TMR Playbook (updated Oct. 31): Two more chances for appealing ‘Louie,’ a museum reopens

A regular compilation of news, notes, links, last-minute picks and general musings about the arts scene and Fresno life. Some briefs link to longer stories. Check back for updates.


Two more performances: Five Things to Love about ‘Captain Louie’

A tip of a pilot’s cap to the Selma Arts Center production of ‘Captain Louie,” an innovative presentation of the sweet 1980s children’s musical by Stephen “Wicked” Schwartz. I got to see this show twice: once at the live filming (with a very limited, socially distanced audience) and then yesterday, when I watched the scheduled streaming version. Just two more performances for the Halloween-themed show remain: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

Some things that I love about the finished product:


Director/choreographer Michael Christopher Flores’ hybrid vision. Part live theater and part filmed entertainment, the production is an intriguing blend of two very different experiences. At one point Will Bishop, in his appealing performance in the title role, appears as a projection behind the “live” characters on stage. Then we cut for a moment to a shot of Bishop singing by himself that feels live before switching back to the wider projection shot. This isn’t a static presentation of a purely stage experience; it’s a meeting of two worlds. The actors are masked the entire time and the vocals prerecorded, but thanks to snappy video editing by local firm EDIT/OR, Flores’ staging and choreography, Nicolette and Erik Andersen’s scenic design, and Nicolette Andersen’s menacing-turns-bouncy lighting design, I soon forgot about the masks — and the coronavirus world altogether.


Bishop as Captain Louie. It isn’t as easy for an adult to play a moping — and then exhilarated — young boy as you might think. But Bishop brings an engaging, non-condescending quality to his portrayal of the lonely Louie, who misses his friends in the old neighborhood when his family moves away. In an extended fantasy sequence, Louie flies his toy plane back to the old ‘hood and spends a wild Halloween night reliving the old days with his friends.



The rest of the cast. Each brings a crisp, well-defined characterization to the proceedings, from Meg James’ charmingly bossy Roberta to Nia Luchau’s loyal Cat. Jacob Moon gets a chance to soar in a few vocals as the worry-wart Archie, Damen Pardo brings an affectionate, underdog spin to neighbor new kid Julio, and Jessica Meredith a buoyant whimsiness to Amy, who gets to sport a hilarious axe-in-the-skull headdress for a Halloween costume. (The costumes, by Pardo, are key to the production’s appeal.)


The vocals. The show is light on solos and heavy on ensemble numbers, and vocal coach Mindy Ramos helps the cast soar.

Related story: For Good Company and Selma Arts Center, clever social distancing means a glimpse at live, local theater


The emotional heft of the material. My favorite part of the show comes when the indefatigable Ziggy, played by an upbeat Adam Chavez, reveals why he’s never let his friends come over to his house to play. It’s a fine, fierce moment that reminds us that a child’s emotional terrain can be just as unnerving and fraught as an adult’s. In a time when the thought of even allowing children to run free through a neighborhood seems as problematic as holding a political rally without a mask, “Captain Louie” becomes a fantasy for kids and adults alike.

Tickets for “Captain Louie” are available here.

(Posted Oct. 31)


Friday: Edgar Allan Poe, meet Zoom. It’ll be an evening of chills with UR Here Theater.

The event: Get your spook on Friday evening, Oct. 24, with a Zoom presentation of three classic horror tales. Organizers are calling it “Dark Dial Haunted Radio Hour.”

Camille Gaston looking stressed.

The stories: Adaptations of “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and the unabridged horror classic “The Tell-Tale Heart” will be performed live from 7:30-9 p.m.

The chills: Just to interject here, I still remember the first time I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” in high school and was sort of shattered for the next hour or two. No one could do creepy like Edgar Allan Poe.

The sponsors: Bitwise and UR Here Theater, a part of Visalia’s nonprofit Fourth Wall Theatre, are sponsoring the event. (There’s a connection between Fourth Wall Theatre and UR Here Theater, which I’ll be writing about in more detail soon.)

The actors: You can expect some well-known Fresno names, including Camille Gaston, Harrison Mills, Terry Lewis, Mark Standriff, Renee Newlove and Randall Kohlruss.

The price: It’s pay-what-you-can, with all proceeds benefiting Fourth Wall.

The details: Here’s the Facebook post. You can get tickets here.

(Posted Oct. 29)


Fresno remains in the ‘Red’ COVID-19 tier, which is good news for movie theaters and Fresno Art Museum

The Fresno County arts scene dodged a bullet on Tuesday with the state’s regular update of coronavirus risk. The county remains in Tier 2, or the “Red” category, for “substantial risk.”

