I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
Cask & Masks first play was 50 years ago
By Barry Schrader.................................April
Attending the final nights production of Urinetown
at Las Positas College recently (another great production by
Ken Ross and company) I spotted two familiar figures in the front
row who have more history in amateur theatre than any couple
in this valley.
Seeing Garret and Joan Boer reminded me that the amateur
thespian group Cask & Mask organized some 50 years ago. The
first meeting was actually called in 1955 by the late Chet Fankhauser
when he advertised for people interested in local theater to
come to his home. Later the group gathered to formally organize
at the home of Bill Jalonen, followed by another at the home
of Sam and Kathy Salzinger. Their first production was If Men
Played Cards as Women Do presented before the Beta Sigma Phi
in early 1956 in Livermore. So began a great string of popular
plays that ran into the 1970s.
There was a contest to name the drama group and Joan Boer
recalls the winner was Kathy Salzinger with Cask and Mask,
the cask being tied to the Livermore Valley Wine Country. Some
of the early members were Connie Duke, David and Bernice Oakley,
the Boers, Phyllis Bell (Parker), the Fankhausers, the Winslows,
and Barbara Bunshah.
The first full length production was Blythe Spirit directed
by Garret Boer, held in the Livermore High auditorium. Some of
the main players were Audrey Wilkins, Delcie Parker, Bill Hayden,
Connie Duke, Kathy Salzinger, plus Chet and Henri Fankhauser.
A newspaper article in October 1960 announced that the group
had taken over the abandoned May School and the first production
there was The Mikado, also directed by Boer. I recall fondly
going to plays out in the country north of Livermore in that
isolated little schoolhouse, crowded into the onetime classroom
and hoping it wouldnt rain because of the leaky roof. Due
to the limited number of seats (much like the Las Positas Little
Theatre today) several repeat performances had to be scheduled.
By 1973 the old school had become uninhabitable and the last
play there was Charlie Brown. A February 1974 newspaper article
reported the school had been closed down due to its aging condition
and the failure of utilities (the well went dry and bathrooms
out back no longer worked).
Then along came the Livermore Heritage Guild with plans to
salvage the school, and maybe move it to Portola Park in town.
The Guild got funding to have a cement foundation installed and
put on a new roof. All this was for naught as vandals attacked
it and then burned it to the ground in December 1979.
Meanwhile, the Cask & Mask group was also falling on
hard times trying to find a new home and some funding. In November
1974 they put on a joint production of The Skin of our Teeth
with the Granada Players at Granada High, which turned out to
be their final show. It was reported in the papers that they
built a float with some 100 slaves pulling it to publicize their
need for a new home in the June 1975 Rodeo Parade, but to no
Now in 2006 we have a fresh drama effort underway, inspired
by Cask & Mask that sponsored a high school and college group
known as the Auxiliary Players from 1966 to 1969. One of those
young people, Karen Hogan, has organized a group called for now
An Unusual Evening of Spoken Wordsand Maybe Other
Stuff, Too. They have started doing monologues and stage
readings bimonthly at the Ultraspective Photography studio hidden
away at 156 South Livermore Ave. Karen said more thespians as
well as writers of original works are needed and can contact
her via email at 4thstreetstudio
@pacbell.net. Joan Boer and Connie Duke are delighted
to see a new generation of amateur theater come alive in Livermore.
Maybe Joan can be talked into doing a 50 year retrospective on
Cask & Masks anniversary this November. Someone just
needs to ask her!
* * *
Recently I was contacted by David Ferrell Jackson, director
of the Bay Area Radio Museum, who revealed that Jack Benny came
to Livermore in March 1944 to do his radio show from the Livermore
Naval Air Station. Featured were all those regulars we have known
and lovedMary Livingstone, Rochester, Phil Harris, Dennis
Day and Don Wilson. Jackson is hoping to find a local fan still
around who remembers that show and maybe even a photo taken at
the time. If you have any memories of the NAS show contact Jackson
And if you would like to hear the recording of the actual show
go online to www.bayarearadio.org/audio/benny and enjoy
an oldie but goodie.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551