September 19, 2008

Pleasant Hill’s Onstage Theatre Has Its ‘Favorite Day’

By Sally Hogarty

ONSTAGE THEATRE in Pleasant Hill begins its 31st season with Mark Dunn's "Helen's Most Favorite Day."

The romantic comedy takes place at a small town's summer carnival, where Helen meets and falls in love with a carnie worker who saved her and her sister from disaster on top of the Ferris wheel many years before. A magic wish dooms Helen to repeat the best day of her life forever unless she can be rescued by those nearest and dearest to her.

Directed by Helen Means, the cast includes June McCue, Candice Carter, Roberta Tibbetts, Gary Williams, Mike Kirwin and Janice Anderson. The show runs Sept. 19-Oct. 11 at the School House Culture Center in Pleasant Hill. Call 925-837-3276.

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Butterfield 8 Theatre Company also opens its season this weekend with a production of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." The show, which opened Thursday and runs thru Oct. 11, takes place at Cue Productions Live in Concord.

If you've never been to this space before, you're in for a treat. The creative company reconfigures the space for each show allowing the audience to become intimately involved with the action. John Butterfield directs an adaptation by Maureen-Theresa Williams that Butterfield says invites the audience to "tackle some of the long- debated questions about the characters and their motives." The cast features Alan Cameron as Shylock, Donald Hardy as Antonio and Elizabeth Bell (returning from New York for the role), who plays Portia. For tickets, call 925-798-1300.

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The Eugene O'Neill Festival gets underway this weekend in Danville. The festival, which opened Thursday and runs thru Sunday, will honor famed actor Paul Robeson, who appeared on stage and in movies in several O'Neill plays. On Thursday, at Danville's Village Theatre, a posthumous presentation was scheduled to be made to Robeson followed by a performance of O'Neill's rarely produced play "All God's Chillun Got Wings," in which Robeson starred in 1924.

Directed by Eric Hayes, this production features Michael J. Asberry and Alexandra Matthew. A champagne reception followed the performance. The play repeats on Sept. 19 and 20.

An exhibit of memorabilia related to Robeson's career will be displayed throughout the festival at Danville's Pioneer Art Gallery, and the 1933 film version of "The Emperor Jones" starring Robeson will be shown on Sept. 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Village Theatre. For those wishing to know more about Eugene O'Neill, Dan Cawthon (O'Neill scholar, actor and educator) will give an overview of the famous dramatist and his impact on the American Theater on Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. For a complete listing of the festival events, go online to or call 925-820-1818.

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The delightful Barrett Lindsay-Steiner returns to the stage with the Jesters Vocal Trio on Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. at the CTA/Crossroads Theatre in Walnut Creek.

From tight jazz harmonies to silly high jinks, Lindsay-Steiner, A.C. Griffing, and Richard "Scrumbly" Koldewyn never fail to entertain. The show includes American music from the 1920s and 1930s, from Broadway to Tin Pan Alley to Hollywood. Frederick Hodges will tickle the ivories with a special guest appearance by Cynthia Blinka. Call 925-933-7516.

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Diablo Actors Ensemble continues its popular play reading series with Moises Kaufman's "The Laramie Project" on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at DAE's theater, 1345 Locust Street in Walnut Creek. Timothy Beagley directs the explosive story of an American town in the wake of the murder of Matthew Shepard. Come and be part of the creative process. For more information, contact Beagley at 510-866-3456.

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Diablo Ballet invites anyone who likes to move to audition for "The Nutcracker." Professional dancers will dance the lead roles, but additional roles for adults and youth (ages 8-18) are available. Auditions are Sept. 20 from 2:15 to 5:15 p.m., with the show performing Dec. 3-6 at Del Valle Theatre in Walnut Creek. Call 925- 943-5846 for audition time for your age group.

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Pleasant Hill's Onstage Theatre is looking for actors in all age ranges for Laura Berchdorf's newest work, "Above the Violet." The fantasy tale tells of a smudge on the wall that turns out to be a portal to adventure. Director John Allred has scheduled auditions Sept. 21 at 2:30 p.m. and Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. The show performs Nov. 7-30. Call 925-837-3276.

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Also auditioning is the East Bay Children's Theatre in Oakland. The group, which uses adult actors to perform shows for young people, will audition for "That's Our Snow White!" on Oct. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The musical performs mid-February through mid-April. Fourteen adults are needed; prepare an upbeat song and bring sheet music in your key. Call 510-537-9957 for more information.

Reach Sally Hogarty at [email protected]

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