In thick with Vincent: This Fresno State student is on the Gogh

Last night I dreamed I was sitting in the audience for a Good Company Players play. At least, I’m pretty sure it was a GCP production because 1) Dan Pessano was on the stage; and 2) I was in a space that sort of looked like Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, though in typical not-quite-real dream fashion, a woman in a booth in the middle of the audience was giving out Costco samples. I think she was serving taquitos. Anyway, the important thing is that a play was about to start, but Pessano brought everything to a halt to say that the main actor couldn’t get to the theater because of a police blockade, and the show wouldn’t be able to go on unless I — yours truly, with critic’s notebook in hand — could go on in his place. Surely I must know the lines, right?

See more ‘Chronicles’ below

UPDATE: Now ear this: Laramie Woolsey is in thick with Vincent V.G.
UPDATE: Prepare for college auditions with online master class
Plus: Raise a glass to ‘S’Will’ and drunken Shakespeare
Plus: Fresno Philharmonic cancels rest of 2019-20 season

I will spare you the rest, except to say I did not make the most of my big theatrical moment. (Besides, reading about other people’s nightmares is boring, right?) These nights in my nocturnal adventures, I obviously am working out some levels of anxiety, as are many in these times of quarantine. (The night before, I dreamed that my washing machine put ragged holes in all my dress shirts.) But I also think it’s clear that I have some specific worries about the state of the arts in the Age of the Coronavirus.

What is going to happen? When shelter-in-place rules are relaxed, will our local arts organizations be able to rebound? Will audience members be afraid to go to concerts, plays and museums? If social-distancing rules remain in effect — if we have to sit six feet apart from each other in the Saroyan Theatre or Roger Rocka’s — will producers of live events be able to scrape through?

I’ll be tackling some of these bigger-picture issues in the weeks to come in terms of news coverage. There’s still so much we don’t know.

The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.

As for The Munro Review, I have been busy adapting to this (hopefully temporarily) new world of ours:


• A chunk of my time has been in developing and helping produce “Fresno Famoso,” conceived as a real-time arts show that streams live on Facebook and CMAC 1 at 7 p.m. Sundays. The show is devoted during the crisis to the greater Fresno area’s arts scene’s continued vibrancy. My fellow producers (Malcolm Sosa, a co-founder of the original “Fresno Famous” website; Joshua Tehee, writer for the Fresno Bee; and Teresa Flores, an L.A.-based artist originally from Fresno) have done four weekly episodes so far. (Time flies when you’re in quarantine.) All are available on YouTube:

I’m also planning to post individual clips from guests on my produced segments, along with recaps of interviews and related links.

• Another chunk of my time has been spent on my own monthly CMAC TV arts talk show, which is being done virtually (thanks to producer Kyle Lowe) during shelter-in-place. If you haven’t yet seen the April episode, I hope you get a chance. In this episode, I interview Jimmy Haynie and Arium Andrews, who were both headed to the national finals of the American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., when the virus changed their plans:

• I’m thinking of new ways to connect with artists virtually. I’d like to be able to tell some of the stories of the quarantine and its aftermath.

• Finally, I am introducing a new feature that I am calling “The Quarantine Chronicles.” I see it as a compendium of news tidbits, observations, reader feedback, shout-outs, social media highlights and suggestions on how we can all keep supporting the arts. I’ll offer them as a running feature. Consider this the kickoff to my first “chronicle.”

As always, I welcome your input. Write me an email at Offer a comment, send me an interesting link, share a tip for how to make quarantine work. Let’s keep connected!


Van Gogh and Laramie Woolsey: Seeing the world in a different way.

Now ear this: Laramie Woolsey is in thick with Vincent V.G.

Art lovers, meet Laramie Van Gogh.

There she is in her official entry photo for The Fools Collaborative costume contest looking the part: her face slathered with papier maché paste dyed with food coloring slathered on her face, neck and hair; a blue fleece blanket — which just happened to be laying on her couch — bunched around her shoulders; an artist palette positioned at the bottom corner of the frame.

The look is amazing.

And it’s no wonder she won first place in the contest, sponsored by the Fools as one of its series of #foolsinplace competitions to tap into the creativity of artistic types in the central San Joaquin Valley. Contestants were asked to compile an artistic costume using materials they could find in their home or backyard. (Just call it the “Sheltering” rule.) I helped judge the contest, and we announced the winner live on “Fresno Famoso,” the real-time arts broadcast (7 p.m. Sundays, Facebook Live).

