In Brief: Arts events in and around Modesto

May 1, 2013 

'Letters Home'

Stories of those fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be retold on the Gallo Center for the Arts stage this week through "Letters Home."

The stage production offers a powerful portrait of the day-to-day realities for soldiers serving in the Middle East by bringing to life actual letters written during their deployments. It's inspired by a New York Times op-ed article "The Things They Wrote" and the subsequent HBO documentary "Last Letters Home."

According to a press release, the a-political play "gives audiences a powerful portrait of the soldier experience in the ongoing war. It also helps define for the audience what patriotism is and what it means to serve our country today, through acts of bravery, compassion, social responsibility, sense of community and brotherhood."

The letters retold on stage will not be only from soldiers, but will include letters to them from their parents. "One theme seems to unite their diverse voices," says the release, "the belief that the person standing beside you is more important than you are."

"Letters Home" will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Gallo Center, 1000 I St., Modesto. Tickets are $15-$40. For more, see or call (209) 338-2100.

Comedy troupe The Capitol Steps

Satire and politics combine for an uproarious comedy program this week at the Gallo Center when the Capitol Steps take over the stage.

The troupe is made up of actual former Congressional staffers who satirize the very places and people who once employed them.

According to a press release, The Steps have been around since 1981 and during that time have recorded 18 albums, including these during the Clinton presidency: "Unzippin' My Doo-Dah," "Sixteen Scandals," "Return to Center" and "The Joy of Sax."

Several celebrities and politicians, some who have been targets themselves, have performed with the Steps, including Vice President Al Gore, Sam Donaldson, Michael Dukakis and Larry King.

The Capitol Steps play Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Stuart Rogers Theatre at the Gallo Center, 1000 I St., Modesto. Tickets are $15-$45. For more, see or call (209) 338-2100.

Jazzman Chris Botti to play in Turlock

Instrumental jazz artist Chris Botti plays May 12 at the Turlock Community Theatre.

The award-winning artist has recorded and performed with a host of musical powerhouses including Frank Sinatra, Sting, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Botti plays at 7:30 p.m. May 12 at the Turlock Community Theatre,1574 E Canal Drive. Tickets are $49-$74. Call (209) 668-1169.

Center Stage Youth auditions continue

Center Stage Youth Summer Conservatory is having auditions for its summer production of William Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida."

Auditions will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Lower Level Studios, 948 11th St., Suite 1, Modesto. For more information, call (209) 846-0179.

MSYO offers final concert of the season

The Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra presents its season finale on May 11, featuring MSYO 2012-13 Concerto Competition winners;14 year-old violinist Yunah Kim from Modesto High School (Division winner) and 12 year-old violinist Jonathan Altman from Ustach Middle School (Community Division winner).

The MSYO, in its 36th season, is led by music director Ming Luke and is made up of musicians from area schools. Part of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Association, it consists of three ensembles: concert orchestra, wind ensemble and concert orchestra.

The concert is 3 p.m., May 11 at the Gallo Center, 1000 I St., Modesto. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (209) 338-2100 or see

One-act plays by Merced playwrights

Playhouse Merced presents seven one-act plays written by local writers for its "Merced: Born & Raised" production, which begins today. The plays being staged are:

• "Out of Time" by Lauren Miller — A young Merced girl is helping take care of her terminally ill mother.

• "The Worker of the Strings to Jerk the Fools at My Hellbound Jamboree" by Matt Robinson — In a Merced therapist's office, Dr. Callahan tends to his patients while chaos surrounds him.

• "Merced Noir: Taxi Man" by Zachary Ellis — A Merced taxi driver shares his insights while taking passengers around town.

• "Merced Reflections" by David Hambley — A young man finds a magic mirror in his attic and discovers a connection to Merced's past.

• "The Comic Con Adventures of John Trekson" by Jack Bankson — A Merced teen discovers that Comic Con will be held at The Merced Mall.

• "A Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Charming Human Being" by John Patrick Whitaker — A photo-journalist visits a Merced homeless encampment and meets the inhabitants.

• "The Bus Stop" by Jenell Barnes — Merced resident Rosalie interacts with people waiting at a Merced bus depot.

"Merced: Born & Raised" runs today through May 12 at Merced County Arts Council, 645 W. Main St. Tickets are $8-$20.

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