Published September 17, 2013
Volume 21, Number 9

Tri-Valley Offers Quality, Variety in Arts Programs

Blue Tango/ Valley Dance Theatre/ (Photo by Gary Cain)

The arts enrich our lives in ways that may not always be obvious but are tangible and important. Whether your interest is in music, drama, dance, opera, or comedy, Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley benefit from a vibrant arts scene that features performances on a regular basis, and even opportunities to participate in the arts yourself. Here is our directory of local arts venues and groups.

Civic Arts Programs and Venues

Pleasanton’s Firehouse Arts Center
The Firehouse Arts Center opened in downtown Pleasanton just three years ago, but already it has made a name for itself in the regional arts community. The facility’s slogan is “Setting the Arts on Fire,” and that goal is met by inspiring passion through creative expression.

The facility began life in 1929 as Pleasanton’s main fire station. Built of locally manufactured bricks, plans for its rebirth began almost a decade ago, and the results are a stunning 17,000-square-foot showcase consisting of a 227-seat studio theater, the 2,000 square feet Harrington Gallery, two large art classrooms, and a spacious lobby for receptions and events.

The theater is used for performances in music, poetry, theater, comedy, film, and more. The 2013-2014 season features a number of theater company series — musicals like “Little Shop of Horrors,” “A Chorus Line,” and “The Music Man” from Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre, family-friendly fare including “Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr.,” and “Willy Wonka Jr.” from the Civic Arts Stage Company, and the improvised “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” — as well as music spanning styles that include rock, country, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, cabaret, and blues. Performers include Journey and Santana co-founder Gregg Rolie, 80’s rocker Greg Kihn, holiday popsters December People, bluegrass Grammy nominees The Special Consensus, chamber music with the Wyrick Chamber Players, a cabaret show with Tony Award winning chanteuse Faith Prince, Grammy winning singer-songwriter Paula Cole,  American Idol runner-up Bo Bice, Starship with Mickey Thomas, and tributes to John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Ricky Nelson, and Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Additional performers include magicians Kevin and Cindy Spencer, the Swingin’ Blue Stars of the USS Hornet,  Gypsy Soul, and String Fever, among others.

Firehouse offers more this coming year in the Harrington Gallery. The Pleasanton Art League’s annual show kicks off with a reception on September 21 from 1–3 p.m.  That show is followed by “Remnants: Recent Works by California Fiber Artists” in November. Two shows run concurrently beginning in January: “Just Add Water,” featuring works from four eminent Bay Area watercolorists, and “Black on White,” with high-contrast black-and-white art. In March, narrative art takes center stage in the exhibition “1,000 Words.” The final show of the 2013-14 season, “Fresh Works 2014,” is a juried exhibition from Bay Area artists.

On the arts education side, the two Firehouse classrooms provide for a variety of activities. Upcoming programs are offered for adults, teens, and youth, and a special literary arts program featuring Pleasanton’s new poet laureate, Sandra Harrison Kay, is also on the calendar.

For more detailed information about Firehouse events, exhibits, and classes, as well as to purchase tickets online, access www.firehousearts.org. The box office can also be reached at (925) 931-4848.

Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
Like the Firehouse Arts Center, the Livermore Performing Arts Center is a relative newcomer to the Tri-Valley. The 500-seat Bankhead Theater was completed in 2007, hosting more than 200 performance and civic events reaching a combined audience of more than 76,000 individuals, including over 14,000 school children, in its first season.

Upcoming acts in the LVPAC’s 2013-2014 season include a vast spectrum of performances, including music of all stripes, theater, dance, opera, comedians, and even some circus high jinks. On September 20, “Midnight at the Oasis” vocalist Maria Muldaur will bring her Red Hot Bluesiana Band to the Bankhead. The Livermore Valley Opera production of Carmen will grace the stage for two weekends beginning September 28. Other musical highlights in the coming months include Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, contemporary folk artist Dar Williams, 2007 Cleveland Piano Competition winner Alexander Ghindin, vocalist Jonathan Batiste and the jazzy Stay Human Band, blues men Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Latin big band the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, a cappella masters Rockapella, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Sebastian, and the Pacific Chamber Symphony.

LVPAC offers much more than just music, however. Award-winning author and naturalist Amy Stewart will discuss her unique perspective on plants and insects in an October 8 presentation. Tri-Valley Rep’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot hits the boards for three consecutive weekends starting in mid-October. Baseball legend Tony La Russa appears to relate tales of his success as manager of the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals. Other highlights include “A Celebration of Harold Pinter” with British actor Julian Sands, the new Smuin XXMAS Ballet, a holiday program from the Ballet Folklorico Costa de Oro, and the combined Valley Dance Theater/Livermore-Amador Symphony production of The Nutcracker. A number of shows are already scheduled for 2014, including International Guitar Night (January 22), improvisational comedy from Chicago’s famed Second City (February 23), bluegrass veterans The Gibson Brothers (March 21), the zany Flying Karamazov Brothers (April 17), and brilliant comedian Paula Poundstone (May 3).

