header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail


Today in
S.C.V. History
September 25
1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]
Clampitt fire

Raising the Curtain Foundation, through their Grand Ovation program, honored Jim Sudik and Paco Vela on Thursday, June 1 by naming the dressing rooms at the Newhall Family Theatre for the Performing Arts after the duo.

The pair were longtime parent volunteers who created programs and spaces for students at the school to perform and learn about the craft of putting on a show, transforming students one script at a time.

City of Santa Clarita Arts Commissioner Patti Rasmussen, who organized the dressing room fundraiser, said it was important to her that Sudik and Vela have the honor of being the first named with a place in the venue, because of their dedication to children’s theater.

Vela died in 2013, but Sudik’s memories of working with his fellow actor and stay-at-home-dad are vivid.

“He would teach acting, dancing, tech. He could build any kind of costume from scraps of fabric and cardboard. He was Mr. Backstage, doing all sorts of odds and ends at the school. But we always had fun with the kids. It was playtime,” Sudik said. “I’m a good second banana.”

Vela’s flair wasn’t confined to the stage. He helped out the math teachers by donning a costume and cape and riding to school on his horse to play “Zero the Hero” for the young learners. He also worked as the school’s gardening coordinator, teaching kids how to grow their own healthy vegetables.

“Paco had a charm and a calmness about him. They were both so patient. They showed what everyone could learn from each other. They worked as a team, Jim was serious, gotta get things done; Paco was softer, calmer,” said Kimberle Wooten, one of the founding members of Theater Arts for Children.

Sudik knew he was destined for the stage because he was the kid that his one-room-schoolhouse teacher saw “needed a diversion.”

“I thought I was Dick Van Dyke,” he said.

Sudik started acting, learned puppetry, wrote scripts and songs and continued this dramatic curve through high school and college, where he met his lifelong co-star, Dee, who joined him on stage and on the road. After stints in community and regional theater in the Midwest and East Coast, the family moved to California, where the movie industry beckoned. Sudik tried his hand at films and TV, but waiting for calls to work challenged the young family and when Dee got her teaching credential, Jim became a stay-at-home dad.

Vela, who hailed from Texas, got his start on stage when his elementary school needed boys for a dance performance, which led to his involvement in theater groups in junior high and high school. After a short stint in the Navy, he did some Equity dinner theater and began honing his technical chops. He played a bad guy in a Clint Eastwood movie and guested on TV shows “Hill Street Blues” and “St. Elsewhere.” He was also a stay-at-home dad interested in issues related to his children’s school. Vela and Sudik met when they attended a site council meeting.

One of the issues they addressed immediately was finding performance space and establishing programs that brought more theater to the school, where the once-elegant theater was being used as a warehouse space for the district.

With a goal of inspiring creativity in all students and nurturing young performers, they created theater programs at Newhall that gave kids a home away from home and a way to express themselves. They held improvisation workshops and theater activities after school. Kids performed on makeshift stages built in the multipurpose room or out in the community in parks and plazas.

They created NEST (Newhall Elementary Story Theater) and MASK (Making Art Special for Kids), free programs for any student who was interested to learn. They worked with Newhall Ellipses Theater in concert with the Repertory Theater to offer theater to at-risk kids.

Grant funding provided the debut of their original play, “Viva Chavez-Si Se Puede” at Newhall. And their play “A Christmas Carol Para Todos,” presented simultaneously in English and Spanish by kids in the NEST program, brought cultures together. At that time, more than 80 percent of the students at Newhall Elementary School primarily spoke Spanish. Sudik and Vela broke those barriers by presenting the show in both languages.

“The holidays. What better time to challenge borders, boundaries, fear and ignorance with a classic story of change and some good music? And who better to tell it to us than our future, our hope, our children,” Sudik said.

In their programs, drama lessons always included a side of social responsibility.

They entertained the crowd at the dedication of the Jan Heidt Metrolink station and put on a show during the Country Fair, a fundraiser organized by Theater Arts for Children, a group of parents and community leaders, including Sudik and Vela, that were determined to turn the theater at Newhall Elementary back into the Art Deco theater it once was.

Serious efforts to that end began in 1994 by Theater Arts for Children and renewed with a bond measure supported overwhelmingly by the community in 2011 that funded the complete restoration of the performance space.

Vela never saw the completion of the theater. In 2016, there was a groundbreaking for the restoration of the theater and the newly renovated, state-of-the-art Newhall Family Theatre for the Performing Arts was dedicated to students and the community in 2018.

Sudik remains active in the performing arts community and coaches softball at Hart High School, where his granddaughter plays on the team. Regardless of the field, he is still considered a mentor by many.

“(It’s) the joy of storytelling, of communicating and passing stories on, resolving through drama or rehearsal opinions and attitudes,” he said. “Teaching kids to be confident in themselves and generous to who you’re on stage with. Discover your talents and enjoy your talents!”

