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The Ramona Play – The Story of Early California

If you are not familiar with the Helen Hunt Jackson book or play, you owe it to yourself to make a point of attending the play next year.

Steve Alvarez with the Red Tail Spirit Singers & Dancers, the Spanish and Heritage dancers and musicians, and |
the Arias Troubadours, who have performed in the play since 1924.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY RAMONA BOWL

As a native Southern Californian, growing up in Hemet, I had the honor of participating in the play, in one of the lead roles as Margarita, as did my mother before me. Many of my friends played Rock Indians, Spanish Dancers, and other roles. It was as much of our childhood as the miles of orange groves and the intoxicating scent of the blossoms down the hill from the natural outdoor amphitheater.

 

Editor’s Note: The Ramona Outdoor Play has been canceled for this year due to the COVID-19 virus. This article was written prior to its onset.

Story Courtesy of Kent Black Arts & Entertainment

The Ramona Outdoor Play starts with a bang. A very big bang.

On a several-acre hillside in Hemet, several actors dressed in period Mexican military uniforms of the 1840s detonate a replica 19th-century cannon, marking the first momentous event in this two-plus-hour extravaganza: the handing over of California to the United States by Mexico. (To be clear: There is no cannonball, and the weapon is not aimed at the audience.)

Just as you unclench your buttocks, pull your fingers from your ears, and settle back into your seat in the 5,300-person audience facing the hillside stage, a thundering clatter of horse hooves signals the arrival of two Mexican officers on horseback. Following them are six members of the U.S. Army, led by Kit Carson, who ride in to accept the surrender of the state. Though audience members are sure to take in important details of the natural amphitheater — the corral, multi-room “hacienda,” indigenous dwellings, massive rock outcroppings, crisscrossing trails, and flower gardens around the front of the “set” — it’s difficult to appreciate the scale of the production until people and horses appear, and you realize you’re witnessing an outdoor play, the likes of which have not been seen since the Golden Age of Spanish theater when actual military ships fought in the battle scenes.

“It’s completely unique,” says Dennis Anderson, a retired San Jacinto College theater professor who has been directing the play for the last quarter-century and, as a young man growing up in Hemet, also appeared as an actor. “Part of the draw is experiencing California as it used to be, but the real draw is the experience of outdoor theater. People come here because [there are] cowboys and Indians riding horses, cannons firing, and live music. For years, people have asked us to put it on at night, but we’re purists. Lighting creates an artificial environment and we want to keep the action pure, so the audience can really see Old California.”

 

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY RAMONA BOWL

Ramona Cowboys with Padre Gaspara played by Randy Dawkins.

The story is an Old West Romeo and Juliet. Ramona, a half-Native, half-Scottish orphan is the ill-treated, adopted daughter of Señora Moreno, a snobby, prejudiced landowner. Ramona falls in love with Alessandro, the son of the chief of the local Temecula tribe. Dona Moreno condemns their love, and they run away to marry.

The original story was written by Helen Hunt Jackson and published in 1884. Jackson was from the East, wealthy, and well educated. (She was a classmate of Emily Dickinson at Amherst and the two corresponded throughout their lives.) In 1879, Jackson attended a lecture by a Native American chief in Boston who described the exploitation of his tribe by greedy land speculators who forced the removal of his tribe, the Ponca, to Oklahoma, where they lived in poverty and near starvation. Jackson became an activist for Native rights at a time when most European Americans were still reeling from the Battle of Little Bighorn. Undaunted, she enlisted allies among politicians and ministers and tirelessly advocated for the purchase of new and better lands for reservations. On a visit to California, she was told that only a few years earlier, an American wanted some land that was owned by a Soboba Indian in the San Jacinto Mountains above Hemet. His solution was to simply ride to the man’s cabin and shoot him dead. He was never arrested or tried. And he took the land.

Sheri Dettman as Margarita

Hunt returned to New York and wrote Ramona in about three months. Her aim was to write a book that would stir emotions and empathy the way Harriett Beecher Stowe had done with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Though she died the next year, the book later went through 300 printings and sold more than 600,000 copies, and The North American Review named it one of the most ethical books written in the 19th century.

