“A Tuna Christmas” is coming to the Gilroy Center for the Arts this month and you don’t want to miss it! Watching Kevin Heath and Bill Tindall portray 22 different wacky characters, you will be delightfully entertained. But there is much more to this performance than simply an enjoyable introduction to the holiday season.
Directed by Steve Spencer and Kae Jenny-Spencer, “A Tuna Christmas” will mark the husband and wife’s fourth annual “You Can’t Take It With You” benefit for Team Fox, which is the grassroots community fundraising program of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
There will be 11 performances. Eleven opportunities for a tax-deductible donation which is included in the price of your ticket and a raffle at each performance with all proceeds benefiting the Fox Foundation.
I first met Steve Spencer in 1993 when we both performed in SVCT’s production of “Death Trap.” Steve played the lead, Sydney Bruhl, and I was Helga ten Dorp. Steve was brilliant, not only as an actor but also behind the scenes with his ongoing quick wit and constant supply of jokes. Three years later I had the pleasure of working with both Steve and Kae when I directed “James and the Giant Peach” and they ran the sound.
Their daughter Alika, now a professional actress, was in the cast as “The Green Grasshopper.” When I needed incidental music to enhance the play, Steve immediately came up with everything I asked for. Another of his many attributes is music lover and owner of a vast library of recordings. In 2002, as music director, I again teamed with the Spencer’s in “Gypsy,” with Steve as director. Kae was cast as the trumpet playing stripper and Alika played the young Gypsy Rose Lee. I couldn’t help but notice not only the Spencer family’s support of each other, but their incredible passion for the theater. With Steve at the helm, the musical was a success.
In 2005, we came together again in “Inspecting Carol,” with Kae directing and Steve and me on stage. As we made quick costume changes back stage I noticed that Steve was having difficulty buttoning his coat. Later, I learned that Steve was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder whose symptoms typically progress from mild tremors to complete physical incapacitation. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease and current treatments only mask the symptoms but do not alter or slow the progression of the disease.
If you were to meet Steve on the street today and didn’t know that he has Parkinson’s, you might think he was drunk. In fact, he can tell you a very funny story about just such an experience. If you have the chance, ask him. He is articulate, his quick wit is as sharp as ever and he still has an amazing sense of humor, right down to a joke he can tell about almost every situation that arises. Retired from the Morgan Hill School District, Steve is still active in the teacher’s union, volunteering his time to assist fellow educators.
“He may have Parkinson’s disease but it doesn’t define him as a person,” said Kevin Heath, owner of Limelight Actor’s Theater. “When we’re together I don’t notice the disease. We still have the same friendship and still laugh together like we always did. He is the same person I met in 2000. A weaker person would have let this disease take over, but not Steve. He thrives on normality.”
This year, Steve’s goal is to raise at least $7,000 to enable the Michael J. Fox Foundation to continue aggressively funding research to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
“I chose to organize this fundraiser as part of Team Fox because I suffer from Parkinson’s,” said Spencer. “I wanted to do something to fight this disease, not only for my own self-interest, but for everyone who lives with this wretched disease. The Fox Foundation funds cutting edge research to bring meaningful advances in treatment and eventually a cure to people like me who are afflicted by PD.”
Nearly 5 million people worldwide are living with the disease. In the United States, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone. The annual economic cost of Parkinson’s in the U.S. is estimated to exceed $25 billion.
Become actively involved in the race for a cure by visiting Fox Trial Finder on the Internet.
• Dia De Los Muertos Celebration
Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.: Vendors, food, dances, sugar skull painting, kids activities, music
5 to 7 p.m.: Reception/altar exhibition, special presentation and viewing of altars, exhibit of Latino/Dia De Los Muertos art
Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St., Gilroy
• “A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody”
Saturday and Sunday, and Nov. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.
Gilroy Grange Hall, 8191 Swanston Lane, Gilroy
All tickets $18
• “James and the Giant Peach”
Nov. 2, 9, 16 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 3, 10, 17 at 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Nov. 4, 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, Monterey at Fifth St., Morgan Hill
• The Mad Hatter’s Holiday Tea Party
Nov. 10, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
$25 per person. Limited seating
Tea, punch, sandwiches and pastries, magic show, raffle
Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St., Gilroy
• “A Tuna Christmas’
Nov. 16 through Dec. 8
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 at 2p.m.; Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $25 include $7 tax-deductible donation
Gilroy Interim Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St., Gilroy