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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

LUSH and ULTA cosmetics stores open

photo(71)Cosmetics store LUSH opened today in the outdoor portion of Fashion Fair mall. This retailer appears to target people who care about the ingredients that go into their soap, skin and hair products. Its products are not tested on animals and more than 80% are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. LUSH products have as little packaging as possible and customers can “go naked” — meaning buy something like a “bath bomb” with no packaging at all.

ULTA Beauty is holding a grand opening this weekend for its third location in the Fresno area (the others are at the Clovis Crossing shopping center and Villaggio on north Blackstone). This one is at the Marketplace at El Paseo and has been open about a week. The store sells cosmetics and perfume, along with other skin and hair products. It has a full-service hair salon.

The grand opening festivities include free makeovers and free gift certificates for the first 100 people through the doors each day until Sunday.

Fresno Urban Outfitters now a discount store

photo(70)The Urban Outfitters at Fashion Fair mall in Fresno is changing formats and is now an “Urban Outfitters Surplus.” That means the store is essentially one big sale all the time. Prices are much lower than they were before and racks of clothing range from “$4.99 and up” to “$29.99 and up” (and with a few exceptions most of the sweaters, dresses and tops are the initial price, no major bait and switch happening here). Both men’s and women’s sections have bins of $3 scarves.

Urban Outfitters made the switch about three weeks ago. It appears to be the third such Surplus store nationwide, with others in Sherman Oaks and Chicago. The clothes come from Bay Area Urban Outfitters stores.

The store also now has a couch, and a ping pong table and video games that customers are invited to play (Extreme Hunting, Final Fight and Lethal Enforcers, if you’re interested).

No official word yet on why the store made the change or if its prices on casual clothing were too out-of-reach for a Fresno market. Also no indication Urban Outfitters plans to do this at the other brands it owns, including Anthropologie.

New Tower District restaurant/bar

photo(69)Do you remember Cafe Rousseau in the Tower District that closed? It became the short-lived Bistro 566. Now it’s something new, this time with the family behind several DiCicco’s restaurants running the show. Frankie’s 568 opened quietly last Saturday. The Italian restaurant is a way of honoring Frank Vitucci — the father to Joanna Vitucci Lopez who runs three DiCicco’s restaurants and husband to Linda. Frank died in 2012. You can read more about him and the restaurant’s back story here.

Frankie’s 568′s menu is different than DiCicco’s, and includes pasta, steak, chicken Parmigiana and a few pizzas. There’s a “Frankie’s Special” on the menu: A petite filet Mignon, tender lamb ribs and an Italian sausage link. There’s also an appetizer dish Frank loved: Fresh ricotta served on toasted bread. Also, Rousseau’s wallpaper has come down and a mural of a scene in Italy went up.

The attached bar is now a separate business. Owner Pete Mejia ran both restaurant and bar under Bistro 566 and will continue to run the bar, which is now Bourbon & Taps. He also owns Tower Sports Club. The business will soon offer 40 bourbons — everything from Maker’s Mark to small-batch bourbons. By next week the place will have 19 craft beers on tap, including six or seven Tioga-Sequoia beers.

Where to eat out on Easter Sunday

Food Deadline Maple HamEaster is Sunday and if you just said “eek!” I’m here to help. Several restaurants are open serving special meals on Easter and others are selling take-home meals. Here’s what you need to know.

The Elbow Room is doing an Easter brunch from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. I’m told Chef Roy Harland has “gone all out” and is serving a huge buffet, including eggs, biscuits and gravy, omelets, prime rib, ham, oysters on the half shell, salmon, turkey pot pies, salads and pastries. Adults cost $25.99. Kids 10 and under cost $14.99.

The regular dinner menu is offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations aren’t required for either, but are a good idea. Call (559) 227-1234.

Campagnia is having its jazz buffet brunch from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Reservations required. Call (559) 433-3300. For $23.99 adults get brunch and a glass of Champagne (bottomless mimosas are available for an extra fee). Kids 12 and under cost $12.99 and 4 and under are free. The menu includes all kinds of brunch goodness: ham, bacon, poached salmon, crab salad, pasta, French toast, pastries, garlic mashed potatoes and lots of dessert.

