Local Performing Arts

Photo by adam blauert

Photo by adam blauert

Local Valley performing arts

Within Merced County and an hour’s drive there are lots of venues to enjoy a wide range of performing arts and classic films. 

(For information on local art venues, click on these links for the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and Turlock’s Carnegie Arts Center).  

Playhouse Merced-  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT


Playhouse Merced

Since 1994, Playhouse Merced has offered a wide range of musical and non-musical productions that include new shows, classics, and pieces written for children and families. 

Averaging over 12 productions a year, it’s a great place to enjoy performances by members of our community and by visiting artists.  Performances are generally staged with the audience seated on three sides of the stage, close to the action. 

The theater is located in downtown Merced, near Bob Hart Square. 

For more information go to http://www.playhousemerced.com/index.html

or call (209) 725-8587.

Merced Theatre

After a complete restoration to its 1931 movie palace grandeur, the Merced Theatre reopened in 2012.  It now regularly features live music, comedy, classic films, community productions, and the Merced Symphony (http://www.mercedsymphony.org/index.html / 209-383-3277). 

For more information about the theatre go to

http://www.mercedtheatre.org/ or call 209-381-0500. 

The Merced Shakespearefest

(http://www.mercedshakespearefest.org/ /

209-723-3265) performs at both the Merced Theatre and the open air theatre in Applegate Park.

Merced College’s Theatre Department

also offers drama, music, dance, and travelogues throughout the year. 

For more information and for a schedule of current and upcoming performances, go to:http://www.mccd.edu/thearts/ or call (209) 386-6644. 

CSU Stanislaus’ Department of Music

presents recitals and concerts throughout the year at the college’s Turlock campus.  The Theatre Department also offers a variety of dramatic performances. 

For music information go to http://www.csustan.edu/soa/musictickets.html

and for drama go to http://www.csustan.edu/soa/theatretickets.html

You can also call (209) 667-3959 for information about both.

The Turlock Community Theatre

Hosts a wide range of national and local musicians and comedians throughout the year (http://turlocktheatre.org/index.html  /

(209) 668-1169).



Gallo Center

Modesto’s premiere performing arts venue is the Gallo Center, featuring nationally-known musicians, drama, and comedy. 

Two years ago, I enjoyed seeing Hal Holbrook (86 years old at the time!) perform his one-man Mark Twain Tonight! show here.  That’s the kind of talent that the Gallo Center attracts. 

It’s also home to the Modesto SymphonyOrchestra (http://www.modestosymphony.org/ / 209- 523-4156) and the Townsend Opera (http://townsendopera.com/ / 209-523-6426). 

For more information about the Gallo Center go to http://www.galloarts.org/

or call (209) 338-2100.

Modesto’s historic art deco State Theatre

Offers both live performances and classic films (http://www.thestate.org/ 209-527-4697).


The students and faculty of Modesto Junior College regularly present dramatic, musical, and dance performances (http://www.mjc.edu/general/news/eventstix.html / 209-575-6776).

West Side Theatre

West of Modesto, Newman’s historic West Side Theatre features a wide range of regional and national music talent (http://www.westsidetheatre.org/ /


Fallon House Columbia -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Fallon House Columbia - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT


To the east, the Sierra Repertory Theatre offers performances in both the East Sonora Theatre and the historic Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park (http://www.sierrarep.org/index.html  209-532-3120).

 Fresno area

To the south, Fresno boasts a wide range of performing arts options and venues.  At the Fresno Convention Center, the Saroyan Theatre provides a large setting for traveling dramatic and musical performances, and for the Fresno Ballet Theatre (http://www.valleyperformingartscouncil.org/Site_4/Home.html),

Fresno Grand Opera (http://www.fresnograndopera.org/ or call 559-442-5649)

and Fresno Philharmonic (http://www.fresnophil.org/ / 559-261-0600).  Also part of the Convention Center, Selland Arena hosts a wide range of events from basketball to Disney on Ice. 

For more information about the Fresno Convention Center, go to http://www.fresnoconventioncenter.com/.