Laramie’s real last name is Woolsey, and she won a $100 gift certificate for a tattoo artist at BrickHouse Tattoo in the Tower District to finish a memorial piece for her father.

Second place went to Rio Hennecke, who won a $75 gift certificate to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. Third place went to Tiana Perez, who won a $50 gift certificate to the Train Depot. Honorable mentions were Brooke Aiello and Lynda Wilkinson.

Rio Ramona Hennecke, left, won second place for ‘Quarantine at the Beach.’ Tiana Perez won third place for ‘Social Dis Tent.’

For Woolsey, who picked Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait, 1889” to portray, the choice was a natural because the artist is a favorite of hers.

“I’ve always loved his work,” she says. “I even painted a 16-by-12 replica of ‘The Starry Night’ on my bedroom wall a few summers ago. This self-portrait in particular is a favorite of mine and so I thought I would give it and go and see what happened.”

She explains the process:

“I did this completely on my own in a magnifying mirror. The crusty effect was achieved by using papier maché paste that was dyed with food coloring directly on my skin. To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to come out very good when I first sat down at my mirror and started painting, but the longer the paste sat on my skin and dried, the more it cracked and gave the texture I needed to achieve the look I was going for.”

After posing for the photo, she found that her visual effect felt quite permanent.

“I couldn’t really talk or differentiate my expression without it hurting or chipping the paste off,” she says. It also took a very long time to scrub off my face and out of my hair. It was worth it, though!”

Woolsey is finishing up a single-subject English credential at Fresno State so that she can hopefully start teaching high school English and drama in the Fall, so most of her quarantine-time has been spent doing student-teaching online.

“I have also been trying hard to use this time to dedicate myself to some goals I don’t usually have time for, like becoming a better dancer and taking better care of myself mentally and physically. I am so grateful to The Fools Collaborative for coming up with such a fun challenge to bring us all some joy during this uncertain time and can’t wait for the next #foolsinplace competition!”

— Posted April 28


Prepare for college auditions with online master class

Do you dream of a career in show biz? Juilliard-trained voice teacher and college audition coach Tim Evanicki can be in your house (well, on your computer screen) on Thursday in a special, free master class sponsored by the Junior Company Foundation. The topic is “Preparing for the College Audition.”

The Zoom session is 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 30.

A description from JCF:

There’s no time like the present to begin your college research and planning. Tim will take you through the process, from which colleges offer which types of degrees, how to evaluate the application and audition process, and what you can do now to be ready for this Fall’s applications. We hope all you high schoolers, theater teachers and parents can attend. This will be filled with valuable information you need to be a success.

Register in advance for this meeting at this link.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

— Posted April 29


Raise a glass to ‘S’will’ and drunken Shakespeare

Members of The Fools Collaborative, the Fresno area’s inventive collective of arts-minded funsters, didn’t manage to get their drunk on at the 2020 Rogue Festival for a repeat performance of their popular show “S’Will.”

I was more disappointed than Sir Toby facing last call at the tavern.

But there is redemption! In honor of the Bard’s birthday — and perhaps because 3 jillion days in quarantine is driving all of us to find new and creative ways to justify inebriation — the original six-member cast (Casey Ballard, Kristin Crase, Miguel A. Gastelum, Camille Gaston, Randy Kohlruss, and Haley White) of the 2018 Rogue smash hit is reprising the show for one performance only. It all happens at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 25, on Facebook Live.

The idea in this slimmed-down version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is that one hour prior to the performance, one actor in the cast will be chosen as that evening’s drunken fool. He or she will be required to ‘swill’ alcohol until showtime, then perform while intoxicated.

In my review of the 2018 “S’Will,” I noted that Miguel’s tipsy encounter with the solitary set piece (yes, benches can sneak up on you) was a highlight.

The Fools inform me that a new addition for the new virtual take on “S’Will” is Stage Manager/Scene Setter/Servant, Erik Olson. The livestream will also feature two virtual hosts, Brooke Aiello and Lia Dewey.

And how, you may ask, will the evening’s Breathalyzer Abuser be selected? That’s part of the fun, too. Go to the Fools Facebook Page and Instagram Page, where you’ll find, photos of all the cast. You can like (or comment on Instagram) on whom you want to see as the drunk.

I’m wavering on my choice. I interviewed an inebriated Casey last year at a show rehearsal as a preview (which, incidentally, was one of my favorite stories ever) and, as I’ve already told you, Miguel was the Designated Drunk at the performance I reviewed. Part of me wants to see a sloshed Kristin just because she’s going to be one of my guests on “Fresno Famoso” on Sunday night, but I also worry she might be too hungover. As for Camille, Randy and Haley — they are all so tempting. Let me think on it.

