical Theatre.
SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE:  Harmony reigns in a holiday edition of the popular doo-wop musical comedy “Forever Plaid.” In this Yuletide version, the long-dead 1960s-era men’s vocal quartet, the Plaids, are resurrected for one night to give the holiday concert they never were able to sing in life. Runs through Dec. 24 The theater presents an admirable mix of musicals, including "In the Heights," which introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda to the world, and the perennial favorite, "Little Shop of Horrors."  SDMT's lively "Forever Plaid " closes the 2022 season. The popular grassroots enterprise made its name with romantic comedy and favorite musical theater offerings thanks to musical-loving founders Gary and Erin Lewis who launched the endeavor in 2006. It has a loyal following for its varied repertoire. 

Taking a bow, the ensemble of "1222 Oceanfront:
A Black Family Christmas" at New Village Arts.
.  This delightful 99-seat theater in Carlsbad headlines its 20th anniversary season with "1222 Oceanfront:  A Black Family Christmas," through Dec. 24. San Diego playwright Dea Hurston’s 2021 lively contemporary holiday musical features fun original music by Milena (Sellers) Phillips, who also stars in the show’s lead role. It’s the story of widowed family matriarch Dorothy Black, hosting a Christmas Eve celebration at her elegant beachside home with her adult son and extended family when unexpected family drama erupts. The musical delivers a joyous mix of original holiday songs with a modern nod to traditional carols.  The ambitious Carlsbad venue produces year-round musical events, cabaret and concert readings of Broadway musicals.
Diversionary Theatre has a new look, and a slate
of four intriguing works with LGBTQ themes.
 Here, the cast of "A Glass Menagerie," a
top production with four fine actors.
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE. The current season at our nation's third oldest LGBTQ theater includes "The Glass Menagerie," the Tennessee Williams classic of a complex family in the 1940s, facing an uncertain future. Lisa Berger deftly directs a first-rate cast featuring Shana Wride, believably endearing in her excess as Amanda, the overbearing mother. Luke Jacobs does a fine job with Williams' poetic narration. The theater is devoted to gay themes and playwrights, including Williams. Diversionary is a small, mind-challenging venue which opened season 36 in its recently renovated space, including a cozy cabaret. Diversionary's enterprising playbill espouses love, honesty, humor and hope with a  mission to inspire and celebrate diverse LGBTQIA stories.
"Man and Moon" caught
the eye of critics and
subscribers alike.
 Watch this ground-breaking company,  known for its generosity to students, and for its diverse repertoire of "female focused" work. Some of the region's best actors have graced Moxie's stage where each season presents surprises and delights. "Man and Moon" just wrapped, featuring the touching story of a transitioning man, Aaron, and Luna, a young girl with a passion for outer space. Watch for more imaginative Moxie works on tap.
ROUSTABOUTS THEATRE CO.: This talented, daring company  features some of San Diego's finest actors and has produced a range of funny, touching and acerbic pieces.  Now, enter an ambitious youth program. The Roustabouts Youth Division presents a concert reading of "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," the Tony winning musical which follows the biblical story of Jacob's favorite son, Joseph, and his eleven brothers. Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and is imprisoned by an Egyptian noble before a resolution. Actor Phil Johnson co-directs (company co-founder, brilliant in "A Jewish Joke") with a talented local cast. The readings are Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Scripps Ranch Theatre.

Scripps Ranch Theatre presents lively,
evocative work with humor and heart,
here "A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play."
It's not on this holiday, but look for it.
SCRIPPS RANCH THEATRE. Creative use of space on the campus of Alliant International University provides a welcoming forum for an interesting, diverse season.  In past years, Scripps celebrated the holidays with Scripps Ranch Theatre and Oceanside Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play.” Watch for an encore of the radio play about the story of the Christmas-hating Ebenezer Scrooge and his epiphany. Highlights of the upcoming, ambitious season are "Chapatti," a touching story of romance set in Dublin, and "Vanity Fair," adapted from the W.M. Thackeray novel.
We hope for a return to the holiday show in 2024. 
The classic Dr. Seuss
story of the cranky
Grinch is at Old Globe.

OLD GLOBE: Celebrate the holidays as the Old Globe Theatre is once again transformed into a charming, snow-covered Who-ville. The popular family show is in its 20th year, "Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is a whimsical musical based upon the classic book. It's up through Dec. 24. featuring memorable songs including “This Time of Year,” “Santa for a Day,” and “Fah Who Doraze,” the delightful carol from the animated classic.
                                                                                         La JOLLA
Actor Matthew Broderick rehearses a scene from
"Babbitt," which is playing to raves for its elegance.
 Through Dec. 10, La Jolla Playhouse limited run. 
 PLAYHOUSE. Carrying on this venerable, top drawer theater's dedication to the unique, La Jolla Playhouse has unveiled its 2024/2025 season, featuring a world-premiere musical, "The Ballad of Johnny and June." And while it's not exactly a holiday show, "Babbitt" offers a thinking person's alternative to the usual lighter yuletide entertainment with Broadway star Matthew Broderick starring in "Babbitt." Christopher Ashley directs the story of a 46- year-old real estate broker in mid-life angst. The Sinclair Lewis novel is adapted for the stage in this already sold-out production, extended through Dec. 10 with a wait list for tickets.
WITH THIS BOUNTY, the holidays are in full flower as theaters march on after a few complicated years. A bang-up, eagerly anticipated holiday theater season begins! 
As the lively arts emerge from the shadow cast by COVID, it is important to support local theater, symphonies, chorales, bands and buskers. And remember that a pair or two of tickets to a play or musical makes an excellent holiday gift -- wherever you live.

