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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - September 2015


Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - September 2015

Todd Dale, the friendly grocer who weighs your fresh organic produce at the Sonoma Garden Park’s “Harvest Market” (Saturdays form 9-12, by the way) has many other facets to his busy life. He runs a couple of small nonprofits that help farmers grow food in Africa. Naturally I thought he was all about food but then he revealed that he has just directed a play and offered me a ticket. What a treat! 

Off I went, last Friday night, the 22nd, to the Sonoma Community Center to see Proof, a play by David Auburn that Todd and his wife saw on Broadway in 2002. The play won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It was a lovely summer’s eve, not too hot, with intimations of the coming of fall. I crossed the Plaza in my little blue Toyota Echo, watching left and right for clusters of tourists in their weekend finery out for a sip of this or that vintage in one of our 22 tasting rooms around the Plaza, to be followed no doubt by an excellent dinner. And how nice of them to come visit our fair town (you may note that I have begun, after a year’s residence, to take a proprietary interest in this sweet place, partly due to writing this column every month and feeling obliged to break out of my own little space bubble to notice what’s going on.)

I’ve been happy to be a local journalist since 1991 when I started writing the Occidental column in the Sebastopol Times & News. It was during the years since that wine came to our fair hills and changed the looks of the county. I’m not always appreciative of the waves of tourists who arrived in fast pursuit, bringing much liveliness to our rural communities, but who threatening to be the cause of our extinction, turning us into a Disneyland of sorts, replete with mansions for vacation rentals, soaring property values, and the nagging sense that our guests are exploiting us, turning us into coachmen and liverymen who exist simply to serve their highnesses with wallets stuffed with Silicon Valley bucks.

We don’t really need to allow ourselves to be exploited, do we? As the residents of this fair valley, we have, I should think, certain rights, such as those that obtain in a person’s home when opening it to company. Would it be old fashioned or (God forbid) passé to suggest that host and hostess deserve, and may indeed demand, a little respect? But we don’t seem to think we have that right in relation to tourists. The almighty buck intervenes, and we let it.

Past the Plaza, I arrived at the lovely Community Center that resembles an old-fashioned school or library and I do not doubt it has a history that I ought to know. I’ve only been to the Rotary Stage once, when my fellows and sisters of the Sonoma Writers’ Alliance performed some of their writings last year; and by the way they will be doing it again this year on September 22, so look out for that event this month, which is free.

I saw a door and opened it, and lo and behold, there were the actors preparing; I had stumbled onto backstage!

Well enough, I found the Rotary Stage and my seat in the front row, which was practically part of the beautiful set created by a local cabinetmaker. I’m sorry that I am not going to be able to provide the names of the talented participants; there were no programs, and there is scant information posted at the website of What matters is the performance, which was terrific, well-directed and powerfully acted by the four performers; I loved it. Here’s a summary: “Libby Oberlin stars as a troubled young woman who’s spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable mathematician father, dealing with her own volatile emotions, her estranged sister, and her suspicion about the intentions of a former student of her father’s.” It’s gripping, but fun, too; plays through the first weekend in September, so be sure to see it if you can. You’ll see quite a few locals happily cavorting with old friends during the intermission, good friends who doubtless are responsible in part for this flourishing cultural venue, and I thank them all. 

In the midst of bazillion tourists, I found out where the locals are and hopefully shall remain!