Board Meeting

The fabulous Mo`olelo Board of Trustees  held their first meeting of 2012 tonight. Larry Baza of Noel-Baza Fine Art  kindly allowed us to hold the meeting at his gorgeous gallery. We welcomed the newest Board Member Jerry Buckley to the group and got down to business with reports from the Finance, Board Operations, Development, Events, Consensus Organizing, Greening Initiative, and Team Mo`olelo committees. Here are some photos from the evening:


Garry in the house!

Greg Watanabe, Garry Prather, Brian Bielawski, Carlenne Lacosta, Liz Stephens

Former Board President and current Advisory Board member Garry Prather stopped by rehearsal yesterday to say hi to the team. It’s always a joy to see him. Here he is with actors Greg Watanabe and Brian Bielawski, Stage Manager Liz Stephens and Coordinator Carlenne Lacosta.

Garry recorded a video for our YouTube Project “What’s your story?”
Check out the project here:
And Garry’s video here:

day 1

Today was the first day of rehearsal for our production of HOW I GOT THAT STORY by Amlin Gray. We invited board members and patrons to join us for the Meet and Greet and first read through of the play. We were also fortunate to have a number of volunteer consultants joining us:

Sue Diaz, author of Minefields of the Heart and post show speaker for Feb 25 and March 3;
Joe Ciokon, Vietnam Veteran, Navy reporter, and post-show speaker on March 1;
Ernie d’Leon, Vietnam Veteran, ACVOW (American Combat Veterans of War) Board of Directors;
Max Gruzen, Vietnam Veteran, Army photojournalist;
Michael Kilpatrick, Vietnam Veteran, founding member of Veterans Village of San Diego.

They shared their personal stories and feedback from listening to the read-through.

Some of the themes, questions, discussion points, and quotes that emerged included:
– A theme in the play: what is real? what is true? how do you know?
– What were the reporters who covered the Vietnam war really like? How prepared were they?
– “Loss of innocence” through war
– After you’re there, you take on ownership, want to stay
– Loss of compassion for the enemy…. loss of compassion for yourself
– You change to survive
– Mind games
– Brotherhood

Costume Designer Jeannie Galioto and Scenic Designer David Weiner also joined us and shared their designs.

Here are some photos from the day:

a story from Casey

In connection with our production of HOW I GOT THAT STORY, we are collecting video stories from veterans about their war experiences. Here’s a written story from Casey Meehan, a Vietnam Veteran who served as a Navy nurse. Those of you who saw our 2005 production of A PIECE OF MY HEART may recall that Casey participated in our arts education program and met with the high school students who attended that play. Her photo was also on the poster of A PIECE OF MY HEART. Here’s her story:

 A Vietnam War Recollection

By CDR Casey Meehan, NC, USN, RET

The year was 1959; I have in one hand a brand new college degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and in the other hand a commission as an ENSIGN in the Nurse Corps of the US Navy. I am off on a grand patriotic adventure…

Nine years later in May 1968, after five duty stations including one in Japan and one in the Philippines, I was in receipt of my requested orders to the Naval Support Activity Hospital in DaNang,Vietnam; a 650 bed hospital consisting of many Quonset huts connected by wooden ramps built on a sand dune across the road from China Beach.

October, 1968, 2 ½ months into my assignment in the ICU, a great hullabaloo occurred one morning—several Marine Corps Generals, two Admirals and the C.O. of the hospital descended on our unit. WHY? I inquired?  A VIP (Very Important Patient) was on his way to us from the OR.  WHO?  I asked.  Chesty Puller’s son was coming and I was then briefly filled in on Chesty’s story; a retired Marine Corps LTGEN whose 37 year career is a legend in the Corps, the most highly decorated Marine in their history having been awarded the  Navy Cross five times– among a total of 56 medals.

My patient was Lewis Puller, Jr a 22 y/o Marine Corps 2LT only “in country” for two ½ months and severely injured-one leg gone at the hip and the other above the knee, both hands injured w loss of fingers leaving only three on one hand and two on the other, ½ his buttocks and ½ his scrotum gone.  It was beyond belief he had survived  tripping a booby trap in the field,  waiting for a chopper med-evac for what seemed like hours—-thank God for corpsmen!   But after two days of intensive care he miraculously was still alive and was then air-evaced back to the states.  I did not know what happened to him as there were many hundreds of patients that just kept coming, 22,000 during my twelve month tour of duty.

Fast forward 23 years to 1991, Dottie and I and another Vietnam Vet Navy Nurse, Julie, decide to visit the Vietnam Memorial better known as the “WALL”, it had been built and dedicated in 1982.  The experience of being there among so many vets was almost overwhelming—tears came easily, the greeting among us was a bear hug and the phrase “Welcome Home”—something that developed when so many Viet Vets felt ignored or worse upon their return from action—no one seemed to care as it was an extremely unpopular war.   We agree with the now familiar saying that has come out ofIraq—HATE THE WAR, NOT THE WARRIOR.

While there, among all the families and vets, sitting in a w/c was a conservatively dressed double amputee.  After the usual bear hug and welcome Home greeting Dottie asked him, when were you wounded and where were you treated?   He responded, ‘October ’68 and NavalSupportActivityDaNangHospital.  So there sat Lew Puller!!  What a wonderful feeling to actually know for sure that someone I cared for made it.  We chatted and he told us about his family, his wife and two children, and how he had written an autobiography that was being published as we spoke.  We took pictures and promised to buy his book stat.  The book, Fortunate Son, The Healing of a Vietnam Vet came out and was universally praised including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction.  We sent our copy to him and asked for an autograph—it came by return mail with the following inscription:

To Casey Meehan and Dottie Yelle,

Whose embrace of the healing profession saved the lives of countless young men like me during the Vietnam War.  To you I owe a debt that can never be repaid.  Nevertheless, I hope that you will regard the writing of this book as, at least, partial payment!

With love, respect, admiration and my undying gratitude…

Welcome Home, Lew B. Puller.
November 11, 1991

The book told of his life from age 5 to 45, his recovery and hospitalization—over two years and 15 operations, his successful attendance at law school, and holding a position as senior attorney in the office of the General Counsel at DOD.  His brutal honesty in describing his physical – he never walked again, mental – depression, and spiritual obstacles including sinking into alcoholism and recovery thru AA were riveting and uplifting, especially to other vets.

In 1991, PEOPLE Magazine printed a special edition called “Amazing Americans” an interview, with pictures, cited Lew Puller as one of 23 of those amazing people!

Lew died May 11, 1994, unfortunately by his own hand, after more hospitalizations and a relapse into prescription drug addiction and alcoholism as a soothing balm.  He was buried at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery with full military honors. The Vietnam War claimed another victim.  And so on this Memorial Day, 2009, I submit to you that not all warriors fell on the foreign field of battle—some came home and continued the long arduous, often painful, fight til death overtook them.

Casey's photo
Casey Meehan, Julie Loughney, Lew Puller, Dottie Yelle












P.S.  Julie in the picture above died July 10th 2009 of an Agent Orange related Brain Lymphoma due to her tour of duty on the USS Sanctuary (AH-15) in 1968-69.      She was 73…at the time of her retirement in 1995, she was the most highly decorated Navy Nurse on active duty…a very good friend and an angel who once trod the earth with us ordinary humans.

Free Legal Services for Artists and Arts Organizations

The Art & Entertainment Law Project in the Small Business Law Center (SBLC) at Thomas Jefferson School of Law is here to provide free legal services for low-income artists, actors, dancers, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and related non-profit organizations. Our students, under the supervision of California licensed attorneys, are able to provide legal assistance to creative people and organizations that do not have the means to hire an attorney to advise them.

The SBLC is now accepting requests for services from potential clients. The ideal client will have an existing business, or at least an outline of a business plan, and a willingness to work with law students.

The SBLC provides legal assistance in the following areas:

•  copyright •  trademark •  publicity rights •  contract review and negotiation •  business formation and operation •  nonprofit tax exemption •  permitting and licensing •  independent contractor and employment issues •  commercial leasing •  trade secrets

The SBLC provides a wide variety of legal assistance, but does not represent clients in court. Also, the SBLC is not able to accommodate walk-in requests at this time, so please follow the guidelines below.

In order to qualify for representation, a potential client will be required to make financial disclosures for the SBLC to determine eligibility. To find out if you are eligible for our services, please complete the Request for Services Form<> on our website, and email or fax it to the contact information listed below. For more information about our services, please call (619) 961-4382.