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Tweet of the day: A waste of beer

I’m sure I’m not the only who snickered this morning upon seeing the picture accompanying the overturned beer truck on Highway 41. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Our former colleague Mike Oz and Zara Arboleda of CBS 47 had this entertaining tweet:

New restaurant coming to North India space

image(1)After closing last summer, the former North India Bar & Grill building will soon be home to a new restaurant. A chef and restauranteur from the Bay Area bought the building and will open the Elephant Lounge in the space, likely in early June.

Ranjit Dosanjh says he knows the previous owner of the restaurant was a Bay Area restauranteur who couldn’t make a restaurant work there, but says his will be a different concept. Elephant Lounge will serve modern, Indian fusion food with French and Thai influences — but also American and Italian food. They’ll be meat and vegetable dishes with a basil cream sauce, for example, but also steak and pasta. He says he often hears of families where the wife loves Indian food, but the husband and the kids not so much, so he wanted a menu that would appeal to the entire family.

“There are very faithful fans of North India and I can promise them that they’ll be pleased with my food,” he says.

Tired of running four businesses in the East Bay (restaurants Xenia Bistro, India 4 U, Rising Loafer and Spice Global Catering) he is moving to Fresno, where his daughter attends Fresno State. (He’ll still own the other restaurants, but someone else is taking over the day-to-day management.)

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Fresno not boring, but “country”

skeletonsBecause we all love to get offended at these ridiculous ranking that insult our city, here’s two more. First, one to celebrate. Fresno is NOT on the list of the most boring places in California. Weehoo! Sorry, Clovis (which tied for No. 16 with Palmdale), Merced (No. 5) and Modesto (No. 8). The Movoto real estate blog looked at nightlife per capita, live music per capita, parks/outdoor activities per capita, along with the percentage of people ages 20 to 34 and the percentage of restaurants that are fast food (lower = better).

But according to another ranking, Fresno is the most country city in California. (And country must be said with a twangy accent with the emphasis on the “untry”).  Our city was ranked the No. 24 most country-minded city by the Estately blog. In its oh-so-scientific ranking, the blog looked at the percentage of Facebook users in the top 50 most populous cities who listed these topics as interests: “country music, fishing, hunting, NASCAR, firearms, barbecue, cowboy boots, pickup trucks, rodeos, and sweet tea.”

Burgers and personality served up at Caruthers’ Brown Bag Burger Bar

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Hiding behind the window is the most charming order-taker ever, Maria (pronounced Ma-RI-ah).

This new burger joint is a little far afield — it’s in Caruthers — but it’s got some Fresno back story. The Brown Bag Burger Bar is the latest project by the people behind The Painted Table, the busy catering company that operates out of the former Daily Planet next to Tower Theatre. The burger bar is a little, low-key place with a bar to sit at that opens up to the outdoors.

You can read all about the colorful characters — charmer Maria and Caruthers native Rod Hansen – in today’s column, but let’s focus on the food here. The restaurants serves all kinds of burgers wrapped in brown paper with inventive names and toppings.

– The Roy Rogers burger has onion rings on it, with a “coka cola” barcecue sauce (yes, it has Coke in it).

– The Frito Yacht is like a Frito boat, but with salad and chili atop the Fritos.

– Milkshakes are popular here, including the “Rod special,” which has real chocolate, banana and peanut butter in it.

The restaurant sells sandwiches and hot dogs too. Burgers can be made with gluten-free buns or vegetarian patties. They get pretty busy on weekdays, so you may want to call in your order ahead of time. It’s open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Food news: So many good things to eat!

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Photo courtesy of Mabel’s Kitchen

The food news keeps pouring in. Here’s what you need to know this week.

Mabel’s Kitchen, the lunchtime and bierock spot that reopened at 2134 Kern Street recently, will be open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Friday. Normally, the restaurant is just open for lunch, but owner Susan Valiant is hoping to catch some customers who can’t make it there during the week. Susan — who says she misses seeing kids around — hopes dinner will be a family-friendly affair. It may also be a dinner option for folks who are going to see “Wicked” that day or going to the Grizzlies home opener. The regular menu and bierocks will be available.

