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Notes from the arts beat

Catching up on the arts beat:

NEW SEASON
The didgeridoo is back! The Fresno Philharmonic has announced its 2014-15 concert season. The orchestra will perform six Masterworks programs in the Saroyan Theatre and Shaghoian Hall. It also will present two Pops concerts and its annual Link Up education concerts for schools at the Saroyan. From the orchestra:

Masterworks season highlights include the return of Australian didjeridu virtuoso William Barton performing the nature-infused music of Peter Sculthorpe, cellist Zuill Bailey performing Prokofiev’s late masterpiece the Sinfonia Concertante paired with Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, a program of Spanish and Latin American dance music including Ravel’s Boléro, a weekend-long marathon performance of the Complete Piano Concertos of Beethoven with pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and a special concert in April 2015 commemorating the Armenian Genocide centered on the world-premiere of Fresno based composer Serouj Kradjian’s Cantata for the Living Martyrs, a work specially composed for this occasion, with mezzo-soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian as soloist. This concert, one of many community events next year marking this tragedy, also features violinist Catherine Manoukian performing the Khachaturian Violin Concerto and choral works performed by the Fresno Master Chorale and the Fresno State Concert Choir.

You can find the full lineup at the Fresno Philharmonic’s website.

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Congrats to 2014 Horizon Awards winners

The Fresno Arts Council will honor some prominent names in the arts community with its annual Horizon Awards Aug. 14 at the Fresno Art Museum. Here are this year’s honorees, with bios provided by the Fresno Arts Council: 

Artist: Bill Bruce is a self-taught painter who got his start in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. He was a member of a group of artists calling themselves the Artist’s Consortium, exhibiting in small store fronts and Golden Gate Park. He has exhibited at Le Bault Gallery in San Francisco, Coffee’s Art Gallery on the Fulton Mall and has been a member of the Fig Tree Gallery since 1990. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts District Association and is a regular participant in the downtown Art Hop program. Abstract expressionism has been the greatest influence in his work as an artist. His work includes sculpture, three dimensional art, photography, and making use of nontraditional objects to provide artful directions. (Pictured above: a work from Bruce’s “50 Shades of Yellow” 2013 exhibition at Fig Tree Gallery.)

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And now a word from Winthrop

“The Music Man” is in its closing weekend in Clovis, and I couldn’t let the occasion slip by without giving 6-year-old Jackson Estep, who plays Winthrop in the show, a moment of Beehive fame. Here’s my video:

P.S. — I wrote about Jackson and the Estep family — there are five of them all appearing in the show together — in Thursday’s Life section. It turns out they have company. Cheryl Martin writes:

You may not be aware that there is another family with 5 members in the production.  They are the Smiths.  Father Patrick, sons Michael Patrick and Tim, daughters Anna and Joy (who played Amaryllis).  What are the odds of that happening?

Think about it: Even with a cast of more than 60, the Esteps and Smiths together make up a significant percentage of “The Music Man” cast.

Weekend pick: ‘Virginia Woolf’

There are lots of theater options this weekend, but I want to give a last shout-out for Artists’ Repertory Theatre’s impressive “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” now in its final weekend at California Arts Academy’s Severance Theatre. It plays 8 p.m Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. From my review:

This is an exemplary production — one of the best of the year locally. Long before there were games involving hunger, George and Martha set the standard for weird, memorable and dangerous antics.

And if you’ve never seen the stage version of this acclaimed show, you owe it to yourself to see a great piece of American theater.

The Beehive Interview: Joel C. Abels talks about ‘The Mountaintop’

The Beehive caught up with Joel C. Abels of StageWorks Fresno, whose production of “The Mountaintop” opens Friday at the Dan Pessano Theatre. You can find excerpts from my Q&A interview in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s the extended interview.

Question: You saw “The Mountaintop” on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. Describe your reaction and why you wanted so much to bring this show to Fresno.

Answer: There was something incredibly powerful and moving about that production that really inspired me to bring this play to Fresno audiences. Yes, seeing both of those actors performing such complex characters added to that but it was really the way with which Katori Hall allowed us to see another side of Dr. Martin Luther King when faced with his own mortality that was really impactful. One of my goals with StageWorks Fresno is to challenge our audiences with new and socially relevant works as well as showcasing local actors in dream roles. After seeing the play on Broadway in 2011 and having just worked with Camille Gaston on “Ragtime earlier” that year, it was abundantly clear that the role of Camae would be a fantastic vehicle for her, allowing audiences to see her in a completely different light.