Honolulu's City Lights tour offers a hop on and off option.
UP NEXT: While we're in the holiday spirit, take a ride with us on Honolulu's  much loved Waikiki Trolley. Climb aboard for a festive holiday lights tour aboard the trolley.   You'll see highlights of the downtown  area, with a special will take you through the city's historic downtown where you can hop on and off. Remember to explore, learn and live!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

England's oldest operational theater, Georgian Theatre Royal, is a gem

Elegant boxes and beautiful curtains, ornate original design touches and perhaps the oldest known
theatrical set piece mark the historic Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire, England.


Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal is among the country's
 most revered theaters, and the oldest still operational one.



THEATER is as much a part of life in England as steak and kidney pie, pub life and the Royal Family. Whether you spell it with an "er" or an "re" you can be sure that Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal is worth a visit if you're anywhere near north Yorkshire.

We sat for a few minutes in the Royal Box,
during an afternoon guided tour
Then Prince Charles and
Camilla, before he became
King, in the Royal Box.
THE THEATRE Royal is the oldest still operational theater in England, a charming, small venue where regular performances and concerts are held as they have been since 1899 -- with a few interruptions.  Its official handle is the Georgian Theatre Royal and it opened with "As You Like It," written by William Shakespeare in 1599. The theater continues to offer classical works, as well as concerts and a variety of productions including  recent sold-out presentations of  "The Buddy Holly Story" and "Northern Soul."
WITH ONLY 154 seats, everyone in the house is practically "ringside." We recently enjoyed beautiful orchestra seats with our hosts and Yorkshire residents, John and Sue, who are regulars at the theater.
The streets of Richmond suit the historic look and feel of the
intimate Theatre Royal, the city's pride, a beautiful venue.
The venue is beloved by Yorkshire residents who are rightly proud of its history and life as both a thriving community playhouse and a living theater museum. No wonder it is revered, for famed actor Edmund Kean is among luminaries to act on the historic stage.
Building on the theater began in 1788 with actor-manager Samuel Butler and his first wife Tryphosa Brockhill Butler in command.  It was a "circuit theater" then, with actors traveling the countryside to play other houses -- in Beverley, Harrogate, Kendal, Northallerton, Ripon, Ulverston and Whitby.  All those theater venues are long gone, giving more meaning to Theatre Royal's longevity.
FOLLOWING TRYPHOSA's death, then Butler's demise, his second wife, Francis Maria Jefferson, took over the operation. Following her run, for more than the next100 years, the building housed other enterprises, including a wine warehouse and an auction house.  A determined fundraising effort allowed a return to its original purpose and it reopened as a non-profit trust in 1963.  An expansion followed in 1996, then a major restoration in 2002. More than 1.6 million pounds was raised, with a gala reopening in 2003.
A view of the theater's interior from the stage,
looking back, to show the compact house.
We marveled at the artwork in this sturdy old theater, which hosted performances by Dame Sybil Thorndike in the 1960s and famed contemporary actor Dame Judi Dench in more recent times. Dench is also president of the theater.
Famed actor Edmund Kean
had star billings in the
theater's early days.

The neighborhood of Richmond's
Theatre Royal houses many
interesting buildings, including
shops, hotels and restaurants.

 OUR GUIDED tour included viewing of some of the prized artifacts, organized in 2016 with the opening of "The Georgian Theatre Royal Experience." Within the theater is a museum detailing the history of the building and displaying artifacts from the theatre's collection, as well as The Woodland Scene, reported to be the oldest surviving stage scenery in the world. The "Experience" is run by an educated, engaging group of theater loving volunteers, including retired teachers and businessmen, all theater buffs. They are proud of the theater's outreach through the Paul Iles Learning Centre, named after its patron. It  houses The Georgian Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and hosts myriad events including volunteer open days, book groups and costume making sessions.
THE THEATER's most precious possession is what is that aforementioned world's oldest piece of theatrical scenery.
"The Woodland Scene" was painted in a workshop in Royston, Hertfordshire, in around 1820.
The theater in preparation for a performance of
"Northern Soul." Here, stage, backstage and props.
 The cozy theater also houses a bar, box office, office space and storage space.
The theater's pantomime productions are a huge audience hit, with giant set pieces and characters from children's literature, folk and fairy tales. "Rapunzel" is running now. 
Surely Edmund Kean's ghost is smiling down.
For more on performances or tours:

Veteran actor, director and a charming Scrooge (in night cap),
Sean Murray stars in Cygnet Theatre's "A Christmas Carol."
It is one of a dozen holiday treats on the boards in San Diego
NEXT UP: While we're in a theater mood, holiday time is upon us and in southern California, that means theater and a variety of fabulous productions.  From dueling pianos on a holiday theme at North Coast Rep, to  Lamb's Players spirited seasonal twist on their wildly popular "RESPECT," to "Elf, the Musical" at Welk Theatre and Sean Murray a delightfully pensive Scrooge in Cygnet's "A Christmas Carol," there is something for every holiday spirit. More next week, as we explore, learn and live: