We’re back for Part 3 of “Rogue Confessional,” our series of video interviews with Rogue Festival performers. It’s our Canadian trivia question: If you were in a Rogue show with bad boy Justin Bieber and Toronto crack-smoking-Mayor Rob Ford, what would you call it?
UPDATE MARCH 6
We’re up to 20-plus reviews of Rogue shows. Click here for a tidy way to see all those reviews, plus other Rogue coverage, in one place.
ROGUE CONFESSIONAL: Our third installment has been posted.
CANCELLATION: The Thursday performance of “What Mama Said About Down There” is cancelled. The Saturday performances are still on. Scroll past the jump for other cancelled shows you should know about.
ROGUE SALON: Don’t miss Josh Teehee’s video about Marcel Nunis’ daily morning salon, a tradition for Rogue organizers and performers.
Emily Windler is a Rogue veteran with two solid shows (“Poe and Matthews” and “Gary Has a Date”) under her belt in Fresno, and she returns in “Opera Frantique” to focus her considerable physical comedy skills on a subject ripe for skewering. There’s potential here for a memorable character and a crescendo of laughs, but this aria just keeps getting thinner, finally running out of air.
Windler’s character, Christina Pescalla, is on her farewell concert tour, and she’s here to sing some famous arias and share recollections from her storied career. Dressed in a black strapless evening gown, wide red scarf and white elbow-length gloves, Windler makes the most of her grand entrance when she gets the back of the dress caught on the side of the stage. She excels at small comic moments like these, and as she fumbles up there on stage, periodically yanking up her dress and fumbling with her scarf, the laughs build.
In Thursday’s Life section I offer an ArtHop roundup, starting off with a new show at Gallery 25:
Artists Joan Sharma and Carol Tikijian are concerned about climate change. In a new show at Gallery 25 titled “Draw the Line,” they collaborate on an exhibition that employs light, sound and text to offer viewers “an opportunity to reflect upon global issues around climate change that threatens the health of our planet.”
Sharma tells me that the one concept-driven installation – incorporating sound, light, color and text — “activates the entire gallery space.”
After the jump, some more ArtHop picks:
I don’t know about average foxes living in average woods, but I can tell you the title character in Fresno City College’s perky new production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” occupies some pretty swell underground digs.
And that’s no surprise, considering the college’s reputation for innovative design. With veteran costume designer Debra Erven directing the show and Christopher R. Boltz excelling with his scenic and lighting design, this charming stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl’s children’s book about a feisty fox is filled with visual wonders. The bright and gregarious show is perfect for smaller children, with lots of cute costumed animals and a sweet message of sharing. (Well, that, and also a message about absconding with resources hoarded by an oppressive oligarchy, all in the name of the collective, but those are political questions to be raised once your child gets a little older.)
The show continues through Saturday at the Fresno City College Theatre.
The Fresno Philharmonic is going all-Wagner on Sunday, and I have four pairs of tickets to give away to Beehive readers. “Ride of the Valkyries: Wagner’s Greatest Hits” will feature selections from some of Wagner’s most beloved operas, including “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg,” “Rienzi,” “Gotterdammerung,” “Tannhauser,” “Lohengrin” and “Die Walkure.” The orchestra, under the baton of music director Theodore Kuchar, will be joined by the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale and Fresno State Concert Choir, directed by Anna Hamre.
I have four pairs of tickets for the 2:30 p.m. Sunday performance to give away to Beehive readers.
To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post telling us if you’ve ever seen “Apocalypse Now” — and if you think the famous helicopter scene would have worked without Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” I’ll pick four winners, each of whom will win two tickets.
Deadline is 6 p.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Wednesday evening, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by Thursday morning, I reserve the right to pick another. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front counter by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up. Rules are on the jump.
It would be easy to come up with 39 reasons why the new Good Company Players production of “The 39 Steps” is such a successful show. Six of them would be the cast members.
As an ensemble, James Sherrill, Emily Pessano, Tyler Branco, Billy Anderson, Kaichen McRae and Teddy Maldonado are a well-honed comedy machine, sprinting through this clever show’s gags with finesse. Director Denise Graziani whips them through a torrent of locations at race-car speed, and on opening night I always got the sense that each cast member knew exactly how much to floor the accelerator. (The show continues at the 2nd Space Theatre through April 19.)
The big-band musical “In the Mood,” celebrating its 20th anniversary on tour, is returning to Fresno one year after its last visit here. The show, which features the 13-piece String of Pearls Big Band Orchestra and six singers and dancers, includes such favorites as “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B),” “In The Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
The show will be performed at the Tower Theatre 2 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. I have four tickets to give away to the Friday matinee. (Weekday matinees are uncommon in Fresno, so note the time.)
To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering this question: What is your favorite big-band song? I’ll pick two winners, each of whom will win two tickets.