Gazebo Gardens food truck nights are now happening every Friday as well as Saturdays. The Saturday event has gotten so busy that they’ve expanded it. There’s live music, craft beer and an all-around fun community vibe. Food trucks including Dusty Buns, Casa de Tamales tapas, Benaddiction and others are there. My February column about the Saturday night event is here.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt is coming to Fresno, a retail broker confirms. The chain will be opening in the new Marketplace at El Paseo on Herndon Avenue near Highway 99. It could be a while — as in, a year — before it opens though.

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Introducing: The Grizzly Egg

I’m proud to debut what could be the snack of the century: The Grizzly Egg. No, bears did not start laying eggs, rather this is a flavorful invention that will be available for the first time at the Fresno Grizzlies home opener Friday. It’s a cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.

GRIZZLIES

It’s one of many new dishes the Grizzlies are debuting Friday, and you can read more about them on Wednesday’s food page. But the Grizzly Egg is the star of the show. Food and ag reporter Bob Rodriguez and I tasted tested the egg for you (aren’t we sweet?) and we’re happy to report that it is indeed yummy. It combines bacon with the tang of buffalo sauce and the sweetness of cream cheese.

Starting Friday you can get four of these eggs for $7. The Grizzly Egg’s creation was a team effort. Several behind-the-scenes folks tinkered to come up with the final recipe (and apparently one experimentation involved a fire in someone’s kitchen). For the record, they tried deep frying the entire thing, but it just didn’t taste as good.

Bikini baristas facing Clovis backlash

BOTTOMSSaturday’s story about Bottom’s Up Espresso — a drive-thru coffee joint with scantily clad “bikini baristas” — is the top story on The Fresno Bee’s website. A Clovis woman who lives near the Peach and Shaw avenues kiosk wants the workers to cover up and is circulating a petition to get the Clovis City Council involved. A video taken at the business is below (maybe a smidge NSFW, but it’s not over the top).

People have plenty to say about Bottom’s Up. They seem to fall into two camps. The first are outraged, including a commenter who said this: “… if you can’t buy coffee without making it about sex then there’s something wrong with your perverted minds … .”

In the other corner are the eye rollers who point out that the women are wearing just as much (or as little) as you’d see at the beach or at Hooters. As another commenter said: “Pretty simple, If you are offended don’t go to the business.”

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Changes in store for The Roadhouse bar

roadhouseTo some folks, this place will always be Sheri’s Roadhouse. It actually hasn’t been called that for a while and it got new owners again recently. The Roadhouse is what it’s now called, though you may know it as the biker bar (I can call it a biker bar if there’s motorcycles on their Facebook page picture, right?) at 20023 Auberry Road.

Anyway, Wade and Rhonda Haines bought the place recently and are planning some changes. New signs are going up and lots of painting is happening. They’re improving the outside back area by adding gas fire pits and a bar. Expect a lot more entertainment, including live music and car and motorcycle shows.  And a limited bar menu — think hot wings and nachos — is in the works too.

“We’re trying to make it much more of a destination spot,” Wade Haines says. He hopes customers of Table Mountain will stop by on their way to or from the casino, along with other folks.

What’s up with the graphic movie previews?

I’ll admit it: I’m a chicken. I can’t handle horror movies. Violent movies make me cringe too. For the most part, this hasn’t been a problem. I simply don’t go to these movies and if there is a violent moment, I just study my shoes for a few seconds until it’s safe to look at the screen again.

But has anyone else noticed that movie previews seem to be changing? Besides the fact that you have to sit through 18 billion of them, I mean. They seem like they’re getting more graphic. I was horrified at the previews that accompanied the PG-13 “Divergent” when I saw it last weekend at Edwards. I shouldn’t have to sit through violence and gore to watch a PG-13 movie, or a nonviolent R movie. My message to movie preview people: STOP IT!

The Motion Picture Association of America spokesman says nope, previews haven’t changed. What has changed is the green screen they show us beforehand. Read more on that here.

