Contrary to rumors, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater is not closing, owner says

Rumors started swirling late Monday morning that Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater will close because of the cratered coronavirus economy. The iconic theater has partnered for decades with Good Company Players in bringing musicals to Fresno and is one of the anchors of the local cultural scene.

The rumors, which were attributed to a promotional segment for Ray Appleton’s KMJ show, started circulating on Facebook just before noon.

I contacted Roger Rocka, the theater’s owner, who says neither he nor Dan Pessano, managing director of Good Company Players, knew anything about the rumor.

“Wow! I have no idea where that is coming from,” Rocka said. “Not Dan or me. We are definitely, absolutely not quitting. We are planning to reopen with ‘The King and I’ as soon as it’s deemed safe, and we’ve been working out how to limit audience size and create appropriate spacing.”

I followed up a few minutes later with Pessano.


“Not a chance we are closing,” he said.

Update 1:30 p.m.: Pessano called into Appleton’s show at 1 p.m. to set the record straight.

“You’re blowing smoke,” he cheerfully told the host.

In a bravura performance that should go down in the annals of public-relations history, Pessano struck the perfect balance of nonchalance, anger, obsequiousness, hilarity and folksy dominance as he spoke.

Related story: The Quarantine Chronicles: Tales of life under shelter-in-place

Not only is the theater — and theater company, which is a separate business — not closing, but rehearsals have continued for “The King and I,” which will be performed when the doors reopen, Pessano told listeners. What exactly that will look like is uncertain because of social distancing requirements, but staff is working on it. The season selection process for next year is already under way.

Appleton explained that a producer had given him bad information and apologized.

Later in the interview, Pessano took the opportunity to state his case one more time, emphatically: The show is going on.

“I hope I have been clear,” he said. “I hope I haven’t been speaking Italian.”

No, Appleton agreed. He most certainly had not.

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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.

Comments (10)

  • Anjali Kapoor-Davis

    Thank you for looking into it. Always good to know you are on top of it.

  • suzanne grazyna

    Thank you for fact checking this, Donald!

  • Anna Martinez

    Clap emoji, clap emoji, clap emoji, clap emoji (I’m on my computer with no access to emojis).

  • Ken Parks

    At least the fine folks @ KMJ took the time to research the spelling of Rocka.

  • Erin

    Thank you, Donald. I guess the folks at 580 don’t fact check and reach out to resources for their news. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • John R Donaldson

    I’m glad you went to the authorities on this one, Don. Thanks.

  • Ben

    Doesn’t surprise me that KMJ spread misinformation since that’s kind of their business model but I’m glad it got cleared up

  • “Roger Rodka’s” heh heh heh… yet another example of lifetime locals conflating ‘Roger Rocka’ with ‘Al Radka.’ Priceless.

    • And “Rodger” just makes it funnier.


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