From Wretch to Fringe: Templeton’s Wretch Like Me On Way to Edinburgh

For some, the 1970s were a hurly burly of hot tubs and hedonism. For playwright, performer and local journalist David Templeton, it was puppets and Christian Fundamentalism. He eventually outgrew both and shares the life lessons learned along the way with comedy and heart in his one-man show, “Wretch Like Me, or How I Was Saved from Being Saved.”
Templeton performs the show, one night only, this Monday evening at the Sonoma Community Center.

Monday’s performance is a fundraiser to mount a two-week run of the show at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe (colloquially known as the Fringe Fest), hosted annually in Scotland, to which Templeton and a skeleton crew have been invited to bring the production. He is also running a concurrent campaign on IndieGoGo to raise the $10,000 (at least!) necessary to make his Aug. 1 curtain call at the the Surgeon’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Surgeons Museum in Edinburgh.

Wretch Like Me

“With all the cutting I had to do with script, it’s appropriate to perform in a place that’s also seen its share of blood,” Templeton says drolly.

The lanky, bearded and bespectacled poly-hyphenate, who many will know from his theater reviews in the North Bay Bohemian, has performed the show more than 75 times throughout the Bay Area where it first hit the boards in 2009. He’s since honed it into a lean, mean theatrical machine, full of poignant laughs and life lessons that are relatable beyond the scope of the religious experience that inspired it.

“It’s about my childhood and teenage years, which were typical in that I had to have a lot of crap thrown at me before I figured out who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Templeton, who’s proven adept at finding the universal in personal experience in this and other works that draw inspiration from his autobiography. “It was unusual in that, in my case, it happened in the crazy running-away-to-the-circus vibe of Christian fundamentalism in the ’70s of Southern California.”

Templeton recounts how the “Jesus Movement” he joined evolved from a community born of the idealism of “surfing hippies,” and started moving toward the religious right, which was contrary to his own tolerant beliefs. Suddenly, the “Jesus Club,” which accepted nerdy guys (Templeton had a puppet ministry – enough said) became something he needed to escape.

“I had to have this ‘coming-of-age’ where I had to leave the only community I ever felt safe in. I no longer felt like I was a part of it,” recounts Templeton, who, a few decades hence, used the experience to craft “Wretch Like Me.” He succinctly sums the plot as, “Boy finds Jesus. Boy loses Jesus. Boy finds himself.”

Fringe Festival

From its inception, Templeton’s goal was to bring “Wretch” to the Fringe Fest, which is to theater professionals what the Sundance Film Festival was once to filmmakers – a place to launch one’s work onto the world’s stage.

“From the beginning, we announced that that was the goal,” says Templeton. “That’s where shows get found. Where they get a chance to tour, see London or New York, get publishing opportunities. All kinds of things happen there.”

To get there, however, Templeton needs to raise the funds. At present writing, he’s raised more than $2,000. With his crowd-funding deadline hovering at a minute before midnight on May 22, he has 35 days to go to raise the rest.

As explained on the production’s IndieGoGo page, “Team Wretch must raise a minimum of $10,000 dollars. That amount will fund the remaining rental, insurance and licensing fees, plus travel and lodging costs for a basic skeleton crew. Were the Team to raise $15,000, it would allow David to pay for advertising in the published Fringe program … and to bring his full crew to Edinburgh, all of which will help ‘Wretch’ have its best chance of success in Scotland.”

Until then, it’s all about Monday’s performance and the comedy and catharsis that Templeton ably brings to the stage.

“There’s always people in the audience that I realize have had the same experience, because they’re laughing in a very knowing way, or they’re sobbing in the moment I have to make the break and I think, ‘they’ve been through the same thing,’” says Templeton. “That happens at least once in nearly every show. I’m confessing a lot of stuff that most people would be embarrassed to confess but that allows people to reach out and bond with me a little bit, which makes what happens in the story all the more powerful.”

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David Templeton performs “Wretch Like Me” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 21 at the Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit

Via SonomaNews

Rags to Romance: A chat with hybrid author Bella Andre

Sonoma writer’s seven-figure print deal

Like all media-based industries, publishing has seen its share of digital disruption. Unlike the music and film biz, however, the seismic shifts caused by Kindles, iPads and their lot have had direct benefit for the creative people behind the work. Writers, who often have stopped just short of human sacrifice to score a traditional publishing deal that would net a mere 7 percent royalty off the cover price, are now able to go it alone with little to no overhead and a worldwide market at their fingertips.

Among the thousands of authors successfully charting their own path is Sonoma-based author Bella Andre, who recently inked a seven-figure deal with romance imprint Harlequin MIRA for her popular series?The Sullivans.

How, you ask, can Andre have her indie publishing cred and a major contract, too? Continue reading “Rags to Romance: A chat with hybrid author Bella Andre”

Goodbye, Norma Jean: Marilyn Monroe Tribute Artist Diana Dawn Hangs Up Her Platinum Wig

How does one pay tribute to a tribute artist? I suppose before anyone pays anything, we should clarify our terms ? a ?tribute artist? is not a mere impressionist or impersonator, which, respectively, might suggest a Monet or an identity thief. Instead, a tribute artist is a performer whose portrayal of a culturally-relevant personality is so nuanced and realized that it stands as an affectionate homage to the original.

When it comes to in-the-flesh depictions of the iconic Marilyn Monroe, few, if any, can rival the thousands of performances masterfully rendered by Sonoma?s own Diana Dawn.

On June 1, Marilyn Monroe?s birthday, Dawn, a local celebrity in her own right, will hang up her platinum blond wig for the last time. She?s retiring her tribute of Monroe after 27 years of bringing Monroe vividly back to life.

