A weekend for supporting the arts

Charity events include “Toasting the Arts” at Fresno City College, the “Shinzen Stroll” at Woodward Park, and a benefit for the Lund Foundation scholarship fund

If you’re looking for a good cause to support, you won’t have any problems finding one this weekend. I’m highlighting three charity events: the annual “Toasting the Arts” dinner and celebration at Fresno City College; the “Shinzen Stroll” fundraising brunch at Woodward Park; and the Edward O. Lund Foundation’s art auction and Scotch tasting at the Mad Duck restaurant.

Here’s a rundown:

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Beautiful setting: Last year’s “Toasting the Arts” event at Fresno City College.

‘Toasting the Arts’

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, Fresno City College Old Administration Building courtyard.

This venerable fundraiser is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a dinner, live music and entertainment, and both live and silent auctions. Friends of the Arts (FOTA), founded in 1985, sponsors the event. Money raised provides scholarships for students in Theater Arts, Music, Dance, Fine Arts and Communication. FOTA also assists with the costs associated with Fresno City College theater, dance and music productions, literary journals and fine arts gallery events.

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In the ring with Joseph Rios

In his debut book of poetry, Fresno City College alum uses boxing as a literary device

Boxing is in Joseph Rios’ blood. So is poetry.

Which makes the location for the launch party celebrating “Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations,” his debut poetry book, rather appropriate.

Rios will give a reading 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at Heartbeat Boxing, 155 Van Ness Ave., Fresno.

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Boxing and poetry: Joseph Rios will launch his new book Thursday. Photo / Rafael Cardenas

“It will be my first time reading from a boxing ring,” he says.

The Los Angeles resident grew up in the Fresno area and has strong ties to his hometown. The book uses an autobiographical-style central character named Josefo, a Chicano adolescent working and becoming a poet in the farm territories of Central California. In a daring stylistic move, Rios borrows the poetic language found in boxing lore and in the “Rocky” films.

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A stellar launch as music director

Rei Hotoda’s inaugural concert as Fresno Philharmonic conductor is filled with passion, musicality and showmanship

CONCERT REVIEW

She began her inaugural concert with a gracious smile and a long, deep bow. And she ended it with a dramatic stance: her left arm raised high in a power salute with baton pointed skyward, her other arm at rest by her side, creating an elegant asymmetry. It was a graceful yet assertive posture to end on, a follow-me pose, as if to say: I’m here to lead you to great things, and I’m going to do it in style.

Rei Hotoda knows how to make a memorable debut.

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In her first concert Sunday afternoon as the Fresno Philharmonic’s newly appointed music director, Hotoda built on the momentum she started in her performance in April as guest conductor of the orchestra, when she was one of six candidates vying for the position. She wowed that audience with a combination of dynamic programming, crisp musicality, rapport with the musicians and a commanding sense of physicality on the podium that at times can be nearly balletic.

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Welcome to the podium

The Fresno Philharmonic celebrates a new era with the official arrival of Rei Hotoda as music director

Finally! After the long, hard haul of searching for a new conductor, the big day is finally here for patrons of the Fresno Philharmonic.

Rei Hotoda will officially take the podium on Sunday, Oct. 15, in her first concert as the orchestra’s new music director. She was the unanimous choice of the orchestra’s search committee after six finalists each conducted a Masterworks concert during the 2016-17 season.

Her debut marks a new era for the orchestra. So it’s fitting that the first piece played under her new tenure will be Aaron Jay Kernis’ “New Era Dance.”

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Taking up the baton: Rei Hotoda’s first piece will be “New Era Dance.” Photo / www.reihotoda.com

She will be joined by guest artist Natasha Paremski, who will play the Grieg piano concerto. Paremski has played in many of the world’s great concert halls.

(I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to readers; see the end of this post for details on how to enter.)

