We've said it before and we'll say it again: fall is our favorite season. It's not only because temperatures cool and leaves crunch underfoot; it also has to with the fact that the North Bay annually offers up a bounty of entertainment over the next three months. From Labor Day through Thanksgiving, there are huge music festivals, live theater productions, extravagant wine country weekends, festive art fairs and so much more happening in Sonoma and Napa counties. You can't do it all, but our annual Fall Arts Guide lays it all out.
6th Street Playhouse Housed in the heart of Railroad Square, the popular playhouse continues to engage the community with plays and musicals designed to delight and entertain. Currently, the playhouse revives a classic Marx Brothers' comedy in Animal Crackers through Sept. 18. Up next, actor Charlie Bethel offers a premiere one-man-show performance of Call of the Wild, Sept. 10–25, in the Playhouse's studio theater as part of a Jack London festival. Satirically brilliant, The Threepenny Opera musically muses onstage Sept. 30–Oct. 23, and TV actor Charles Siebert portrays Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Nov. 25– Dec. 23. 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 707.523.4185.
SOMO Concerts The solar-powered outdoor venue hosts several shows throughout September to close out its sunny season of fun. On Sept. 2, a flock of '80s bands like Cutting Crew, Berlin, Dramarama and others pack the stage for the Lost '80s Live showcase. On Sept. 17, the popular EarleFest benefit concert moves to SOMO for a day of Americana music featuring Lucinda Williams and the Mavericks. Sept. 18, the California Conscious Music Fest welcomes Kool & the Gang, Sol Horizon and others for a day of thoughtful jams. Sonoma Mountain Village Event Center, 1100 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park. somoconcerts.com.
Wine Country Weekend Get up close and personal with Sonoma County winegrowers, winemakers and chefs in one of America's top wine-focused fundraisers, Sept. 2–4. Friday includes Sonoma Starlight, an evening of wine, dinner and live music under the stars at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Saturday's Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Estate Vineyards immerses you in over 200 wineries pouring thousands of glasses. Sunday's Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean lets you take it home. sonomawinecountryweekend.com.
Main Stage West Sebastopol's intimate theater space presents another fall schedule of impressive works. First up, a world-premiere performance of playwright Rebecca Louise Miller's Capacity shines light on the often-overlooked brilliance of Mileva Mari, wife of Albert Einstein, Sept. 2–18. Next, modern-theater classic Dancing at Lughnasa runs Oct. 14–30, and the poignant musical Hope runs Nov. 25–Dec. 18. 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 707.823.0177.
Cinnabar Theater The revered Petaluma theater presents its 44th season of musicals and dramatic works. The heart-warming musical The Most Happy Fella starts the season with smiles, running Sept. 2–25. Then the dramatic and life-affirming Quality of Life makes its North Bay premiere Oct. 14–30. 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 707.763.8929.
Green Music Center There are almost too many events coming to Sonoma State University's world-class venue to name, but we'll try to list them anyway. On Sept. 3, iconic songwriter Melissa Etheridge plays her empowering music. On Sept. 11, multi-platinum-selling songwriter Gavin DeGraw performs solo. Other acts include indie-folk rockers the Avett Brothers on Sept. 15, husband-and-wife comedy team Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally on Sept. 18, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on Oct. 1, and OG rapper Ice-T in a special spoken-word appearance on Oct. 28. 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 866.955.6040.
Sonoma County Cajun Zydeco & Delta Rhythm Festival This popular New Orleans–inspired festival turns 21 this year and expands into a full weekend of fun, with nationally known acts like Louisiana's Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, Henry Butler and Zigaboo Modeliste & the New Aahkesstra, along with local favorites such as Frobeck and Zydeco Flames. Also on hand: art, wine, beer, Cajun cuisine and more. Sept. 3–4, Ives Park, 400 Willow St., Sebastopol. 11:30am–7pm. $25–$50; kids under 12, free. winecountrycajun.com.
Fishstock There will be fun and food at Fishstock, the annual fundraiser for the Jenner Community Club. Enjoy chowder tasting, barbecued salmon, offerings from local wineries and breweries, live music, an ice cream parlor, a raffle and more. Sept. 4. 10398 Hwy. 1, Jenner. 11am–5pm. $5; kids, free. visitjenner.com.
