Published September 15, 2009
Volume 17, Number 9

Arts Thrive in the Tri-Valley

Appreciation for the arts runs deep in the Tri-Valley, as the construction of new performance venues in Pleasanton, Livermore, and San Ramon testifies. Offering a permanent home to a plethora of groups committed to all forms of artistic expression, from opera to poetry readings to teen-oriented improvisation, these local facilities have drawn widespread community support, often operating in partnership with schools, municipalities, and non-profits arts groups to provide entertainment for every taste and age group.

In Pleasanton, all eyes are on the transformation of the city’s first fire station, built in 1929, into the Firehouse Arts Center, sure to bring extra sparkle to an already bejeweled downtown. The project is the result of a collective vision forged by the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council (PCAC), whose foundation has taken the lead in securing funding; the City Council and a very active Civic Arts program; downtown business owners; and countless dedicated residents. Slated to open in Spring 2010, the Firehouse will include a 240-seat theater, a 2,000-square-foot art gallery, classrooms, and a spacious lobby that can double as a setting for special events and receptions.  Visit www.pleasantonartsfoundation.org for details.

Pleasanton’s other major performing arts venue, the Amador Theater, is located on the Amador Valley High School campus at 1155 Santa Rita Rd. City-owned and operated, the theater has a busy calendar for the 2009-2010 season, hosting many of the offerings of Pleasanton Civic Arts, a program of the City of Pleasanton Department of Parks and Community Services.

Civic Arts offers creative, affordable fun for every age group, close to home. Its prolific offerings include the Parents’ Date Night series, with special musical events for children; the School Concert Series; Pleasanton’s Poet Laureate and Public Art program; the Children’s Arts Festival; and the April Poetry, Prose & Arts Festival, among others.

Civic Arts Stage Company partners with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival on two family productions,  “Charlotte’s Web,” in October, and “Cinderella” in December. These are part of the expanded SaturYay! Program, a series of seven Saturday matinees at the Amador Theater.

For teens and youth, the Century House Poetry Reading series kicks off on Sunday, October 25, with “Boo-etry,” hosted by Pleasanton Poet Laureate Deborah Grossman at Century House, 2401 Santa Rita Road. Other performing arts opportunities for teens are the improv troupe, Creatures of Impulse, with auditions September 17; and several Friday Night Open Mics for Teens. All take place at the Pleasanton Veterans Memorial Building, 301 Main Street.  The eighth Youth Music Festival will be held on February 19, 2010 at the Amador Theater. Auditions are January 13 and 14, 2010, at the Amador Theater. For details on all teen events, call Mark Duncanson at 925-931-3433.
Tickets are available online at www.civicartstickets.org; by phone at (925) 931-3444, or in person at the Amador Theater Box Office.  For hours and other season details, visit  www.pleasantoncivicarts.org.

The first component of the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center (LVPAC), the Bankhead Theater opened October 2007. The $22.3 million, 500-seat Bankhead is now the home base for many local performing arts organizations: Del Valle Fine Arts, Livermore Valley Opera, Livermore-Amador Symphony, Valley Dance Theater, Cantabella Children's Chorus, Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre (formerly Pleasanton Playhouse), and the Valley Concert Chorale. The theater also hosts Bay Area visiting ensembles and is used for conferences, seminars, meetings and public events.

The 2009–2010 series of LVPAC Presents Performances range from the political satire “Capitol Steps” to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in concert to a lecture on “Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe.” September offerings start with a concert by Chanticleer, the men’s “orchestra of voices,” on Sunday afternoon, September 20. LVPAC Presents is also creating several weekend festival events, with performances in the Bankhead Theater and outside on the SheaHomes Stage located in the plaza directly in front.

The Center's second performance venue will be the 2,000–seat Regional Theater, the product of a collaborative partnership with the City of Livermore, currently scheduled to open in 2011.