For information on the Grand Ovation Program and naming opportunities at the Newhall Family Theatre for the Performing Arts, visit www.raisingthecurtainfoundation.org.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


Wednesday, Sep 20, 2023
The C.A.S.T. for ​Kids Foundation will team up volunteers and special needs children for a day of boating and fishing at Castaic Lake on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Monday, Sep 18, 2023
The Painted Turtle Pickleball Tournament was such a smashing success last year, the Santa Clarita Valley nonprofit is bringing it back again in 2023.
Monday, Sep 18, 2023
The Placerita Canyon Nature Center will host Music & Movie Under the Oaks on Saturday, Sept. 23, with gates opening at 6 p.m.
Monday, Sep 18, 2023
The Santa Clarita branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is proud to announce that for a second year in a row, it will be awarding scholarships to five students residing in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Friday, Sep 15, 2023
The Rancho Camulos National Historic Landmark Museum is marking the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Ventura County with a special program featuring the first movie made in Ventura County, DW Griffith’s "Ramona" starring Mary Pickford. The film will screen on Saturday, Oct. 28 at the Rancho Camulos Museum. Two screenings are scheduled at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Public television station KCET selected three California State University, Northridge student films, all directed by women of color, to take part in its Fine Cut Film Festival.
CSUN Students Recognized by KCET Fine Cut Festival of Films
The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees will meet for a special joint meeting with the William S. Hart Union High School District Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: COC Board, Hart District Joint Meeting
The city of Santa Clarita’s Film Office released the three productions currently filming in the Santa Clarita Valley for the week of Monday, Sept. 25 - Sunday, Oct. 1.
Three Productions Currently Filming in Santa Clarita
1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]
Clampitt fire
1997 - Redevelopment of Old Town Newhall begins with groundbreaking of Railroad Avenue improvements [story]
1948 - Agua Dulce Women's Club organized [timeline]
Women's Club
An art exhibit, My Kind of Town by Justin N. Kim, will be on display at the Canyon Country Community Center, 18410 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita, CA 91351, now through Dec. 8.
Art Exhibits on Display at Canyon Country Library, Community Center
Last Saturday, I was heartbroken to learn of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer's murder. The 30-year-old Sheriff's deputy's life was taken from him as he was sitting in his patrol car just outside the Palmdale Sheriff's Station.
Kathyrn Barger | In Loving Memory
William S. Hart Union High School District Teacher of the Year Casey Cuny has been honored as one of the top 16 teachers in the county of Los Angeles by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. He is now officially nominated for the California Teacher of the Year.
Valencia High’s Casey Cuny Named One of County’s Top 16 Teachers
California State Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is pleased to announce that the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency has been awarded $5 million to improve sustainable groundwater use and storage through the California Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program.
Wilk Announces $5M Sustainable Groundwater Grant to SCV Water
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26, in open public session at 6 p.m.
Sept 26: City Council Meets to Discuss Proposed Lighting at Central Park
The William S. Hart Union High School District Golden Oak Adult School, a pillar of lifelong learning and community support, will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a special celebration on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Oct. 26: Golden Oak Adult School Celebrates 75 Year Anniversary
Completely redesigned and built in-house by the Information Services division, the city of Santa Clarita will launch a new website under the domain of SantaClarita.gov on Monday, Sept. 25.
City to Launch New SantaClarita.gov Website
Youth sports coaches for Winter Basketball for the city of Santa Clarita Youth Sports leagues are being sought.
Santa Clarita Youth Sports Winter Basketball Coaches Sought
Help beautify Canyon Country on Saturday, Oct. 7, 9 a.m. to noon, during Canyon Country Community Day. Volunteers will help city of Santa Clarita staff paint walls and re-mulch the parkways on Whites Canyon Road between Stillmore Street and Nadal Street.
Oct. 7: Canyon Country Community Day Seeks Volunteers
Cultural events, local history, incredible art, engaging programs for children, what would you like to see in a possible Santa Clarita Museum and Cultural Center? The City of Santa Clarita is exploring the possibility of developing a Museum and Cultural Center to showcase the community’s rich history, cultural heritage and to celebrate the diversity of the city.
Input Sought for Santa Clarita Museum, Cultural Center
Casino rocker Donny Parvo will appear in Old Town Newhall on Saturday, Sept. 23 with his “The Last Ride of the Load Ranger” tour. This is a one-night-only concert to benefit American Legion Post 507.
Sept. 23: Donny Parvo Benefit Concert for American Legion Post 507
The Saugus Union School District Governing Board is seeking applicants to fill the seat of board member Cassandra Love who is resigning her seat as Trustee Area 1 as of Oct. 2.
SUSD Governing Board Seeks Applicants to Fill Board Vacancy
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Friday 177 new cases and two additional deaths from COVID-19 in the Santa Clarita Valley within the last week.
Weekly COVID-19 Roundup: Two New SCV Deaths; 177 New Cases
1923 - Newhall Chamber of Commerce organizes community cleanup day [story]
cleanup day
The Master's University women's volleyball team dominated in a three-set win 25-23, 25-19, 25-16 over the Westcliff Warriors Tuesday night in The MacArthur Center.
Lady Mustangs Dominate Warriors in Straight Sets
Los Angeles County is one of the most diverse counties in the country and the Sheriff’s Department is committed to equally protecting the rights of every member of the community regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental disability, or gender.
LASD Hosts Annual Hate Crimes Summit
In a match that was dominated by physical midfield play, The Master's University men's soccer team lost a non-conference game to the Vanguard Lions 1-0 Wednesday on Reese Field.
Mustangs Drop Non-Conference Game to Vanguard 0-1
Communities of color are often the first and most impacted by the human decisions that contribute to climate change.
CSUN Professor Helps Organize Touring Exhibit
%d bloggers like this: