The theater doors have opened at the Firehouse Arts Center for a new season that promises to be "the most diverse and unique set of performances and shows to date" for the city-operated entertainment venue in downtown Pleasanton.
It will also be its most Bay Area-centric lineup to date.
The 2022-23 schedule, which formally kicked off last weekend with Oakland-based MJ's Brass Boppers, is chock full of singers, comedians, actors, musicians and other entertainers from across the Bay, including Pleasanton natives Jeff Bordes, Solomon Alber and Lauryn Marie, the Pleasanton Youth Theater Company, local teen improv troupe Creatures of Impulse and Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre's spring musical -- all in addition to other returning favorites who've awed Firehouse audiences before.
"We have a fantastic re-emergence season in 2022-23, and I hope patrons will come along for the ride and try something new with us," Mark Duncanson, recreation supervisor for the city of Pleasanton, told the Weekly.
A leading organizer for the Firehouse's annual scheduling process, and a longtime performer and director himself, Duncanson said he's excited that the behind-the-scenes efforts have led to an inspired lineup that offers "truly something for everyone" at the intimate 220-seat venue on Railroad Avenue.
"I'm deeply involved with planning the acts for the season. I consider quite a bit starting with the audience we've grown since opening in 2010. I aim to nurture our returning audience while attracting new audiences," he said.
"As I stay in contact with all our artists from initial ask, booking, and performance, I'm constantly reflecting on the season, learning from our audiences and artists and I get reinvigorated at our lineup," Duncanson added. "I'm in a position to bring joy to artists and patrons. I get to be in the room when art is shared and appreciated. I'm able to welcome back returning favorites and introduce new artists to new patrons."
The Firehouse continues to hit the ground running on its new season, with a slate of shows this fall that exemplify its "Live and Local" theme.
Oakland native Eve Marie Shahoian performs "Take Me to the World & Company" this Friday night, featuring songs from the musical theater, jazz standards and original arrangements.
"Girls Night Out ... and Guys Too! An Evening of Music & Comedy" follows on Saturday night (Oct. 8), a comedy cabaret with Tielle Baker and pianist Joe Simiele along with rising stars of the San Francisco comedy circuit. Comedian Joe Klocek, another favorite of San Francisco clubs, will follow at the Firehouse next Friday (Oct. 14).
"The Magic of Andy Amyx" will come to the Pleasanton stage on Oct. 20. The standup magician is known for "elegant sleight of hand and manipulation with amazing feats of illusion, comedy and audience participation," according to Firehouse officials.
Another highlight of the month will be "Loving Janis", with Bay Area singers Kyra Gordon and Mimi Fox performing the music of American folk and rock legends Janis Joplin and Janis Ian in a narrative concert.
"This current version of 'Loving Janis' reimagined is the culmination of a collaboration, mentorship and chemistry that developed between Kyra and Mimi," promoters for the Oct. 22 show said. "The connection and interpretation between them has resulted in a concert which takes the audience through the fascinating careers of both amazing Janises."
While acknowledging he's looking forward to seeing so many of the acts perform ("it's tough to call out just one because I'm such a nerd for everyone we book," he said), Duncanson is particularly excited for "Loving Janis" and finally being able to book Gordon at the Firehouse.
"I've known Kyra since about 2011 when she was performing with Bay Area improv hip-hop group The Freeze. Kyra is an accomplished singer-songwriter, pianist and all-around wonderful person," he told the Weekly.
Duncanson also plays a key role in a premiere show in November, the "Back to School Special" with Pleasanton Youth Theater Company performers produced by the Firehouse and hosted by Duncanson and Kimberly MacLean on Nov. 12.
"Relive those angst-filled, awkward and beautiful moments live onstage as people like you read actual diary entries, school papers, notes or simply recount moments from their younger years. Cut with music and the occasional live reenactment from professional improv performers, this evening is poised to make you laugh, cry and cringe," Firehouse officials said.
Young performers from the Tri-Valley are a big part of programming at the Firehouse this season.
PYTC also has "Elf the Musical Jr." in December, Disney's "Frozen Kids" in January, "Honk Jr." in March and April and "Spamalot" from its summer drama camps in July.
Creatures of Impulse, the city of Pleasanton's award-winning teen improv group, has five shows on the calendar: "Nightmares" (Oct. 27-29), "Holiday Shorts" (Nov. 29, Dec. 1-2), "Face-Off" (Feb. 23-25), "Puppets of Impulse" (May 18-20) and the annual "Tri-Valley High: The Series" (July).
The High School Music Collaborative has a collection of performances on the docket, including its "Villains" cabaret in November and "Holiday Youth Music Festival" in December.
The marquee theater production this season will be Tri-Valley Rep's rendition of the musical adaptation of "The Song of the Nightingale" composed and written by Bay Area resident Min Kahng. Tickets will go on sale soon for the annual musical, set for April 29 to May 14.
The rest of the 2022-23 lineup includes an eclectic range of solo and group performers.
Amador Valley High School graduate Jeff Bordes, a trumpeter and jazz composer, will play his hometown's main stage twice -- "Jeff Bordes and Friends: A Jazzy Christmas" is set for Dec. 17 and "Jeff Bordes and Friends' Mardi Gras Celebration" is Feb. 18.
Other Dons on the docket include Logan Kane as part of electro-jazz group Dolphin Hyperspace on Feb. 3, Solomon Alber & The Jazz Androids" on March 4 and Lauryn Marie on March 10.
Tri-Valley band CaliCeltic will help celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17.
More notable Bay Area and Northern California acts coming to the Firehouse include TOaG Quartet playing original Black American music on Nov. 18, Improv Playhouse of San Francisco on Jan. 13, indie singer-songwriter Emily Zisman on Feb. 17, alt pop punk rock group Until Further Notice on March 3 and "The Tall Blonde at the Callback" starring Susan Tonkin on April 20.
There are tribute shows for famed performers such as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell and Billie Holiday, returning favorites like the Golden Follies holiday revue and We Banjo 3, reflective programs like "A Broadway Celebration with Deborah Del Mastro" and "Deep River: The Flow of Negro Spirituals Through Time", and the Firehouse Short Film Festival.
"We are also very lucky to have singer-songwriter and LGBTQ+ activist Ryan Cassata on our calendar," Duncanson said of the April 21 concert. "I was lucky enough to have Ryan perform during the summer of 2011 and have gotten to know him, his music and his heart, and can't wait to have him perform as part of our presenting season."
Reflecting on the new season on the whole, Duncanson said it represents an entertaining mix of the new and the familiar for Pleasanton audiences.
"We're excited to help our patrons discover new artists at the Firehouse; to remember how it felt to hear their favorite artists for the first time," he said in a city press release. "We also aim to be a venue that opens doors for emerging artists. There's such a unique energy when new artists and new audiences find each other in an intimate venue like the Firehouse. In the same respect, the Firehouse offers a fresh and close-up perspective with our returning artists."
"If something looks fun, sounds interesting, or you just want to know more -- buy some tickets and experience art with us," Duncanson added. "This isn't just a performing arts venue, we aim to be a community center for the arts."
To see the full schedule, purchase tickets and learn more, visit firehousearts.org.
Editor's note: After the original version of this story was published, Firehouse Arts officials advised the Weekly that Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre was producing a different Min Kahng than they originally reported. Tri-Valley Rep will present "The Song of the Nightingale" next spring.