Old Chum 

Cabaret? In Pleasant Hill?

Mon 12/13

If variety is the spice of life, then the Diablo Light Opera Company is about as good as any bottle of Tabasco. Established in the late 1950s by a gaggle of musical-theater lovers to produce Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, the nonprofit is now a staple of the Contra Costa County theatrical community. In addition to producing two main stage musicals each year, the company offers educational opportunities in the arts, including two theater programs for youth. Although the Diablo Light Opera Company specializes in operetta, over the years it has produced a little bit of everything, from classic Broadway to avant-garde, from The Mikado to Oklahoma! Diablo's 2004 season recently wrapped with a run of the hit French comedy La Cage aux Folles, but on certain Monday nights from now on, performance aficionados can look forward to a twist on traditional musical theater. The plan, according to managing director Keith Barlow, is to host cabaret the first Monday of every month. Previewed in November to a practically full house, the cabaret will make its home at a transformed firehouse at 1948 Oak Park Boulevard in Pleasant Hill, an intimate venue with all the right stuff -- red velvet curtains, refreshments, and candle-lit cocktail tables. (The DLOC has inhabited a few locations since its inception, including a converted walnut-shelling house; large theater productions are held at the state-of-the-art Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts.)

Similar to San Francisco-style open-mic cabarets, the evening will highlight local talent and encourage impromptu performances by audience members. Rotating MCs and a variety of local musicians should keep things fresh. Whether your aim is to test your chops on a favorite show tune (Barlow suggests would-be performers bring their own sheet music), support local performers, or just be a bashful bystander, leave your troubles outside. After all, in here, life is beautiful. 7:30 p.m. $5.

Make table reservations via e-mail at Firehousecabaret@sbcglobal.net. For more info, visit DLOC.org or call 925-944-1565.-- Joy White

Thu 12/9

Yo! Ma!

The hard ticket

You're not supposed to be reading this. The Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax concert Thursday evening at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall is sold out. But if you hang around Z'bach's front entrance for an hour or so before the show (it starts at 7 p.m.), you might be able to score a ticket for arguably the hottest classical music performer in the world -- that would be Ma, who plays a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius. Polish-Canadian pianist Ax, a frequent collaborator, will help Ma interpret an all-Beethoven program. Info: CalPerfs.berkeley.edu -- Kelly Vance

Sat 12/11

Night of the Living Dads

It's called Fathers and Daughters, and it's more than a sitcom about a dad trying to get his daughter to turn down the TV. The one-night-only theater event (Saturday at 7:30 p.m.) explores the complexities -- emotional as well as dramatic -- of father-daughter relationships. After the evening opens with a performance of Jennifer Stuckert's autobiographical portrait,Taming the Wolf, the Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble comes on stage. That troupe specializes in "playing back" personal stories from the audience, in traditional improv style, with the emphasis on the common humanity of families. Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. LivingArtsCenter.org -- Kelly Vance

Wed 12/8

Young and Sung

Fourth-grade student Lily Stoner's "Poem for Pablo Neruda" begins:You came to live in this world/From oceans to artichokes, from life/to death. Poet, your spirit still/lingers here. Which is about the best reason in the world to have Local Students Read Poetry and Translations -- with 77 East Bay elementary school pupils from San Pablo, Oakland, and Berkeley reading their poems and translations, all of which were published in an anthology by the Poetry Inside Out project. It happens today (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.) at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. And it's free and open to the public. -- Kelly Vance


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