Movers and shakers of Tri-Valley arts scene get their due
By Lou Fancher
Thanksgiving Day is done, but not thanksgiving.
For this week’s column: A near-year-end “thank you” to the Tri-Valley community feels natural, nearly a necessity. Writing bimonthly about arts, entertainment, cuisine and culture in the area is a soul-bolstering activity.
While informing readers about can’t-miss opportunities and establishments, appreciation grows for the rich tapestry of offerings. But the specific organizations and special events pale in comparison to what really stands out: The people. Diverse in race, ethnicity, age, faiths and educational backgrounds, able to put on a good show but not showy, the folks featured or working behind the scenes in these columns are often locally-sourced. For good things to do, see, hear, eat, experience and share, the Tri-Valley is a mecca.
One individual deserving a special call-out is Roberta Emerson. Certainly, as Marketing Manager for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, it’s her job to write and deliver press releases, coordinate interviews, provide photos and handle other press requests. Emerson, however, turns the task into an art form. With grace, expediency and innovative problem solving — not to mention just being so nice and level-headed under pressure as to inspire awe — Emerson is an unsung hero. If you visit the Bankhead Theatre and find anything enjoyable, whisper to a companion, “Thank you Roberta,” or shout it out for all to hear.
Of course, there are also memories from 2017 for which to be grateful. A soulful production of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” by Danville’s Role Players Ensemble; contemporary guitarist Luca Stricagnoli with other fine musicians at International Guitar Night; the Blackhawk Gallery’s eclectic exhibits featuring Bay Area artists and special guests; the enthusiasm and refinement brought to Livermore Valley Opera by Artistic Director Erie Mills; East Bay Marathi Mandal’s devotion to programs for youths, adults and seniors that support and preserve Indian culture; free jazz performances at the San Ramon Library, author appearances and literary events hosted by Rakestraw Books or Towne Center Books; the first Livermore Innovation Fair that in April had close to 5,000 people — many of them girls passionate about science —inside and in front of the Bankhead Theater; and much more.
These are unforgettable mind- or body-expanding pleasures: the city of San Ramon’s “Cultural Connection” a multicultural gathering of dance companies; A Playwrights’ Theater event hosted by the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, “Profiles in Courage: Men, Women and Mental Illness,” that addressed gender through the lens of psychology; the opening of East Bay Regional Park District trails to electric bikes, enthusiastically offered by Danville’s Pedego Electric Bikes for Iron Horse Trail journeys.
Writing Cuisine Scene columns about family or single-owner-operated, non-chain restaurants, cafés, bakeries and bars, the stories of hard-working people affirm the fortitude of the area’s small business owners. Sharing close-held, treasured recipes in main dishes and beverages, the area’s diverse cuisines are an immigrants’ gift to their new home, or a native Californian’s salute to locally sourced ingredients. Without even tasting the food or drinks, cuisine purveyors fill a heart with thanksgiving.
Only because of a sharp-eyed editor who keeps count of words does this list end. Or almost end. Because there are all the thank you’s readers of this column may suggest — and one more to offer here and now. Thank you to the Tri-Valley community that in 2017 continued to seek and supply a plethora of art, entertainment, cuisine and culture.