Miss Saigon begins week-long run in OKC

(Photo by Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– The award-winning musical ‘Miss Saigon’ began its six-day run in Oklahoma City Jan 14 at the Civic Center.

The story revolves around the last days of the Vietnam War, and a 17-year-old Kim is forced to work in a Saigon bar run the Engineer. There, she meets and falls in love with an American G.I. named Chris, but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For years, Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he’s fathered a son.

Miss Saigon comes from the creators Les Misérables. It features a stunning spectacle and a sensational cast of 42 performing the soaring score, including Broadway hits like “The Heat is On in Saigon,” “The Movie in My Mind,” “Last Night of the World” and “American Dream.”

Along with the theatrical component, Miss Saigon has a historical element that dives into the atmosphere surrounding the Vietnam war and other factors of the time.

Main cast performers include Red Concepcion (The Engineer), Emily Bautista (Kim), Anthony Festa (Chris) and J. Daughtry (John).  Miss Saigon was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Conner.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Thunder star provides a safe place for victims of abuse

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

The staff at the Family T.R.E.E. in Oklahoma City has a tough job. The children who show up the facility have had to live with unimaginable pain and sufferings and it’s up to the staff workers to help them.

Family T.R.E.E., which is part of the Department of Human Services, is designed as a transformative space for hope, strength and positive change to take root. In this space, families involved with the Child Welfare System are supported through Team, Resources, Evaluation and Education (T.R.E.E.), all purposefully dedicated to renewing and reunifying their family.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul decided to give them a little help recently when he spearheaded a charge to refurbish a nearly 30-year old basketball court at the Family T.R.E.E. that will be used to benefit victims of child abuse and child neglect.

“This building serves kids on some of their darkest days,” said Justin Brown, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. “For them to have a space like what Chris Paul dedicated today, it’s sort of a fray of light in what sometimes can be a very dark time in their lives.”

The refurbishment was completed in partnership with the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. Along with Paul and Brown, Jack Marquardt, Spalding, Vice President of Brand Communications also delivered a message to the two dozen kids and family members on hand for the unveiling Jan. 10.

“I’ve always had a unique perspective to think back to when I was a kid sitting in those seats and I always look and picture my kids to,” Paul said. “When you’re a kid, your attention span is not very long. Just understand that they just want somewhere to be able to play, a safe haven. And that’s what kids should have.”

The basketball court will be another tool for Family T.R.E.E. and the Department of Human Services as they look to help children in difficult situations.

“We serve a million people in the state of Oklahoma with 6,000 employees. We cannot do this alone.,” Brown said of DHS. “So partnerships with people like Chris Paul and organizations like Spaulding are critically important for us being able to serve our community in the best way. It is truly reflective of what this place is. It’s a place of collaboration and service. That’s what Chris personifies.”

Brown also didn’t forget the main reason for refurbishing the court, which is to help children and their families.

“We serve kids all across the state. We investigate 81,000 cases of abuse every year. Some 240 kids a day are reported potential abuse claims,” Brown said. “So we investigate all those. And this facility here is to reunite families by providing space for them to be together, to work with counselors and really work with therapists to understand how to interact in better ways as they potentially leave our system and we reunite families.”

The court was designed by Paul and his 10-year old son. Surrounding by a variety of bright and illuminating colors, the floor features astrology symbols for Gemini, Aquarius, Taurus and Leo, which belong to each member of Paul’s family.

The word’s “Family First, Family Last. Family Always” painted on the Thunder blue walls.

Paul explained the significance of the design element that went into the court. And gave a brief history of how he first came to Oklahoma City when as a member of the New Orleans Hornets, Hurricane Katrina forced them to find a new home as a rookie.

The walls are also adorned with the names and numbers of Rasual Butler and Jackson Vroman, both of whom were teammates of Paul during his first stint in Oklahoma City. Butler and Vroman passed away in recent years and Paul wanted to honor them.

“Those two guys played with me here in Oklahoma,” Paul said. “I felt it would be fitting to put Jackson and Rasual up there. In this league sometimes you play with a guy for a few months, maybe a few years. I played with Rasual for I think six years. Rasual is like a brother to me.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider


Learning on the job

Photo by Torrey Purvey

By  Michael Kinney

NORMAN– Antonio Gordon was hoping for a better homecoming. With the stands at Lloyd Noble Center full of family and friends from Lawton, the Eisenhower product was looking to put on a show and help lead his Kansas State squad to pull off an upset against Oklahoma.

However, Gordon could only watch as his Wildcats squandered a double-digit lead and fell 66-61 to the Sooners Saturday in both teams Big 12 Conference opener.

“I feel like we just got to do better at finishing out the end,” Gordon said. “We’re a great team, we know that. It’s just little things that is going to push us over the edge. Once we get better at that I think we’ll be tough to beat.”

Gordon, a true freshman with KSU, didn’t have his best scoring night in his first trip back to his home state. He shot 1 of 9 from the field and scored 3 points to go along with posting 8 rebounds, one steal and a blocked shot.

“I didn’t shoot it very well,” Gordon said. “I know I got some stuff I need to work on. I know I played the hardest I could. I definitely put it out there on the floor. Definitely need to get more shots up.”

