RP’s Nick Alva’s new play debuts tonight in SR
‘Brother Sun Sister Moon’ inspired by Alec Guinness film
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By Jud Snyder  June 21, 2013 12:00 am

If you know Nick Alva, you know he can’t keep his talents away from theatrical productions. 

He gained local fame with his musical production of a few years ago dealing with the Limelighter star Lou Gottleib and his Morning Star settlement for disillusioned beatniks near Occidental. It played at Spreckels experimental theater.

Alva’s a librarian by trade, formerly at Rohnert Park’s library and now at Petaluma’s branch library. But he’s got a new project now, and it will be staged in a Santa Rosa theater June 21-22, coincidentally, the Summer Solstice weekend.

It’s called “Brother Sun Sister Moon.” To call it a unique presentation is an understatement. What is it and how did it all start?

“I saw a movie starring Alec Guinness, the film had the same name, and it was a British and Italian joint effort made in 1972,” said Alva while sipping an orange drink at Starbucks. “It never left me, and I’ve been brooding about a stage production of it for a few years.

“It was about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and had a timely selection of music from Donovan, the well-known Irish balladeer and pop star. There was a kinship here between the two, though centuries apart that I couldn’t dispel. I also detected a kinship between St. Francis and Lou Gottleib. They were thinkers of their time; they knew what change was all about and had their motives for changing the world they lived in.

“Finally, more than a year ago, I began to pull it together. I had to go through a lot of legal copyright issues, for Sony owned the rights. It turned out to be what I call a ‘collage with words, music and dance.’ It’s not a religious play, for at that time St. Francis was not on good terms with the Catholic church. He used to be but he changed his moral direction.”

Alva grew up in an immigrant family who were members of the Eastern Orthodox Church. “I was exposed to a lot of music and poetry.” 

But he gives more credit to his wife of 17 years, Tanya, in this new venture. They live in Rohnert Park’s L Section. 

Tanya’s a graduate of Humboldt State University and is the choral director. “She’s a true Renaissance woman,” said Nick. They met when Nick was earning degrees in history and philosophy at Sonoma State University.

Alva has a lot of contacts with theatrical groups in the area and he recruited Ellen Johnsen, recorder player to lead the musical assignments. 

She gathered recorder and flute players, percussionists and others like Tobias Robson, Mark Gerhardt, Carrie Krueger, Dan Laspansky and Alva himself, playing bass guitar. 

Choreographer Stephen Fambro guided the dancers and rehearsals started.

“Our cast is headed by Daniel Alva playing St. Francis, Hana Casita with dual roles of Pica and Claire and Thomas McKintyre playing both Pietro and Bernando.” Daniel Alva is Nick’s brother, a vocalist  and choir director.

The June 21-22 shows of “Brother Sun Sister Moon” will begin at 8 p.m. both evenings in the Arlene Francis Center in the former New College site located near the railroad tracks one block north of the former Santa Rosa train depot, now a visitor center, at Railroad Square. 

Tickets are $18 general admission and $15 for students and seniors. There’s also a Berkeley performance in the Subterranean Art House at 2179 Bancroft Way, Friday June 28. For further details call Alva at 795-3545.

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