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.
It’s a great day for “Star Wars” fans as Lando Calrissian will be among the celebrities in the next edition of “Dancing With the Stars.” Yes, I know, it’s really Bill Dee Williams. But, when you look at the 12 participants, it’s obvious the celebrity well is running dry and the show could use some help from the Force.
This season’s lineup of stars features two Olympic Gold Medalists, a game show host, a swimming legend and a teen pop star. They will first take to the dance floor at 8 p.m. March 17 on ABC30.
This season will feature a couple of changes. “The Switch Up” gives viewers the opportunity to have the celebrities change professional dance partners. Also new this season is the addition of Erin Andrews as the co-host for Tom Bergeron.
I’ve never had a good sense of the passage of time.
If I start a story with “the other day …” there is a good chance that other day was months ago.
So when my one-year anniversary as an official Beehiver come around at the end of February, I only knew because it was also Rogue Festival time and because of … wait for it … KIDS DAY!
Thousands of volunteers will be selling special $1 Kids Day editions of The Bee all over town tomorrow morning. The Bee will have its high-profile reps at Blackstone and Shaw, but I’ll be up before the sun down to the Tower District (the corner of Olive and Van Ness specifically) selling newspapers on behalf of the Beehive.
This is your official invitation to come join in.
As incentive, the guys who run the Benaddiction food truck have agreed stop by and sell breakfast goodies from 6:30-9 a.m. So, come down and get your Kids Day newspaper, then enjoy it with a side of pulled pork, bacon, eggs and barbecue sauce on an English muffin. Because, yum!
Kids Day really is a wonderful community collaboration and your $1 does go a long way in helping the hospital continue its mission, so regardless of whether you see me, please do stop and buy a copy somewhere.
Nicky Watts’ “Separation” was exactly what I thought it would be. Also, nothing at all like that.
I’d written about Watts, a Los Angeles-based performance artist, when she was in town in August. I knew what she was about (the Plexiglas box on the head) and that “Separation” would be experimental and conceptual. But nothing in that conversation (or her Rogue show bio) gave any indication of what exactly she would be doing for this show.
That was part of the allure.
1.) “Separation” is a subtly powerful piece of work.
2.) It’s also purposefully inaccessible. It helps if you are in a certain frame of mind going in.
Congratulations to ABC30’s Warren Armstrong for winning the Oscar challenge in Sunday’s Fresno Bee. I challenged one on-air personality from each of the five local TV newsrooms to go against me in predicting who would win this year’s awards. Armstrong was the only participant to get all eight picks correct. I guess when your network broadcasts the award show, it’s a good idea to make a great showing.
Two other local news people — CBS47’s Zara Arboleda and KSEE24’s Matt Otstot — tied for second with only one miss. Arboleda incorrectly predicted the winner of Best Supporting Actress while Otstot’s stumble was for Best Original Song.
I missed two as did Univision 21’s David Ibarra. You do realize that I had to throw a couple of the picks so as not to embarrass the local TV talent. (Yeah, no one is buying that excuse).
Rounding out the field was KMPH Fox26’s Kopi Sotiropulos who missed at least three. The actual number really doesn’t matter.
Thanks again to all of the TV personalities for participating.
“Flying Dreams” can’t quite figure out what type of theater it wants to be.
On one hand, the one-man show, from Bay Area performer Aaron Jessup, is straight-ahead vaudeville. Jessup (who could be a Sam Rockwell stand-in) is a juggler with a background in street performance. He knows how to work a crowd. The most enthralling moments of the show come when he’s tossing stuff in the air (and then catching it. Then tossing it up again).
Those moments are secondary, though, because Jessup is also trying at the kind of solo-performance autobiographical storytelling the Rogue is known for.
It’s that “tragicomedy” part of “Flying Dreams” that doesn’t quite hit.
The elements are all there. Jessup is a struggling artist, doing what struggling artist do: questioning his own worth. That’s quite literal here, because he makes his living as a street performer at San Francisco’s Pier 39. Along the way he gets sage advice from a wiser (and more capable) performer/longtime friend “Andrew,” who becomes the second voice in the story. It’s Andrew who suggests Jessup take a trip to Europe with nothing more than juggling clubs and $100 in his pocket. This becomes the ultimate test of Jessup’s skill, and set up for the metaphor in the show’s title.