It may have faded away as another literary curiosity, if not for an unusual theatrical impresario named Garnet Holme. An English emigrant to California in the early 20th century, he was the poor man’s D.W. Griffith, a specialist in outdoor pageants, outsized spectacles with multitudinous casts in natural settings. At the time of his death in Larkspur, Marin County, California, in 1929, he was most well known for staging Drake on Mount Tamalpais. It was an historical reenactment of the English explorer’s arrival on the Northern California coast. However, six years earlier, he adapted Ramona at the behest of the city’s chamber of commerce. Enlisting the town’s populace, he created the Ramona Pageant with a huge cast and a natural amphitheater almost within walking distance of downtown Hemet. Holme’s adaptation was used until playwright and screenwriter Stephen Savage created a new version in 2014. No doubt, Holme would be delighted to know his pageant is the longest-running outdoor play in the United States.

 

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY RAMONA BOW

Anne Archer as Ramona and Frank Sorrell as Alessandro.

The pageant used to be an indelible part of growing up in Southern California. For most fourth-graders, field trips were meant to augment their year-long study of California history. There were three principal destinations: The mission of San Juan Capistrano, Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, and a performance of Ramona. “We still get the fourth-graders,” says Anderson, who says the Thursday before the opening performance is reserved for fourth-graders from all over Southern California. “The boys go crazy when the cannon goes off or the cowboys ride in, and the girls shout when Ramona and Alessandro first kiss.”

One of the most important parts of Holme’s Ramona legacy was involving the entire community in the production. It was a fairly common practice with 19th century traveling theater troupes to augment productions. The professionals would star in the lead roles while local townspeople would take the roles of spear carriers and ladies in waiting. However, Holme took it a gigantic step further. 
In the sleepy ranch and farm community of Hemet, he had a robust ethnic mix with which to fill out an Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American cast.

The Ramona Outdoor Play (the former title, The Ramona Pageant, is now more of a nickname) has gone dark only twice: in 1933 during the height of the Depression and 1942 during World War II. It also runs over one of the shortest seasons: six performances on three consecutive weekends from mid-April to early May. It’s actually a huge commitment for a volunteer army. The cast has to be able to commit to nine consecutive weekends of rehearsal before the show’s opening — and that’s not counting costume fittings. Plus, countless volunteers run the concessions and parking lot. “Without our volunteers,” Anderson says, “we’d be done.”

Read more here about the play, including cast members Raquel Welsh and Anne Archer…

BNP Paribas Open – March 9 to March 22, 2020

Experience Tennis Paradise at the
Indian Wells Tennis Garden

“It’s not just the beauty that keeps me coming back. Indian Wells, as the tournament is called by players and fans, has the most alluring atmosphere of any tennis event I’ve attended—and I’ve been to a lot.” - Gerald Marzorati, Bloomberg

Once again Sheri Dettman & Associates is proud to be a partner and Tennis Paradise Ambassador of the BNP Paribas Open. As one of the premier sporting events in the world, we are so excited year after year to be involved in this spectacular event. Follow the links below for more information and tickets.

Click here for more info and tickets….

Click here for BNP Paribas Open on Facebook…

Dining Around the Desert: 4 Saints at the Kimpton Rowan Hotel in Palm Springs

On a recent weekend in October, Michael and I stayed at the Rowan Hotel and enjoyed several meals and cocktails. As the Coachella Valley’s only rooftop venue, 4 Saints offers a variety of different atmospheres, from the intimate lounge to the outdoor patio bar.

The highlight was dinner at 4 Saints, the fine dining option at the hotel.

As the highest restaurant in Palm Springs, 4 Saints raises the bar — literally — on desert dining. Perched on the seventh floor of the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, the rooftop restaurant showcases clever cocktails and the global cuisine, set against a backdrop of 270-degree valley views.

4 Saints’ beverage menu, with its creative cocktails, local brews and thoughtfully curated wine list, is designed to complement their seasonal menus of snacks, small plates and shareable entrees.

We started with the Pristine Oysters on the Half Shell with a Shallot Vinaigrette which were delicate and delicious. I then had the Seared Firecracker Tuna with Springtime Sprouts, Black Garlic and Chili Oil and the Crispy Spanish Octopus with Minted Peas, Blue Potato Salad, Yuzu, and Greens. The tuna was like butter, flavorful, spicy and perfectly seared. My favorite was the Octopus. Cooked to perfection, and the peas were like a taste of Spring.