Give us a brief synopsis.

In short, it is a fictional account of Dr. King’s last night on earth and his encounter with a maid at the Lorraine Hotel where he is staying. I don’t want to give too much more away, if you catch my drift.

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The Beehive Interview: Aaron Spjute talks about ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

The Woodward Shakespeare Festival production of “The Taming of the Shrew” is in its opening weekend at Woodward Park, and we caught up with director Aaron Spjute to chat about the show. You can find excerpts from the Q&A interview in Friday’s 7 section; here’s the extended version.

Question: I just want to make sure I’ve got your artistic concept for this correct. Are the traditionally male roles in “Taming of the Shrew” being played by women as women in the show? (Which would, essentially, make the relationship between Petruchio and Katharine a lesbian one.) Or do the male characters remain male but just happen to be played by women?

Answer: “The Taming of the Shrew” has over 20 parts and only three of them are female. In this production, every actor plays multiple roles and all are portrayed as men presented by an all female cast. So it’s all male characters presented by women.

Are you changing pronouns and other gender references? Are costumes gender-specific?

None of the names or pronouns have been changed. Baptista, presented by Jessica Reedy, is called “father” and nearly every character is referred to as “sir” or “lord.” The women wear dresses and have long hair; the men don’t.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘West Side Story’

When Tony, brandishing the optimism and ache of youth, is singing the last notes of “Something’s Coming,” how can you help but feel an anticipatory shiver? Then we shift in “West Side Story” to the famous dance in the high school gymnasium — the setting in which the rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks will square off, sparking love and tragedy.

I love this moment in the show when the music pounds an expectant beat and the twirling dresses of the women seem to float forever in a world of possibility. And it comes across gorgeously in the new and uneven Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater.

The dancing is the great strength of this production. With only a few exceptions, the cast does justice to the demanding choreographic expectations of this show — which requires a top-notch dance ensemble. The flashy steps of “America”? First-rate. The jittery kinetic flash of the “Jet Song”? Impressive. The comic moves of “Officer Krupke”? Slick and funny.

Co-choreographers Julie Lucido and Greg Grannis use the small Roger Rocka’s stage to maximum effect, and this is an occasion to single out the dance captains (Marc Gonzalez and Maria Monreal) and fight choreographers (tony sanders and Brent Moser) as well, because movement is what gives the production its sizzle.

That said, the acting, singing and direction in this production are not always as strong as the dancing.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Music Man’

In terms of aw-shucks family wholesomeness — the kind that seems tailor-made for good-hearted, sprawling summer community-theater productions — it’s hard to beat Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.”

Consider a wonderful moment in the uneven new CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production, now in its final weekend at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre. Watch 6-year-old Jackson Estep, a few years younger than called for in the script but already possessing an impressive confidence on stage, step out as Winthrop in the “The Wells Fargo Wagon” to belt out a lisp-dominated solo. It’s just so cute you want to box up the moment in a pretty package and take it home with you, there to enjoy at your leisure when the world gets surly.

There are some good reasons, then, that CenterStage loves this time-honored show. The company last produced “The Music Man” just six years ago.

It’s only natural for me to compare the latest version with the 2008 incarnation. While the new production, directed by Scott Hancock, has some exuberant moments and performances, including Winthrop in “Wells Fargo,” and a great “Shipoopi” dance number, it’s not as accomplished as the earlier version. Sometimes it seems downright creaky.

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Opening tonight: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Now here’s a twist on the traditional “Taming of the Shrew” for you: The entire cast of the new Woodward Shakespeare Festival production, opening Thursday at Woodward Park, is made up of women actors. Aaron Spjute directs. From the company:

‘Shrew” is a comical battle of the sexes, an exploration of how men and women interact and a commentary on the roles society expects them to fill. Spjute has chosen an all-female cast in order to present an exaggerated theatrical experience. “…servants become masters, masters become servants and even the sun becomes the moon simply by being proclaimed as such,” Spjute explains. At its heart, the production challenges us to embrace the idea that we are so often much more than the labels others assign to us.