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Where to get “Wicked” eats

FresnoOpera_Wicked-306x250The Broadway show “Wicked” is returning to the Saroyan Theatre starting Wednesday. It’s bound to attract lots of people who will be looking for places to eat beforehand. This week’s Eating Out column is about where people can eat dinner downtown before the show. You can read the full column here, but I thought I’d highlight a few restaurants that are doing something special for “Wicked”. Neither the column nor this blog is meant to be a comprehensive list, so if there’s someplace you like to eat downtown that isn’t on here, be sure to tell us in the comments.

  • Sumtin’ Ta Eat. The owner of this “home cookin’” restaurant on Kern Street is getting her good witch on with a $9 meal special. But you need to call ahead of time and use the word “wicked” while making your reservation. It won’t work if you say it when you walk in the door. Call (559) 572-2328.
  • The newly reborn The Downtown Club will open for dinner during the run of the show. It’s usually just open for lunch and special events. To make sure you get to the show on time, the restaurant will have a buffet for $19.95.
  • Umi Sushi is serving up a “Wicked roll” — as in sushi. The roll’s contents are a surprise (though that may be just because they haven’t figured out what they want to put in it yet). Umi is the new place at 2321 Kern Street across from the Fresno Convention Center.
  • Joe’s Steakhouse is expanding its regular hours to be open for lunch during the run of the show. Reservations aren’t necessary, but they’ll take them.

Just what the world needs: a “Selfie Stick”

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The folks at Horn Photo demonstrate the Selfie Stick. Photo courtesy of Horn Photo.

Taking selfies just got easier — or dorkier, depending upon who you ask. Locally owned Horn Photo is now selling something called a Selfie Stick. It’s a three-foot long collapsible pole that has a holder on the end for your phone. (This used to be called a camera boom. Now that it’s all hip it had to get a new name). You use it to take a picture with your phone three feet away so you can fit even more people in it (just think of all the b-list celebrities Ellen could have fit in her selfie seen ’round the world). Or if you’re solo, it acts as an extra long arm to capture even more of your surroundings.

You take the picture by using the timer on an Android phone or by downloading the free self timer app for the iPhone. The Selfie Stick costs $29.95.

It’s apparently a big craze in Asia. And Horn Photo owner Stan Grosz said he’s heard of people having fun with them here — a surfer using it while riding through a giant wave, a guy snapping pics while out riding his quad in cool places.

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What to do this weekend? Shop!

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Here’s something to look forward to if you’ve got the not-quite-Friday doldrums. This weekend is a great time to shop. Whether it’s antiques, clothing, or handmade stuff, there’s several opportunities to do a little retail therapy.

The Handmade Parade is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District building. It’s a sale featuring all things handmade, including blinged-out hats, wine glass holders and other projects. You can see CBS 47′s piece on the event here. (It includes Zara Arboleda stabbing a Peep, which I find strangely amusing.) Admission is $2 and the show benefits Central Valley Veterans.

The Spring Antiques and Collectibles Fair is Sunday in Old Town Clovis. Pollasky Avenue is blocked off from Bullard Avenue to Third Street with 90 vendors selling antiques, including jewelry, furniture, glassware and collectibles. They’ll be food, furniture-painting demonstrations and antique appraisals. It runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Shock at seeing actual bellies on local mannequins, models

mannequin 003I was walking through Fashion Fair mall last week and this mannequin stopped me in my tracks. Do you see what’s different about her? She actually has a little belly, a little pooch below her belly button. (You can click to enlarge the photo if you want.) It’s not much of one, sure, but it’s something you just don’t see on mannequins. Most of them have flat as a pancake stomachs — and look nothing like real people. But plenty of real people, even thin people, have and agonize over a little pooch like this. Hiding it with shapewear isn’t even a question for this gal. This was at Caché, the formal dress shop, by the way.

Then fellow Beehiver Traci Arbios mentioned the models in bikinis on the wall outside of the European Wax Center in River Park. Click on the jump to see the photo. The two on the left are beautiful — thin and with hourglass figures — but they don’t have the traditional wispy bodies of most models. There’s no vertical ab line and they have some rounded curves. Traci said she was stunned when she saw it.