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Audrey power

StageWorks Fresno’s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ gives us a memorable Audrey, and her namesake chews up the scenery to perfection

THEATER REVIEW

The plant steals the show in StageWorks Fresno’s chipper “Little Shop of Horrors,” which is as it should be. Carnivorous leafy life forms are a rarity in the musical theater canon, especially ones that sing and dance, and the plant is a big part of why this much-loved musical has become a community-theater staple. I envy neophyte audience members to this show who get to experience that voice — and those moves — for the first time.

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Knockout performance: Abigail Nolte, right, is a standout in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Photo / StageWorks Fresno

It actually takes two actors to make Audrey II, as the mysterious plant is known, do its thing in the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium. Will Bishop, who voices the plant, is terrific. He brings a wry edge and an excellent singing voice to the role, paying homage both to its Motown roots while still finding his own contemporary take. And Logan Cooley, as the “body,” is spot-on in terms of the plant’s movements, connecting with and adding to Bishop’s artistic interpretation.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Oct. 12)

Options include a Fresno State lecture-recital about a memorable woman scientist, theater openings in Merced, Visalia and Reedley, and a photo exhibition about Afghanistan

Here’s a rundown on promising arts/culture picks for the weekend. (Note: I’m posting this a day earlier than usual because of a Thursday night option.)

Remembering Hypatia

Earlier this year I got to wander the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, and there I learned about a remarkable woman: Hypatia, who is said to be the first woman philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. She was renowned for her intelligence and scientific insights. But she got caught up in the religious battles of the times. Hypatia was a pagan, and she was (horribly) murdered by an angry Christian mob in the year 415 A.D.

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Hypatia’s life story is the focus of a fascinating sounding interdisciplinary lecture-recital on Friday at Fresno State. The event is an exploration of the ways in which women use their voices and are silenced in male-dominated societies.

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All across the alien nation

With a stellar production design and pumped-up ensemble, ‘Green Day’s American Idiot’ is a stomping good time

THEATER REVIEW

Fresno City College’s incendiary production of “Green Day’s American Idiot” opens with the cast singing a raucous version of the title song. The number unfolds with thrashing choreography on a grunge-punk-industrial set pulsing with video projections and drenched in moody lighting. Near the end, one of the show’s pivotal characters, Johnny (Josh Taber), takes a flying leap and lands on a bare mattress in the middle of the stage.

It’s a sliver of a moment in a show filled with visual and aural excess, but it caught my eye.

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Visual and aural spectacle: The cast of “Green Day’s American Idiot.” Photo / Fresno City College

Why? Because it’s so playful.

Sure, there is grit and angst aplenty in this punk-rock tale of generational disaffection. How could there not be? Its characters fight for a chance to make a difference in a country that is embroiled in two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), mired in economic inequality, and pandered and sold to by a relentless corporate media. Not to mention the murky torrent of alcohol and drug abuse that washes through the show like a raging river.

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Dancing off to Wisconsin

Amy Querin, founder of NOCO and a stalwart of the local cultural scene, will soon be saying farewell to Fresno

Every once in a while someone bursts onto a city’s cultural arts scene with so much talent and enthusiasm that you just know she’s going to make a difference. Call it energy, sass, gravitas, charisma — it’s not necessarily something you can put into words. How about force of nature?

That’s how I feel about Amy Querin, founder of the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO).

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Feeling sentimental: As Amy Querin packs up her house, she surrounds herself with NOCO costumes from the signature works she created in Fresno. Photo / James Ramirez

In a relatively short amount of time in the Fresno area, she not only supercharged the local dance scene but made an impact on the larger cultural community as well. I constantly bump into Amy at local arts events, and not just her own. She is at heart a collaborator, someone constantly seeking out connections between other people and arts organizations. She can move from high culture to not so high — from the Fresno Philharmonic to the Rogue Festival — in a graceful flash.

So. Amy has something to share. This might be the worst kept secret in town, but she didn’t want to make it official until she’d personally told people who’d be directly affected. I offer her this forum.

Q: Let’s not bury the news. Is it true you’re going to be moving out of Fresno?

A: YES! The time has come. I’m planning to leave Fresno mid-December as soon as my finals are done with State Center Community College District.

Q: Why?

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