A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Case Of The Missing Mallard

(Above: The Ugly Duckling, before and after)

What kind of person would steal a duck?
And not just any old duck, either. Last month, somebody swiped the Ugly Duckling statue that sat atop Aesop's Playhouse at Children's Fairyland in Oakland.
The cheery little blue duckling – really, a swan – is about three feet tall, with a steel framework covered by sculpting epoxy. Fairyland has posted notices asking for its return, no questions asked. But not a peep from the bad guys.
Memo to the thieves: I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you did it as a prank. But you might not realize that it had serious consequences.
Fairyland can't afford to replace the duck. The money would have to come out of its basic mission: providing an inexpensive oasis of serenity in downtown Oakland where little kids can run free safely and just be kids.
The bottom line: You stole from children. How does that make you feel?
Not that I'm holding my breath hoping the crooks have a conscience. If the Ugly Duckling is going to be replaced, we'll have to do it ourselves.
The only place to get a new duckling is the same people who custom-made the original one: Scientific Art Studio in Richmond, the wizards who also made the Giant Mitt at AT&T Park and the giant bugs in "Starship Troopers II."
But it won't come cheap. This is a one-of-a-kind sculpture, and the usual price is $10,000 per. Scientific Art Studio is discounting the rate for Fairyland to $7,500, but that's still a considerable chunk of change.
If you'd like to contribute, you can do it online at
http://bit.ly/NzEZGB or by sending a tax-deductible check to Children's Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland 94610, with "duckling" in the memo field.
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On a happier note, congratulations to The Lamplighters, the Bay Area's own Gilbert & Sullivan company, who are celebrating their 60th anniversary with a sparkling new production of G&S's masterpiece, "The Mikado."
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: The Lamplighters are the best Gilbert & Sulllivan troupe in the world, period.
That became apparent when the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival was held in Berkeley a few years ago, showcasing G&S companies from around the world. It was almost embarrassing how much better The Lamplighters were than everyone else.
The singing was better, the orchestra was better, and so were the costumes and sets.
Most importantly, the actors actually acted, instead of just standing around waiting for their turn to sing – known in the trade as "park and bark."
If you haven't had the fun of discovering Gilbert & Sullivan yet, this production of "The Mikado" is a perfect place to start. As Robby Stafford of Oakland, who plays Pooh-Bah, says, "Sullivan's music is so beautiful, it makes Gilbert's lyrics even funnier. And Gilbert's lyrics are so tart, they make Sullivan's music seem even sweeter."
"The Mikado" will run July 27-29 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, August 4-5 at the Napa Valley Opera House, August 11-12 at the Mountain View Center For The Performing Arts, August 16-19 at the Yerba Buena Center For The Arts in San Francisco, and August 25-26 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.  You can get more information and buy tickets at www.lamplighters.org.