I’ll make this easy: Go see this show. “Nightmare in Bakersfield” is a one-man show by Les Kurkendaal about accompanying his boyfriend to his 20-year reunion in the armpit of California — Bakersfield. Les’ partner hasn’t told his classmates that he’s gay, which provides opportunities for all sorts of laughter. But the show isn’t just a bunch of jokes. Kurkendaal also delves into the creeping jealousies of having a partner who was voted one of the top 100 people ever to come out of Bakersfield when he himself has always dreamed of being a successful actor. The serious parts are so honest and bare you can’t help but connect with Kurkendaal. For $5, it’s all easily worth the price of admission.
About the only flaw in this show is the music he uses during certain parts sounds like it’s coming from a cellphone. It was unnecessary and had me looking around to see who was rude enough to not turn their phone off. Another thing to know about this venue: It is intimate. Studio 74 is a converted house and you are literally sitting in a living room. That means that if you sit in the front row and spend the entire time flipping through the Rogue program or rustling the plastic bag you’re holding, your fellow audience members will notice. This show is too good for that kind of disrespect from the audience.
Gemma Wilcox has been a Rogue Festival regular since 2009, when she first brought her one-woman show “The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over” to Fresno audiences. It sold-out shows that first year, and she’s been a hit at the Rogue with subsequent shows since then.
The praise is well-deserved.
I’ve somehow missed Wilcox’s shows in my past Rogue journeys, so I made it a point to see her first show Saturday night at Cal Arts-Severance, where the London performer staged the 10th anniversary run of her “Honeymoon” show. I’m so glad I did. This show exceeded all my expectations, and they were high after reading the reviews of her past shows.
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.
If you’re in the mood for live music with a good groove, then check out Bootstrap Circus (Band) at Neighborhood Thrift.
This Mariposa, Calif., band has a distinct sound that draws from the influences of ska, rock, folk, gospel and what I would call surf-rock. The four-piece band — guitar, bass, drums and violin — is melodic, energetic and down-right fun. And the playful wit of frontman Adam Burns doesn’t hurt, either.
This band is polished and has a genuine rapport. They have wonderful stage presence born from their warm connection with each other that draws in the audience. The set includes catchy songs such as “Mad,” about the fear of being locked in mental hospital, “Sunsets and Shooting Stars,” about a robot falling in love with a girl, and “The Rescue,” an instrumental that is the soundtrack to a movie the singer made for his wife (watch below). Between songs, there’s fun interplay between the band members and lots of stories about the music.
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).
The Saturday afternoon show was disappointing. There were several technical issues, and the dancers, who come to the Rogue from Redondo Beach, just seemed off. In most of the dances, they lacked unison and, at many times, seemed to be looking to each other to remember the steps. And the show’s structure, which covers themes that deal with “female strength” through a series of dance numbers, has no flow. In fact, the audience is left sitting in semi-darkness in silence while the dancers change clothes off stage. These long awkward pauses just added to an already uncomfortable atmosphere.
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.
In a blatant act of self promotion, I just have to shine a spotlight on The Spencer Morris Duo and their song “Paper Boys of the Fresno Bee.” The song is part of their Rogue show, “Downtown Fresno Blues,” a love letter to Fresno of years past in song. Their songs cover everything from Kearney Bowl to Lester Burger and something called the Sky Slide at Manchester Center (OK, who remembers that one?). But it’s the song about paper boys throwing papers from their bikes after school that had this unsuspecting Fresno Bee reporter smiling from ear to ear. The song references the days when The Bee was an afternoon paper. That all changed on Dec. 6, 1976. Their song poignantly ends with this verse:
“While internet readers now drift away and the morning delivery is every day, arms throwing from moving cars is what you’ll see, not paper boys of The Fresno Bee.”
The Spencer Morris Duo has three shows left: 7:45 p.m. March 2, 7:45 p.m. March 5, 11 a.m. March 8, Veni Vidi Vici, $5 in Rogue Bucks.
