Published September 15, 2015
Volume 23, Number 9

Tri-Valley Arts Programs Show Diversity of Talents,


Firehouse Arts Center

By Jay Hipps

It was Winston Churchill who recommended that we “salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due,” and it is clear that he would find many agreeable minds in the Tri-Valley. Music, drama, dance, opera, and comedy are all part of a vibrant regional 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 five years ago, and has quickly 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 theater, music, comedy, film, and more. The Firehouse hosts a series of musicals produced by the Pacific Coast Repertory Theater, which this year will include South Pacific, Enchanted April, and a third performance to be determined. Upcoming music acts at the Firehouse include guitarist Julian Lage, Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone-Star Review, Pleasanton native Tony Furtado, An Afternoon in Havana featurng Tito Gonzalez, a tribute to Vince Guaraldi with pianist Larry Vuckovich, and many more. On December 27, Will Durst & Friends will bid a comedic adieu to 2015 with The Big Fat Year-End Kiss-Off. The Firehouse Film Series will include screenings of The Babadook, Snowpiercer, Attack the Block, and The One I Love.
Firehouse offers more this coming year in the Harrington Gallery. The Pleasanton Art League’s annual show kicks off with a reception on September 29 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  That show is followed by STRATA, a show by Stuido Art Quilt Associates, in November.
On the arts education side, the two Firehouse classrooms provide for a variety of activities. Upcoming programs are offered for adults, teens, and youth, including an appearance and book signing by British author Jojo Moyes on October 5.
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.
Pleasanton’s Amador Theater
The Amador Theater opened in the 1930s and served as Pleasanton’s principal performing arts facility until the Firehouse Arts Center came onto the scene. Its 600-seat capacity means that it is still used for a number of events every year. For example, author Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., will appear on September 17 to discuss his new book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Other upcoming events include Sky View Lounge, a play in the Bangla language; Elf Jr. – The Musical; and piano duets with Tamriko Siprashvili and Temirzhan Yerzhanov. Information on these events and others is also available at firehousearts.org.

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 and hosted 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. It has been busy ever since.
The recently-launched LVPAC 2015-16 season features an impressive spectrum of entertainment, with music, comedy, theater, dance, film, and even animal acts. Musical performers include classic rockers Richard Marx, The Tubes, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and A Flock of Seagulls; blues from Rick Estrin and The Nightcats; the sophisticated stylings of Pink Martini, The Hot Sardines, and Livermore native Karen Marguth; country legend Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal; The Wailin’ Jennys; international sounds from Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India, Filipino pop singer Christian Bautista, flamenco guitarist Paco Peña, Christmas with the Celts, DakhaBrakha from Ukraine, Amjad Ali Khan and Sons, and the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra; and musical tributes to Presley, Perkins, Lewis and Cash, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Glenn Miller, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and veteran rockers The Smithereens with their tribute to The Who’s “Tommy.” On the comedy side, LVPAC offers the 40th Annual San Francisco Comedy Competition, the great Paula Poundstone, improv from The Second City as well as Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, Tim Lee: Scientist Turned Comedian, Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman, and The Capitol Steps.
Theater offerings include the L.A. Theater Works production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Late Nite Catechism, and Robot Planet Rising — Intergalactic Nemesis. Dance programs include a Christmas program from Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno, the Moscow Festival Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet, and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. For a truly unique experience, LVPAC brings The Stunt Dog Experience to Livermore on November 6. Finally, there are selections from a number of the organizations listed below who call the Bankhead Theater home, including Cantabella Children’s Chorus, Del Valle Fine Arts, Livermore-Amador Symphony, Livermore Valley Opera, the Pacific Chamber Symphony, Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre, Valley Concert Chorale, and Valley Dance Theater.
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.
A full calendar of LVPAC events can be found at livermoreperformingarts.org. 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 2015-2016 season, including music, comedy, and more.
The season’s major highlights begin on October 11 with Wilson Phillips, best known for their 1990 singles “Hold On,” and “You’re in Love.” Up next is The Official Blues Brothers Revue, produced by Dan Akroyd and Judy Belushi, to be followed by Lightwire Theater’s “A Very Electric Christmas” on November 27. In March, Vickie Lawrence & Mama sees the former Carol Burnett Show comedian, singer, and actress bring one of her most well known characters to the stage in what is billed as “a two woman show.” Finally, the season ends on April 24 with Clint Black, a country music legend who has sold over 20 million albums worldwide.
Also on offer this season are programs San Ramon Valley Dance Academy, Bharata Natyam Dance, Jumpin’ at the Sun Dance Company, the San Ramon Symphonic Band, Bay Area Children’s Theater, San Ramon Community Theater, Suburban Thunder Improv Theater, the San Ramon Community Chorus & Dancers, the San Ramon Youth Symphony, a Friday Foreign Film series, Bedtime Theater shows for parents with children aged two to seven, and a sing-along Wizard of Oz. 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 2015 season featured acts like Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, Sheryl Crow, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Colbie Caillat & Christina Perri, and Smokey Robinson. Keep an eye on wentevineyards.com next year to find out who will be performing in 2016.
Individual Arts and Performance Groups
Amador Valley Quilters
Amador Valley Quilters was founded in 1981 and has over 400 members throughout the Tri-Valley and beyond. The guild works to preserve and continue the traditions, culture, and history of quilting, including educating members on quilting techniques. The group also has a significant charitable arm, donating around 800 quilts annually to various agencies in the Bay Area through their “Community Quilts” project. Meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month at Pleasanton Middle School. For more information, access www.amadorvalleyquilters.org or email mail@amadorvalleyquilters.org.
Cantabella Children’s Chorus
“Beautiful singing nurturing beautiful children,” is the slogan of the Cantabella Children’s Chorus, a non-profit that offers music education in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin for children from kindergarten through high school.  This year has been a momentous one for the group, which saw new artistic director Ofer dal Lal take the reins from founder Bee Chow, who started the group in 1992. Cantabella performs in annual holiday and spring concerts, at local corporate and civic functions, and in collaboration with other musical organizations. For more information, visit www.cantabella.org or call (925) 292-2663.
Del Valle Fine Arts
Now in its 38th season, Del Valle Fine Arts brings world class chamber music concerts to the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. The 2015-16 season features performances by the Farallon Quintet, Richard Cionco, Jason Vieaux, the Telegraph Quartet, and the Eos Ensemble. A volunteer organization, Del Valle is supported by ticket sales and the generous contributions of its patrons. 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. This year, the featured play Romeo and Juliet was performed from June 27 to July 12 in Pleasanton and wraps up on September 19, 20, 26, and 27 at McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in San Francisco. The Winter’s Tale is on the menu for 2016. For more information, access www.sfshakes.org.
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, under the direction of Barbara Vander Putten, meets Monday evenings at the Hill & Valley Club, 1808 B Street, Hayward, from 7:00 to 10:00 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 performances including music, theater, speech, and dance in its main stage and black box theaters, all designed to provide knowledge, training, and practical experience to its participants. Upcoming theatrical productions include Chicago on the main stage and Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, The Importance of Being Earnest, and A Raisin in the Sun in the black box theater. All performances are held in the Barbara F. Mertes Center for the Arts on campus. Information on music, speech, and dance events is available at www.laspositascollege.edu.
Livermore-Amador Symphony
The 2015-2016 season of the Livermore-Amador Symphony, now entering its 52nd year, begins with on December 5 with a free family concert featuring Peter and the Wolf at 3:00 p.m., just before Livermore’s Holiday Parade. The group’s formal concert calendar kicks off that evening with a full-length program consisting of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel Prelude, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Ravel’s Mother Goose, and Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Suite. Other performances in the group’s four-concert season under music director and conductor Lara Webber include “Color and Romance” on February 20, Dvorák’ Cello Concerto featuring soloist Austin Huntington on April 9, and “A Tale of Two Cities” with soprano Heidi Moss on May 21. 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. The group supports the Livermore Art Association Gallery at 2155 3rd Street, Livermore, a co-op sales opportunity for qualified member artists to display their work for sale and/or rental, and sponsors rotating exhibits of members' art at a variety of local merchants. LAA members help judge local school artwork, teach art in the schools and demonstrate arts and crafts to organizations and community functions by request. Upcoming events include Art on the Green on September 19 and ArtWalk on October 10, both in downtown Livermore. More information may be found at www.livermoreartassociation.org.

