Archive for the ‘Arts & Entertainment’ Category

Deer Valley High student wins second in 2021 Contra Costa County Poetry Out Loud competition

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Esmeralda Noyola’s performance in the 2021 Poetry Out Loud county finals. Video screenshot.

Prospects High School champion also made the finals of the competition

The Arts and Culture Commission announced the winners of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Contra Costa County and Esmeralda Noyola, the Deer Valley High School champion, won second place in the final competition and was awarded a $150 cash prize. The Facebook Live Virtual Screening and Awards Ceremony was held on February 11th. Her performance was of the poem We Are Not Responsible by Harryette Mullen. (See her introduction and performance at the 23:50 mark of the video)

Jermaine Gitana from Pinole Valley High School was selected the champion of the county finals and awarded a $200 prize and varsity jacket.

“I am a 17-year-old senior at Pinole Valley High who is part Black and Filipino,” said Gitana. “I enjoy playing instruments, making music, swimming, singing, and most of all reciting poetry.”

His performances of the poems Written By Himself by Gregory Pardlo and Piano by D. H. Lawrence proved to be a winning combination! On March 11th, Jermaine will compete in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals where students recite 3 poems. On March 12th, the California State Winner will be announced on California Arts Council email, internet, and social media. We are very proud of Jermaine!

Tessa Brubaker from San Ramon Valley High School placed third and was awarded $100. The County Finals included impressive high school champions Patricia May Villanueva of Prospects High School (Antioch), Michael Miralles of John Henry High School (Richmond), Kyla Erika Nano of Concord High School, and Kaleigh Thurman of College Park High School (Pleasant Hill).

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Poetry Out Loud provides free curriculum materials—all available online—including a poetry anthology, a comprehensive teacher’s guide, videos of student performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media resources.

All Contra Costa County high school students, grades 9-12, are invited to enter Poetry Out Loud. School winners advance to the County competition each February, then the State competition on March 11, and ultimately to the National Finals. The 2021 POL National Semifinals will take place on Sunday, May 2nd and the 2021 POL National Finals will take place on Thursday, May 27th and will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington D.C. as previously planned. Both will be video submission-based competitions and will be streamed on

Every high school in the county (public, private, parochial, independent, alternative, continuation, court, charter and home schools), non-profit organizations, and libraries are encouraged to participate. Students don’t enter the POL competition directly, but through their high schools or a school POL liaison such as a teacher, librarian, school staff, or organization member.

“Last August, I became the new Managing Director and was first introduced to the amazing Poetry Out Loud program. Our incredible team of Donté Clark (Poetry Out Loud Coordinator), Brennan DeFrisco (Poetry Out Loud Student Coach and Assistant Coordinator), and Antonio Tamayo (Poetry Out Loud Digital Content and Technical Assistant) worked together to transition the program online,” said Jenny Balisle, Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County Managing Director. “The Virtual Screening and Awards Ceremony was an evening of many firsts for the Arts and Culture Commission: first Facebook Live event for a signature art program, first ASL interpreters for a live virtual event, and first Land Acknowledgement. Despite the pandemic, we were determined to uplift, support, and celebrate Contra Costa County youth! I’m proud of what we accomplished but most of all- very proud of the resilience and grace of our youth.”

To watch the Virtual Screening and Awards Ceremony please visit here.

Poetry Out Loud is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, California Arts Council, and Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5).

AC5 is dedicated to advancing the arts in a way that promotes communication, education, appreciation and collaboration throughout Contra Costa County so that we may grow creatively as a community that preserves and celebrates our diverse cultural expression.

Please visit for more information and sign up on our email list. We welcome your participation and hope to see you next year!

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Long-time executive director and visionary of Antioch’s restored El Campanil Theatre, Rick Carraher steps down

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Rick Carraher and his beloved El Campanil Theatre. Photos courtesy of El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation.

Will continue so serve on foundation Board of Directors, passes reins to Theater Manager Joel Roster

By Allen Payton

Earlier this month, Rick Carraher, long-time executive director of the historic El Campanil Theatre in Antioch’s downtown Rivertown announced the third retirement in his life by posting the following message on the theater’s website:

“Dear employees, volunteers, and friends of El Campanil Theatre:

For over 19 years, I have had the pleasure to steer the historic El Campanil Theatre to become the grandest and most state-of-the-art performing arts venue in Eastern Contra Costa County. Now, at the age of 72, I will step down from the leadership role as Executive Director.

I have committed myself to the revitalization of downtown Antioch.  After 18 years at Bank of America, my wife Janis and I opened and operated Rick’s on Second for 25 years. I recall the day in 2001 when Nordyn Anderson and I were having a cup of coffee while looking at El Campanil Theatre across the street.  We both agreed that there was a need to bring vitality to the downtown and the theatre was likely to provide that focus. After creating an interest group of local residents, it was clear that there was a need for a place for families to come together and enjoy live entertainment of all kinds.

I’m so proud of what El Campanil Theatre has become over the years. The number of people who attend events on an annual basis reinforce the opinion that El Campanil is the cornerstone of the continuing process toward the revitalization of Rivertown.

