To wrap up Summer Arts, consider attending a free student showcase

This wasn’t just a good taco story. Jenny Toste and George Garnica ended up with a great taco story .

As Summer Arts heads into its final two days of the 2018 season, you’ll get the chance to watch Toste and Garnica’s take on Fresno’s Taco Truck Throwdown as part of the festival’s free student showcase series. “Visual Storytelling: The News Feature Student Showcase” will be screened 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 27, in Fresno State’s John Wright Theatre.

A total of six student showcases ranging from dance and poetry photography will be presented on Friday and Saturday. Along with visual storytelling, I’ll also preview the crowd-pleasing stage combat student showcase, which will be held 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, also in the John Wright Theatre. Here’s a rundown:

Taco drama

Toste and Garnica are veteran Fresno-area journalists who took the Summer Arts visual storytelling course for the chance to work with such esteemed professionals as “Today Show” fixture Bob Dotson and NBC war correspondent Les Rose. (Toste and Dotson are pictured in the photo above.)

They lucked out with their story on Fresno’s Taco Truck Throwdown, the boisterous annual celebration at Chukchansi Park that falls somewhere between a mere-mortal food-truck competition and a praise-the-meat worship service at Our Church of the Heavenly Tortilla. The truck they were following through the competition, from El Mexicano restaurant in Fowler, won both the People’s Choice and Judges Choice awards. They’d already put a microphone on Jovita Camacho, representing the family business, when she out that El Mexicano was the big winner.

Aside from capturing the excitement of the moment, Toste and Garnica also knew they had a compelling and emotional generational storyline. Camacho is carrying on the family tradition and expanding the business.”


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For Toste, a former CBS47 reporter and anchor who now works at Fresno State as the university’s social media and communications specialist, Summer Arts was a chance to get reinspired about journalism and glean valuable tips from pros in the field.

She was particularly struck by words of advice from Dotson, who explained that good TV news features are built upon ”investigative reporting about seemingly ordinary people.”

Faith Sidlow, a Fresno State journalism professor and Summer Arts course coordinator, says that Dotson, who was on campus last week, was very easy going and accessible.

“He was skilled at presenting concepts to the students in a way they could understand and make it work for their projects,” she says. “One student said that Bob taught him to find “hope” in a story. Bob taught students that sometimes they don’t need to ask questions; It’s often better to sit and listen and wait for the interviewee to fill the silence.”

Besides the taco story, other projects by the 16 students in the course include stories about a woman who works as a barber and attends Fresno State, a diabetic activist, and local artist Aileen Imperatrice, who donated a kidney so her husband could get a transplant.

Sidlow is excited that the course was able to provide such intensive instruction.

“The benefit to students is the one-on-one access that they have had for two weeks to some of the best storytellers in the country,” she says. “How often can students say that Bob Dotson or Les Rose worked one-on-one with them to produce a story?”


Students in the CSU Summer Arts stage combat course practice for the student showcase event. Photo / Todd Sharp, Summer Arts

Fight club

For an actor, doing a fight scene is a lot different for the stage compared to the screen. When you’re doing live theater, you only have one chance to make a fight look realistic — and it has to look that way from all angles. You probably even have to provide your own sound effects. When you’re in a movie, you have the luxury of filming a fight scene from a variety of angles, and the camera can be used to add a dramatic impact. (There’s also a professional foley artist to add the needed sound effects.) Then again, a fight scene on film might involve dozens of takes. That’s a lot of fighting.

When you attend the “Lights, Camera, Fight! Stage Combat Student Showcase” at Summer Arts, you’ll get a fascinating experience: You’ll be able to see the same fight sequence, performed by pairs of students in the course, in a live theater version and then on film.

One of the instructors in the course is Tony Carreiro, a professor of theatre in the performing arts department at Long Beach City College. Summer Arts students practice combat with their bare hands and use stage knives — which would still hurt if thrust at the wrong time — but not guns. Knife fighting is a big deal in Hollywood right now, particularly for women, he says.

For Carreiro, actors need to bring as many possible skill sets to the table as possible. (He once got a role on an episode of “Cheers” titled “Relief Bartender” because he knew how to juggle.) He’s a veteran actor whose recurring roles included stints on “Frasier,” “Sister Sister” and “Deadly Games,” and he’s worked in regional theatres and Shakespeare festivals as an actor, director and fight choreographer up and down the West Coast and in New York. Knowing how to fight might give you a leg up on the competition.

“The more things you have in your actor bag of tricks, the more employable you are,” he says.

Student showcases

Friday, July 27, 2018

4:15 pm – Performing Spoken Word Poetry: Black Girl Magic Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre
7:30 pm – Visual Storytelling: The News Feature Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre

Saturday, July 28, 2018

11:30 am – The “It” Factor: What Makes a Dancer a Star Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre
2:15 pm – The Normal School’s Summer Workshop Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre
4 pm – Contemporary Photographic Studio: Beauty is Everywhere Student Showcase – Conley Gallery
7:30 pm – Lights, Camera, Fight! Stage Combat Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre


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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