Coming Friday: excerpts from a Q&A interview with Spjute in Friday’s 7 section; and an extended interview with him on the Beehive.

Win tickets to ‘The Mountaintop’

StageWorks Fresno on Friday opens a play that recently attracted a lot of attention when it appeared on Broadway in 2011: “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall. It’s a fictional account of the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, set in a Memphis motel room. It can be controversial to some because it presents King as a real person, not a saint. “It pushes some buttons, because people don’t want to recognize their heroes were not perfect, ” says director Joel C. Abels. (Coming Friday: excerpts from a Q&A session with Abels in the 7 section, and an extended interview on the Beehive.)

“The Mountaintop” plays at the Dan Pessano Theatre (on the campus of Clovis North High School) for just two weekends, through Aug. 3. And thanks to the Beehive, you have a chance to win a “four pack” of tickets to any of the opening weekend shows (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday). 

I’m giving away two of these four-packs, and I’ll pick the winners randomly. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: If you’d had the chance to meet Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you have asked him? (If you’d prefer not to get philosophical, you can just tell us why you’d like to see the show.) 

Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Friday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Friday at 10, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 2 p.m. Friday, I reserve the right to pick another. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at the theater box office. Rules are on the jump.

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The Beehive Interview: Jeannette Herrera talks about her show at Arte Americas

Jeannette Herrera’s new show at Arte Americas isn’t exactly a quiet affair. Her paintings seethe and shout. I felt their raw energy the moment I walked into the gallery.

In my Sunday Spotlight column I write:

Her paintings in oil and acrylic are rowdy, funny, violent, tender, explosive and passionate. Fantastical creatures, Peruvian imagery, religious icons, sexual gyrations, unabashed nudity, street culture and personal trauma all swirl together into a colorful stew. Some of her paintings rollick with humor. Others bristle with anger. Some manage to do both.

I caught up with Herrera — a recent transplant to Lemoore who followed her Navy boyfriend from the East Coast — for an extensive email interview, portions of which I distilled into my Sunday column. Here’s that extended version.

Question: Painting is therapy for you. Tell us about the attack on you in 2004 and how you’ve coped afterward.

Answer: The details are not so important as much as the aftermath of this event is to me. One night in 2004, I was walking home. I never quite made it. Woke up in an ambulance with my face rearranged and with a skull fracture that ran from the top of my skull, down through my sinuses. I don’t remember the actual attack and I’m more than OK with that. It’s nothing I like to retell or think about too much in depth.

I had already had issues with social anxiety but after that ordeal I really shut myself off from the world. There were few people I trusted being alone with. Social engagements or crowds were not an option, and what I considered a crowd was anyone other than myself. I saw no one but my children, and even then I wouldn’t let them see me until my face was healed. Driving was close to impossible for me from my anxiety issues, so I just didn’t do it. I was a different person and understanding my reclusiveness was difficult for many.

This was when I started creating again. I had terrible insomnia and all those waking hours to fill with something hopefully other than anxious thoughts, so I painted. What seemed like cute or adorable images to other people were things in my head I really needed to work out.

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Word sleuth: the local theater edition

How much theater is going on in Fresno this weekend and next? So much that we decided to take the titles of a bunch of local shows and turn them into their very own “Theater Sleuth” word search. It makes for a wonderful 7 cover:

Hat tip to Bee artist John Alvin, who dreamed up this cheery exercise. Here’s my 7 section theater roundup cover story.

Last night I got to see “West Side Story.” Tonight I’m dropping in on River City and “The Music Man.”

Two big plugs for continuing shows this weekend: “[title of show]“ at StageWorks Fresno (in its last weekend), and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at Artists’ Repertory Theatre (only two weekends left).

And be sure to check out Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss’ “West Side Story” photo gallery. He has some really nice images. 

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Opening tonight: ‘West Side Story’ and ‘The Music Man’

Talk about a pair of American musical theater classics: Good Company Players opens “West Side Story” tonight at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater; and CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre opens “The Music Man” at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. They’re two slices of Americana.

Watch for our cover story in Friday’s 7 section about how you can go on a local theater binge this weekend and next.

Pictured: Above, the Jets in “West Side Story.” (Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.) Below, Eric Estep, center, is Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” (Bee photo by Eric Paul Zamora.)

