The College of the Sequoias October production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is going places.
The production is one of eight out of 60 nominated shows from colleges and universities in the southwest region of the U.S. to be selected for presentation at the regional finals of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The event will be held February in Los Angeles.
If you didn’t get a chance to see the show in October, there will be two fund-raising January performances at COS to kick off the road to L.A.
I caught up with director Chris Mangels, who penned the adaptation, to ask him how complicated it will be to take such a big and elaborate production on the road.
When was the selection made?
I was contacted by Matt Neves, the new head of Region 8, on Saturday, December 7. I told my colleagues first, my cast second, and then we announced it to the school and on our Facebook page on Monday, December 9. Things have been hopping all over COS ever since.
Has COS ever received this honor before?
No. This is only our second year being involved with KC / ACTF. We were contacted about last year’s production of “Boeing-Boeing” potentially going to the Festival, but I had not designed the set to travel so we withdrew ourselves from consideration for the honor. It taught me that we might have a fighting chance of taking a production on the road, however, so this year we threw all our eggs in the “Midsummer” basket and designed the whole show with the potential to be loaded up and taken to LA. Luckily for us, it paid off. We are really excited!
Brian Pucheu jumped at the chance to play the dual title roles in the new production of “Jekyll & Hyde” at Visalia’s College of the Sequoias, which opens tonight. And why not? It’s one of those plum theater roles in which you get to be really good and really bad, sometimes with just a few seconds to shift from one character to another.
We caught up with Pucheu, who’s well known for his many Fresno-area theater roles, to talk about the Visalia production.
Question: Have you ever played this role before? What attracted you to it?
No, I’ve not. The challenging music is what first drew me to it.
COS productions are known for impressive stagecraft. What are a couple of things that you think will stand out for audiences?
The sheer scale of the set and its clever use of its space.
Where do you think you fall on the Jekyll-and-Hyde scale: Are you mostly Jekyll and a little bit of Hyde? Or vice versa?
I believe that I walk the line between the two quite well. I am a Gemini, after all.
Besides doing “The Time Warp” with the outstanding local production of “Rocky Horror” at the Severance Theatre …
1. LISTEN TO A GREAT PIANIST
Israeli-born pianist Alon Goldstein has performed with many of the great orchestras of the world — San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony, you name it — but he’s just as well known for his solo work. He’ll perform tonight at Fresno State as part of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series. I had a terrific and fascinating phone conversation with Goldstein that I wrote up for Friday’s 7 section. If you’re interested in the mind of a classical pianist, check out his intriguing blog, which I reference in the story. [Details]
I’ll gladly drive the 45 minutes to Visalia for the privilege to pee.
The College of the Sequoias theater department tackles “Urinetown,” the musical with perhaps the most unappealing title in the world, in a smoothly directed, mostly solid performance that continues through Saturday.
Boasting a couple of top-notch performances from its female leads and often creatively staged by Chris Mangels, the show — a dystopian political allegory in which water is so rare that residents of a beleaguered city have to pay for the privilege of relieving themselves — hits many of the high points for which it’s been known ever since a 2001 Broadway debut. Among them: a snide, silly cynicism laced with more darkness than you’d expect; clever send-ups of the Broadway genre; and, especially, some great songs delivered well. (“But the music’s so happy,” the character of Little Sally exclaims when she’s reminded this is not a happy musical.)
That said, this production doesn’t flush with quite the ferocity it could have. There are some weaknesses.
But also a lot of strengths.
Besides tonight’s must-see concert starring that little lady with the giant voice, Kristin Chenoweth …
1. A REBORN DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM
Fresno will only be the fourth city so far to get to see the newly reborn main company of the Dance Theatre Harlem, which had to shut down in 2004 for economic reasons. The performance is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Saroyan Theatre. I give you the whole story in Friday’s 7 cover story. [Details]
1. LISTEN TO YOUR POET LAUREATE
Philip Levine, our nation’s poet laureate, has been incredibly gracious with his time in Fresno recently. (He was honored in a big Fresno State shindig in January, has spoken at the Unitarian Universalist Church and last week took part in a memorable fusion of jazz and poetry with the Benjamin Boone Jazz Quartet.) Now’s your chance to hear him in a traditional talk and poetry reading.