I believe that we are now at a point where we need to strengthen our focus to the needs of the youth of the community, and Joel Roster brings that passion with him. When we are permitted, we will continue to bring quality entertainment that appeals to all ages.

I am so happy that we found someone with an amazing love of theatre. Joel’s enthusiasm is so apparent and he is determined to make El Campanil Theatre the center of performing arts and education in the region.

Joel strives at all times to keep in pace with every new development. His attitude has never been, “oh, we can’t do this anymore”, but rather “what can we do?”, and I think that’s been life-saving.

The past 19 years have been very rewarding – to myself as well as the community – and I am so happy that you have helped us with this journey.

While it is time to pass the title to Joel, we will still see each other.  I will remain on the Board of Directors and will be seen around the theatre in whatever capacity I can be helpful.

It has been a joy to work with all of you.

Thanks for all of your support.

Rick Carraher”

The theater during restoration in 2003. Photo: ECTPF

What his letter doesn’t say is that the group raised over $500,000 from CalPine to purchase the building and another $1 million for the restoration. Carraher and others formed the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation to raise the needed funds, purchase the building from the Stamm family and has since operated the theater. (See more restoration photos, here)

“Back when we started, our budget was $1 million to get it to the point we could open,” Carraher said when reached for comment.  “$750,000 came from the city’s redevelopment agency and $250,000 from individuals, corporations and foundations.”

“Our annual budget before COVID averaged between $400,000 and $500,000 which was covered by ticket sales, individuals and foundation support,” he shared. “Our last campaign, at the end of last year to ‘Keep the Curtains Open’ we raised $50,000 over three months.”

Carraher has worked tirelessly since the mid-1980’s to revitalize downtown. For nine years, he served as president of the Antioch Rivertown Business Association, helping promote the city’s historic business district, and bring back the July 4th celebration and fireworks to the waterfront.  But he’s not done.

Carraher said he will continue to serve in whatever capacity is needed at the theater.

Donations to the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation can be made through their website at

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El Campanil Theatre Academy for children begins Monday, Jan. 11

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Learn Film Acting, Voice-Overs, Stage Combat, Children’s Theatre, Technical Theatre, Improvisation

Since 2006, El Campanil Theatre has offered El Campanil Children’s Theatre – a tuition-free, performance-based program that has served as a first stepping stone for hundreds of young actors over the years, introduced by Sharon Redman.

As arts programs get slashed everywhere, we asked ourselves what our greater responsibility was: to our students, to their parents, and to the community.

We have expanded Sharon Redman’s original concept into El Campanil Theatre Academy — a tiered, multi-layered program meant to not only educate students in the performing arts, but give them tools for career placement in the performing arts. Classes ranging from acting to design, from directing to playwriting, and from voice to movement–all taught by industry professionals.

Tuition-free and low-tuition classes are available below. Limited scholarships are available by applying here.

These classes have been designed to be taught either virtually or in-person, depending on the COVID regulations at the time that classes begin.

For schedule and more information, click here.

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El Campanil Theatre brings Santa safely to your family

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation presents “Live From The Workshop”. By appointment, now through December 20, 2020, online, in your home

Since the beginning of October, El Campanil Theatre has been finding ways to safely bring entertainment into the homes of their patrons and community with “Live From El Campanil”, a live-streamed concert series featuring outstanding performances across    music genres.

At the end of a tempestuous year, the non-profit El Campanil Theatre wanted to find another way to let    audiences enjoy the holiday season safely. “For me, one of the greatest holiday traditions is bringing your children and grandchildren to see Santa,” laments Executive Director Rick Carraher. “The pandemic has rightfully made us all wary about bringing our loved ones to a public place. We wanted to find a way to keep that very special tradition alive, somehow.”

“Live From The Workshop”, a limited holiday series running on weekends from December 5th-20th, is     trying something unique: a live Zoom chat with the Big Guy himself, Santa Claus, right from his workplace at the North Pole. For $20 per household, families can book 5-minute sessions with Santa, can ask questions, tell him what they want for the holidays, and, best of all, the families will get a downloadable link of their chat with Santa so they can treasure it forever.

Upon purchase, parents will also get a link to fill out a personalized form to give Santa’s team more information prior to the chat, and can even upload their child’s wish list or letter to Santa so that he can have it in advance.

Tickets are $20 per household and available at or by calling (925) 757-9500.

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Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito’s IL TEMPO program on KQED tonight at 9:30 p.m.

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Prior to the stay-at-home order issued by the governor, earlier this year, Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito was supposed to perform live at Antioch’s historic, El Campanil Theatre. Instead, as you stay at home, again this time, you can watch one of his concerts, tonight on PBS’s KQED SF channel 9, tonight at 9:30 p.m.

Pasquale takes the audience on a musical journey from Teatro Politeama in Naples, Italy sharing songs and stories that have influenced his life and music career.