Deadline is 6 p.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Wednesday evening, so keep a watch on your inbox. These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to come down to The Bee’s front counter to pick them up. You can watch a promotional video for the show and read the complete rules after the jump.
Here’s my favorite photo from The Bee’s Kids Day live blog. Way to go, DiCiccio Orthodontics:
My colleagues Rick Bentley, Ron Orozco, Kathy Mahan, John Walker, Mark Crosse and Craig Kohlruss worked hard on putting this special section together. Best way to read their work is to buy a paper from one of the many volunteers selling them on the street today. You can also check out our Kids Day page online and view a photo gallery.
We’re back for Part 2 of “Rogue Confessional,” our series of video interviews with Rogue Festival performers. Question of the day: What’s your weirdest Tower District experience?
PREVIOUSLY ON THE BEEHIVE
Rogue Confessional: What’s the most Rogue-ish thing you’ve ever done?
Steve Seabrook has a pretty good life, it would seem. He travels the self-help circuit roping in sad-sack folks willing to pony up big bucks for a weekend of affirming blather. He makes a decent living selling add-on items to those folks: special water, nutrition bars, a set of golf audio CDs. (You even get affirmations printed on the included golf tees.) Surely he must feel a sense of fulfillment — considering that’s the commodity he’s selling, right?
Yet even a self-help guru can need some help.
Kurt Bodden, the San Francisco comedian who brings to life the title character in “Steve Seabrook: Better Than You,” would probably have had a winning show even if he’d just stuck to a straight comic set about a glib personality trying to make a few bucks. But the talented Bodden takes things further — and in the process makes it into a great show. He gives us the smarmy, but he also peels that smarmy back to give us a glimpse at his character’s vulnerabilities.
One word for the Fresno Dance Collective’s new Rogue show: gorgeous.
Add a few more words: moving, thoughtful, thrilling, meaningful.
With “Raw Meat and Dignity,” NOCO once again graces the Rogue with the kind of show that should have audiences flocking. It’s exciting to see yet another fresh and ambitious full-scale production from Fresno’s leading contemporary dance company.
The show is semi-autobiographical in nature, based both on the experiences of artistic director Amy Querin and on those of the dancers. Querin describes it as “a fantastical exploration into the life of a charming, beautiful, heterosexual, white, Christian, upper-middle-class, overly educated, well-traveled, antebellum debutante lady-in-training.” In the opening movement, we start in the womb. (The choreography deftly captures an otherworldly sense of floating in amniotic fluid, if you will, and an effect conveying the sense of light that emanates from the mouth of fetus is exquisite.) From there it’s a journey through the ways that girls and young women in our culture are taught gender roles, from the blatant (we hear excerpts from “Emily Post’s Etiquette”) to the inculcated (a young girl growing up wants to wear her hair just like her glamorous neighbor).
Martin Dockery wowed the Rogue last year with his riveting show “The Bike Trip.” This year, he wowed me in a new way with his show “The Dark Fantastic”: how unsatisfying it is.
Making the experience sting that much more: It’s such a missed opportunity. Dockery is a stellar storyteller, and he brings to the stage prodigious rhetorical skills and a commanding presence. But his original material this time around — a bizarre series of interconnected tales featuring a main character who makes art by concentrating a stream of vomit through one overtaxed nostril — is a labored, preening, pretentious mush.
Dockery opens the show with a long, vague chapter set in a desert. With its rich, florid and indeterminate language, more tone poem than prose, it’s the type of introduction that seems like it’s deliberately trying to lose an audience. Once the material shifts into a (slightly) more narrative bent, and we’re immersed in a strange world of misbehaving copy machines, misogynistic work colleagues, depressed barbarians and the circus-performing artist whose medium is vomit, there’s more to grasp onto as an audience member. But is it worth it?
There’s a point in “The Great Green,” the droll and very satisfying piece of experimental dance theater offered by Boulder-based artist Joanna Rotkin, when you find her perched on top of an ice chest holding an American flag, a big raw-meat stain on her butt, her clothes wet and dirty from rolling in sod, and you think: What a mess.
Yes, humans make a mess of it in so many ways. Rotkin, who in this amiably meta performance strikes a cheerful, controlling persona with the audience, tells us that we can read great import into her actions. (We mess ourselves, we mess our planet?) Or we can’t. It’s up to us.
Amelia Ryan is a fine actress who’s well known to Fresno theater audiences. However, her Rogue show — an ode to court reporting titled “State Your Name for the Record” — just doesn’t work.
Ryan creates a character named Mrs. Conway, who is holding an open house at Mountain View College of Court Reporting. Our host is an outspoken advocate for court reporters — as is Ryan — and hopes to teach visitors a little about what her students are learning.