Also: Tune in right at 7 p.m. to contribute improv suggestions, get your drinking game card, and play for a chance to be Queen!

— Posted April 25


Fresno Philharmonic cancels rest of 2019-20 season

This should come as no surprise, but the Fresno Philharmonic has officially canceled the remaining two concerts that were on the 2019-20 season schedule.

The orchestra’s April 25 concert (“The World of Opera”) is canceled, not postponed, says Stephen Wilson, the orchestra’s CEO and executive director. The same applies to the May 9 pops concert (“Broadway Diva.”)

In contrast, the Pink Martini concert and fundraiser — scheduled for March 21 — was postponed, not canceled. No replacement date has been set.

The final two concerts were so close to the end of the season — when planning for next year’s season was already far along — that the only option was to cancel rather than postpone.

“We would hope that at some point we would be able to bring those concerts back in further seasons,” Wilson says.

Also postponed was the official announcement of the 2020-21 season itself.

“We were initially planning to announce next season in March,” he says. “Obviously we put a pause on that. We are reevaluating some of our plans for next season. We are still evaluating our plans for next season in light of statements from federal, state and local authorities regarding restrictions on large gatherings as Covid-19 measures are relaxed.”

He expects to make the announcement soon.

In the meantime, Fresno Philharmonic staff has been busy navigating the complicated world of federal relief efforts. The orchestra applied for a SBA Payroll Protection Program loan under the CARES Act. The loan would fund 2.5 times the Philharmonic’s average monthly payroll, which includes both administrative and musician employees. Under current guidelines, the loan would be forgivable if at least 75% of the funds are used for payroll.

The orchestra’s application had not been approved before the program ran out of money last week, Wilson says.

“We are awaiting further Congressional action to provide additional funding for this program. The Fresno Philharmonic has applied for other relief under the CARES Act as well, but has not received any approval or funding to date.”



The Fresno Community Concert Band has officially canceled its May 24 concert, titled “American Tale.”

Board president Jan Goyette says the band finds itself in the same situation as other arts organizations.

“We are busy planning for next year’s season and hope the threat of the virus in our area ends in the coming weeks,” she says.

The FCCB earlier canceled its March 15 and April 5 concerts.

Here’s a recap of the cancellations I’ve covered since the pandemic began:

Fresno Master Chorale postpones March 29 concert because of Coronavirus concerns

Coronavirus master arts update: Fresno Art Museum temporarily closed, April/May ArtHop canceled

Long arm of the virus: Summer Arts 2020 at Fresno State is canceled

Bowing to the virus, GCP postpones opening ‘King and I’ and puts ‘Enchanted April’ on hold

More virus disruption: Broadway in Fresno lowers curtain on two upcoming productions

Selma Arts Center suspends remaining mainstage productions for 2020



Janette Erickson, principal flute for the Fresno Philharmonic and professor at Fresno Pacific University, was enraptured by Andrea Bocelli’s Easter concert in the Cathedral of Milan.

She wrote to share about the experience:

“He sang four beautiful pieces in the Cathedral.Then, he walked outside of the front of the Duomo and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ in English. They showed the empty streets around the world. There looked to be a black wire on the floor with a slightly raised foot prop at the end. I think that this is how Andrea knew where to stop and sing into the mic. It was an amazing performance, and one that the world needed to hear for Easter.”

Erickson, who is part of the Fresno chamber group Moment Musical, happened upon another video of Bocelli, this one of him singing ‘Con te partiro’ alone in his living room, in a black tux, accompanying himself on the piano.

She continues:

“This song actually means ‘With You, I’ll Leave,’ but it’s referred to in English as ‘Time to Say Goodbye.’ As I researched, its real meaning is saying goodbye to a former life on the eve of a new life (such as a marriage). Interestingly, Andrea placed another performance on his YouTube channel of this piece with full orchestra after his Easter Concert.” If we can survive this virus, and there’s a return to live, classical music (and I think people are thirsting for it), I plan to perform ‘Con Te Partiro’ for Moment Musical in an arrangement that I found last night for woodwind quintet. I think that the audience would be with us and appreciate it, celebrating life. However, I don’t think the piece will get the screams that audiences give when Andrea sings it!”

Thank you, Jan, for this promise. And I promise to be there in the audience when it happens.


Will Bishop landed a role in ‘Jersey Boys’ playing on the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship.