Elaine Stritch, 1926-2014

Can’t believe she’s gone. From the New York Times:

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

The tributes, posts, Tweets and memories are flowing in. I like this one from StageWorks Fresno’s Joel Abels:

Rest in Peace Ms. Stritch. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody RIIIIIIIIISE!

Here’s a nice YouTube video (hat tip to Kyle Behen via Facebook) of Stritch and her famous song “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch”:

THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Underpants’

There are several problems with the well-intentioned but uneven production of “The Underpants” playing at the Fresno Soap Co., but the biggest is this: a sense of scale.

Director R.S. Scott needs to dial back on the broadness of his cast member’s performances and the vigorous tone of his direction in this gentle farce about a woman in 1910 Germany who creates a scandal when she drops her underpants at a parade for the king. In a word, most of the performances are too big, especially in the intimate space of the Fresno Soap Co., formerly known as the Broken Leg Stage. Gestures, vocals and in general an overall sense of “staginess” need to be more restrained.

“The Underpants” is a production of the Curtain 5 Theatre Group and Jump Right in Productions. I’m grateful that it decided to stage this comedy, adapted by the actor Steve Martin from Carl Sterheim’s German clever farce, because it was my first time seeing it.

In the play, we meet Louise (Rhesma Meister),the young wife of a blustery Dusseldorf clerk. Her husband, Theo (Christopher Cook), is irate because she is the talk of the town for dropping her underpants at the parade. Her slightly salacious act seems to correspond with her own sexual frustrations. (Her husband says they can’t afford a baby.) Things get complicated when two men — a hypochondriac barber (Clinton Couron) and a suave and unctuous poet (Jason Andrew) show up wanting to rent a room in Louise and Theo’s flat. They aren’t so much interested in the lodgings as they are in the landlady.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

The first real dagger of the evening comes early.

“Lay off my father,” snaps Martha, aka theater’s most famous frustrated 1960s faculty wife. Leslie Martin, who brings the character in Edward Albee’s classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to life in an outstanding Artists’ Repertory Theatre production at the Severance Theatre, imbues her words to her husband with a steely, razor-sharp menace that could be the precursor to a “Game of Thrones”-style killing spree.

Up till this point the slings and arrows in this whimsically ferocious outing have been of the play-fighting variety, as we watch one of the famous sparring couples in American theater history — Martha and her professor husband, George, played with towering skill and feeling by Brad Myers — spar with each other in an evening of “fun and games.” Martha’s father is president of the small New England college at which her husband works, and even though both enjoy mocking the old man, there are lines that can be crossed.

One of the great strengths of “Virginia Woolf” is in the way it can turn dangerous on you in a split-second. I love how this production, directed by Myers, makes you feel that danger. But this is more than the story of an alcohol-fueled raging couple. The play is built on a toxic relationship, and yet Albee keeps us guessing throughout as to where these characters truly stand.

There are far wider more perilous lines than sniping about Martha’s father that are crossed later in the play, but even when things get uglier — and, oh, how ugly they get — there’s always a sense of ambiguity.

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Release ‘Day’: Hear Audra’s ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’

If you aren’t lucky enough to get back to New York by Sept. 21 to catch Audra McDonald in her historic Tony Award-winning performance as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” you can at least listen to the Broadway cast album, which was released today. When I saw the show in May I wrote:

McDonald, to me, has one of the most instantly recognizable voices I’ve ever heard. Give me two seconds of her with almost any song and I’ll snap: “Audra.” Yet in Lanie Robertson’s 1986 play, which recounts a night of the life of Billie Holiday near the end of her life, McDonald burrows into her character with such intense authenticity (and does crazy-screwy things with her voice that completely tamps down her operatic tendencies into a bluesy twang) that I simply forgot I wasn’t in the presence of Billie Holiday herself.

Here’s the show’s Facebook page.

A ‘Road’ taken with a memory of Jack Kerouac

Sometimes a book sneaks up on you. That was the case for me with Tim Z. Hernandez’s “Manana Means Heaven,” a fascinating account of the real “Mexican girl” in Jack Kerouac’s classic book “On the Road.”  In my Sunday Spotlight centerpiece column, I wrote about Hernandez and how he tracked down Bea Franco, a Selma farmworker who in 1947 had a passionate fling with the author when she met him on a bus in Bakersfield. From my column:

Scholars knew Franco’s name because Kerouac wrote about her in his journals, and love letters from her to him exist. But no one had ever tracked her down — or, as the years went on, even dreamed she was still alive.