Also in downtown Fresno, the Warnors Theatre hosts live music and historic silent films accompanied by live organ music (as they were often originally shown in the early 1900’s).  For more information go to http://www.warnors.org/ or call (559) 264-2848.



In Fresno’s Tower District, the historic art deco Tower Theatre also offers dramatic performances, music, and comedy (http://www.towertheatrefresno.com/ / 559-485-9050).

Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater presents classic musicals paired with excellent food           http://rogerrockas.com/ / (559-266-9494).

Fresno’s Save Mart Center is part of Fresno State University.  It features large-scale concerts and sporting events. 

Major national and international talent is often seen here performing for large crowds.  Andrea Bocelli performed at Center’s opening and upcoming shows include Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, and Bruno Mars. 

For more information go to http://www.savemartcenter.com/

or call (559) 347-3400.

Fresno State’s Theatre Department presents regular concerts, dramatic productions, and dance performances on the university campus (http://www.fresnostate.edu/artshum/theatrearts/ / 559-278-2216).

Fresno City College offers a wide range of dramatic performance, music, and dance – including the annual City Jazz Festival ( http://www.fresnocitycollege.edu/index.aspx?page=1719 / 559-442-8221).

Until I started compiling this list of performing arts venues, I really didn’t realize how many options were so close to home.  There’s a lot to enjoy without driving a long distance!

Note to parents

Unlike movies, live theatre doesn’t always come with “mature content” warnings. 

Always check the suitability of a performance before planning a family outing.  We had a few surprises during my growing up years!

Merced’s Multicultural Arts Center

photo by adam blauert

photo by adam blauert

Downtown Merced’s Multicultural Arts Center

is the local place to enjoy art, purchase art from local artists, and take art and dance classes.

Classes and galleries are operated by the Merced County Arts Council, which has supported art and art education in our area since 1978. Art by local artists is offered for sale in the ground floor area occupied by Arbor Gallery, a local artists’ cooperative.

Second floor gallery  -   PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Second floor gallery  -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

The first and second floors house regularly-rotating exhibits.    Special exhibits change several times a year – the last time I visited the main exhibit was an impressive collection of photos by the Merced Camera Club.

Ground floor gallery -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Ground floor gallery - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Ground floor

Arbor Gallery sells local art in a broad variety of mediums:  beautiful paintings, ceramics, photography, drawings, textiles, sculpture, glass, turned wood, jewelry, giclee prints and greeting cards. 

Many feature local scenes or are made from local materials.  On my recent visit I was surprised by the affordability of many of the pieces I liked the best.

The ground floor also houses a small theater where performances of music and dance are frequently offered. 

Arts Merced also partners with the Merced Symphony, Playhouse Merced, the Merced Art Hop, and has sponsored music at downtown locations like Coffee Bandits, the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre, Merced College, Applegate Park, and the Merced Community Center.  

Performances for kids in grades 3-8 are offered on the second Saturday of each month from January through May and September through November.  

Stairs to upper levels -  PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

Stairs to upper levels - PHOTO BY ADAM BLAUERT

The third floor

Offers classes for both children and adults.  Frequently offered physical activity courses include world dance and capoeira (a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics, and music). 

Dance groups Sol del Valle (ballet folk lorico), and Merced Academy of Dance (ballet) also use the building and offer opportunities for local youth to learn traditional dances.  

Art classes

Include ceramics, acrylic painting, comic books, drawing basics, painting, digital photography, yarn arts, and.  New classes begin monthly. 

The center also offers an arts-based adult day program for developmentally disabled adults. 

The ARTREE program that puts working artists in local K-12 classrooms is also part of the Merced County Arts Council, along with the Arts in the Valley radio program that airs every Saturday at 8PM on KYOS 1480.

The Arts Center is open 11AM-7PM Wednesday-Thursday and 10AM-5PM Friday-Saturday.  Arbor Galley is open 11AM-6PM Tuesday-Friday and 10AM-2PM on Saturdays. 

Admission to both the Arts Center and Arbor Gallery is free. 

For more information, and for a schedule of events, classes, performances, tours, and special events-see website - click here- MCAC.

or call (209) 388-1090. 

For more information about Arbor Gallery, go to Arbor Gallery

or call (209) 384-8338.