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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Tonight: North Fresno ArtHop

Assemblage and mixed-media artist Myrna Axt is the guest featured artist for North Fresno ArtHop at The Vintage Market, 601 W. Shaw Ave. She’ll be featuring her assemblage “characters” and small works. She writes: 

There is something magical about taking an ordinary or dilapidated object and reviving it into something extraordinary. My art reflects my surroundings, imagination and many times my, my political view. One of my outlets has been creating assemblage art, a three-dimensional composition, putting together found objects, altered bits and pieces, along with my imagery.

ArtHop runs 5-8 p.m. Check out the Fresno Arts Council’s website for more venues. Pictured: Axt’s “Where’s Pooh? (Bear).”

Oakhurst’s Junction fire: coping by painting

I’ve long been a fan of Coarsegold painter Anita Stoll, who is known for her sumptuous pastels of the foothills of eastern Madera County. The Junction fire — which is 0% contained as I write this — has troubled (and scared) her deeply, of course. It’s the desecration of her sanctuary, so to speak.

This morning, in just a few hours, Stoll painted the emotional work above. There’s a sense to the painting of smoky menace, of terrain that’s in a sort of no-man’s-land limbo, yet there’s also a tough, rugged resilience. She writes on Facebook:

Untitled, 9 x 11, pastel. I had to express myself through my art on what’s going on hère in the foothills of Yosemite more specifically the area in and around Oakhurst. Words just wouldn’t come. So I expressed myself as an artist.Too emotional for me to talk about.

We’re rooting for those gorgeous foothills.

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Meanwhile, social media is changing the way people help out those impacted by natural disasters. Also on Facebook, I came across this gofundme.com page set up by Oakhurst movie guy Matt Sconce raising money for James Mierkey and his parents, Pat and MaryHelen Mierkey, whose houses burned down Monday night. (“They escaped with only the clothes on their back,” Sconce writes.) As of 4:15 p.m. today, 68 people had donated $3,970. I’m sure other such pages and worthwhile causes have popped up. Here’s a view of the Mierkey property:

A stirring ‘Summer Soiree’

Amy Querin, artistic director of NOCO (and one of this city’s most impressive creative souls), stood on the now-empty “stage” holding court after her dance company’s performance Sunday night at the Fresno Art Museum. She graciously accepted the compliments pressed upon her by the well-wishers surrounding her for “Summer Soiree,” but in a moment of self-deprecation, she lamented that she didn’t have more time to more effectively transform the performance space into “another world.”

I respectfully disagree. The space that Querin and her hard-working company created in the museum’s lobby/atrium for the production — which paired members of the company with a Fresno Philharmonic string quartet — indeed had an otherworldly ambiance. The audience sat on risers, and the wall behind the performance space was swathed with fabric that echoed the billowing feel of the centerpiece aerial rig. The colors of the beige fabric of the rig and its gold-colored metal support beams seemed perfectly in sync with the nude color of the draperies. Above the audience hung dozens of paper origami birds. The effect was muted and ethereal — a refined, stylish atmosphere.

It was entrancing.

So was getting to watch dance paired with live music. The string quartet gave a stirring version of Kevin Volans’ “White Man Sleeps,” whose “wild meters,” as Querin describes them, meshed well with the robust choreography.

Adding a poignant touch of the evening: Querin’s farewell to Jackie Aldern, the assistant director, and Hannah Cavallaro, the rehearsal director. They’re the company’s last two original company members. A new NOCO generation has begun. 

Best of all was the overall world that Querin — helped by gobs of people, including Fresno Phil executive director Stephen Wilson — helped create. For a few hours on a Sunday evening, it was as if the museum were transformed into an elegant oasis — a sophisticated cultural buzz-spot filled with people who want the local arts scene to just keep getting better. That’s a world worth believing in.

The Beehive Interview: Mimi Mott-Smith

Mimi Mott-Smith’s new exhibition at Fresno City Hall, titled “Views of Fresno,” offers an intriguing perspective on this place we call home. Mott-Smith’s style is fiercely minimalist, and in her paintings of Fresno buildings in particular she’s able to home in on the way this region’s brilliant sunlight washes out colors and creates a pale, creamy ambiance. Yet the artist maintains her critical eye, offering a visual commentary of aspects of the city she finds pleasing, amusing and sometimes appalling.

I caught up with Mott-Smith, who had an extensive medical career before she shifted to painting, for an email interview, portions of which I distilled into my Sunday Spotlight column. Here’s the extended version.

Question: You’re calling this show “Views of Fresno.” Is there a double meaning?

Answer: Very perspicacious question: Yes, there is a double meaning in most of the images. Dualities like personal: impersonal, seriousness: satire, literal:ironic, serious: humorous. For example, the small house with the very large flag that covers a third of it, speaks to the literal in that it shows the strength of people’s feelings re patriotism here, but ironic to me because I see it as a “doth protest too much” type of thing, the insecurity that underlies the over-the-top-flag show. I have not seen this kind of thing elsewhere either in the US or in other countries, but I admit I have not been everywhere in the US either.

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Weekend pick: NOCO’s ‘Summer Soire’

My Beehive colleague Joshua Tehee already flagged this as one of his “5 Things You Should Do This Weekend,” but I wanted to give it an extra boost.

It’s exciting to see collaborations between local arts organizations. And this Sunday’s “Summer Soire” at the Fresno Art Museum, featuring the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) and a string quartet representing the Fresno Philharmonic, sounds especially refreshing.

The Bee’s Sharon Martin writes about the event in Friday’s 7 section cover story:

The event, at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. First St., features aerial and contemporary dancers paired with live music from the Fresno Philharmonic string quartet. The quartet will perform Kevin Volans’ String Quartet No. 1, “White Man Sleeps.” This is the first time the Fresno Dance Collective and the Fresno Philharmonic have worked together.

The dance will feature aerialists both inside and outside the Fresno Art Museum. Performances include two aerial duets, two dance solos, one duet dance, one trio dance and one group dance.

I’m looking forward to it.

Pictured: Jackie Aldern of NOCO. Bee photo by Craig Kohlruss.

Hats off to ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’

If you want the full San Francisco experience, you’ve got to do “Beach Blanket Babylon” at least once. It’s an institution. For 40 years, the wacky musical revue has been cracking up locals and tourists with its changing political and pop-culture references, wild costumes and enormous hats.

In my Sunday Spotlight column, I caught up with Tammy Nelson — who’s been in the show for more than 20 years — and talked to her about, among other things, wearing the famed San Francisco skyline hat (complete with Transamerica Pyramid) in the show’s finale. 

It weighs 300 pounds!

Also as part of my mini-San Francisco story package, I offer a museum exhibition recommendation: “Gorgeous” at the Asian Art Museum. The 72 eclectic artworks, from a decorated Qur’an from 16th-century Persia to Jeff Koons’ ceramic sculpture of “Michael Jackson and Bubbles,” span over 2,200 years and dozens of cultures.

Sacramento Philharmonic and Sacramento Opera scrap fall seasons

Wow. The arts news in Sacramento is dire. From the Sacramento Bee:

For the first time in its 17-year history, the Sacramento Philharmonic will not present any concerts during the fall season, and it remains unclear whether its musicians will return to the stage in the spring of 2015. The Sacramento Opera has also decided not to stage performances in the fall. The decision follows months of financial uncertainty for the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance, the organization formed last year when the philharmonic merged with the Sacramento Opera.

Larry Gardner, president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 12 and principal bassonist in the Fresno Philharmonic, is quoted in the story:

He noted that smaller orchestras in smaller cities such as the Fresno Philharmonic and Modesto Philharmonic are presenting full seasons in 2014-15 after cutting back on offerings directly after the recession. “Those orchestras have turned a corner,” said Gardner. “When you look at the skyline in Sacramento and then look at Modesto or Fresno’s, you begin to wonder, ‘What’s going on in Sacramento?’ ” Gardner said. “It sure looks like there is money in Sacramento, but it doesn’t seem to be going to the orchestra or opera company.”

Let’s be thankful that things seem more stable in Fresno. The Fresno Philharmonic and Fresno Grand Opera both announced lively new seasons. 

Fresno Grand Opera announces new season

Fresno Grand Opera, which last season didn’t stage any traditional operas, has announced its 2014-15 season — and purists should be happy. The company will present Andre Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a contemporary title, on Feb. 15, and Puccini’s classic “Tosca” on May 7, both at the Saroyan Theatre.

