It was a one-night, once in a lifetime, completely eclectic, fun-filled amalgam of creators, builders and performers who brought TwentyWonder, a benefit for Down syndrome, to Los Angeles over the weekend.
>Billed as a world's fair for supporters of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA), TwentyWonder packed a dazzling array of talent and information, seamlessly fusing, in an uncanny and unconventional sort of way, the arts with the sciences.
Just when the event could have turned into a dry, grown-up affair filled with long speeches and glazed eyes, Jim Hodgson and his team delivered the fluid, the bold and the unexpected.
She's got pipes. Cranking out three pitch-perfect "songs" in her ode to private parts and other loves, she single-handedly turned the benefit into a very spirited and very R-rated Lollapalooza loaded with V-bombs and P-zingers.
"American Idol": You need her.
Taylor Lura who oversaw the Emporium of Entomology exhibit, which showcased bugs, beetles and butterflies of every shape, size and hue, was happy to creep out the guests. Her oversized roaches were less cuddly than the Walking Stick critters from Australia (Phasmatodea).
But her attraction was a big draw. "Science has a lot of technical words and jargon and people can't understand it," said Lura. "By combining it with the arts you make it more accessible."
In the spirit of the evening, people held scorpions with a smile. And then moved on to sing karaoke on a green screen.
After yodeling or crooning, benefactors checked out the inventor's corner, dropped in on the short films fest, scoured clothing racks and took a stroll through the aMAZEment exhibit where medical facts about Down syndrome were laid bare.
Community and Awareness Keep Growing
"Supporters flew in from everywhere," Hodgson said, "Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Florida .. .I'm really lucky to have all these people come out for this event. TwentyWonder is really about creating community and about bringing Down Syndrome out into the open and into our culture."
And that he did with high energy, flying colors and major spirit.
Among the hundreds of supporters and volunteers to attend were Sam Simon (co-creator of "The Simpsons"), Don Foster (exec. producer of "Two and a Half Men"), author Tim Johnston, screenwriter Dottie Dartland and Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Will Wright, creator of Spore and The Sims, contributed a three-minute video from his Stupid Fun Club.
"It's a true movement," said Hodgson. "Life is better due to medical advancements. And it's definitely better for children born with Down -- about 1 in every 733 births. Their life expectancy in 1929 was nine years. By 1983 that age rose to 23 years. Today a child born with DS can expect to live to an average of 60."
By framing the benefit in a fun house venue that also featured comedian Dana Gould, performers from the Harmonix game Rock Band, singer-songwriter Grant-Lee Philips and the crew from Joel Hodgson's Comedy Central cult classic "Mystery Science Theater 3000" -- now back with more movie riffing in Cinematic Titanic -- supporters of TwentyWonder drove home the importance of ongoing treatments, services and programs for kids and adults living with DS.
Next up for Jim Hodgson and DSALA is the SunDown Film Fest and Awards, slated for June.