The Bothwell Arts Center also falls under the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center management. This facility, at 2466 8th Street in Livermore, serves as an arts incubator, offering affordable and rentable classroom, rehearsal, performance, event, and studio rental space for artists, musicians, theatrical, acting, choral, and other individuals, groups or events with a cultural arts focus. Also on offer is an inexpensive Art Gym program which allows artists working room without a large investment. Since its opening in 2006, over 20,000 people have participated in classes, workshops, performances, and other events at the Bothwell.

A full calendar of LVPAC events can be found at mylvpac.com. Tickets are available at the web site or by calling (925) 373-6800.

San Ramon Performing Arts
The Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center is the primary home of San Ramon Performing Arts, San Ramon’s cultural arts program. The 600-seat theater has a variety of performances scheduled for its 2013-2014 season, including music, drama, comedy, dance, and more.

Highlights include rocker Rick Springfield’s October 26 appearance; improv specialists the Upright Citizens Brigade on January 31; doo-wop, Motown, and old time rock and roll tribute show Under the Streetlamp on February 28; “Lost in Love” singers Air Supply on March 28; and dance from Robert Moses’ Kin on May 10. In addition, the San Ramon Symphonic Band has shows scheduled throughout the season. 

Other dance programs include holiday performances of The Nutcracker by the San Ramon Valley Dance Academy, graduation concerts from the Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy, and the holiday hula and music of an Island-Style Holiday Celebration. Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center and its sister facility, Front Row Theater, will also host productions from Bay Area Children’s Theater, San Ramon Community Theater, and Improv U.

For a complete schedule as well as to purchase tickets, access www.sanramonperformingarts.com or call (925) 973-3343. 

The Concerts at Wente Vineyards
Combine a gourmet meal in a beautiful vineyard setting with impressive headliners and what do you get? The Concerts at Wente Vineyards. The recently concluded 2013 season featured acts like Huey Lewis & The News, Counting Crows, Martina McBride, Styx, Chicago, Chris Botti, and REO Speedwagon. Next year’s lineup is expected to be announced in April, so keep an eye on www.wentevineyards.com.

Individual Arts and Performance Groups

Cantabella Children’s Chorus
Cantabella Children’s Chorus is now in its 22nd season of “nurturing beautiful children through beautiful singing.” Through its locations in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin, Cantabella offers educational programs and singing experience for school-age children from kindergarten through high school. The group often presents larger choral works with professional music organizations such as Valley Concert Chorale and Livermore Valley Opera. Cantabella singers also have the opportunity to participate in choral festivals and competitions. For more information, visit www.cantabella.org or call (925) 292-2663.

Del Valle Fine Arts
Del Valle Fine Arts was originally formed as a vehicle for raising funds to buy a piano that would be available for use in the community. From that humble goal has arisen an organization that brings world class chamber music to the Tri-Valley area through five concerts each year held at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater. Access www.delvallefinearts.org for details.

Free Shakespeare in the Park
Each year, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival schedules performances of one of Shakespeare’s plays in the Amador Valley Community Park at Santa Rita Road and Black Avenue in Pleasanton, as well as venues in San Francisco, Cupertino, and Redwood City. For the 2013 season, which concludes later this month at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater at San Francisco’s Mclaren Park, the featured work from the bard is Macbeth. For performance dates and times, access www.sfshakes.org/park.

Harmony Fusion Chorus
A chapter of Sweet Adelines International, Harmony Fusion Chorus is a women’s chorus performing four-part a cappella in the barbershop style. The chorus meets Monday evenings at the Hill & Valley Club, 1808 B Street, Hayward, at 7 p.m. Visitors are welcome to listen or join in the singing. For information on the group or to catch their next performance, visit www.harmonyfusion.org or call (925) 373-0210.

Las Positas College Performing Arts
Las Positas College offers a variety of performances both musical and dramatic in its main stage and black box theaters. Upcoming dates include an LPC Orchestra concert on October 17, a production of Fahrenheit 451 in November, A Modern American Nutcracker on December 7, a vocal jazz concert on December 8, the orchestra and wind ensemble on December 12, and the Jazz Night concert on December 14. Additional information is available at www.laspositascollege.edu.

Livermore-Amador Symphony
The 2013-2014 season marks a milestone for the Livermore-Amador Symphony because it is the 50th season for Dr. Arthur P. Barnes as music director and conductor. The four-date series begins on December 7 with “Gems from the Past and Present,” with performances of works including Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. On February 22, the theme is “American Idols,” and includes Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. April 5 will see “A Potpourri of Favorites,” including Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, and the season concludes with “Five Dedicated Decades,” with the Dallas Fanfare and California Golden Suite from Barnes and wrapping up with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. All performances take place at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater. For further information, access www.livamsymph.org.

