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Uniting the Generations

Skirball Center festival attempts to show today's youth the joys and games of their elders' eras.


While discovering the low-tech fun and games of another era, children who attend Sunday's InterGenerational Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles also might happen on another lesson: that life counted before they were born.

"In America, the yesterdays often count for naught," says Uri D. Herscher, president and CEO of the center, who points out that because our country's history spans hundreds of years instead of the thousands of other societies, we tend to dismiss what came before us. "We are not experienced in respect for history or for culture," he says.

In an attempt to remedy that, old and young are invited to connect at a festival dedicated to bridging the gap between the ages.

The festival, which is the culminating event of the center's weeklong conference on longevity, seeks to link the generations "in a way that's joyful and affirming," says Robert Kirschner, the program director. "We hope it will allow the young to appreciate the old and vice-versa."

Grandparents who remember when movies were a nickel can share the experience of seeing "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe: Episode 1" or the original Superman cartoons from 1941 on the big screen. Then stay put for the second show, which includes Laurel & Hardy's "The Music Box" from 1932 and Shirley Temple's first film, "Pie Covered Wagon," an all-baby western. Price of admission is, of course, 5 cents.

The films were chosen because they "wanted to pick something that would capture the imagination of a new generation . . . and would generate a lot of conversations," Kirschner said.

The games were selected to let "a younger generation see and feel what both amused and preoccupied an earlier generation," Herscher said. To that end, game stations featuring such pastimes as yo-yos, marbles and jacks will be set up. Former neighborhood champions are invited to show up to share their skills with children likely to be more adept at keeping alive their virtual pets.

Each station will have people who know how to teach the games, which include the familiar, such as hopscotch and Hula-Hoop, and others that might be lesser-known or unofficial, including such word games as Hangman and Categories or the making of tunnels out of piles of furniture crates.

The center's archeological "dig" site is being transformed into a pit to build sand castles for the occasion.

Live music performances featuring three groups whose members also span the generations will demonstrate that "earlier generations have some genuine beauty and skill to offer later generations," Herscher says.

The groups also were chosen to highlight cultural as well as musical diversity. The Los Angeles Mandolin Orchestra's seniors will play classical music, then feature a young flutist on a Mozart concerto. The intergenerational Los Angeles Chinese Musicians Ensemble, with more than 40 members, will sing in Chinese. As a finale, Golden Dreams, a group of seniors, will perform Mexican and Southwestern folk songs featuring guitarists and dancers.

The festival is the first of what could be an annual event, Herscher says. "I think the cultural center has an obligation to make it possible for different generations to regard each other with affection and concern. There is so much for the young to learn from the old and the old from the young," he said.

Tiddlywinks, anyone?


InterGenerational Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles; Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $7, free for children under 12 and museum members. Admission includes entrance to museum. Parking limited; additional parking at the Getty Museum with continuous shuttle service provided. (310) 440-4500.

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