The song is called “Come to My Garden.” How could I resist that call? It’s no secret the College of the Sequoias theater department puts on fine musicals, so I made a point to zip to Visalia to catch “The Secret Garden,” based on the classic tale by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
This big production features some sterling voices, impressive costumes, an ambitious scenic design and a tender fidelity to the haunting atmosphere demanded by an extremely complex storyline. While the show is not quite as polished as previous COS productions I’ve seen, there’s a lot to recommend. It continues through Sunday at the College of the Sequoias Theatre. [Details]
Pictured: Kaley McConnaughey, Ashley Taylor.
Here’s an eclectic mix of places you may want to be this evening:
UPDATE: Bad news, hipsters. Jenny Lewis announced the cancellation of a bunch of a West Coast tour dates — including the Visalia show. More info here. Bummer.
ORIGINAL POST, 9/12: Jenny Lewis — the indie rock singer who’s fronted Rilo Kiley, released solo albums and even done some acting — will make a tour stop at Visalia on Oct. 25.
She’ll play an all-ages concert on Oct. 25 at the College of Sequoias theater, which holds about 400 people. Tickets cost $15 and go on sale today at noon via Ticketweb.
UPDATE 3/14: Here’s a Facebook pic posted by Erik Valencia of this afternoon’s line at COS for “Phantom” tickets for the added performance. He was worried about getting seats but got to the window in time. I’m assuming the show is long past sold-out by now. Just goes to show the popularity of the “Phantom” brand.
ORIGINAL ENTRY 3/11: Now here’s a feat to brag about in the theater world: The College of the Sequoias in Visalia sold out the entire run of “The Phantom of the Opera” more than a week before the show even opens.
(Envious artistic and executive directors of theater companies nationwide: You can pick your jaws up off all those respective floors now.)
But there’s good news for people who procrastinated. The college at 5 p.m. today announced that, after extensive negotiations with cast, crew and musicians, one performance has been added for Wednesday, March 23. Tickets will go on sale on sale Monday at 12:15 p.m.
Chris Mangels’ ambitious and visually charged new production of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” — which continues through Saturday at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia — is dark stuff, indeed.
So dark, in fact, that I somewhat regret that in my advance piece on the show in last week’s issue of 7 I so heavily emphasized the family-friendly nature of the show. True, this show lacks the specific red flags for objectionable material that might put parents on edge (explicit violence, excessive profanity, sexual situations). But I think Mangels has missed the mark if he thinks he’s made a show “that local families could see together but still maintain the type of theatricality and visceral thrill that attracts me as an artist,” as he told me.
Again, I feel this way not so much due to objectionable content but because of the production’s overall tone and demeanor: It gets bogged down in its overwhelmingly bleak world. Bradbury’s philosophical musings about mortality, childhood fears and middle-aged angst become a morass, not a platform for crisp storytelling.
Photo: Danielle Behrens, left, James Sherrill and Jenny Bettencourt in “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
Director Chris Mangels aims to creep us out just a little with an atmospheric production of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia. I write about the show and include excerpts of my interview with Mangels in Friday’s issue of 7. Here’s the complete interview:
Question: Most people are familiar with the book. Tell me about the stage adaptation.
Answer: Bradbury is a fairly prolific dramatist and one of the best things about his playwrighting is how loyal he stays to his short-stories and novels when adapting them for the stage. I saw him speak about two years ago at a Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica and he said that he loves to write what is in his mind’s eye and then trust the theatrical artists to interpret it. He is surprisingly non-possessive of his own work and really has confidence in the artistic instinct. So our production is VERY loyal to the book while streamlining some of the sequences to maintain momentum. Overall, I think it is beautifully loyal to the source material, and people who love the book will hopefully really embrace the play. Best of all, Bradbury’s unique and florid prose is maintained throughout.