Livermore Valley Opera
The headline events for this Livermore Valley Opera season are performances of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Rossini’s The Italian Girl in Algiers, both at the Bankhead. The premiere of Madama Butterfly on September 26 also features an Opening Night Gala. Be sure to access www.livermorevalleyopera.com for all the details on these and other performances.

Pacific Chamber Symphony
Founded in 1989, the Pacific Chamber Symphony brings together 30 musicians under the direction of Maestro Lawrence Kohl to perform music ranging from beloved classics to overlooked treasures, as well as commissioned works by Bay Area composers. This season’s program includes Beethoven and Prokofiev on November 22, Delightful Strings and Joyful Songs on February 28, and Majestic Masterpieces on April 17. Performances take place at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. 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. A PAL Members Show takes place from September 24 to October 24 at the Firehouse Arts Center. PAL also sponsors a variety of classes and workshops at both the Firehouse and the Bothwell. Access www.pal-art.com for details.
Pleasanton Chamber Players
The Pleasanton Chamber Players, founded in 2003, 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. Piana is also available for solo harp performances. For more information, visit www.DominiquePiana.com or call  (925) 455-5333.
Pleasanton Community Concert Band
Pleasanton Community Concert Band, founded in 1975 and 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 free concerts each year and performs at a variety of other events. Upcoming appearances include a September 26 show at the Pleasanton Farmers’ Market, and a Family Concert on October 18 and a Holiday Concert on December 2, both at the Firehouse. For more information, visit 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 Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. This year, audiences thrilled to Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, adapted by Jon Jory. Go to livermoreshakes.org or call (925) 443-BARD (2273) for additional information.
The Sunol Repertory Theatre
Since 1982, the SRT has produced a show benefitting the Sunol Glen School, donating over $130,000 in total. This year’s production was an murder mystery parody entitled How the Other Half Dies. Look for an announcement of the 2016 production at www.sunol.net/srt.
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre
This popular non-profit volunteer organization recently announced the schedule for its 32nd year of musical theater. The 2015-16 lineup includes Jekyll & Hyde, which will hit the stage in October and November; The Pirates of Penzance, which will be performed in January; and Mary Poppins, scheduled for six July performances. The group’s Broadway Chorus and Broadway Chorus kids will perform a special Christmas show entitled, “Jingle, Ring & Fa-la-la” in December. All told, attendance at the group’s various productions exceeds 15,000 annually. 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
Now in its 52nd season, the Valley Concert Chorale and its director, John Emory Bush, has recently announced a slate of four concerts for its 2015-16 season. Festivities kick off on December 4 with a Sing-it-Yourself Messiah, followed by a Holiday Concert on December 12 and 13. The group’s Winter Concert, on March 12 and 13, will feature John Rutter’s Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and the season closes on May 14 and 15 with America, To Thee We Sing, a program of American composers and arrangers. For tickets, go to 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 for a series of performances in December. 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. For tickets, information, and more, visit valleydancetheatre.com or call (925) 243-0925.


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