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Beer for breakfast? Tioga-Sequoia unveils new breakfast stout

breakfast stoutFresno brewery Tioga-Sequoia is releasing its Rush Hour breakfast stout this weekend. Hold on a minute. A breakfast beer? While die-hard beer fans are probably rolling their eyes right now (yes, breakfast stouts are a thing), this is a new concept for a lot of us. I’m sure there’s people out there who drink beer for breakfast. (And they may not be who you think. I’ve heard several stories of doctors or emergency medical folks who work the night shift popping open a cold one at the end of their shift — which just happens to be at 6 a.m.) But you certainly don’t have to drink it for breakfast. This beer is more about pairing two flavors together — the chocolately sweet stout with the taste of roasted coffee beans, says Tioga-Sequoia marketing manager Michael Cruz.

“It’s like you’re drinking breakfast,” he says. “When you pop open a bottle and pour it into your glass, it’s like smelling a cup of coffee.”

The brewery partnered with local coffee roaster and coffee shop Cafe Corazon in the Tower District. Owner Leo Rios got some hard-to-find Colombian beans that he roasted specifically for the beer. Tioga-Sequoia cold brewed them along with the beer and the result is the limited release of Rush Hour (rush hour referring to both the time of day and the rush you get from caffeine in coffee).

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Too many dresses? Here’s some good causes looking for them

dressGot dresses to get rid of? There’s a couple of programs happening right now that involve a few extra perks than dropping them off at thrift shops.

First is the “Dress off our Back” program at Stella Laguna Beach and Khloe California stores. Donate a gently used dress and the stores will give you 25% off one of their dresses. The donated dresses go to foster kids via the Angels of Grace program. It runs through March 31.

Got a prom dress to get rid of? Tsu Tsu Boutique in the Tower District is planning a “Pre-loved Prom Dress Event” in April. The consignment shop is inviting customers to bring in prom dresses from the last five years. If the dress sells within three weeks, the customer gets a portion of the sale.

And there’s always the Dream Dress program, which connects foster girls with donated dresses for prom, graduation, dances and other occasions. Dream Dress has its own boutique next to the Assistance League Boutique at 4771 N. Blackstone. Call 559) 226-4001 for details.

What’s coming? New places to eat and drink

richiesThere’s some cool new places in Fresno gearing up to open that I’m dying to tell you about. It’s a little too early to do a full newspaper column on some of them, but Beehive readers like to be in the know, so here’s a preview.

Richie’s Pizza & Hot Dogs. This Tower District restaurant should be opening any day now. It will sell pizza by the slice and whole pies, along with gourmet hot dogs. It’s in the space that used to be Scoop’s ice cream.

Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen. A few folks have seen this one on Facebook and said “what?!” This business with the tongue-in-cheek name is a craft beer bar in the work. “No bodies, no pastrami, just beer,” says Ephirman Bosse, who is behind the project. He used to own Fresno Brewing Company and is the bartender at Gazebo Gardens food truck nights.

Chili’s is building a new restaurant in the former Baker’s Square spot at 3585 W. Shaw Ave. near Marty Avenue. Chili’s isn’t talking, so don’t we don’t when the restaurant will be up and running, but the building permit confirms that it is a Chili’s being built.

ROGUE REVIEW: Nightmare in Bakersfield

Rogue Festival Poster 2014by Tiffany HurtadoI’ll make this easy: Go see this show. “Nightmare in Bakersfield” is a one-man show by Les Kurkendaal about accompanying his boyfriend to his 20-year reunion in the armpit of California — Bakersfield. Les’ partner hasn’t told his classmates that he’s gay, which provides opportunities for all sorts of laughter. But the show isn’t just a bunch of jokes. Kurkendaal also delves into the creeping jealousies of having a partner who was voted one of the top 100 people ever to come out of Bakersfield when he himself has always dreamed of being a successful actor. The serious parts are so honest and bare you can’t help but connect with Kurkendaal. For $5, it’s all easily worth the price of admission.

About the only flaw in this show is the music he uses during certain parts sounds like it’s coming from a cellphone. It was unnecessary and had me looking around to see who was rude enough to not turn their phone off. Another thing to know about this venue: It is intimate. Studio 74 is a converted house and you are literally sitting in a living room. That means that if you sit in the front row and spend the entire time flipping through the Rogue program or rustling the plastic bag you’re holding, your fellow audience members will notice. This show is too good for that kind of disrespect from the audience.