Small Business Law Center Phone: (619) 961-4382
 Fax: (619) 961-1382

Lucy, Todd & VMMC

Lucy Saltmarsh & Todd Kennedy at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

There is so much Mo`olelo would not be able to accomplish if it weren’t for the expertise and generosity of our community partners. The Veterans Museum and Memorial Center  (VMMC) in Balboa Park was a critical partner for Mo`olelo’s 2005 production of A Piece of My Heart, and once again they are lending their support for our upcoming production of How I Got That Story. There’s a section in How I Got That Story where Greg Watanabe’s character, The Historical Event, transforms from being a G.I. walking to a bar, into a Lieutenant in the field, into a Private First Class in the field, into a Guerrilla, and finally into a Sergeant in the field. The transformations are instantaneous and happen on stage. We needed help finding the proper Vietnam-era army uniforms. We also needed to find a class A army jacket with the bronze oak leaves of a major. To our rescue came Lucy Saltmarsh, Curator at VMMC and her volunteer Todd Kennedy. They pulled field jackets, the appropriate badges, uniforms, etc and talked us through the proper placement of the bars, patches, and options for quick-rigging.

We are so grateful for Lucy, Todd and the VMMC.

Introducing Manuel Paul López, CCF Grant recipient

The San Diego Foundation recently launched an innovative artist-focused grant program called their “Creative Catalyst Fund” (CCF). Through this program, 15 individual artists  are receiving funding for their projects housed at a variety of nonprofit arts organizations. Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company is pleased to be the partner organization working with Poet/Writer Manuel Paul López. He will be working on his original manuscript, The Yearning Feed, which will explore border issues intertwined with issues of social, economic and environmental justice. Each month, Paul will update us on his progress through this blog. His work will culminate with two evenings of readings at The 10th Avenue Theatre in October 2012. Stay tuned for details about that.

It’s our pleasure to introduce Manuel Paul López…

Manuel Paul López

First, I would like to thank those individuals responsible for envisioning and creating the San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst Fund–this is an incredible opportunity for San Diego artists, a resource that I hope will remain available to many more in the future.  Thank you.  I also want to thank Seema Sueko and the Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company for their willingness to support my project for this upcoming year; this wonderful gift has rendered me speechless periodically during the holiday season–I am forever grateful.  Seema’s support and enthusiasm thus far has been inspiring.

Before I continue, I would like to briefly introduce myself to the Mo`olelo community.  My name is Manuel Paul López, and I was born and raised in the Imperial Valley.  My parents and much of my family reside there, and my wife and I visit as often as we can.  I am currently an 11th grade Humanities teacher at High Tech High.  Two books that I have written are Death of a Mexican and other Poems and 1984, the latter, a chapbook-length poem written as a tribute to the late, great Joe Brainard.  I am also happy to report that I am a Canto Mundo fellow. Canto Mundo is an annual writers’ retreat designed to provide Latina/o writers with a space to discuss craft and community.  This summer we will be meeting in Austin, Texas.  The CCF grant will make this trip a reality for me by covering the needed travel expenses.

I intend to report monthly on Mo`olelo’s blog on the progress of my new manuscript.  It is currently titled The Yearning Feed.  These monthly dispatches will focus on my progress on the manuscript, as well as news of publications or readings that I might be doing throughout the year.  You can also visit my personal blog if you would like to send a note.  It is at

As I see it, the funds granted by the Creative Catalyst Fund will serve two purposes.  First, it will provide me with an opportunity to take advantage of a couple of residencies during the year to secure some uninterrupted time to push through the completion of this manuscript.  Second, Seema and I are organizing a two-night program in October, where I will read excerpts from the completed manuscript at the 10th Avenue Theatre.  What I am most excited about is that I will be part of a lineup that includes poet, Luivette Resto, author of Unfinished Portrait, along with San Diego’s super group, Cumbia Machin.  Needless to say, these evenings will provide a little something for everyone, and it will certainly be an honor to share the stage with such fantastic artists.

So what does the manuscript look like?  As it stands now, the manuscript is comprised of several poems and short stories.  I also intend to include informational texts and essays.  The backdrop for these pieces are the San Diego/Imperial Valley regions, and the border that looms over them.  A section that I am determined to develop is one that will focus on the 7.2 earthquake that shook the Imperial Valley and Mexicali areas, and to a lesser degree, San Diego, on April 4th, 2010.  Although it did not receive much major news coverage, the quake devastated areas like Calexico, causing school closures and other damage that impacted surrounding communities economically, not to mention psychologically.  No one in my family was injured seriously, but the quake left its heavy imprint on my family’s home when it cracked walls and shattered dishes.  Full disclosure, I was in the air during the quake, returning to San Diego from Tucson after having participated at the Tucson Poetry Festival, a fact my dad likes to point out whenever the topic is discussed. 

Overall, I am excited about this opportunity.  This is a unique chance for me personally to work with an accomplished arts organization collaboratively.  I do hope that this experience establishes a long-standing relationship with Mo`olelo, an organization I respect deeply.  Thanks again for your time, and I wish you all a beautiful 2012! 

Mil gracias,

Manuel Paul López