Category Archives: Events

Cultural events of the Conejo Valley

Conejo Valley’s Young Artists Ensemble Rocks Aladdin!

“Welcome to Agrabah”…a group of young performers in Arabic garb welcomes you to the fictional Arabian city as you enter the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. Once in the theater, you are transported to a market square outside the palace of the Sultan where Aladdin begins his adventures with petty crime, magic lamps, flying carpets, evil schemers, and a lovely princess. With the help of a well-caffeinated genie he learns the pitfalls of dishonesty, the value of being himself, and how to win the heart of a princess.

I really enjoy local theater, and we have some great performance companies in our area. With a stepdaughter involved in local youth productions, my wife and I have been attending a number of performances with these young performers.  I can tell you that they work as hard as any actor or actress out there, spending hours upon hours together perfecting their art and learning the ropes of the theater. The end result is a play that is as well-rehearsed as any local show.

You are all probably familiar with the story of Aladdin, but we recommend that you come see this presentation of the classic tale and enjoy the work of some very talented young artists. First, Aladdin is well cast in Gabriel Vernon C. Nunag. He has a certain poise that lies somewhere between Justin Bieber and Elvis Presley. His outfits help in this area as well (see photo). He can croon with the best of them, and he never gets away from his character’s naive sense of discovery, be it with power, money, or girls. He plays opposite Kate Fruehling as Princess Jasmine. She carries several musical solos with confidence and grace.  I felt most engaged with her work in the “Whole New World” duet with Aladdin. Chemistry. Power.

Besides the main lead roles, there were some standout performances from the other cast members. The dynamic duo award from me goes to the Genie, played by Mariah Tobin, and the Magic Carpet played by Allison Zatlin. They are the heroes that never made it to Super status, but seem content to be as helpful as they can, and always with a smile on their faces. Tobin has a big stage presence and her character is all about the show part of the show. Her part is funny and she does the comedy well. Without any actual lines in the play, Zatlin, as the Magic Carpet, says everything she needs to say with an enthusiastic combination of facial expressions, body language, acrobatics, and effervescent charm. Without a word, we know what she was saying. Another standout is the evil Jafar (Kyle Warner). Warner plays a bombastic, yet ultimately dopey, villain with a propensity for self adulation and a gift for interpretive dance. If he did Shakespeare, he could be a great Prince of Aragon. There are few things funnier than a big villain doing soft-shoe, and Warner nails it.

A few random thoughts: For a moment I had this thought that it would be really funny if the Sultan (Cameron Ivan Love) channeled Peter Cook from his famous role as the “Impressive Clergyman” in the Princess Bride. That thought only lasted a second, but it would have been really fun to do that with this role. I guess I can say that since I didn’t actually see the Aladdin movie. Props to Cameron though, a fine Sultan. I also really liked the opening scene for Iago the parrot (Mackenzie Dunton). For me, the squawks are like a cowbell. “I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is MORE COWBELL“. Thanks for making me laugh :).

The remaining cast were all very well rehearsed and played their roles with enthusiasm and skill. The show’s Director, Suzanne Tobin should be proud of the entire group. It really is a great show.

– Brian Stark

Young Artists Ensemble will be performing Aladdin Friday-Sunday through February 15th at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts. Tickets are available at or call (805) 381-1246. 

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The City Turns Half a Century (that’s fifty)


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This year marks half a century ago when The Beatles came to America, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law,  President Johnson escalated the war in Vietman, Tokyo hosted the 18th Summer Olympics, the world was introduced to Diet Pepsi, and “Bewitched” premiered on ABC in September (who can forget the insufferable sarcasm of Endora).  Whewwwww.  This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the City of Thousand Oaks and its Eichler community.  Befittingly, the City and community partners are giving us a parade.  And what do we think of when it comes to a parade?  A long procession with horsies, fire trucks, grand marshals and grand poobahs, little cars perhaps, marching bands, cheerleaders, community leaders, politicians, special interest groups, banners, but no clowns….they can be intimidating.  On September 27,  festivities will kick off at 9:00am, followed by a daylong celebration, including live music brought to you by Brian’s band, The Three Rivers Band ( that goes on stage at The Lakes sometime around 11:00am.