Don’t miss this opportunity to support KQED and take home one of many gifts including the full DVD and Double CD of the IL Tempo program. If you donate at any level of support, you will also get VIP access to Pasquale’s Valentine Virtual Concert on February 14, 2021. Click HERE to watch the show live streamed at 9:30 p.m.

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Contra Costa Arts and Cultural Commission seeks applicants for opening in Supervisorial District 3

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Do you live in Contra Costa County Supervisorial District 3? It includes Bethel Island, Blackhawk, Byron, Diablo, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Antioch, Brentwood, and Oakley. If so, we have an opening on the Arts and Cultural Commission of Contra Costa County for which you can apply!


The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County is dedicated to advancing the arts in a way that promotes communication, education, appreciation and collaboration throughout Contra Costa County so that we may grow creatively as a community that preserves and celebrates our diverse cultural expression.

The commission has 10 seats; five from each of the County’s Supervisorial Districts, four at-large and one alternate.

District Specific Seats:

Are recommended by the applicable District Supervisor and then approved by the Board of Supervisors.

What does a Commissioner do?

  • Support the functions of the Commission.
  • Give all meetings and other Commission activities a priority on his/her calendar.
  • Serve on and chair Commission committees and events.
  • Keep current with all facts and information upon which the Commission must base its collective opinions and decisions.
  • Participate in strategic planning and implementation of arts programming.
  • Be an ambassador and proponent of the arts and the Commission in Contra Costa County and engage people from all cultural and ethnic groups in the arts and in the work of the Commission.

Please apply today! Learn more at


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Maya Cinemas in Pittsburg to reopen Friday

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

By Greg Heckman, Director of Marketing, Maya Cinemas

We are really happy to let you know that Maya Cinemas Pittsburg will finally reopen on Friday!

We will be following all state and county regulations including social distancing, required masks in theater until seated, plexiglass shields at all points of sale as well as all employees wearing masks and gloves at all times. We will also be ramping up cleaning and sanitization with dedicated “Clean Team” staff.

There are some new programs you will see at Maya. VIP Screenings will let you rent your own auditorium for 10-20 people, $3 Classics and Date Night Mondays with a special deal for 2.

Of course, we will open with Tenet as well as several new features, some classics as well as Halloween movies.

Maya Cinemas is located in the Century Plaza Shopping Center on 4085 Century Blvd in Pittsburg.

We’re open Friday and creating a safe environment to see a movie!

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Live from El Campanil begins streaming series with Sun Kings’ Drew Harrison Oct. 3

Monday, September 14th, 2020

WHO: El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation

WHAT: “Drew Harrison: Beatles & More”, part of “Live From El Campanil: A New Streaming Concert Series”

WHERE: Virtually from El Campanil Theatre, 604 W. 2nd Street, Antioch, via

WHEN: October 3rd, 2020 @ 7PM

HOW MUCH: $10 per household

TICKETS: Available online at or by calling Ticket Office at (925) 757-9500

ABOUT: When El Campanil Theatre decided to start streaming live events to support their ongoing fundraising efforts, the same question hovered over everyone’s heads: Who’s the first artist going to be?

“We wanted all of these artists to be friends of the organization,” says Theatre Manager Joel Roster, “so when we thought about all of the performers who have been close to us and to the community, the first name that popped in our heads was unanimous.”

Drew Harrison, frontman of the infamous Beatles tribute band The Sun Kings and a solo virtuoso in his own right, was the first choice for Roster, Executive Director Rick Carraher, and Programming Director Steven Shore.

“He’s performed here countless times,” says Carraher. “I can’t think of a more fitting way to break into this new medium than with such a respected and beloved artist.”

Harrison is honored to be the first person to be showcased in El Campanil’s new streaming series. “I am honored to be asked to be the debut performer at one of my favorite venues,” says an elated Harrison. “I enjoy the theatre and the folks that run it. The room sounds great and the experience is always top-notch for the performer and the patron. It’s always a highlight for me to return to the ECT stage.”

The concert itself, “Beatles & More”, is exactly what it sounds like—an hour-long solo concert featuring Harrison’s favorite Beatles songs, plus a few other favorites peppered within. Patrons who purchase tickets will be given a special link to watch the private concert on the company’s website.

Tickets are available right now for the “Live From El Campanil” series on the theatre’s website at

Drew Harrison


Drew Harrison, as a solo artist, has performed in Europe, South America and the States having been invited to open for such artists as Richard Thompson, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Miller. Drew’s abilities as a multi-talented performer have earned him fans throughout the world and his critically acclaimed solo recording release, Go it Alone, has enjoyed robust success. Another of his passsion projects, The Plastic Fauxno Band, presented ‘Love Is the Answer – The Concert for John Lennon’. The two and a half hour Concert for John Lennon was presented in San Francisco on Lennon’s 70th birthday, October 9th, at Beatles Fest West. It featured songs from his entire solo career. Somewhere among all of these accomplishments, Drew has found time for stage, TV, film work, and completing a degree at UC Berkeley, adhering to a simple philosophy of living life fully, and giving back when one can.

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