Livermore Art Association
The Livermore Art Association (LAA), founded in 1957, aims to promote public interest and appreciation of art and to encourage the artistic development of its membership. Its current exhibition, the annual Absolutely Abstract Show, runs through September 30 at the Livermore Civic Center Library. Other upcoming events include San Ramon’s 15th annual Art in the Park on October 5-6 and the Livermore Art Walk, October 12. More information may be found at www.livermoreartassociation.org.

Livermore Valley Opera
The headline events for this Livermore Valley Opera season are performances of the George Bizet classic Carmen and Rossini’s Cinderella, both at the Bankhead. Other upcoming LVO events include an informal fashion show at Neiman Marcus Walnut Creek on October 17, a 22nd Anniversary Celebration at Ruby Hill Golf Club on January 25,  and a special Soiree Series of intimate performances. Browse www.livermorevalleyopera.com or call (925) 960-9210 for all the details.

Pacific Chamber Symphony
With the 2013-2014 season, the Pacific Chamber Symphony, a Bay Area-based 30 member orchestra, celebrates its 25th anniversary. In that time, the group has performed over 400 different works in over 500 concert appearances and also provided classical music to over 200,000 Bay Area children through its educational programs. This season’s performances include Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet, Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, and Beethoven’s Prometheus Opus 43 and Symphony No. 6. For more information or to purchase tickets, access www.pacificchambersymphony.org or call (800) 630-7836.

Pleasanton Art League
Founded in 1969, the Pleasanton Art League is a group of local artists and patrons who are dedicated to making the visual arts an integral part of the fabric of life in the Tri-Valley Area. In addition to participating in a number of shows at the Firehouse Arts Center, its members exhibit at a host of venues throughout the Tri-Valley. Access www.pal-art.com for details.

Pleasanton Chamber Players
Pleasanton Chamber Players are a loosely-knit group of professional musicians who perform and teach in the Bay Area. Under the leadership of classical harpist  Dominique Piana, the group has become the ensemble-in-residence at Pleasanton’s Firehouse Arts Center. For more information, visit www.DominiquePiana.com or call  (925) 455-5333.

Pleasanton Community Concert Band
Pleasanton Community Concert Band, conducted by Bob Williams since 1989, provides an opportunity for local residents to develop their talents and participate in musical performances. The band sponsors three concerts each year and performs at a variety of other events. Upcoming appearances include a September 28 show at the Pleasanton Farmers’ Market and an annual holiday concert. For more information, visit www.pleasantonband.org or call (925) 846-5897.

Shakespeare’s Associates
Producers of the annual Livermore Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare’s Associates currently performs two plays each year at Concannon Vineyard. This year, audiences thrilled to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shew and The Liar by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Cornielle. Go to www.livermoreshakes.org for additional information on this ambitious theater company.

The Liar / Shakespeare's Associates / Photo by Kenneth Alexander

The Sunol Repertory Theatre
Since 1982, the SRT has produced a show benefitting the Sunol Glen School, donating over $120,000 in total. This year’s production was an interactive murder mystery/comedy, “Murder in the House of Horrors.” Look for an announcement of the 2014 production at www.sunol.net/srt.

Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre
This non-profit volunteer organization, formerly Pleasanton Playhouse, began in 1972 as a City of Pleasanton program before becoming an independent organization in 1984. The group maintains a special focus on children and family involvement in the arts while mounting a variety of productions that draw over 15,000 people annually. Upcoming main stage shows include Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Shrek the Musical. The group’s Broadway Chorus begins rehearsals later this month for a January show entitled, “Broadway Chorus Sings Your Favorites!” The Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre also offers a children’s theater camp every summer. Call (925) 462-2121 or access trivalleyrep.com for details.

Valley Concert Chorale
Valley Concert Chorale is celebrating its 50th anniversary season with a number of special performances. Concertgoers will enjoy a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with a full orchestra, a festival celebrating the work of Morten Lauridsen with the composer himself in attendance, as well as other events such as the group’s annual sing-it-yourself Messiah and Winter Wonderland Holiday Concert. Valley Concert Chorale’s next performance is “Best of the Best: The Top Choruses,” to be sung on October 19 at First Presbyterian Church in Livermore. For tickets, go to www.valleyconcertchorale.org or call (925) 866-4003.

Valley Dance Theatre
Valley Dance Theatre (VDT) has been providing professionally staged dance performances featuring talented local dancers since 1980. Now the resident ballet company of Livermore’s Bankhead Theater, VDT will bring its full-length production of The Nutcracker to the Bankhead stage in December, accompanied by the Livermore-Amador Symphony. The company also presents a mid-year showcase of local talent and choreography and runs an affiliated school offering classical dance training in studio classes for ages 2.5 to adult. Tickets for performances are available at www.livermoreperformingarts.org. For information about classes, visit www.valleydancetheatre.com or call (925) 243-0925.

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