March Walnut Creek Mayor's Message
Mar 03, 2016 10:32AM
● By Loella Haskew
Loella Haskew, Mayor of Walnut Creek
How would you use an abandoned walnut warehouse in the center of town? Walnut Creek and the performing arts groups in the area turned that warehouse into “The Nuthouse,” the nickname for the 449-seat Civic Arts Theater and Gallery in 1965. It was such a success that needs exceeded the available space. An arts facility study done in the mid-1970s confirmed what people already knew: Walnut Creek needed a new arts center.
In 1980, the city council allocated $500,000 in start-up money, and the nonprofit Regional Center for the Arts, Inc. kicked off a successful fundraising campaign. Some 2,000 individuals and businesses made private donations of approximately one-third of the center’s $21 million price tag. This proves, once again, that “Walnut Creek Works.” The Regional Center for the Arts (now known as the Lesher Center for the Arts) became a reality.
The construction began in 1988 and was finished in late 1990. The opening celebration had a sell-out crowd of 800 people who paid $1,000 each to attend gala performances by Bob Hope, Joel Grey, Vic Damone, and Diahann Carroll.
The 25th anniversary of the center was celebrated with equal joie de vivre in October 2015, with fine dining and live entertainment. This event, produced by Diablo Regional Arts Association, raised funds that support DRAA’s unique Arts Access program. This program makes it possible for more than 6,000 low-income children to attend high-quality performances at the theater each year. For many of these students, this opportunity is life changing.
The public/private partnership between Walnut Creek and DRAA is one of the most tangible examples of how “Walnut Creek Works.” In addition to its traditional fund raising, DRAA’s “Find Your Center” campaign is well on its way to raising an additional $5 million to expand educational outreach, promote artistic excellence, and bring the latest technology – such as computerized special effects - to the stage.
To whet your appetite, the following is a summary of just some of the productions at the Lesher Center in March:
In the Hofmann Theater (the largest of the performance venues):
· In The Mood, an Artbeat production. This is a celebration of the music of America’s greatest generation, highlighting works of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, and many more.
· Pink Floyd Concert Experience or Zep Live! The Led Zeppelin Concert Experience, both produced by West Coast Performing Arts Presenters.
In the Margaret Lesher Theater (the middle-sized venue):
· Fantasy Forum’s Once Upon a Time, a tuneful combination of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks aimed at the young and the young-at-heart.
· Percussion Discussion with Ken Bermann, a delightful and hysterical romp through the world of things to thump.
· Pirates of Penzance Sing-along, where the Lamplighters give the audience a chance to really participate in the performance along with the cast.
In the newly rededicated George and Sonja Vukasin Theater (the smallest of the venues):
· Pageant is presented by OMG, I Love That Show! Productions. This is a “real life” pageant, with audience members chosen as judges.
· I Love a Piano, a Brentwood Theater Company production that highlights the music of Irving Berlin.
Not included in the small sampling above are classical music, ballet, film, and young people performances. To find out more about the productions for March and the rest of the year, please visit the website www.lesherartscenter.org. Tickets can be purchased through the website and at the outlet located in the Walnut Creek Library. When available, you can purchase half-priced, day-of-show tickets by calling 925-943-SHOW (7469), prompt #7. You may have the chance to get tickets for a sold out show by hanging around the ticket office to see if there are any tickets turned in at the last minute.
Come to the theater; it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Safety tip for March: Drivers, please keep your windows clean. Drive only when you have a clear view looking forward, to the side, and to the rear.