Arts & Culture Award
Jeff Seaberg loves live theater -- the chemical reaction when you put actors and an audience together.
The Danville actor definitely elicits a reaction onstage, whether he's the Broadway scam artist in the title role of "The Producers," as he was with Pleasanton's Tri-Valley Repertory Theater, or performing in Danville's zany cabaret comedy, "Wigged Out."
"I was bit by the stage bug at age 15," said Seaberg, 54, "and have not sought out the cure."
But it's in his role as a teacher that he is making even a greater difference in the Tri-Valley.
When the Town of Danville was looking for someone to create a children's theater program 10 years ago, he jumped at the chance.
"I put together a proposal and have been doing it since 2003," he said.
KAOS (Kids Acting On Stage) drama camp for ages 7-14 runs for three two-week sessions in the summer, each ending with a production and a mini-movie. This year had its highest enrollment at 150.
"We had 50 kids per session maximum, split into groups," he said. "One week of camp is at Hap Magee Ranch, then we're at the Village Theater. And the first week we do a mini-movie."
His after-school program, Theatre Performance Workshop, is also in its 10th year.
"It's not a star-making program, it's an experiential program," Seaberg said. "It covers the nuts and bolts involved in putting a production together -- auditioning, rehearsing and performing."
He noted that the class teaches life skills, including the ability to speak in public. It's a safe place for shy children to come out of their shell. Other students are already outgoing and charismatic; they learn discipline.
Now his theater group is preparing for a holiday production, written by Seaberg, "A Very Jingle Town Christmas," which will play at the Village Theater, 233 Front St. in Danville, on Dec. 14-16.
"It's called a world premiere," Seaberg said with a laugh. "There are some Christmas carols, some bravely doing solos."
He writes and publishes such plays as an inexpensive resource for other after-school programs, and said he's improved his skills at populating his stories with interesting characters and dialog as well as good plots.
"I appreciate existentialism but I like to know the journey is going to be completed," he says. "I have 20-30 characters with a journey."
He tries to strike a balance with all these activities.
"I love to perform, I love teaching and working with the kids, and directing and being involved with productions," he said.
Seaberg majored in theater and English at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., plus earned a teaching credential. By the age of 30 he'd migrated to the Bay Area to pursue his love of theater and teaching.
He made a name for himself locally when he landed a role in "Reel Blondes," and directed it as "Wigged Out" for 13 seasons. "Reel Blondes" was revived in the spring and preparations for the 2013 season are under way.
"Three or four of us do most of writing," Seaberg said. "We come up with a gazzilion ideas, then thin it down to a million, then take out ones that aren't that funny."
But first Seaberg will have a leading role in Pleasanton at its Hometown Holiday Celebration on Dec. 1 as Santa Claus, which he says lets him feel "the rush of being a superstar."
"It's really cool, but I can't take it lightly," Seaberg said. "I'm on my best behavior with the kids."
Seaberg recalls a crossroads in his life in 2003. Goodspeed theater in Connecticut, where many Broadway professionals got their start, called him for an audition. But the performance dates interfered with the children's program he'd just proposed for the Town of Danville so he cancelled the audition.
"I cancelled the audition," he said. "My friend was aghast."
"It was a fork in the road but I knew I was right," he added. "I've been very, very content with that decision. My life has been impacted, and hundreds of kids were equally impacted."
* Jeff Seaberg's earliest dramatic role came as a young boy at his parents' cocktail parties where he would circulate with a tray, dramatically posing the question: "Would you like an hors d'oeuvres?"
* He was voted Class Clown in the eighth grade.
* He played Riff in "West Side Story" at this high school; he later directed the musical in Alameda.
* He received a prestigious Shellie Award as best actor in 1992 for his rendition of Bill Snibson in the Diablo Light Opera Company's "Me and my Girl," a role he's done five times with four different theater groups.
* His original children's plays include fairytales in his Granny's Bedtime Stories; his "Captain Cool and the Righteous Dudes" series tells tales of superheroes.
* Seaberg says it isn't easy being an actor. "Theater people have to wear their hearts on their sleeves, from high to low, and be convincing -- while being even-keeled in life," he said. "That's why a lot of actors are basket cases."
* What touches Seaberg most is when he is making a curtain call and the audience rises to its feet to applaud. "It almost moves me to tears," he said.