Opening night: My picks for the Rogue Festival as the frolicking begins
It all starts tonight. The Rogue Festival roars back into town on Friday, March 6, with an impressive slate of performers and venues. The festival continues through Saturday, March 14, so you still have plenty of time to experience Fresno’s fringe festival. As always, the Rogue website and the PDF program are your best bets for navigating the festival. I offer two takes on the action:
ON THE AIR
Listen to me from this morning’s Valley Public Radio broadcast when I talked with Laura Tsutsui about strategies for attending the Rogue. It’s a fun 11-minute piece, which you can listen to on the KVPR website. I toss some well-known names into the mix (including Victor DesRoches, Noel Adams, Karan Johnson, Britt Monahan, Janice Noga, “Flower Tome Companion” and more), plus give shout-outs to such titles as “Man Cave: A One-Man Sci-Fi Climate Change Tragicomedy.”
MY ADVANCE PICKS
Without having seen any of the shows, I base these suggested picks on 1) the reputation of the performers; 2) the snippets I saw at the Rogue’s preview “Teasers” show on Thursday night; and 3) just from the titles alone. Here you go:
Pictured above: Hope Lafferty stars in ‘Inhibitionist’ at Veni Vidi Vici. Photo: Rogue Festival.
1. “The Jewish Wife,” Roust Theatre, New York: Brecht and the Rogue? What a combo. Tracy Hostmyer is a New York-based actor and producer who is back in Fresno for a spell attending to family matters, and she decided to have a go at her hometown fringe festival. The one-person show, set during the rise of the Nazi regime, is directed by James Phillip Gates, artistic director of the Roust company, an acclaimed Off-Broadway endeavor. You can’t beat that starpower.
2. “Late Night Covfefe,” from Britt Monahan & Friends, Fresno: A talk show gets besieged by none other than POTUS, which is an extremely plausible plot twist in this day and age. I understand that parts of the script were left blank till the last minute so that the very latest political jabs could be worked in. If you’re looking for contemporary satire with a bite, I’d say this one has a lot of potential.
3. “Merely a Player,” Marc A. Gonzalez, Fresno: As an actor and choreographer, Gonzalez is an enthusiastic community theater veteran. In this show he plays five different “people” — all different versions of himself during his 20s — in a mix of comic and darker material. Having seen him in numerous local productions, I think he’s up for the challenge.
4. “Songs & Stories,” Amelia Ryan, Fresno: Ryan — who last captivated theater audiences in Selma Arts Center’s “Cabaret” — is a singer of many talents, and her five shows range from Irish songs and stories to musical theater favorites (with Terry Lewis on the piano). Gorgeous vocals are all but guaranteed.
5. Benjamin Boone’s World Band, Fresno: It’s a Rogue tradition. Boone is a worldwide recording artist and beloved Fresno entertainer, and he’s brought together a stellar group of musicians for a world music and jazz experience that will soar at Severance Theatre.
6. “Beth’s 40th Birthday Extravaganza,” Los Angeles: Beth Megill is turning 40, and she’s going to share her party with you. You’ll experience tap, jazz, theater, improvisation, comedy and “humanity.” This show is for three performances (first weekend only), so don’t dawdle.
7. “Fringe Factor: Season 5”: Minion Productions is back from Seattle with an all-new version of its Rogue game show. Special note: Proceeds from the show go toward medical expenses of Rogue stalwarts Aileen Imperatrice and Kurt Fitzpatrick, who are both battling cancer. (Our thoughts are with you, Aileen and Kurt …)
8. “Let’s Prank Call Each Other,” Zach Dorn, Los Angeles: He uses digital dioramas in “this twisted spectacle.” I have no idea what you’re getting into, but I was intrigued with his preview performance promising “the world’s shortest puppet show.” And was that a pig and Olivia Newton-John in the same frame? Weirdness awaits.
9. “Exhibitions of the Malcontent,” Adam Burns, Mariposa: The musician combines live music and storytelling. I liked his solid stage presence at the preview show. He made his own DIY album, and now he’ll tell you about it.
10. “Inhibitionist,” Hope Lafferty, Marfa, Texas: Lafferty made an impact on the preview crowd with a wordless two-minute bit in which she wrapped herself in a long towel, mummy-style. (Sometimes visuals can have a bigger impact when you’re in a preview show that involves lots of shouting into a microphone.) Her act is described as “one woman’s love letter to the shy and studious.” Sounds (and looks) intriguing.
11. “Pretending Things are a Cock,” Lil Theatre Productions, Houston: Of all the one-person acts previewed in the teaser show, this one seems as if it could include stellar stage presence with great comic timing. As for the title, um, you know what you’re getting into.
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12. “The Skinny Show,” Dana Merwin, Pacifica: Skinny is a roadie “here to teach you about life on the road.” She/he had me with her joke about Yo-Yo Ma. This show promises a distinctive character with enough charm to fill a 45-minute show without outwearing her welcome.
13. “Jaguar and Heather Save Your Marriage,” Jaguar Bennett and Heather Parish, Fresno: The Rogue’s favorite married couple promise an arch take on relationship advice. Bennett is a Rogue fixture; it’ll be fun to see how Parish’s droll wit changes the chemical balance of all that Jaguarity on stage.
14. “The Miss American Dream Show,” Sierra Camille, Oakland: You want political satire? You got it. This show, directed toward a target audience that is “young, white and afraid of immigrants,” promises biting humor and a fierce point of view.
15. Finally: “One-Legged Man Drives a Stick Shift,” Victor DesRoches, Fresno: This is his SEVENTEENTH Rogue show. He’s back with an all-new show featuring songs and stories. Come see what the longevity is all about.