The Bothwell Arts Center, at 2466 8th Street in Livermore (formerly a senior center under the city’s Recreation and Park District) is the third component of LVPAC’s commitment to serving the entire Tri-Valley community. The Bothwell Center will become a home and incubator for the visual and performing arts, with space for artist studios, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and performance venues. It is also the host for summer theatrical, music, and dance camps and classes. ArtWalk Livermore, the annual downtown arts exhibit and festival to benefit the Bothwell, is on Saturday, October 10.

Tickets for the concerts are available at the Bankhead Theater box office at 2400 First Street, Livermore, Call (925) 373-6800 or visit www.livermoreperformingarts.org.  Also see www.ArtWalkLivermore.org or call (925) 447-ARTS.

Located on the Dougherty Valley High School campus, 10550 Albion Road, this 600-seat proscenium theater opened in November 2007, the fruit of a partnership among the city of San Ramon, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, and the developers of the Dougherty Valley. The affiliated Front Row Theater, located nearby at 17011 Bollinger Canyon Rd, inside the Dougherty Station Community Center, is a venue for smaller performances, with just 90 seats.

The entertainment line-up for the 2009-2010 season reflects an impressive range of diversity, from the Ukranian National Dance Company to Boys II Men. A full schedule of performances for children is slated for the Front Row Theater, opening with “Strega Nona” on October 10. San Ramon Community Players will perform “Jack and the Beanstalk” starting on September 25. The popular “Night at the Improv” series also starts up in September. Go to www.SanRamonPerformingArts.com or call (925) 973-ARTS for the full schedule of events, including special holiday performances.

Local performing and fine arts groups in the Tri-Valley are abundant, and many even encourage participation from members of the community.

Cantabella Children’s Chorus, under the leadership of Bee Chow, has opportunities at three age levels, including the Cantabella Children's Chorus for choristers in grades four through eight, and the Chamber Choir for the students in grades seven through 10. Graduates in the 11th and 12 grades may return to sing as alumni. All choirs rehearse once a week. CCC has the opportunity to participate in choral festivals and workshops, and qualified singers are often selected for children's roles in Livermore Valley Opera Company productions. Visit www.cantabella.org or call (925) 292-2663.

Del Valle Fine Arts presents world-class chamber music concerts at the Bankhead Theater. The 2009-2010 season includes five regular Saturday concerts and one special Friday night concert. The fall series kicks off with The Alexander String Quartet with Pianist June Oh, Saturday, September 26. Additional concerts follow in November, January, February, March, and April. For a full schedule, visit www.delvallefinearts.org or call (925) 447-8269. Student tickets through high school are free at all concerts. College student tickets are $10 on the day of performance, if available. Season tickets are also available. Purchase tickets at the Bankhead box office at 2400 First Street, (925)-373-6800 or www.livermoreperformingarts.org

Free Shakespeare in the Park began in 1983 in Golden Gate Park. It is now one of the major free Shakespeare programs in the nation. Produced every year in San Francisco, Pleasanton, and Cupertino from July through September, Free Shakespeare in the Park provides an opportunity for everyone to see high quality, professional theater free of charge. Check www.sfshakes.org for the 2010 schedule, which has yet to be announced.

Harmony Fusion Chorus was formed by the consolidation of two smaller choruses in Oakland and Pleasanton, both chapters of Sweet Adelines International. The chorus meets Monday evenings at the Hill & Valley Club, 1808 B Street, Hayward. Visitors are welcome to listen or join in the singing. The next performance, “Love in Any Language,” is set for Saturday, September 26, at the Amador Theater. Get tickets at caboxoffice@ci.pleasanton.ca.us, www.civicartstickets.org, or by calling (925) 931-3444. For information on the Chorus, visit http://harmonyfusion.org/ or call (925) 249-0856.

Livermore-Amador Symphony is comprised of approximately 60 musicians, most of them volunteers. The concert season spans October through May, with performances at the Bankhead. This year’s fundraising POPS concerts are scheduled for November 6-7 at the Barn, 3131 Pacific Avenue, in Livermore. Each December, the orchestra provides both pit players and a conductor for Valley Dance Theatre production of the Nutcracker Ballet. This year the Livermore-Amador Symphony Association will host the 37th annual Competition for Young Musicians, open to instrumentalists and vocalists up to age 17 or grade 12, who live or attend school in Livermore, Sunol, Pleasanton, Dublin, or San Ramon. Applications are due October 4. For details, call 447-1947 or visit www.livamsymph.org, which also has the full performance line-up and ticket information. To find out about joining the orchestra, call (925) 447-8789.