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Shout out to The Spencer Morris Duo and Fresno Bee paper boys

Rogue Festival Poster 2014by Tiffany HurtadoIn a blatant act of self promotion, I just have to shine a spotlight on The Spencer Morris Duo and their song “Paper Boys of the Fresno Bee.” The song is part of their Rogue show, “Downtown Fresno Blues,” a love letter to Fresno of years past in song. Their songs cover everything from Kearney Bowl to Lester Burger and something called the Sky Slide at Manchester Center (OK, who remembers that one?). But it’s the song about paper boys throwing papers from their bikes after school that had this unsuspecting Fresno Bee reporter smiling from ear to ear. The song references the days when The Bee was an afternoon paper. That all changed on Dec. 6, 1976. Their song poignantly ends with this verse:

“While internet readers now drift away and the morning delivery is every day, arms throwing from moving cars is what you’ll see, not paper boys of The Fresno Bee.”

The Spencer Morris Duo has three shows left: 7:45 p.m. March 2, 7:45 p.m. March 5, 11 a.m. March 8, Veni Vidi Vici, $5 in Rogue Bucks.

Here’s a little snippet of the song:

ROGUE REVIEW: Dolores

Rogue Festival Poster 2014by Tiffany HurtadoIf you’re looking for something different and a little weird, this is it. The program describes “Dolores” as a “mime opera,” a “dreamy futuristic tale about the final day of a 220-year-old woman.” Carolina “Coicoi” Duncan of Seattle is the mime who expresses emotions far deeper than the sidewalk mimes most of us are familiar with. Duncan graduated from the Flying Actor Studio and Clown Conservatory in San Francisco, and it’s definitely fascinating to watch how she moves her body as a part-robot woman. All of it is accompanied by the music and sound effects of Carlos M. Kampff.

A program handed out before the show is helpful in following along. The best parts are when Duncan is performing scenes of everyday life that most of us can relate to: blissful new love, infidelity, rage and heartbreak. My favorite scene depicted a newly married wife happily making breakfast for her husband, an act that turns into a resented chore as the marriage goes on. Kampff’s singing during this scene is as tasty as the fresh-baked biscuits and French toast he’s singing about.

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ROGUE REVIEW: The Awkward Art of Flying

Rogue Festival Poster 2014by Tiffany HurtadoThe Awkward Art of Flying is short on dialogue and long on physical acting — all of it done in pantaloons and corsets. Claire Patton and Lucia Rich of Boulder, Colo. start the show as cave women communicating with grunts. A portrayal of Amelia Earhart shows up throughout the show, along with other scenes of womanhood. Throughout, the pair dole out messages about being yourself and learning to fly in the metaphorical sense.

It’s the kind of experimental show Rogue is known for. At times, they lost me — why the heck was she biting her partner’s arm? — but the overall message is easy to grasp and there was plenty of laughter from the audience. The best parts of the show are when the spotlight is on the absurd: The cave women putting the blood from an animal they just killed for dinner on their cheeks as blush, a reluctant ballet dancer forcing her legs into a plié and an announcer reading rules of feminine virtue that women can’t possibly live up to. (“Never eat with your mouth open — or closed.”)

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Is tiger cub Arya named after Game of Thrones character?

imagesPeople on the internet are smiling today — at least Game of Thrones fans are — after it was revealed that one of the Malayan tiger cubs at Chaffee Zoo has the same name as a beloved Game of Thrones character: Arya. The name was one of several the zoo put up for a vote to the public. Not surprisingly, it got the most votes at 1,690. Several people on Facebook said they voted for the name because they love the character.

But it wasn’t intentional. Chaffee Zoo assistant curator Lyn Myers said they chose common Indonesian names and the 7-week-old cubs aren’t named after any characters. Arya means warrior or truthful — which is pretty fitting. For those not familiar with the wildy popular books by George R.R. Martin or the HBO series of the same, Arya Stark is a spunky character who is 9 years old in the first book. Unlike her princess sister, she’s a tomboy who loves swordplay. She spends much of the series fighting to get reconnected with her family — like a warrior would.

(Tiger photo — we’re not sure which of the four cubs this is — by Craig Kohlruss. Arya photo by Nick Briggs.)