Michael had the Fish in the Forest which was Steelhead Salmon, Spring Vegetables, Cedar, and Smoking Wild Juniper. He said that it was some of the best salmon he’d ever had.

I tried to resist, but Michael ordered The Four Sinners for dessert which is a Chocolate Cake with Ganache, Espresso Cream, and Mascarpone Mousse. Even with all that chocolate, it wasn’t too sweet and was wonderfully moist and decadent.

We enjoyed the hotel’s spacious guest rooms, gym, poolside lounge and the eating venues. All in all it’s a great addition to the Coachella Valley.

HOURS

Dinner: Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm - 10pm
Friday-Saturday 5:30pm - 11pm

Brunch: Saturday-Sunday 9am - 3pm
Bar: Sunday-Thursday 3pm - 11pm
Friday-Saturday 3pm - 12am

CONTACT

100 W Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262
MAP & DIRECTIONS
Phone:  760.392.2020
MAKE A RESERVATION

Why People Are Relocating to the Desert

Why Greater Palm Springs?
A small-town vibe and plenty of big-city amenities have made relocating to the Coachella Valley a “hot” thing to do.

Courtesy of WINSTON GIESEKE OCTOBER 15, 2019 CURRENT DIGITALVISION

Futurist Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book Future Shock described an evolution to a transient society,” says Palm Desert resident Anna Miller, the visionary behind ValueRays Heated Computer Accessories. “It left quite an impression on me and actually molded my future.” Miller is referring to her relocation from the “rat race” of Los Angeles to the peace and tranquility of the Coachella Valley.

Inspired by Toffler, and with many thanks to advances in technology, the ingenious Miller — who has a master’s degree in business education and once worked as a Playboy Bunny in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin — has been happily self-employed and working from home in the field of ecommerce for more than two decades. In 2007, she left the hustle and bustle of L.A. and moved her home and business to the historic B Bar H Ranch outside Palm Springs. “I feel like I’m on vacation every day,” she says of her life now. “This area is a slice of heaven on earth: peaceful, tranquil, and with just the right amount of solitude to wake up every day feeling grateful and ready to take on whatever life offers. Plus, there is access to everything you need here, spiritually, physically, and intellectually.”

Read the rest of the article here…

PHOTOGRAPH BY LANCE GERBER

SilverRock Development Update

SilverRock Resort in La Quinta

Owned by the City of La Quinta and Managed by Landmark Golf Management, SilverRock Resort's Arnold Palmer Classic Course is a challenging 7,239 yards sprawling over 200 acres with massive native bunkers and stunning water features. Set against the backdrop and natural beauty of the Santa Rosa Mountains, SilverRock is a former home course of the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic from 2008-2011.

Development Overview

The City, in conjunction with SilverRock Development Company, LLC, has created a development program for SilverRock Resort. The program includes a luxury hotel with branded luxury residential, a lifestyle hotel with branded lifestyle residential, a conference and shared services facility, a mixed-use village, resort residential village, renovation of the existing Ahmanson Ranch House, construction of a permanent golf clubhouse, and associated road and utility infrastructure.  This $420 million dollar project specifically encompasses:

  • A 140-room, 5-star quality luxury hotel and spa and a 200-room, 4-star quality lifestyle hotel;

  • A 71,000 square foot conference center and shared services facility shared by the luxury and lifestyle hotels;

  • A resort village with 150,000 square feet of resort residential units and up to 40,000 square feet of retail space with recreation areas;

  • 35 luxury and 60 lifestyle branded residential homes that are associated with their respective hotels;

  • 160 resort style homes for private ownership with the option for owners to offer as short-term rentals;

  • Renovation of the Ahmanson Ranch House facility as a public event center and to serve as an amenity to the resort; and

  • 5,000 square feet of temperature controlled space with large outdoor patios and event lawn.

To keep up to date visit:
http://www.laquintaca.gov/our-city/city-departments/facilities/silverrock-golf/silverrock-frequently-asked-questions


Dining Around the Desert: Coming Soon: Eddie V’s in Palm Desert

On a recent weekend trip to Austin, Texas, Michael and I had the pleasure of dining at Eddie V’s, a high-end chain with locations from Newport Beach to Boston to Orlando. I was especially interested as we are getting our own Eddie V’s soon in Palm Desert.