Livermore Valley Opera (LVO) presents two season performances annually, along with other accessible and affordable opera events and activities. The fully-staged operas, at the Bankhead Theater, feature professional musicians, stage directors, principal singers, and designers, with volunteer chorus members, stage crew, and set builders. On the marquee in October are two works often performed together, “Pagliacci,” by Ruggero Leoncavallo, and “Cavalleria Rusticana,” by Pietro Mascagni. The Cantabella Children's Chorus will join the opera chorus for the production. The spring production is Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” performed in March. All performances offer supertitles in English; a pre-opera lecture one hour prior to curtain is included in the ticket price. For more information, visit www.livermorevalleyopera.com or call (925) 960-9210.

Pacific Chamber Symphony, a 30-member orchestra based in San Francisco, originally started in San Leandro in 1989. The symphony now performs at the Bankhead and other Bay Area locations. Its local performances begin with J.S. Bach’s “Orchestral Suites” on September 24, followed by the original version of Handel’s “Messiah” on December 8. Its educational programs have brought classical music to over 200,000 Bay Area children in the form of full orchestra concerts, maestro visits to classrooms,  school assembly performances, master classes for music students, and training in the Tri-Valley Youth Orchestra. For concert details and ticket information, visit www.pacificchambersymphony.org or call (925) 484-9783.

Pleasanton Chamber Players are professional musicians who perform and teach in the Bay Area. The small group performance setting allows each member to express the unique voice of his or her instrument. For more information, contact Dominique Piana, the group’s founder, at (925) 455-5333 or email dominiquepiana@comcast.net.

Pleasanton Community Concert Band, conducted by Bob Williams, provides an opportunity for local residents to develop their talents and participate in musical performances. Those interested in joining are invited to attend a Thursday evening rehearsal, usually held at the Pleasanton Middle School. The band sponsors three free concerts each year: the Spring Concert, Children's Concert, and Holiday Concert. It also performs at several events and community activities, including Pleasanton’s Farmers' Market and Fourth of Judy ceremony, and Veterans Day ceremonies in both Livermore and Pleasanton. For more information, visit  www.pleasantonband.org or call (925) 846-5897.

Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre (formerly Pleasanton Playhouse) begins its 26th season in October with a production of “Ragtime” at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.  Also on tap are Rodgers & Hammerstein's “Cinderella” in January, “The Producers” in April, and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in July. The group’s Pleasanton Studio Theatre, at 1048 Serpentine Lane, presents the suspenseful “Wait Until Dark” in September, with two additional productions in February and June. Rounding out the season is the popular choral concert series at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton with Broadway Chorus and Broadway Kids in December  2009 and May 2010. For details, visit www.pleasantonplayhouse.com  or call 925-462-2121.

Valley Concert Chorale consists of about 40 auditioned singers, many of them from the Tri-Valley. The chorale typically sings three or four programs during the year starting in fall, and hold concerts in the East Bay and San Francisco. The annual Sing-it-Yourself Messiah will take place on December 6 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton, and the Christmas Concert is scheduled for December 12 at First Presbyterian in Livermore. The "Music in the Schools" troupe, a combination of chorale members and volunteers, gives performances to elementary schools around the Tri-Valley. For details, call (925) 866-4003 or visit www.valleyconcertchorale.org.

Valley Dance Theatre of Livermore has been providing training in classical ballet for over 25 years. Productions include the full-length Nutcracker Ballet with the Livermore-Amador Symphony at the Bankhead Theater, as well as a mid-year showcase of local talent and choreography. Tickets for performances are available at www.livermoreperformingarts.org, by phone at (925) 373-6800, or at the . LVPAC Box Office. For information about classes, visit www.valleydancetheatre.com or call (925) 243-0927.


Also in this issue ...