WALNUT CREEK -- Leslie Carrara-Rudolph has been to a lot of American cities, and has seen firsthand the artistic opportunities available in those places. She knows her horizons were expanded in part because of where she grew up, in central Contra Costa.

"I am a big fan of my hometown (Pleasant Hill) and they've always had good programs available to kinds," said Carrara-Rudolph, for the past eight years a puppeteer with "Sesame Street." "The area is really blessed with chances to pursue and partake of the arts." Many places to which she has traveled, she said, are not so blessed.

Carrara-Rudolph has had a direct connection to one of those opportunities for the past several years, and will again on July 20, when she appears at the seventh annual Chevron Family Theatre Festival.

Designed as a way to introduce the young generation to live theater and the possibilities of performance, the festival takes place Saturday, July 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lesher Center for the Arts in downtown Walnut Creek.

Presented by Chevron and produced by the Diablo Regional Arts Association and the Lesher Center for the Arts, the festival returns with both brand new performers and popular favorites.

The festival offers families a low-cost day of nonstop theater, dance and musical performances along with visual arts activities both inside and outside the Lesher Center for the Arts.


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Among the acts appearing at the Chevron festival for the first time are headliners Aga-Boom, a troupe of clowns making their Walnut Creek debut in the Hofmann Theatre; and magician Alex Ramon, who performed in Walnut Creek in December but is making his first Family Theatre Festival appearance this year.

Returning to this year's festival are Carrara-Rudolph, a Pleasant Hill native with years of local theater experience; the Fantasy Forum Actors Ensemble, who will perform their interactive musical version of "Robin Hood;" and the Emmy award-nominated Pushcart Players, who will perform "Stone Soup and Other Stories," a charming blend of folk tales from around the world. Shortly after the 10 a.m. festival kickoff, kids can join in the Prince and Princess Parade as it winds around the outside of the Lesher Center. Other free offerings include performances by the Na Mamo No'eau Polynesian dancers and the San Jose Taiko Drummers; jungle/safari themed puppets, including lions, giraffes and gorillas, to be given away at the Chevron booth outside the center; sock puppet-making, inside the Bedford Gallery; appearances by costumed characters including Cinderella, Snow White and their handsome princes; Mother Goose telling stories; and face painting and costume dress-up.

Carrara-Rudolph appreciates the varied performers at the festival, and that this event is tailored for families.

"All my shows are designed to help kids navigate life creatively," she said. "And I always make sure the audience entertain themselves," by engaging the kids' voices, bodies and imaginations.

The ticketed shows are $5 each, and are on sale now; buy by calling the Lesher Center Ticket Office at 925-943-SHOW (7469) or visiting http://www.LesherARTSCenter.org/.

Parking is available at the North Locust Street Garage next to the Lesher Center (entrance is accessible only from California Boulevard) for all-day parking; a flat rate of $3 will cover parking for the entire day.

In addition to Chevron, this year's sponsors include the City of Walnut Creek, KGO Radio, the Contra Costa Times and Diablo Magazine.

Seventh annual Chevron Family Theatre Festival
  • WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 20
  • WHERE: Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive (at Locust Street), Walnut Creek
  • COST: Events outside are free; performances inside the Center's three theaters $5 per person
  • INFORMATION: http://www.draa.org/events/chevron-family-theatre-festival