There are problems with the show in terms of consistent tone and structure. There’s a promise of comedy in the beginning, when Mrs. Conway calls “roll,” but it slips away. There’s social commentary, with Mrs. Conway offering some barbed critiques of a broken criminal justice system. But it, too, never feels comfortably woven into the narrative.
Benjamin Boone and his Evolution Jazz Quartet are a Rogue tradition — and rightly so. Boone’s first show of the Rogue on Friday was a solid set that offered a special guest star: Philip Levine, with whom Boone is collaborating on an upcoming CD that pairs Levine’s poetry with the sounds of the quartet. It’s pretty amazing to get to see a former Poet Laureate of the United States kick off the festival. Alas, the Levine appearance was a one-time thing. But Boone and his quartet return for three more Rogue performances.
Levine, a former Fresno State professor who still lives part-time in Fresno, knows well how to play the slightly curmudgeonly type, giving his moment in the Rogue spotlight a low-key, homespun feel. (He approached the stage from the audience still wearing his rain jacket, taking it off once he got there.) With “Gin,” told from a teen-age perspective, we heard a noirish, bluesy accompaniment. His famed Valley poem “Our Valley” was framed with a coolly majestic poem. And his “What Work Is” was my favorite in terms of the music complementing the poetry — and vice versa.
As for the quartet by itself, which is what you’ll get at the other Rogue performances: It’s tight and accomplished. (Boone several times on sax treated us to amazingly apoplectic trills — a highlight.) Even without a famous poet, I’m sure that Rogue Jazz will continue to deliver.
Details: 7 p.m. March 1, 10 p.m. March 7, 10 p.m. March 8, Cal Arts-Severance. $10 (Rogue Bucks or cash).
On the rarest of occasions — with a deft script and a smooth sense of how to put together a tight and compelling dramatic piece — therapy can make great theater.
Xan Scott’s disappointing “Out of Bounds” is not one of those occasions.
The Seattle-based Scott, who brought her show “Apocalypse Clown” to the Rogue last year, returns with an autobiographical one-person show detailing her immersion in a Korean yoga cult. Her story unfolds pretty much as you’d expect: Attracted at first to the giddy high of connecting with others through tai-chi-style exercises, she finds a sense of community — and a sense of purpose. (The constant need to raise money came later.) Slipping slowly into the cult’s clutches, Scott soon found herself on a fast track to a leadership role — which required her to break off all relationships with family and friends.
Let’s get personal with the performers of the Rogue. I headed out with Beehivers Josh Tehee and Craig Kohlruss to the Tower Theatre Thursday night before the big “Rogue Teaser Show” to chat with some of the locals and out-of-towners who make up this year’s performer lineup.
We asked several hard-hitting journalistic questions, which we’ll dribble out to you in the days to come. Our first: What’s the most Roguish thing you’ve ever done?
Our Backstage Spy series — giving a glimpse behind the scenes of the Rogue Festival — continues with guest blogger Stephen Mintz taking a closer look at “2 Rude Girls” who perform tonight.
Take it away, Stephen:
Longtime vocal darling Debi Ruud has been with Papa Clutch, produced Xmas albums, had her own solo albums, and has pretty much sung in every venue possible in the Central Valley. Her lovely daughter, Karter, has been backstage at a couple of plays, been in some ensembles, and works as a service darling at Good Company Players.
Years ago, when Debi was matriculating at Fresno State with her vocal masters, she had to put on a mandatory recital. Really no biggie for someone with her experience on-stage, and this night promised someone super special. Her cute-as-ever six year old baby girl Karter was in a beautiful blue dress and wanted to come out and sing a song of her own. What a treat! Mother and daughter, same stage, singing together.
Besides the Rogue Festival — which you can read all about in our “13 Things to Know About the Rogue” cover story in Friday’s 7 section — there are so many other things going on this weekend that we had to work to cram them all into the print edition of the paper.
Among the biggies: the Santa Barbara State Street Ballet’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” tonight at the Saroyan, Audra McDonald tonight at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia, the opening weekends of Good Company’s “The 39 Steps” at the 2nd Space and Fresno City College’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the annual showcase faculty music concert at Fresno State, and a series of concerts by the Fresno Choral Artists. You can read about them in my arts roundup from today’s paper. And you can read my Beehive interview with Steven Weatherbee, who plays the title role in “Mr. Fox,” here.
My colleague Josh fills you in lots more option in today’s 7 section as well, including an interview with Bill Cosby, who performs Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre.
Here on the Beehive we’ll be covering the Rogue all weekend, so watch for updates, reviews, videos and another installment of Backstage Spy.
Meet Mr. Fox.
Steven Weatherbee nabbed the plum title role in “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the new production opening Friday at Fresno City College. I caught up with him via email to ask him about the show.
Question: For those who haven’t read the book or seen the play, what is the basic story of “Fantastic Mr. Fox”?
