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Hard to believe, but I've apparently become a part of a tradition.

For the seventh year in a row, I've written a spoof of a radio play to be performed for the benefit of the Long Beach Playhouse. We've managed to convince yet another group of Long Beach luminaries to put their reputations in my hands as they read the script full of smart-aleck comments and inside jokes.

It's gratifying to know that the people who make the decisions that impact our lives are willing to make, or take, a little fun at their own expense. Council members, business leaders, even mayors have participated in the Long Beach Playhouse Radio Hour and come away only a little worse for the wear.

The script is a blatant rip-off of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" — we even called it the Long Beach Home Companion for awhile. I stress that the skits are from Keillor's work. He's left the show, which goes on with Chris Thile as host. Thile's a great musician, but the skits no longer have the bite they did when Keillor was writing them.

I digress; back to the Playhouse fundraiser. This year is special because everyone in the cast is brand new to the event. And the list is impressive, even if I do say so myself.

Mayor Robert Garcia will lead the show in what is often called the Garrison Keillor role. He'll get the chance to talk about the news from Long Beach, his home town, and more.

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson is coming down from Uptown for his first appearance. He told me he's always thought of himself as a closet actor.

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price completes the political contingent in the cast. Never one to turn down a challenge, Price rearranged her calendar at least three times to make sure she'll be available on June 16.

Shirley Wild usually writes about events; this time she'll be front and center. Mari Hooper usually supports events; this time she is the event.

Marcelle Epley and Porter Gilberg work behind the curtain at the Community Foundation and The Center, respectively. They'll be in the spotlight Friday night.

Mike Murray and Steve Keesal both like to play supporting roles for nonprofits. This time, they'll be the stars.

And despite what I said about an all-new cast, there are two returnees in particular roles. Mitch Nunn, veteran actor and director at the Playhouse, will keep things moving as the master of ceremonies — and look dapper while he's at it.

Finally, Art Levine returns as the sound man. Art has become an institution, in Long Beach and at the radio play, what with his slightly off-kilter efforts at sound effects.

Music will complete the evening, with a combo from the Jazz Angels providing the sounds. And there will be the prize drawing, with some unique offerings.

It all takes place at perhaps the swankiest venue in town for nonprofits — the corporate dining room of Keesal, Young & Logan, on the 14th floor of the Union Bank Building. Keesal is justly famous for legendary hospitality, with passed hors d'oeuvres, an open bar and — this is important — free parking.

This year's radio play starts at 6 p.m. Friday, June 16, with a reception before the performance. It usually wraps up around 8 p.m. — plenty of time for after-parties.

All of this can be had for a mere $65. You say Friday's a date night? How about two tickets for $100?

Tickets are available at www.lbplayhouse.org (click special events) or by calling executive director Madison Mooney at (562) 494-1014, ext. 503. They'll also be sold at the door.

I'm admittedly biased, but I think you'll have a good time — and maybe even a laugh or two — if you attend. Thank you for your consideration.

Now, let's return to Long Beach, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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