To get the lowdown on the parade, Berg and Brian met up with John Short at Conejo Creek Park to chill.  John met us on his Harley on a very warm and dry Saturday morning toward noon.  If you’ve never been to Conejo Creek Park, it’s time you do (and while your there get yourself a library card.  Physical books, like vinyl records, provide you with genuine experiences).  Brian scoped out a nice shady spot under a tree “down by the river” where we sat down to speak with John.  John Short is all things Conejo.  His relentless support and volunteer work over the years includes president of the Thousand Oaks Little league, board member of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District, chairman of the Investment Review Committee for the city of Thousand Oaks, player in bringing back the Conejo Valley Days, and chair of  The Thousand Oaks 50th Anniversary parade.  As is with all the individuals that Berg and Brian have recently met through their Chillin’ efforts, John is genuine and personable.  He personifies Conejo pride.  As Brian succinctly puts it: “The most involved man in Thousand Oaks.”

John originally presented the idea to the City approximately five months ago.  A municipal parade usually takes up to a year to plan.  John’s been able to accomplish the daunting task in less than half a year.  Maybe he’ll be available to organize my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?  To quote the TO Parade website, “”Remembering the past, honoring the memories” is our theme. The parade entries will replicate life 50 years ago when Thousand Oaks was founded.  Join us as we take a step back in time, when life was simple, and not as fast paced. When sheep roamed the hillsides and occasionally the streets, and you could see lions and tigers, and even elephants.”  I’d like to see an elephant at The TO Meat Locker waiting in line for a tri-tip sandwich.  And those sheep better watch out.  In order to make all this happen, John has worked tirelessly, bringing together over 90 volunteers with 20 committee members.  We should expect 125 entries with equestrian units.  15 of the 18 former city mayors will be dusted off for some baby kissing, and there will be 3 original law enforcement officers………so don’t be caught double parking.  At the end of the parade expect there to be built the largest Lego chain to set a Guinness Book of World Records that will raise money for the Dream Catcher Foundation (  All in all, the festivities are expected to draw 3 to 5 thousand Conejovites, or are we Oaksians (perhaps you all can make suggestions and sent them to Chillin’)?  Chillin’ encourages everyone to bring their Conejo pride and to have a good time while still being conscientious and safe.

Hats off to John and everyone who has contributed to the parade. Volunteers are still being sought! Check the Parade website for volunteer info.


A Day at the Ball Park with The Conejo Oaks

L1000879DCIM100GOPROThe Conejo Oaks Baseball club is our local team that plays in the California Collegiate League. “The California Collegiate League is a professionally run amateur baseball league for college athletes.  It is best described as a “gap” league, bridging the gap between collegiate baseball and professional baseball…..The CCL conducts its season during the summer months so as to comply with the NCAA rules governing the academic requirements of student-athletes, and operates as a non-profit corporation.”

On Saturday July 12, 2014 Brian and Berg attended a game at California Lutheran University’s Sparky Anderson Field. Joined by their crony, A.J, the three enjoyed an afternoon under the bleachers, on a warm and languid summer Saturday, scarfing hotdogs and nachos while rooting for the Conejo Oaks who won against the California Wahoos. And although Brian didn’t win the raffle, the Oaks won 4-3.  Afterwards, Berg and Brian had the honor of speaking with Verne Merill general manager and David Soliz team manager.

The afternoon was well spent enjoying one of America’s greatest pastimes. Chillin’ salutes The Conejo Oaks and encourages everyone to support our local team. Attached is a clip of the interview, along with some shots of the game.



Immediately following this years Annual Camping trip the idea came to mind that it was time to do something new. It was not enough any longer to roll with middle age responsibilities. I quote Tropic of Cancer, “The cancer of time is eating us away.” Time is an inescapable part of life. Life by definition is finite. How many times have you been advised that its better to do it now because you may not have the time later? Or the cliche never put off till tomorrow what you can do today? The simple truth of the matter is for most of us we use time as an excuse to not do. If we add up how many times we excuse ourselves because we don’t have time we would have time. We have time to watch the latest resurrection of Die Hard. Wow!

In-between being busy managing our time there are intervals. This is one of these intervals. This is intervals of life in the shadow of Los Angeles…….in the Conejo Valley.