Then came Tim Z. Hernandez, the poet, writer and performance artist whose rich family farmworker history — an upbringing rooted in the fertile fields of the Valley — has informed much of his art. In 2010 he found the 90-year-old Bea, who had remarried and went by her last name of Kozera, living just down the street from Fresno’s Roosevelt High School.

It was only a mile and half from his own home. He knocked at her door to ask, essentially, if she would talk about an affair she had 65 years ago.

While Kerouac referred to Franco as simply “Terry” in “On the Road,” he revealed her name in his journals. More than 20 biographies and scholarly works on Kerouac and “On the Road” mention Franco, but Hernandez was the only person to track her down and talk to her before she died last year.

So how did Hernandez’s book sneak up on me? Because it has made me think a lot about memory.

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Tonight: StageWorks Fresno cabaret

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The StageWorks Fresno cabaret performance is always one of the highlights of the summer theater season. It’s your chance to see performers in the current StageWorks production, “[title of show],” strut their stuff out of character. Plus there are other musical theater guests as well, and artistic director Joel Abels promises a surprise or two at tonight’s lineup.

The cabaret is at 10 p.m. at the Dan Pessano Theatre, following tonight’s “[title of show]” performance, and it costs $10. I’m sure it will be a treat.

Weekend pick: La Forza

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It’s a flute lover’s dream. La Forza, a flute choir organized by Janette Erickson, will give its second annual concert 3 p.m. Saturday at Memorial United Methodist Church in Clovis. The choir is made up of students and former students of Erickson, the principal flutist of the Fresno Philharmonic. Erickson and Nicola Iacovetti will share conducting duties. The program includes music by Bach, Kodaly, Faure, Respighi, Bloch, Bartok, Vivaldi, Liadov and Tchaikovsky.

Erickson writes:

Besides the current students, there are returning former students that are playing and acting as mentors to the younger ones. Colleen Carlson, a UOP graduate and former student, will be soloing Vivaldi’s “Summer” from the Four Seasons. The group is also augmented by bass clarinest, John Ayala and string bassist, Steve Walker.

Note: The concert is Saturday, not Sunday, as was listed in Friday’s 7 section. (My bad.) Tickets are free. Details: (559) 299-4615.

The Beehive Interview: Brad Myers talks about ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’

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In Friday’s 7 section I have an interview with Brad Myers about Friday’s opening of Artists’ Repertory Theatre’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” It’s been 30 years since this classic play was seen in Fresno. Myers directs the show, which runs through July 27 at the Severance Theatre, and also stars as George, one-half of the play’s famed George-and-Martha-married-couple sparring duo.

Here’s an extended version of Myers’ interview.

Question: For those who aren’t familiar with the play, give us a brief synopsis.

Answer: George, a professor at a small university, and his wife, Martha, the daughter of the university’s president, return home after attending a faculty party at the home of Martha’s father. It is after 2 in the morning. However, Martha informs George that she has invited over a new young faculty member (Nick) and his wife (Honey). The unsuspecting couple arrives, and is introduced to the remarkable wit and sparring of the older couple. The banter between George and Martha is initially playful. However, their well-exercised games begin to cross dangerous new boundaries. Through the course of the evening, the party antics whirl out of control, careening from eruptive humor to dramatic intensity. Ultimately, George is forced to conduct a drastic and final game.

You played George when you were in graduate school at the University of Arizona. Tell us about that experience.

I remember two things most vividly about the experience. The first was working with Glenda Young, who played Martha. We spent many hours outside of rehearsal working to incorporate a rich biographical history into our portrayals. Immediately after we closed in “Virginia Woolf,” Glenda and I went into rehearsals for a local dinner theatre production of “I Do! I Do!.” I suspect there was an unintended transfer of the “Virginia Woolf” dynamic that gave that frothy musical an eerily dark undertone. Secondly, I recall Edward Albee attending one of our “Virginia Woolf” performances, followed by a talk back with the playwright. Of course, I was terrified given Mr. Albee had a reputation for being painfully blunt. However, he was very kind. Or, at least, forgiving.