Gordon was on the KSU bench during the final minutes of game action after he put up a shot that hit the side of the backboard. He could only watch as his teammates tried to hold on to the game on the road.

That is something Gordon didn’t have to deal with at EHS, where he scored nearly 1,600 points in his prep career, averaging 22.8 points in 70 career games.

Gordon will most likely chalk the entire game up to another learning experience. As he goes from high school standout to DI athlete, he has learned quickly it is definitely a different level.

“What has stood out is definitely the game speed,” Gordon said. “Transitioning from high school to college the game definitely sped up. Dudes got bigger, stronger, faster, so that’s something that’s definitely been a big thing for me. Just the college lifestyle. Being around older dudes, knowing that you got to raise your game to their level. In high school, I was better than most kids my age, so I definitely have to raise my level, because those dudes are smarter as well. They have been playing here for four or five years.”

On the season, Gordon is averaging 6.0 and 4.6 rebounds a game. He’s shooting 41 percent from the field and just 25 percent from behind the arc.

As Gordon gets more acclimated to his surrounds and the college game, those numbers should get better.

“The rest of the freshman season, I just want play my heart out,” Gordon said. “Leave everything on the court like it’s my last game.”

Despite the loss, when the game was over Gordon was all smiles when he walked back onto the court. He was met with hugs and pats on the back from his family.

Gordon said it’s because of them that he’s in this position and doesn’t want to let them down.

“Once I saw myself on the TV for the first time I was like dang, this is what I always dreamed of, and now I’m actually here doing this so I got to make the most of it,” Gordon said. “It was like an eye-opener like I can’t mess this up. It was a blessing from God. Made my mom proud, made my family proud so just got to continue doing it.”

Gordon also knows he has young athletes back home in Lawton watching him and before he left Norman to head back to school, he had a message for them.

“Just keep working hard, nothing’s impossible,” Gordon said. “Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do something.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

What will Hurts’ legacy be at Oklahoma?

Photo credit: Jason Parkhurst

By Michael Kinney

ATLANTA – For what may have been the first time all season, Jalen Hurts was human, so to speak. When the Oklahoma quarterback took to the podium after his Sooners were decimated 63-28 by No. 1 LSU in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, Hurts had done something he hadn’t done the entire season. He opened up.

“It’s hard to just sit here and reflect on four years, a whole year with my brothers this year, all of that right now. It hurts me,” Hurts said. “You talk about how much it means to you and the team. It’s supposed to hurt. This is not a good feeling. This is a feeling I’ve never felt before.”

Hurts unprecedented college career came to an end on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 28 with the loss to No. 1 LSU. So it’s understandable why he was reflective.

Yet, when Hurts first arrived on the University of Oklahoma campus, he had envisioned a different outcome.

“It hurts me in my heart, you know,” Hurts said. “When I decided to come to this school, I told Coach (Lincoln) Riley, I’m going to go win you a National Championship, and I failed to do that.”

At times this season it looked like a one-man show to fans and opponents. That includes members of the LSU defense, who said going into the Peach Bowl that if the stop the Heisman trophy runner-up then they would be fine.

While it sounded like bold talk from the Tigers, it ended up being true. Once LSU was able to stop Hurts running the ball, he was unable to get the passing game going. Some of that had to do with a porous offensive line that was unable to stand up to the physical Tigers front.

But it was also Hurts unable to complete passes into tight windows, an issue he had during the regular season. While he improved immensely as a passer in his one season at Oklahoma, he wasn’t where needed to be to knock off a squad like LSU.

In his one season with the Sooners, Hurts accomplished a lot. Despite having to learn an entirely new offense, he threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns while completing 69.7 percent of his passes.

Hurts also led the Sooners in rushing yards (1,407), carries (233) and rushing TDs (20) while earning runner-up status in the Heisman.

“I’m incredibly proud of Jalen,” OU center Creed Humphrey said. “He did a great job for us. He was a great leader for us. I’m really happy I got to be a part of his football journey. He was a part of mine. It takes a really extraordinary person to do that. He is an extraordinary person. I’m really happy that he came and spent this year with us.”

Whether Hurt’s stint at Oklahoma will be looked at as a success or not could be determined on what happens in the future.

In many people’s eyes. Hurts was the bridge between Baker Mayfield-Kyler Murray era to the Spencer Rattler.

Rattler was the top-ranked quarterback coming out of high school this past season but sat the bench for a season behind Hurts and red-shirted this year. At 6-0, 197 pounds, Rattler fits more of the style Riley has built during his time at Oklahoma. With a live and accurate arm, many predict he will pick up the Heisman torch Mayfield and Murray left behind.

Yet, he needed the year of seasoning on the bench to prepare him to be the face of the Sooner’s program.  If he was able to learn from Hurts on and off the field, then Hurt’s legacy could, in the end, lead to a championship in the near future.

“Moving forward, I definitely hope — I’ve already told them, I hope that you guys learn from this,” Hurts said. “I hope everybody learns from this. It hurts me the most because usually, when you come up short in something, you can come back and you can fix it. I can’t come back and fix it. I’ll never play college football again.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

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