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.
It’s rare when you find a singing group with as much soul and Soul as the First Men of Promise. The local performers — appearing at the Rogue Festival under the name “Rockin’ the Rogue Part Two” — offer a foot-tapping, spirit-lifting show that has only one problem. It’s way too short at 40 minutes.
The group — half of which look old enough to be around when the tunes they perform were originally released in the ‘60s and ‘70s — includes (according to the group’s Facebook page) Reverend George Kayajanian, Reverend Lee Pointer, Reverend Paul Irwin, Reverend Sergio Gaytan, Reverend Robert Paul, Deacon Tom Sabatino, Chad Kayaajanian Lindsay, Harry Hill, Stacey Dominguez, Ron Shapazian, Dr. Breck A. Harris, Eddie Guardado and Zack Serano.
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).
If you’re looking for something different and a little weird, this is it. The program describes “Dolores” as a “mime opera,” a “dreamy futuristic tale about the final day of a 220-year-old woman.” Carolina “Coicoi” Duncan of Seattle is the mime who expresses emotions far deeper than the sidewalk mimes most of us are familiar with. Duncan graduated from the Flying Actor Studio and Clown Conservatory in San Francisco, and it’s definitely fascinating to watch how she moves her body as a part-robot woman. All of it is accompanied by the music and sound effects of Carlos M. Kampff.
A program handed out before the show is helpful in following along. The best parts are when Duncan is performing scenes of everyday life that most of us can relate to: blissful new love, infidelity, rage and heartbreak. My favorite scene depicted a newly married wife happily making breakfast for her husband, an act that turns into a resented chore as the marriage goes on. Kampff’s singing during this scene is as tasty as the fresh-baked biscuits and French toast he’s singing about.
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.
There’s a reason Minnesota’s Katherine Glover has become a regular at the Rogue Festival. She’s earned rave reviews for performances at the annual event including her 2009 performance of “No Stranger Than Home” and her 2010 one-woman show “A Cynic Tells Love Stories.”
What’s made her so popular is that Glover has an energy that gives life to the roles she plays.
This time around, she’s performing the Shel Siverstein work, “The Devil and Billy Markham.” This is a six-part story — written entirely in rhymed couplets — that tell the story of a songwriter hustler and his showdowns with Satan. Please note that this is not the kind of writings Silverstein did in “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” This piece was published in Playboy magazine in 1979. That should be a major clue that this show is for adults only.
What separates an adequate magician from an amazing one is showmanship. With enough practice, many can master the kind of sleight of hand and misdirection needed to make a magic trick work. To stand out in a crowd, those tricks must be presented in a memorable way.
Despite having the catchy name of the “Super Rock n Roll Magic Show,” the performance by Bryan Patrick at this year’s Rogue Festival has all the pizzaz of reading a magic book.
Patrick is a solid magician. Except for a couple of miscues, he goes through his boxes of magic tricks with a deft hand. The problem is that his entire lineup looks like it came from the “Magic of the Month” club as he does the illusions that almost all magicians master. It would have been easier to give Patrick the benefit of the doubt if he was just getting started in the business. But, if you believe him, this is his 15th year of doing magic. He should have come up with some more dazzle by now.
The Awkward Art of Flying is short on dialogue and long on physical acting — all of it done in pantaloons and corsets. Claire Patton and Lucia Rich of Boulder, Colo. start the show as cave women communicating with grunts. A portrayal of Amelia Earhart shows up throughout the show, along with other scenes of womanhood. Throughout, the pair dole out messages about being yourself and learning to fly in the metaphorical sense.
It’s the kind of experimental show Rogue is known for. At times, they lost me — why the heck was she biting her partner’s arm? — but the overall message is easy to grasp and there was plenty of laughter from the audience. The best parts of the show are when the spotlight is on the absurd: The cave women putting the blood from an animal they just killed for dinner on their cheeks as blush, a reluctant ballet dancer forcing her legs into a plié and an announcer reading rules of feminine virtue that women can’t possibly live up to. (“Never eat with your mouth open — or closed.”)
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?