The company also will piggyback with two other organizations. It’s snagged one of the upcoming “Jersey Boys” performances, on Nov. 2, in conjunction with Broadway in Fresno. And it’s teamed up once again with the Valley Performing Arts Council for “The Nutcracker” (Nov. 29 and 30) and “Alice in Wonderland,” featuring the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara and Fresno Ballet Theatre (Feb. 28).

Rounding out its season, the company will perform two performances in its popular choral-concerts series at the First Congregational Church: “Christmas on Van Ness” on Dec. 7; and “Broadway on Van Ness” on March 15.

Last season, the company produced a giant homegrown production (with Broadway-worthy principals) of “Les Miserables” and brought in the pop opera trio Il Volo, but I heard from some patrons who were disappointed at the lack of “real” opera in the lineup.  

That’s why it’s encouraging to see the return of the full-speed-ahead opera approach. It’s still a smaller season than in years past — there is only one performance of each title, compared to two performances of most titles in previous seasons, but at least Fresno Grand Opera is back at the Saroyan. I just didn’t think the company’s experiment with the smaller Shaghoian Hall for staged productions was a good fit.

Win tickets to Ballet Folklórico de México

When it comes to ballet folklorico, we’re talking here about the big leagues. Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez regularly performs at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. The company is on tour in California, and it’s returning to Fresno Aug. 8 in a performance sponsored by Arte Americas.

I have two tickets to the 7:30 p.m. performance at the Saroyan Theatre to give away to a lucky Beehive reader. 

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us whether you’ve ever seen this world-famous company on its previous visits to Fresno — and why you’d like to win tickets. I’ll pick a winner at random.

Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Monday. Please don’t enter more than once. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Monday at 5, so keep a watch on your inbox. If I haven’t heard from a winner by 10 a.m. Tuesday, I reserve the right to pick another. If you’re the winner, you’ll need to pick up your tickets at the Bee’s front lobby. Rules are on the jump.

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Weekend pick: California Opera’s 2014 Piccolo Festivale

In Friday’s 7 section I get you up to date on the California Opera Association’s annual festival. It’s smaller this year. The festival usually includes a fully staged opera or two at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis, but that facility was unavailable this August because of planned renovations.

A highlight of the first weekend: Guest artist Hope Briggs performs in a 2 p.m. concert at the Fresno Art Museum.  Briggs will sing arias by Verdi and Mozart, German art songs and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” one of a series of spirituals. (George Skipworth will accompany on piano.) “I love singing spirituals,” she says. “It’s a way to invite people into my world and share a bit of my culture.”

THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Mountaintop’

The view is grand from “The Mountaintop.”

The StageWorks Fresno production of Katori Hall’s provocative play about the imagined last night of Martin Luther King, Jr. is deftly staged and strongly acted. Director Joel C. Abels crafts a powerhouse production that manages to seem both taut and dreamy — a charismatic and combustible combination. 

It’s tricky to write about “The Mountaintop” because it’s one of those plays that, frankly, works better the less you know about it. (When New York Times critic Ben Brantley reviewed the show in 2011, he noted that the production’s press representatives requested that he not divulge certain key plot details.) But there are some essentials to know going in: The action takes place on the evening of April 3, 1968 in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. On the next day, King was assassinated on the motel’s balcony.

Hall’s take on what happened on that last night of his life comes purely from her literary imagination. In this two-person drama, she invents the character of Camae, a maid at the motel. Camae knocks on King’s door with room service after a long day for him in which he gave his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. What follows — their conversation and the events that unfold on a strange and stormy night — is pure conjecture.

But enough is grounded in what we know about King — his formidable strengths and all-too-human weaknesses — to give the experience a fly-on-the-wall authenticity.

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Woodward Shakespeare Festival last performed “The Taming of the Shrew” in 2007. That production was a blustery, garish whirlwind whose Petruchio wore a fluorescent costume that made him look like a cross between a pirate and a Cal Trans worker on an acid trip.

The company’s amiable and well-crafted new “Shrew” is a lot gentler and more thoughtful this time around. (And the costumes can’t be used to reroute traffic on Highway 99.) But this newer production does share one thing with its predecessor: a non-traditional take on the play. Director Aaron Spjute uses an all-female cast for this “Shrew.” Along with the traditional female roles, women play the men in gender-specific costumes. Pronouns haven’t been changed.

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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.)