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This 'n' That
By Laura McHale Holland
We have a new gem on Diamond Street, and he's named Gabriel Isaac Peña. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces, on Dec. 14, 2003, at California Pacific Medical Center, and he's already an international traveler. In January he flew with his mom and dad, Arturo and Ana Maria Peña, to Toronto to visit Arturo's sister. "I work for United [Airlines], so for us travel is easy," says Ana Maria, who is on maternity leave from her human resources position until June.
Little Gabriel will most likely go south of the border before long, too. Ana Maria hails from Santa Clara, but her parents were born in Colombia, and they retired there several years ago. Arturo was born in Peru, and while his father is deceased, his mother still lives there. Maria's dad visited San Francisco to meet Gabriel in person, but the tyke's grandmothers have only seen snapshots. Based on those, each side of the family has a different idea of which parent Gabriel resembles.
"My husband and I look very similar, with dark hair, thick eyebrows, and a fair complexion. People often say we look like brother and sister, so my husband's side of the family thinks the baby looks like him, and my side of the family thinks the baby looks like me," Ana Maria says with a chuckle.
Gabriel, who was "three years in the making," engages the world with his great big eyes, but spends most of his time in typical newborn fashion: eating and napping. The season's cold, damp weather has hampered his travels around the neighborhood.
"We have lots of places, like Martha's on 24th Street, that we like to patronize," says Ana Maria. "I can't wait until spring when it'll be easier to take our baby out."
Imagine a world where childbirth is a relic of the past because everyone is a clone and everyone's life partner is his or her identical clone--everyone, that is, except one last lonely woman. This is the setup for Alexandra ("Alex") and Kurt Nangle's 18-minute film Only You Can Be Me, which will be shown this month as part of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. The sci-fi fantasy will have three screenings--on Sunday, Feb. 8, at noon; Thursday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m.; and Friday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m.--at the Roxie Cinema on 16th Street.
Starring in the film are local actress Cameron Galloway and identical twins James and John Reichmuth, who are members of the sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser. The Nangles also enlisted the talents of 14 sets of identical twins. "Everybody involved was from the Bay Area, including actors and workers, except for two of the guys [twins]. They were from Los Angeles, because we wanted a set of fathers, and they were very hard to find," says Alex.
The Nangles co-wrote, directed, and produced Only You Can Be Me. But neither Kurt nor Alexandra went to film school. Alex was an English major at Stanford University and was also active in theater. She subsequently started her own theater group, Inside Out Theater. Kurt was a biology major at U.C. Irvine, and thought he might be a doctor one day.
But each was bitten by the film bug, and they met while working on a film crew in Taos, New Mexico. She got the bulk of her experience as a film editor. Kurt earned his stripes being everything from gaffer to photography director. "I think there are different paths to the same goal, and for both Kurt and myself, we just learned by doing," Alex says.
Because they thoroughly enjoy working together, the Nangles formed their own film company, One Block View Productions. "The idea behind that," says Alex, "is that every story you can tell is encapsulated in one city block. We came up with the name when we were living in Los Angeles, and our block was very dynamic, with all these Russian immigrants, and lots of interesting people."
The couple, who were married in 1997, do more than make films together at their 24th Street home and studio. They also care for their sons, 3-year-old Caleb and 3-month-old Sam. "We are working as a team on all fronts. For this short film we were co-directors. Probably for our next project Kurt will be the director, and I'll help in whatever capacity I have time for. I'm concentrating on motherhood right now," she says.
The Nangles hope the success of Only You Can Be Me, at this and other film festivals, will lead to funding for a larger project. For more information on the film, visit www.onlyyoucanbeme.com. For details on the festival itself, go to www.sfindie.com.
Another talented neighbor (and Stanford grad) in the news is David Teng. A resident of Cesar Chavez Street since 2002, Teng plays a showgirl in Les Fauxlies Fantastique, an 11-member music and dance revue modeled after the notorious Moulin Rouge in Paris. (Prepare to be wowed by feathers and sequins.)
Les Fauxlies began a month-long run at the Actor's Theater downtown on New Year's Eve and will open at Venue 9, at 252 Ninth Street, on Feb. 5. The show will play there through March 7.
"There's nothing like it in the Bay Area," observes Teng. "It's original and entertaining.... Everyone is having a good time exploring gender identities and different aspects of men's and women's roles. It's fun and positive. If the audience takes that away from the show, we hope they'll think this should be okay in everyday life, not just in the theater," he reflects.
Teng performed in his high school's musical theater productions and in a singing group in college. After graduation, he dove right into community theater, including Ray of Light Theater here in San Francisco. Les Fauxlies Fantastique is a departure for him. "The show has been a big learning curve for me personally because this is the first time where dance is my primary role and where we perform so regularly--at least four to five shows per week," he says.
Despite his status as a professional performer, Teng hasn't quit his day job at the San Francisco Symphony. "I'm a programmer, and it's nice to combine my education, which is in computer science, with a job that allows me to be very much involved in the arts."
For details about Les Fauxlies Fantastique, visit www.aaaahz.com.
Computer science played a role in the Golden Jubilee Reunion of the St. Philip's Grammar School Class of 1953. Members of the reunion's organizing committee communicated with each other via e-mail, not by phone. They also relied on the Internet, personal contacts, and good old-fashioned legwork, such as going down to City Hall to check marriage records to locate former classmates.
The efforts resulted in 22 out of 39 graduates gathering at their alma mater on Elizabeth Street last October. Twenty-eight members were contacted, but six could not attend the reunion because of prior commitments. Sadly, five members of the class are deceased, and six could not be located. Most alums are still living in the Bay Area, but some came to the reunion from as far away New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Only one class member still lives in St. Philip's Parish.
"It was the most amazing thing," says Carol Buzzo, one of the event organizers. "What surprised me was that as soon as we saw each other, even though we hadn't seen each other in 50 years, we went right up and started to talk. There wasn't anything strange. We grew up together, so it was like meeting a relative."
The reunion consisted of a walk through the school, a special mass at the church, and then dinner at a restaurant in the Sunset District. Reminiscing about the strict but caring nuns who taught them, first crushes, marching into school each day to the tunes of John Philip Sousa, eccentric neighborhood characters, and signs of the era such as P.F. Flyers high-tops, roller skate keys, and 45 RPM records lifted everyone's spirits. The highlight was finding out what everyone had been up to for the last half-century.
"Right after dinner when we were having our desserts, everyone stood up in turn and talked about themselves and what they'd been doing. It was very moving. One man mentioned that this was the best night he'd ever had. It was really nice," says Buzzo.
She adds that St. Philip's former classmates aren't going to wait another 50 years for their next reunion. Now that they've broken the ice, they figure two years will be just about the right interval between reunions.
So consider this the next time you see children heading to school with backpacks slung over their shoulders. They may meet in 2054 and remember some of us as the characters who peopled their beloved old neighborhood.
Do you have some inspiring personal news, achievements, or milestones to share with your neighbors? Contact us by e-mailing email@example.com. Or if it's more convenient, leave a message at 415-821-3324 or write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. m