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Win tickets to ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

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Edward Albee’s 1962 drama “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a great American play — and, for the first time in more than 30 years, you’ll get a chance to see it in the Fresno area. The Artists’ Repertory Theatre production, directed by Brad Myers, opens Friday at the California Arts Academy’s Severance Theatre. I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the opening weekend performances. If you win, you can choose between the 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday or 2 p.m. Sunday shows.

To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: What is your favorite Brad Myers-directed production from his long and illustrious tenure on the Fresno theater scene? (If you aren’t familiar enough with his body of work to answer, no worries: just say his “Assassins” at Fresno State, one of my favorites.)

Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Friday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Friday at 10, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by noon Friday, I reserve the right to pick another. You’ll be able to pick up your tickets at the theater box office. Rules are on the jump.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘[title of show]‘

My Capture

I’ve seen “[title of show]“ three times now. The first time, back in 2006,  was the original Off-Broadway version at the Vineyard Theatre. The next two times have been thanks to StageWorks Fresno, which produced this trippy, self-referential musical about two friends writing a musical first in 2010 at the Severance Theatre, and now, a new version at the Dan Pessano Theatre.

What strikes me after three viewings is this: I’m amazed how much I end up rooting for the “show within a show” to succeed.

Even though we all know the outcome even before “[title of show]” begins — this tiny production with four characters and a keyboard did make it all the way to Broadway, back in 2008 — I’ve gotten wrapped up each time in the excitement and tension of cheering the show on despite almost impossibly long odds. The show’s creators, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, make the leap from what could be a smarmy, cloying exercise in self-indulgence (“look at us as we impishly chronicle our artistic journey!”) into something that feels bigger than two guys plus their two gal friends riding an express train to Musical Theater Geekdom. There’s a freshness of spirit, a warmth and appeal to the artist in us all, that transcends the fluff.

Director Joel Abels finds the upbeat crispness in the show while still milking it for all its warmth.

The new StageWorks Fresno production is deftly staged and beautifully sung. Still, if I were to square it off against the 2010 version in a cage match, I’d give the nod by a nose to the earlier version.

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Facebook photo of the day

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Ah, summer. It used to be that people took fantastic vacations, came home, waited to bump into friends at parties, and then shared a few select details about the big trip. Photos and slides, which were developed upon the return home, were actually seen by relatively few numbers of acquaintances until Christmas newsletter time.

Now, in our digital age, the summer vacation can unfold in real time. Which is good and bad. On one hand, it can make it harder to slow-boil through a 106-degree Fresno afternoon knowing that friends are enjoying a beer at a Parisian street cafe, say. On the other hand, it’s great to share in the fun.

When it comes to the above photo of Jackie Ryle, passionate advocate of the arts in Fresno, it just makes me smile to think of her shock of vivid hair slicing through the waters of Venice. What a trip! Good for her.

An artistic eyeful on the way to Yosemite

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Lots of people are traveling on Highway 41 to Yosemite on this holiday weekend. If you are, don’t forget to get a look at the intriguing new installation on the back wall of the Timberline Gallery. I wrote about it in my Sunday Spotlight column:

The gallery’s Art Quilt Block Mural is two stories tall and 70 feet wide. You’ll find it installed on the gallery’s north outside wall, giving a prime view to motorists traveling south on Highway 41 as they enter Oakhurst.

The project was the idea of Coarsegold fiber artist Vivian Helena Aumond-Capone. Barn quilt blocks, in which pieces of wood are painted to look like quilts and then positioned on barns, are becoming quite popular. Some communities have organized “Barn Quilt Block Trails” in which people drive around and look at various highlighted quilt blocks.

The Timberline artists opted for a mural-like configuration. Gallery member Jacqueline Kurtt figured out how to engineer and install the project, which consists of 19 pieces of wood, each 4-feet square, configured to hang on point. The gallery invited other artists from its neighbors at Gallery Row to contribute. The result: 12 painted boards and seven photographs on metal.

All are inspired by Yosemite, with subjects ranging from animals and trees to water and snow.

The installation is permanent. Trees have been trimmed and a light installed, and there is an area for cars to pull over so you can get out and contemplate at your leisure instead of trying to see everything at 40 mph. Enjoy!