National Heirloom Exposition Dubbed the "World's Pure Food Fair," this massive expo of food providers and enthusiasts brings together chef demos, displays, live music, a giant-pumpkin contest, antique tractors and plenty of good food benefiting school gardening education programs. Sept. 6–8. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $15–$30. theheirloomexpo.com.
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts The newly rebranded nonprofit venue hosts a wide swath of talent, including Grammy-winning songwriter Ray LaMontagne on Sept. 7, funny-woman Wanda Sykes on Sept. 10, eloquent songwriter Emmylou Harris on Sept. 30, flute-stomping Jethro Tull on Oct. 25 and Monty Python founders John Cleese and Eric Idle together in an uproarious live show on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1. Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 707.546.3600.
Lucky Penny Productions Napa's nonprofit theater company opens its 2016–17 season with a splash, presenting Big River, the musical adaptation of Mark Twain's classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sept. 9–25. Next on the list is an original speakeasy-set musical, I Wanna Be Bad, written by locals Shannon Rider and Barry Martin, running Oct. 14–23. After that, another classic takes the stage, when The Miracle Worker relates the story of Helen Keller and her relationship with teacher Annie Sullivan, running Nov. 4–20. 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. 707.266.6305.
Left Edge Theatre Continuing in the tradition of longtime Santa Rosa company Actors' Theatre, Left Edge presents another season of imaginative productions that push the envelope. The Big Meal, running Sept. 9–25, sets the season's table with an expansive and expressive family drama piled high with humor and heart. The satirical gem Zombie Town, running Oct. 14–30, finds a San Francisco theater troupe in the heart of Texas and talking with survivors of a recent outbreak of the undead. The celebrated comedy Bad Jews rounds out the fall, Nov. 18–Dec. 4. Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. leftedgetheatre.com.
American Roots Music Festival This is third annual event to benefit Lifeschool wilderness adventures and features Free Peoples, Frankie Boots, Next of Kin, Sonoma Aroma and Dixie Giants with vendors, great food, live auctions and more. Sept. 10. 16951 Bodega Hwy., Bodega. 2–9pm. $25; kids under 10 are free. goadventure.org.
Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival A rich tradition of blues and jazz marks 40 years of fun on the river with headliners Chaka Khan, Jonny Lang, Keb' Mo', Sheila E., Bobby Rush and others performing at the best little beach on the Russian River. A wine garden, international food court and kayaking and canoeing also await you. Sept. 10–11. Johnson's Beach, 16241 First St., Guerneville. 10am–6pm. $55 and up. 707.869.1595. russianriverfestivals.com.
- Chaka Khan
Dave Barry Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author hilariously defends his home state and finds the funny in Florida stereotypes in his newest book, Best. State. Ever., on Sept. 12. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Noon. $55, includes book. 415.927.0960. Montgomery Village Copperfield's Books, 750 Village Court, Santa Rosa. 7pm. Free. 707.578.8938.
Chautauqua Revue The revue is back for its 14th year. New twists with musicians, dancers, storytellers, performers and clowns keep audiences on their toes while honoring the traditions of the original Chautauqua events from a century ago. Sept. 15–17. Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, 15290 Coleman Valley Road, Occidental. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30pm; children's matinee, Saturday, 2pm. $6–$44; kids under five are free. 707.874.1557.
Spreckels Theatre Company The semi-professional resident theater company presents another season of critically acclaimed productions and show-stopping musicals. The world's greatest detective—this side of Batman— is on the case in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, in which five actors portray over 40 characters, Sept. 16–Oct. 9. Then the dramatic Titanic: The Musical runs Oct. 14-30 and Peter and the Starcatcher tells another side of Neverland from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. 707.588.3400.
Music Festival for Brain Health Musician and humanitarian Michael Franti, with his band Spearhead, headlines this fundraising affair, which also includes science symposiums and winetastings. Sept. 17. Staglin Family Vineyard, 1570 Bella Oaks Lane, Rutherford. music-festival.org.