Today Chanticleers Theatre is a 99-seat non-profit playhouse, serving Castro Valley and surrounding communities from Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore, Hayward, Oakland, San Ramon, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, Fremont, Oakland and the greater East Bay.
Chanticleers Theatre’s story begins way back in 1948, when a small group of actors and actresses from the Castro Valley Woman’s Club formed a drama group called the “Castro Valley Little Theatre Group.” They started rehearsing in an old, cold chicken coop belonging to charter member, John Hayes.
After three years, in 1951, the drama group held a city wide contest to select a new name for themselves. The name ‘Chanticleers’, submitted by one Lucille Cochran, was selected as the winner.
Chanticleer was appropriate for several reasons. The word is derived from the Old French word “chantecler”, the name of the rooster in the old Middle Ages’ tale of “Reynaud the Fox” by Chaucer. The word means “to sing clear”. [chanter, to sing: chant + cler, elear: clear.]
Also, at the time, Castro Valley was home to a thriving poultry business, one of the largest in the state. In fact, there was a sign at the west end of Castro Valley Boulevard proclaiming, “Castro Valley, something to crow about.” So the drama group adopted the name “Chanticleers”, which has been kept to this day.
In September 1951, Chanticleers presented its first major production, The Mystery of the Whispering Bell, under the direction of Ruth Dingnan. The production ran just two nights and was staged at the Castro Valley Grammar School. Prices in thoses days ran just $1.00 for adults and 50 cents for children.
During the next seven years, Chanticleers presented two productions per year. Since there was had no permanent theatre or stage, productions were held in various local venues – Castro Valley Grammar School, A. B. Morris School, Brett Harte School, Cal State University, First Methodist Church, and Castro Valley High School.
In 1958, Chanticleers acquired its first permanent location – The Palomares Little Red School House, pictured on the left. The first production performed there was Anniversary Waltz directed by Rosalinda Thomas in November of 1959.
Audiences enjoyed Chanticleers’ Theatre productions in the Little Red School House for the next 18 years… with shows often selling out well in advance. Sadly, a fire destroyed the facility in 1976. The last production at the Little Red School House was Born Yesterday.
Good fortune shined on Chanticleers, however, and the group found a new home in Castro Valley by leasing the old Castro Valley Community Center from H.A.R.D. The indoor basketball court was transformed with the help of many enthusiastic volunteers into an intimate 100-seat theatre.
Today Chanticleers Theatre is a beloved Castro Valley treasure, supported by theatre lovers from local communities and beyond. Known as “Castro Valley’s Little Theatre in the Park”, Chanticleers is located in the Castro Valley Community Park right across from the new Veteran’s Memorial and next to the children’s “water” park and playground.
For a small non-profit community playhouse, Chanticleers offers an impressive range of live theatre experiences, including award-winning dramas, hilarious comedies and farces, classic thrillers, musical reviews like New Wrinkles and full-fledged musicals like Fiddler on the Roof and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Chanticleers is grateful for the generous support of Castro Valley and surrounding community residents, many of whom are members of the theatre, financial contributors or volunteers contributing time and talent to make live theatre possible here. Please join us as a member, a volunteer or just come and see a show! Please join us and thank you for your support.