Women find passion, bring magic to community theater

Choral director honored as Educator of the Year

This article is dedicated to two women who have given freely of
their time to bring the magic of theater to our community. Local
choreographer Mitzi Imagawa is one. Trained as a dancer in ballet
and gymnastics since the age of four, Mitzi developed a love of
jazz dancing while in high school.
This article is dedicated to two women who have given freely of their time to bring the magic of theater to our community. Local choreographer Mitzi Imagawa is one. Trained as a dancer in ballet and gymnastics since the age of four, Mitzi developed a love of jazz dancing while in high school. Her early motivation came from her mother, Ruby, who was a dancer in her own right. Ruby encouraged her daughter to watch videos of Gene Kelly as well as ballroom dancing, Asian fan dancers and Japanese festivals. “Singing in the Rain” and “West Side Story” became favorite entertainment. She often spent Saturdays watching musicals and literally wore out her favorite videos. These gems of musical theater, as well as the choreography of Bob Fosse and Michael Kidd, inspired her passion to create.

However, upon entering college, Mitzi looked for a major other than dance and settled on English at San Jose State, where she earned a degree. After college, Mitzi began her career as a teacher at Luigi Aprea School in Gilroy. She also spent some time teaching high school English in Oahu, but the high cost of living brought her back to Gilroy and she now teaches English at Bret Harte Middle School in San Jose.

Becoming an English teacher did not end her love of dancing and she added tap and choreography to her jazz expertise, taking classes at AMT. Mitzi also began to choreograph musicals for South Valley Civic Theater and soon became the theater’s most sought after choreographer. Among her choreography credits are “Pardon Me is This Planet Taken?”, “Oklahoma”, “The Wiz”, ,”Little Shop of Horrors”, “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Pirates of Penzance” and “Li’l Abner”.

Although she enjoys creating dance magic with actors of all ages, Mitzi loves to work with teens. She describes them as young people who love challenges, are willing to take on anything and can really let loose with characters, while getting caught up in the humor of dance (one of Mitzi’s trademarks). As a teacher and mentor, Mitzi would like to see more people raise the bar by coming out to audition and getting involved. And, of course, she hopes that everyone will support community theater.

Another person who has been instrumental in the success of local community theater is Becky Kaiser. Never performing on the stage, she became involved in theater when her daughter, Cara, decided to act. I first met Becky during the run of “The Velveteen Rabbit” in 1994. I was the costume designer with the task of transforming children into toys; Cara was cast as a toy top. I will never forget Becky’s sincere question, “How am I going to make that?” We worked together on ideas of how to turn material, fiberfill and a hula-hoop into a top. Becky cheerfully went home with the drawings and a few days later came back with a most amazing costume complete with wig.

After that, it became a challenge to assign Cara the most outrageous costume for Becky to create, and she loved the challenge. I can still remember how much fun Becky had creating a tree costume out of an umbrella and the Kaiser signature wig. Over the years, Becky became more involved, producing shows, creating costumes, encouraging children to try acting and finally joining the SVCT Board of Directors. She served a two-year term as president of the board, put in endless hours as chairman of membership, organized and advised committees, and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of SVCT productions.

Becky was also a great audience. Actors, producers and directors were always pleased when she attended a show because they knew she would be quick to laugh in all the right places. A supporter of the Gilroy High choirs, as well as productions by local theaters and schools, Becky and her husband, Rich, never missed the opportunity to attend a performance and encourage performers.

Six years ago, Becky learned she had colon cancer. Although her illness slowed her a bit, she continued to volunteer her time, never losing enthusiasm, her quick wit and her beautiful smile. She also continued in her job as library clerk at Antonio Del Buono School, sharing her love of literature with children.

On March 24, she lost her battle with cancer and the arts community lost one of its greatest supporters.

***

April events

– Becky Kaiser Memorial Fund

#0103143731 c/o South Valley National bank

Funds will be used to purchase much-needed books for the Antonio Del Buono School Library in Gilroy

– Gilroy High School/Christopher High School Spring Choir Concert

7:30 p.m. April 21, Gilroy High School cafeteria; April 22, Mission San Juan Bautista, 406 Second St., San Juan Bautista

$5 at the door

– Gilroy Arts Alliance Interim Center for the Arts

Corner of 7th and Monterey

Volunteers needed for cleaning, painting, planting, plumbing and electrical

Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon

Details: [email protected]

– Dueling Pianos

Gaslighter Theater, 7430 Monterey St., Gilroy

Sat., April 3, 10, 17 at 7 p.m.

No cover charge

– “Willy Wonka, Jr.”

San Benito Stage, 145 Vine St., Hollister

April 16, 17, 23, 14, 30, May 1 at 7 p.m.; April 18, 25 at 2 p.m.

Adults $15, Student/Seniors $12

Details: (831) 636 0122

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