In which we check in with various Fresno-area arts folks (and former ones, too) and ask how they’re sheltering-and-placing. If you have a nominee for this feature, let me know!

The shelterer: Will Bishop.

Where he’s sheltering: With his parents in Fresno.

Why he’s a big deal: This musical-theater star added a buoyant presence to a number of local musical productions, from Selma Arts Center’s and Fresno State’s “Heathers” to StageWorks Fresno’s “Dogfight” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” He left Fresno in the beginning of 2018 to attend the American Musical Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, then transferred to the school’s campus in New York at the end of the year. His New York vocal coach (who sang at the Metropolitan Opera) helped him land an agent.

What he was doing when coronavirus came along: performing in “Jersey Boys” aboard the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship. He got the gig two weeks after he signed with his agent.

His take on the show:  “‘Jersey Boys’ is one of my favorite musicals, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of such an amazing show. I did my first tour with them for most of 2019 (January-August) as a swing, performing 5 different roles. I then was offered to do the tour again this year as the role of Hank, but also understudying Bob Gaudio, who is one of the Four Seasons. We started rehearsing in January and opened the first day of February. We ran for about a month on board the Norwegian Bliss, and then, as the global pandemic got worse, we had to suspend our tour until June.

One secret we might not know about being a cruise entertainer: “When you first board the ship, you have to do about a month and a half of training, which includes flipping life rafts in the water, getting into firefighting gear and doing rescue training, CPR training and also having to do exams of where everything on the ship is. And if you don’t pass any of these exams, you have to keep doing these trainings until you pass.” (Yes, that’s interesting, Will, but I was hoping you’d tell us about raiding the buffet dessert bar or wild parties in the officer’s mess.)

His favorite port: Either Colombia or Victoria, British Columbia. He highly recommends them as vacation spots.

A scene from ‘Jersey Boys’ with Will Bishop, left.

Going viral: “Well, we had no cases of Covid-19 on our boat so we were very fortunate to not have gotten the virus. Our last cruise finished on March 15 and all passengers got off, but all crew had to stay on the boat because it was much safer for us to stay on the boat, and also some people had no choice to stay on because of the lockdowns of their countries. We then stayed on the boat for about a week and half floating under the Brooklyn Bridge and then eventually getting down to Miami, where we were eventually flown home on March 23. It was definitely scary because of the uncertainty and closing of everything happening so fast, and for me personally, it’s hard for me to plan my schedule without knowing when I was going home or if I even was going home.”

Typical day in quarantine: “I wake up, make myself some breakfast, go play with my dogs in my backyard for a while to help wake me up a bit. Then I go for a run/workout at my house and then honestly, I either watch a lot of Netflix or play video games. Honestly, I have no amusing quarantine stories. I helped repair my fence in the backyard which was pretty amusing to my parents watching me get stuck in the bushes and having the dogs taking my tools and running away with them.”

If you could develop a skill, start a new hobby, learn something new or improve yourself in some other way during quarantine, what would you accomplish? “Well, I think I would take on more woodshop opportunities because I have always loved to build things and I wish I could do some more of that during this quarantine.”

Fill in the blank: I would be most thrilled if ____________________ rang my doorbell, stood 6 feet away and said, “Happy quarantine, Will!” His answer: Beyonce or my girlfriend, who lives in Australia.

(Will, some unsolicited advice. A better answer would be: “My girlfriend, who lives in Australia, or my very distant second choice, Beyonce.”)

Below: a quarantine musical performance:



The Fresno Arts Council has help for county artists facing immediate and imminent financial emergencies due to the Covid-19 crisis. The Fresno Artist Safety Net Fund provides one-time, unrestricted cash grants up to $500 for individual artists.

The fund is an emergency initiative organized by the board and staff members of the Fresno Arts Council. Grants will be distributed until funds run out.

“Due to the magnitude of this crisis, we anticipate that the need for relief funding will exceed the funds raised for this effort; therefore, applications demonstrating immediate or imminent need will be prioritized for selection,” the council notes. “If you are able to help us sustain this relief funding effort, please donate today.”

The grant application deadline is May 4.

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.

Comments (3)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thanks so much for Fresno Famoso, Donald and team. I zoned out and missed it Sunday (and I was looking forward to it with some of my very favorite people presenting!) so I watched last night and loved it!

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you for this entire, wonderful column, Donald! Wow! What a resource. You covered everything I’m interested in knowing about and included videos for both entertainment and in depth understanding. You provide an amazing, unique and unequalled source of information and inspiration around the arts. You help keep us going in these surreal times. Thank you!


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