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Arts Dawg preview: The timeliness and timelessness of Fifth of July

The cast of "Fifth of July." (Photo credit: Mike Hipple)

The cast of “Fifth of July.” (Photo credit: Mike Hipple)

When Fifth of July premiered in 1978, it was very much a play of its time. The two-act production followed three generations of the Talley family as they tried to make their way through the muck and mire of an America slowly recovering from the Vietnam War. Fifth of July tackled head-on the continuing debate about the Vietnam War, gay rights, women’s rights, and the ascension of the Baby Boomer generation—all issues, in other words, that still resonate today.

And that’s what first drew the eye of director Valerie Curtis-Newton, ’96. “It’s really another ripple in the current of history of those great social movements,” she said. Fans can learn more on Nov. 14, when Fifth of July will be part of the second Arts Dawg event this season. Curtis-Newton will give a talk about the play at the pre-show reception, which will include complimentary wine and appetizers.

Curtis-Newton said she will discuss the timelessness of Lanford Wilson’s production and its relevance to modern times, despite debuting nearly 40 years ago. Take the gay rights movement: One of the play’s main characters is a homosexual veteran. At the time, the character lived and served in the closet, and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibited openly gay service members until 2011. “All of those movements are still alive now,” Curtis-Newton said. “We’ll recognize these people, and we’ll recognize how they interact with each other.”

If You Go—Walk-ups welcome!

What: Arts Dawg event in conjunction with “Fifth of July.” The event includes remarks from director Valerie Curtis-Newton, ’96, wine and light appetizers.

Where: Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, UW Seattle. The reception will be in the Meany Theater backstage, and the production will be in the Meany Studio Theater.

When: Thursday, Nov. 14; lobby doors and the reception begins at 6:30 p.m., and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 for UWAA members

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UW alum Ken Hughes and the JaK’s Grill community

UW alumni Ken Hughes of JaK's Grill (Harley Soltes)The story of JaK’s Grill is the story of community.

Ken Hughes and his business partner, John, both UW alums and the principal owners of the popular JaK’s Grill family, started the restaurant in 1996 in the Admiral District of West Seattle. They were hands-on from the beginning, bringing in their own equipment and building their own stuff, including the wood benches that are now a staple of the JaK’s experience.

Today, there are three JaK’s Grills: the original in West Seattle—albeit in a new location down the street—and two additional spots in Issaquah and Laurelhurst. Opening in Laurelhurst, with its close proximity to the UW campus, was like coming home for Ken and John. “It’s a nice place to celebrate a victory,” Ken says. “We’ve had some bad years recently, but I see a lot of Cougars buying after the Apple Cup.”

The two Huskies, both economics majors at the UW, wanted to excel at customer service and aimed to become “the Nordstrom of neighborhood steakhouses.” Ken is proud of the restaurant’s local roots and the fact it supports roughly 100 employees who work in the JaK’s community.

“It feels good giving people a place to work, especially at the UW,” he says. “We see a lot of really good young people working their way through college.”

Last year, the JaK’s team opened the Sunset Alehouse in Issaquah that is Husky-themed. It’s not your traditional bar, but a hybrid with “a little pub feel, a little alehouse feel.” So far, the restaurant has given the loyal JaK’s following a place to enjoy in addition to their favorite Grill.

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UW alum Michael Druxman revisits Hollywood in memoir

UW alum Michael Druxman revisits Hollywood in new bookWhen Seattle hosted the 1962 World’s Fair, Elvis Presley traveled to the Pacific Northwest to film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” a musical about cropdusting buddies lost in gambling debt. Michael B. Druxman, a UW student at the time, wanted to be part of it.

Druxman went to the filming not for the experience as an extra, not for the $10 and a box lunch, but because he wanted to pick himself out on the big screen. Of course, the only way he could do that is if he got close enough to the film’s star. The director put him at the back of the scene, but young Druxman inched his way toward the front. As he sidled up next to Elvis and struck up a casual conversation, the assistant director stepped in and said, “You don’t talk to Elvis.” So to the back of the set he went. For the moment.

If you see the movie today, you can spot Druxman in the scene where a little boy (ironically, Kurt Russell) kicks Elvis in the shin. Druxman’s there in background, walking from one side to the other. Hi, Mom!

My Forty-Five Years in Hollywood and How I Escaped Alive is Druxman’s memoir. Beginning with his boyhood in Seattle, it follows him to Los Angeles where, without any show business contacts whatsoever, he creates a successful career for himself as a publicist, playwright, screenwriter, director and Hollywood historian. From Jimmy Durante and Elvis Presley to Jack Lemmon and Cary Grant, the book is filled with amusing stories of Druxman’s life in Hollywood.

Watch the book’s video trailer on YouTube.

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