I’ve heard of Eddie V’s described as “The Mastro’s of seafood”, and I’d say that’s an apt description.

This quote from their website gives you an idea:

Seafood is what we’re known for, but our specialty is excellence. Fish arrive daily from pristine waters around the world including Swordfish from Block Island, Scallops from George Banks, and YellowFin Tuna from the Caribbean. USDA Prime steaks are hand cut and specially aged for more than 28 days to ensure peak flavor. Devotion to excellence is the guiding principle in all that we do. From making fresh tortillas by hand daily for our lobster tacos to including a full half-pound of Jumbo Lump crab meat in our crab cakes, we strive to go above and beyond in every step of preparation. Our intent: to prepare the finest meal you’ve ever had.

Michael and I enjoyed a glass of champagne along with Kung Pao Calamari with Wok-Fried Vegetables and Roasted Cashews, and an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Italian Burrata Cheese, Basil, EV Olive Oil and Aged Balsamic Vinegar. It was one of the best Calamari dishes either one of us had ever had.

Moving on to entree’s, I had Gnocchi with Shiitake Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Sundried Tomato Pesto, which was melt in your mouth delicious.

Michael enjoyed the Texas Redfish with Sautéed Jumbo Lump Crab, Meunière Style.

We also couldn’t resist the Brussels Sprouts and Truffled Mac and Cheese.

We topped it all off with Creme Brûlée but next time we’re looking forward to the Dark Chocolate and Crushed Toffee S’Mores with Toasted Homemade Marshmallow.

We were seated next to the piano at a high-top booth and were fortunate to be up close and personal with the trio providing classics along with the great atmosphere.

The service was outstanding, the vibe was fun and happening, and overall it was a great experience. We are looking forward to having our very own Eddie V’s this coming season.

What to Do at the Top of the Palm Springs Tram

Enjoy More than Just the View at 8,500 Feet

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY

We found a special deal and activities that will enhance your experience at 8,500 feet above Palm Springs.

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life: JIM POWERS AUGUST 8, 2019 ATTRACTIONSCURRENT DIGITAL

Once you've taken the 2.5-mile ride along the cliffs of Chino Canyon on the Palm Springs Tram, here are five things to enhance your experience at the top at Mountain Station.

You have about a month before the Tram shuts down from Sept. 9-29 for its annual maintenance.

First you're at 8,516 feet elevation, so note the temperature difference (about 15-20 degrees cooler than the desert) and let your body, particularly your breathing, adjust to the altitude. That means hydration and operating at a little slower pace to start. Plan ahead to ensure you have enough time to enjoy the surroundings rather than try and rush through a hike or physical activity.

DEAL

From now until the end of the year, you can buy a $36 ride and dine combination ticket from 4 p.m. daily with dinner from 4:30 p.m. at the Pines Café. Children are $23.50, ages 3-10. visitgreaterpalmsprings.com

HIKING

Mt. San Jacinto State Park is located at the top of the mountain, giving you access to 54 miles of hiking trails and 14,000 acres of amazing terrain. There are several easy hikes to try first – from three-quarters of a mile following nature trail posts to a 2.5-mile trail that is considered moderately strenuous. There is no fee for hiking.

CAMPING

There are six designated camping areas ranging in distance from the Mountain Station of 2.5 miles to 6.0. Each sits at a different elevation level – the highest is 9,700m feet – so take that into consideration. There is a $5 fee per person for camping permits. Depending on how much you want to rough it, some come equipped with water access and all of them have a pit latrine.

NATURE WALKS

In association with the Mt. San Jacinto Natural History Association, you can register for guided nature tours in August and again in October. In addition to high altitude exercise, you receive an education on a variety of topics from photography, the San Andreas Fault, to the environment. The classes are free, but you must register. msjnha.org/events

DINING

The Pines Café offers the typical food selections you might expect at a tourist attraction — pizza, sandwiches, soup and salad — but the Peaks Restaurant offers an opportunity to enjoy a fine dining experience. The accompanying Lookout Lounge serves a variety of alcoholic beverages. The last reservation taken for the Peaks is 7:45 p.m., and reservations are recommended.

For more information on the Palm Springs Tram, visit pstramway.com.

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