A community of different animals lives in close proximity to one another under a big tree. Of these animals, Mr. Fox is the most clever, sly, and mischievous of them all. Every night, Mr. Fox goes out to steal food for his family from three nasty farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Fed up with being outsmarted by the fox time and again, the farmers devise a plan in order to rid themselves of Mr. Fox once and for all, dragging the rest of the animals into conflict as well.
How did you react when you learned you got the title role?
I was surprised, and then a rush of excitement fell over me. I told my family and closest friends first, and then others. I’m very proud of landing Mr. Fox as I’m a huge fan of the book and movie, but I didn’t want to go around tooting my horn about it to everyone either. I just hope everyone enjoys the show — there are so many good actors and actresses portraying all the roles.
In the past, the Beehive’s Backstage Spy series has focused on behind-the-scenes views of individual productions.
This time we — and by “we” I mean our hard-working guest blogger, Stephen Mintz — take on an entire institution: the Rogue Festival.
Fresno’s big fringe-style performance festival kicks off tonight at the Tower Theatre with “Around the Rogue in 80 Minutes (Or So),” a sneak-peek look at the more than 60 acts performing in this year’s festival. To mark the occasion we’re publishing our first Backstage Spy installment from Mintz, a Rogue staffer. The theme is the “techs” who make the festival hum, with a spotlight on venue manager Amber Strid (featured in a video interview by Mintz above), one of more than 100 Rogue volunteers this year. It’s a great read that reveals the by-the-bootstraps origins of the Rogue. It also might make you think about donating a little more when the Rogue bucket is passed after performances, because that’s how the festival raises money to pay for equipment.
With that, we turn the cursor over to Stephen.
BACKSTAGE SPY GOES ROGUE
Ah, the Rogue. 10 venues plus other people bringing their own venues, and 60+ performers bringing shows over two weeks. They work on their shows, but the Rogue organizers work on the thing the entire year long.
Other than Strummers, the other nine performance venues aren’t really performance venues at all. Mia Cuppa is a coffee shop, Dianna’s dance studio is where they teach ballroom dance (among other dances), Spectrum is an art gallery, and Veni Vidi Vici’s is a restaurant.
Which means when it’s Rogue time, the all-volunteer staff has to dig up some techs to set up lights and sound in each venue, and have other techs run the shows for the performers.
Here’s a great opportunity for families. Santa Barbara’s State Street Ballet brings “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” 6:30 p.m. Friday to the Saroyan Theatre, and I have two four-packs of tickets to give away.
The performance, sponsored by the Valley Performing Arts Council, features professional dancers from The State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara and Fresno Ballet Theatre, as well as nearly 40 student dancers from the Valley.
To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering this question: Which of the seven dwarfs is your favorite? I’ll pick two winners, each of whom will win four tickets.
Deadline is 6 p.m. Wednesday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winner by email on Wednesday evening, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by Thursday morning, I reserve the right to pick another. (I want to make sure these tickets go to good use.) These are paper tickets, so you’ll need to be able to come down to The Bee’s front counter by 5 p.m. Friday to pick them up. Rules are on the jump.
Local fans already know that Audra McDonald will be performing Friday at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia. Not long after that, she will be back on Broadway. Playbill reports:
Five-time Tony Award-winning actressAudra McDonald will return to Broadway as Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson’s play with music, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” which will begin performances March 25 at Circle in the Square.
The 1959-set play, which centers on one of Holiday’s final public appearances, takes place in Philadelphia four months before the singer’s death. The 90-minute show includes such songs as “God Bless the Child,” “Strange Fruit,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “When a Woman Loves a Man,” “Foolin’ Myself,” “Don’t Explain,” “Somebody’s On My Mind,” “Taint Nobody’s Bizness,” “Baby Doll” and more.
The New York Times calls the late-breaking announcement “an unexpected return to Broadway.”
For more on the Friday concert: Here’s an Audra interview from a Gannett writer that ran in the Visalia Times-Delta.
Readers continue to write and call with recollections of Dorothy Renzi, the beloved professional singer who came home from New York in the 1960s to teach and perform in Fresno. She died on Feb. 12 at age 90.
First, the news angle: I talked with Dorothy’s daughter, Jennifer, earlier this week about her mom’s memorial service. (People have been calling and emailing me asking if I know details.) Jennifer says the service is still pending, but it’s likely to be within the next couple of months.
Moving on to reader recollections:
Susan Yost-Filgate passed along an amusing photo of Renzi and her husband, sculptor Clement, arriving at a front door for a “pirate party”: she in a white dress and bright-red skull-and-crossbones bandana, he with eye patch and matching red head scarf.
Fifteen minutes later, Clement spilled a glass of red wine on Dorothy, completing the color scheme. “She was such a good sport about it,” Yost-Filgate remembers, adding: “I shall miss her wit and her amazing skills at Boggle.”