Dawn?s decision isn?t the result of a 27-year-itch, or even the fact that she?s outlived the actress who died 1962.

As Monroe herself said, ?A career is wonderful, but you can?t curl up with it on a cold night,? and Dawn is ready for new and varied pursuits.

She had originally considered retiring the act when she herself was 36, in deference to both the star, who died at 36, and the fact that playing a single role was obstructing her other acting pursuits. But the gigs as a Marilyn Monroe tribute artist kept coming.

By her own estimation, Dawn has sung ?Happy Birthday? (in the mode of Monroe?s famous recital for President Kennedy) about 10,000 times. Often, she would be in-character three times a night, performing local Bay Area gigs or on far flung adventures cruising Baltic Sea or launching commemorative collectibles in Asia. Marilyn has been good to Dawn and Dawn has endeavored to honor the icon in return.

Along the way, Dawn has met or worked with several of Monroe?s real life contemporaries, including Jackie Mason, Mickey Mantle and Kirk Douglas, among others. During the peak years of her tribute career,

Dawn even enjoyed the rare opportunity to try on a couple of Monroe?s own gowns. They fit perfectly and it?s no wonder ?

?36-24-36,? says Dawn without missing a beat, before one can even finish the question. To those of a younger generation, these numbers might read like the cypher that confounded viewers of Lost. A reader whose cultural currency has accrued more interest will recognize the bombshell measurements of the 20th century?s most enduring sex symbol.

?The interesting thing is, this wasn?t something I planned to do. It was after meeting Joe DiMaggio when I was about 19 -years-old at a City of Hope Golf Tournament,? recalled Dawn, referring to Monroe?s second husband, Yankee?s slugger ?Joltin? Joe.?

DiMaggio sought Dawn as a hostess in his Joe DiMaggio Invitational Tournament, in large part because she reminded him of ?Norma Jean,? which, if you happened to miss Elton John?s pre-Princess Di tune, ?Candle in the Wind,? was Monroe?s original name.

?I did accept his invitation and a few other invitations after that and he came to my house with a bottle of champagne to thank me and of course, I?ve been bubbling over it ever since,? says Dawn, who seamlessly slips into a Monroe voice for emphasis. It?s a beguiling transformation that has captivated audiences for nearly three decades, though it wasn?t until a family friend encouraged the Marin County native to enter a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest that her tribute began to take shape.

She was hesitant at first but she rationalized, ?Well, I?m putting on a wig, I?m putting on makeup, nobody?s gonna know who I am so, if it doesn?t work, I can just step backwards and go back to my regular life and nobody will have to know about it.?

Dawn adds, ?But I did it and it was such an overwhelming and positive experience that people made me feel again that I embodied Marilyn?s essence, her spirit, her walk, her talk, her moves.?

Ironically, she didn?t win that particular contest. She won a career instead.

?That day changed the course of what I thought was going to be my life,? she says. Globetrotting adventures and sometimes misadventures soon ensued. While in Taiwan for the release of a Monroe-themed stamp, she was assigned an entourage of a dozen people and circulated through the nation?s top talk shows.

?They decided they wanted me to be as authentic as possible and didn?t want me to wear a wig. They wanted me to be blonde,? says Dawn, whose hair color is naturally a few shades darker than Monroe?s artificial platinum.

A pair of Taiwan?s top colorists arrived to make the change but something was lost in translation and Dawn?s hair ended up orange. She used the wig after all.

Without Marilyn Monroe in her life full-time, Dawn is looking forward to exploring new professional pursuits. Likewise, she will continue hosting ?Some Like it Hot,? her radio chat show, which airs Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. on KSVY 91.3 FM, and she?ll keep managing her tribute artist booking agency at

?There are so many things I want to explore in my life, and 27 years is a good run. A lot of people have said, ?You should write a book, I?d love to read about your adventures,?? says Dawn. ?I think it?s time to sit down and relive all the adventures on paper and share them with everybody.?

Via SonomaNews

It’s all NEW for Indie Filmmaker John Harden

NEW by John Harden

An Invitation to Invest in the Future of Film

Among my favorite filmmakers, homegrown or otherwise, is Sonoma County’s own John Harden whose masterful short films, La Vie d’un Chien (The Life of a Dog) and The Story of Sputnik, for my money, represent much of what’s great about the form.

Harden is now in preproduction for NEW, which follows an elderly couple who elected to be cryonically preserved at death only to be restored to life and youth in the distant future where futureshock and identity crises ensue. Harden is running a campaign on USA Projects to raise the $22,000 budget which has to be met by Wednesday, May 15, at 11:59pm. At present writing the projection has raised in pledges $12,200, with $10k to go. Naturally, as a longtime fan of Harden’s, I’ve contributed and I urge you to do as well by clicking here now.

After you’ve contributed to the next great John Harden film, dig this recent Q&A with him in which I lead with my my standard mid-period Woody Allen question… Continue reading “It’s all NEW for Indie Filmmaker John Harden”

The Godmother: Eleanor Coppola ? Author, Artist & Filmmaker

Eleanor CoppolaSmartly dressed and looking younger than a woman enjoying her seventies, Eleanor Coppola is a portrait of poise. When it’s suggested that she’s the de facto grand dame of Sonoma County’s wine scene?given the epic, family-friendly winery and resort that bears her husband’s name in Geyserville?she doesn’t take the bait.

Eleanor Coppola is far too grounded and earnest to be susceptible to such platitudes. A few moments with her and one realizes she’s not someone interested in the limelight so much as, say, the use of quicklime lighting in 19th-century theater. As an artist, she has more practical concerns. Chiefly, what’s next? Continue reading “The Godmother: Eleanor Coppola ? Author, Artist & Filmmaker”