WHILE I WAS certainly looking forward to opening night of Cal Shakes' "Midsummer Nights Dream," I had no idea the group would be announcing a dream-come-true of its own.

The folks at Cal Shakes have been working on a capital campaign behind the scenes, and on Saturday night — with $7.5 million already raised toward an $8.2 million Phase 1 goal — they made the campaign public.

"Thanks to the leadership of Sharon Simpson and Jim Roethe and the hard work of our entire board and staff, we can turn our dream into reality," said artistic director Jonathan Moscone.

Phase 1 addresses the 20-year-old deteriorating temporary structures that currently house restrooms, office space and artists work spaces. It includes a 7,000-plus-square-foot Patron and Artist Center with 31 new restrooms, dressing rooms, offices, modern cafe and theater store. A living roof will provide insulation, habitat for plants and animals and a visual tie to the hillside beyond.

Phase 2 focuses on the Bruns Amphitheatre by upgrading lighting and sound systems, rebuilding the stage, adding a new windscreen and extended sunscreen and replacing the plastic chairs with permanent seating. Both phases are designed to LEED certification standards.

"It is only right that performing in this beautiful area we do everything we can to preserve and protect the environment," said Moscone.


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Phase 1 should be completed by the spring of 2010.

How appropriate that Cal Shakes would announce its dream on the opening night of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Nights Dream." On a truly magical night, director Aaron Posner created a mesmerizing production full of sleight of hand, physical prowess and wonderful music. From an eerie ballad, sung from the very top of Brian Bembridge's amazing set by Puck (the incredible Doug Hara) to the pop of "Lets Get It On," sung by Lysander and Hermia (well played by Avery Monsen and Erin Weaver) when they first enter the woods, this show uses music to weave its spell. The thoroughly polished cast made its physically challenging choreography all look easy as they cavorted around the space making this "Midsummer" one of my favorites. The show continues through Oct. 11. Call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.

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    Harvey and I listen to the hopes and failures of people. They leave feeling better, says Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey."

    Currently playing at the Orinda Starlight Village Players through Sept. 26, the Mary Coyle Chase comedy with its 6-foot, invisible rabbit certainly puts one in a good mood. Chase has written a charming story full of interesting characters and manners long forgotten.

    According to the program notes, Kirk Vile plays Harvey and lives near Safeway, where, in his spare time, he collects his thoughts. That gives you a good idea of the good-natured humor you will encounter at Starlight's production, which takes place at the Orinda Community Center Park Amphitheater.

    Suzan Lorraine does double duty as director and on stage as Aunt Ethel. Malcolm Cowler is delightful as Elwood, with Susan England adding the right balance as his sister Veta and Anne Collins as her man-obsessed daughter. Lori Wolford brightened up the sanitarium with her perky nurse with Ken Sollazzo a suave Dr. Sanderson and Bill Chessman a pompous Dr. Chumley.

    Come early and enjoy a picnic before the show. Call 925-253-1191 or go to www.orsvp.org.

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    Rehearsals for "Parry Hotter and The Wand of Randomness" are about to begin. The original production, penned by Barrett Lindsay-Steiner, is Standing Ovations' fall selection.

    Class/rehearsals begin Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. 12 p.m. at the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center on Tice Valley Boulevard in Walnut Creek. For more information, go to www.standingovations.org.

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    Also for young people, the Berkeley Playhouse presents the "Family Cabaret and Sing-Along" on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts on College Avenue in Berkeley.

    It's an evening of food, fun and entertainment with cast members from "Urinetown," "Once On This Island" and "Peter Pan the Musical." There also will be a sneak peak at the group's next production, "The Wizard of Oz." Go to www.berkeleyplayhouse.org. for more information.

    Reach Sally Hogarty at sallyhogarty@gmail.com.