Living history events have long been a mainstay across the globe and the 26th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour at Long Beach’s Sunnyside and Municipal Cemetery surely must be one of the finest to earn a point of place in the canon of these celebrations of those who, as the poets once opined, “have gone before….”.
Hosted by the Long Beach Historical Society, this year’s event was certainly as good as the last, if not better. Working closely with the considerable talent pool of the Long Beach Playhouse, there are eight performances to enjoy and learn from as well as several excellent exhibits by many local authors who have explored Long Beach history and the people who lived it such as Renee Simon, Louise Ivers, Dr. Craig Hendricks and Dr. Susan Needham, among several.
The Black Student Union was on hand to showcase prominent African American scholars such as the late Dr. Joseph L. White as well as an enriching presentation of art created by Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War Two, curated by Linda Nishida Gager and Karen Harper.
The cemetery was decorated in full memorial regalia including a traditional ofrendra honoring the Dio de los Muertos traditions with Danny Flores and Theresa Marino.
The highlight of the day were the wonderful performances at different final resting places of the permanent residents of the cemetery. In no particular order, they were:
“Red Kettles” a performance by Noah Wagner and Madison Mooney as Edwin and Grace Coons, which told the story of their personal history working with the Salvation Army. Noah and Madison were in top form (as they were in last year’s presentation) as their natural chemistry and expert timing kept the skit moving. Ms. Mooney is the Executive Director of the Long Beach Playhouse and Mr. Wagner was last seen in “Holmes and Watson” there.
In “A Marker for a Union Soldier”, Zadie Cannon and Tara Brown portrayed Amanda Cleag and Sallie Cleag Pierce with great humor combined with tragic pathos as they shared their story that shaped them before and after emancipation. Both marvelous performers, this was young Tara Brown’s first appearance at the Cemetery Tour and hopefully not her last. She’s one to watch!
“The Women’s Symphony” was a pleasure to enjoy as Jane Nunn, Jill Prout and Roxanne Martinez brought to life Elinor Knox, Eva Anderson and Polly Johnson with masterful aplomb entertaining the audience with the story of the Long Beach’s all female orchestra.
“Politicians For Sale or For Rent” was a zany and lively juggling act which kept all balls in the air with razor sharp and staccato performances by Rick Reischman, Hayden Maher, Amara Phelps and Greg and Kysa Cohen as Emmett Sullivan, Ray Schira, an inquisitive Reporter and a comical Greek Chorus of the City Council at a press conference about city corruption and rigged games of chance.
In “A Park Upon a Hill” Valentine and Maybell Leal were ably portrayed by Indiana Jones De La O and Paige Laney as they told the tale of their hard road in the world of labor organizations and those who would exploit workers.
“Was it Something I Said?” was the story of Connie Cariaga and her son Daniel, played by Lisa Salas and Rudy Perez that told the story of Rudy’s music career and reviewing many others shows, highlighted by the closeness of family.
An exceptional event hosted by the Long Beach Historical Society that truly deserves your support, your applause and most importantly, your attendance every year.