“Seattle to Fresno — The Best of West Coast Fringe,” is a mini-performing arts festival. Think of it as Rogue Festival aperitif, something to prepare your palate for the actual event (even if it is six months away).
Curated by former Rogue producer Jayne Day and Grant Evan Knutson of Minion Productions, the event will features five fringe shows at Mia Cuppa Caffe, starting 6 p.m. tonight with the Fresno Dance Collective, local poets Michael Dominquez and Taylor Harris and (sandwiched in between) Tommy Nugent, better known to Fresno fans as The Reverend Nuge.
Here, I talk with Nugent about his retirement from performing and just how a resident of Detroit gets booked as “Best of West Coast Fringe.”
First: This is a West Coast fringe show. You’re a midwestern fellow (Detroit is the Midwest, right?). How did you get booked on this?
Dammit. You’re the first person who’s called me out on this. You mean ‘Fresno as the Detroit of California’ isn’t a timely enough connection anymore? Truth is, another performer, an actual Californian (Les Kurkendaal), realized late he had double booked himself and had to drop out. I’m not sure exactly how my name first came up between Grant and Jayne, but they wanted another comedic storyteller to replace Les, and they know I’ll jump at any opportunity to play Fresno. I figure the Burning Man show has a West Coastness to it. But yeah, I’m shoehorned in under the title a bit. Nothing says ‘Best of the West Coast Fringe’ like the guy from Detroit who just retired from the fringe circuit.
About that, what made you decide it was time to try something else (I assume you have other plans)?
Over the last seven years I’ve found the fringe festival world at large to be a tough nut to crack financially. Partially because I can’t really hit the circuit full-time because of my family. My wife has crazy hours as a restaurant manager, our kids are in middle school and it’s tough on everybody when I disappear for 10 days to two weeks at a time to do a festival where I may or may not make money. Even doing it part-time (three-four festivals a year) seems to steal all my attention away from the motivational speaking side of my business, and that’s the side that pays better and keeps me at home more.
But also, these shows (along with Aikido, and zen meditation) have served as something of a … vehicle (does that make it a tricycle?) for me from one phase of my self-realization to another. Maybe it’s time for two-wheeler. I think the seven monologues I’d done in seven years have accomplished what they needed to do. I think I’ve expressed what I needed to express in that medium. For now, anyway.
Yesterday I started writing my third book. My first two were self-published motivational speaker ‘quickies.’ I think I’m going to dig in and try to do something real with this one. Maybe there’s a written story worth telling about these last seven years of telling stories on stage.
The show you’re doing, “Preacherman at Burning Man,” is the show you did the first time year you came to Rogue. Why this show again? Has it changed since the last time you performed it here?
After doing six original shows (including ‘Bromance’ with Kurt Fitzpatrick) over my four Rogue Festivals, I figured Fresno might indulge me my first remount. ‘Preacherman at Burning Man’ (originally ‘Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge’) is the natural choice – and not just because it’s playing the week after Burning Man, though that helped. It’s my first show. It’s been almost five years since I’ve done it here. And it tells my back story. I’m almost comicbook-nerdy enough to call it my ‘origins’ show. Now people who missed it the first time can finally have the big questions answered, like, ‘Why the hell do people call that guy Reverend anyway?’
And that’s the story it tells – from me as a 22-year old Pentecostal pastor, losing my ministry … and my faith, to me as 30-something family man finding ‘accidental enlightenment’ over two trips to Burning Man.
Definitely the last time I’ll do this show here, and though I have no plans to do Rogue, I do know Fresno is too special a town for me not to find some way back onstage here.