Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, week 4

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the fourth and final week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at For the public calendar of events, click here.


Cutting-edge technology: Students prepare for the 3-D video projection mapping showcase, 9 p.m. Friday, July 21, in the South Gym at Fresno State. Photo / Todd Sharp, CSU Summer Arts

Student showcases

One of the best (and cheapest!) things to do at Summer Arts is attend one of the free student showcases. After two weeks of intensive learning and creating, these students are anxious to show off a little. One of the highlight events is sure to be Friday’s “Video Projection Mapping in 3D Space” in the South Gym.

I attended guest artist Yannick Jacquet’s lecture last week on the subject, and it’s fascinating. And I got to swing by the class on Tuesday as students prepared for Friday’s demonstration. They’ve created a wild looking set in the South Gym meant to suggest one of the moons of Jupiter, and from there all sorts of fantastical creations will be projected. The inspiration is organic life forms. This course is an example of the collision between art and science. I’m guessing it will be a memorable event.

Here’s a list of all the student showcases:


Friday, July 21
2:15pm – Sexuality and Love in Creative Writing – Concert Hall
4 pm – Urban Bush Women Dance – John Wright Theatre
7:30pm – Musical Theatre: Actor, Music, and Lyrics – Concert Hall
9 pm – Video Projection Mapping in 3D Space – South Gym 109

Saturday, July 22
11 am – Animating a Short Film with Nimble Collective – John Wright Theatre
2:15pm – Acting for the Camera: The Reel Experience – John Wright Theatre
3:45pm – Visual Storytelling: The Art & Craft of the Graphic Novel and Printmaking and Installation: Out of the Matrix – Conley Gallery
7:30 pm – Drum Talk – Concert Hall

(Updated 9 a.m. Friday, July 21)

Writing about love and sex

One of the most different sounding student showcases is “Sexuality and Love in Creative Writing.” I caught up with course coordinator Brandi Spaethe and student Summer Krafft, who will be sharing some of her work along with other students in the class. Some highlights of the conversation:

The course topic: In terms of today’s media (writing, film, TV), there’s not a lot of variety in terms of the way love and sexuality is depicted in most storylines. “It seems like we’re seeing the same thing over and over again,” Spaethe says. “I want to see something more raw, more human, than just a closeup of very attractive actors and actresses. That was the goal of the class, to invite a group of people who wanted to have a conversation about love and sexuality in writing and how to really open new doors on how to access that subject matter.”

The tone of the class: “It’s not all going to be hugs and puppies, either,” Spaethe says. “Sex and sexuality and love isn’t always about this very high gratification. Often it can be awkward, it can be sympathetic, sometimes it can be dark, sometimes it can be wonderful. We’re really trying to explore the subject from all angles.”

What attracted Krafft to the course: “I’m working on a memoir, and roughly a third of it has love and sexuality as sort of a scope. I’ve certainly written a lot about those topics, and I’ve written most of those experiences. but I’ve never had any sort of instruction on a new access point so not every story is going to feel the same. I thought it would be important contributing to the community of the class to talk about trauma and how that relates to love and sexuality.”

A recommended author: Lidia Yuknavitch is one of Krafft’s favorites. “All of her works describe female sexuality in such raw terms,” she says. “She doesn’t shy away from the consequences of those characters making those choices, but she also doesn’t diminish the power of the choice being made, and how radical it is for a female to do that in our culture, or any culture.”

The students will be reading at 2:15 pm today in the Concert Hall.

(Updated 8 a.m. Friday, July 21)

Memorable poets

li-young leeHow do you introduce a guest artist at CSU Summer Arts who made a big impact on your life?

Through a few tears.

When I wrote my preview story about the festival a few weeks ago when it began, I learned from assistant director Joanne Sharp that one of this year’s guest artists is very special to her: Sharp started working for the program in 1995, in the last year of the program’s tenure at Humboldt State. She went to a poetry reading featuring the work of Li-Young Lee. “And I just sat and listened and was just never the same,” she told me.


That reading opened up the world of poetry to her. Incidentally, she’s stayed working for Summer Arts ever since.

Li-Young Lee is once again a guest artist at Summer Arts, and on Monday he gave a reading. Sharp was there, of course. She writes:

I got to make the intro, which made me cry a bit. It was very emotional for me to tell Li-Young about the impact he had on me when I saw him backstage before the event, and then to come out and talk about it publicly.

She didn’t connect quite as personally with his work as that first time more than 20 years ago. Back then he mostly read work about his father, and on Monday he offered excerpts from longer poems in which he addressed political sentiments and some relationship themes, Sharp says. The poems were beautiful but very complex, and she would have liked to hear them in their entirety but realized there were time constraints. Still, it was a memorable experience, she says.

“Hearing him read again was deeply moving,” she says. “I could listen to his voice all day long.”

Lee shared the stage with fellow guest artist Brenda Shaughnessy.

“She was witty and sharp, and one particular poem about the multitude of sisters she wished she had was really a showstopper for me,” Sharp says.


Printmaker lecture

Tuesday’s public event (7 p.m., John Wright Theatre) features printmaker Dennis McNett, who has 20 years of experience specializing in woodcarving and wood block/relief printmaking. While wood engraving itself has its roots in 2D applications, Dennis transcends those limitations by using carved markings as the basis for relief prints which become collage materials.

From the Summer Arts Facebook page:

The work happening in our printmaking class this week is stunning. This is YOUR chance to learn more about printmaking and traditional print from renowned artist, Dennis McNett. He will also present a decade of mythology and installations, sculptures and travels of the Wolfbat tribe.

Related story: CSU Summer Arts program returns to Fresno with enthusiastic leadership and commitment to firing up the cultural scene

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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