Pictured above: Jim and Micheline Curnyn at the reopened Fresno Art Museum. Photo: The Munro Review

As the Bee notes, Fresno County could have regressed back into the worst category, Tier 1 (“Purple”), for “widespread” risk. (Whoever named these tiers got their colors mixed up; shouldn’t the most dangerous category be red?) It barely slipped by to retain Tier 2 status, meaning that the Fresno Art Museum can remain open (albeit with stringent social distancing), and people can still trek out to movie theaters that have chosen to reopen.

From The Bee:

Tier 2, color-coded red for “substantial” risk of transmitting COVID-19 in the community, allows restaurants to serve meals indoors at up to 25% of capacity, churches to hold worship services at the lesser of 25% capacity or 100 people, and gyms and health clubs to allow indoor workouts at up to 10% capacity.

Once a county drops back into a more restrictive tier, it has to languish there for three weeks until the important coronavirus stats improve (new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, positivity rate). Dipping back into “Purple” would have meant no more indoor dining.

It also would have been demoralizing for the museum, especially, to have to close after reopening on Oct. 22.

(Posted Oct. 27)

Amazon Studios

Sacha Baron Cohen stars in the ‘Borat’ sequel, a cringe-worthy affair.

The ‘Borat’ sequel gets a local review; Manchester is the lone Regal theater in Fresno County to remain open

When I want to know these days what’s happening movie-wise locally, I rely on James Ward at the Visalia Times-Delta. We were movie-critic colleagues together long ago (How long? Just a blink of an eye past the invention of motion pictures), and while I’ve since turned to other kinds of arts writing, Ward has remained fiercely passionate about the cinematic scene. I was tickled, in fact, to see that his review of the new “Borat” sequel made the USA Today website. The film kicked up a lot of dust last week when a compromising scene involving Rudy Guiliani was revealed. That controversy doesn’t translate to watchability, however, he writes:

Fourteen years later, Cohen certainly tops himself in the cinematic exclamation point territory with Rudy Giuliani — yes America’s onetime-favorite mayor and the current personal lawyer of the President of the United States — in a hotel room.

Here’s the thing, though: The scene — which plays out like a Bizzaro-world episode of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” — isn’t funny. It’s just excruciatingly cringe-worthy.

And when I write excruciatingly cringe-worthy I mean curl up in the fetal position and look away from the screen in horror. If Cohen doesn’t get sued by Giuliani it will be a shock.

By the way, Ward keeps close tabs during the pandemic on which movie theaters are open in the area. Tulare County is in Tier 1 (Purple), the most restrictive, which means that movie theaters in Visalia and Tulare remain closed.


Kings County is in Tier 2. Cinemark Movies 8 in Hanford is open but not the movie theater at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore.

The Fresno-Clovis area — hanging on in Tier 2, just barely — boasts three open theaters: Maya Cinemas, Sierra Vista in Clovis, and Regal Manchester, the lone Regal theater on the local list.

It’s interesting that Regal, which is suffering from severe financial woes, opted to keep the Manchester theater and not its flagship Edwards Theatre in River Park open. My guess: It must come down to income and operating expenses. (Update: Ward notes that Regal is using the pandemic downtime to conduct a multimillion dollar remodel of Edwards.)

Many people believe that movie theaters are teetering on the edge of extinction, but Ward isn’t buying it. Here’s his take in a Facebook comment thread that started with a link to a story in Variety saying that Regal could close all its cinemas because of the delay of the James Bond film “No Times to Die.” He’s bullish on movie theaters in the long term:

Makes sense to me. When this pandemic is FINALLY over, I think the last thing people will want to do is hang out in their living rooms watching movies on Netflix.

(Posted Oct. 27)


The welcome patter of visitors’ feet resonates at the newly reopened Fresno Art Museum

Thursday morning at the museum. Shiny floors and empty galleries. A splash of brash, late-morning sunlight streaming through the skylights. Newly stocked paper-towel dispensers in the bathrooms. The staff crisp and fresh, ready for the day.

The front door opens. Into the Fresno Art Museum walk Jim and Micheline Curnyn, the first visitors of the day.

On a “regular” morning, their arrival would be no big deal. But on this day, it’s monumental. They are the first patrons to walk through those doors in six months. Besides, nothing is regular in these times. A couple of weeks ago, the museum wanted to reopen to great fanfare under strict social-distancing guidelines. But the staff postponed the plan because Fresno County COVID-19 numbers, which had been dipping, looked like they were climbing again. Then things turned around. There was a respite in case counts and reproduction rates and all those other depressing statistics that museum directors have to pay attention to these days.

Which is how we end up with the Curnyns standing in the lobby. He is a fine-art photographer with a studio at Chris Sorensen Art Studios & Gallery. They have been members at the museum for a couple of years, and attendees for longer.

After checking in at the front desk and receiving a greeting from Jerry Palladino, the president of the museum’s board of directors, the couple looks at the handful of other people standing on the other side of the room. The Curnyns think those people are other visitors, but they are wrong: Those well-dressed folks milling about are actually staff members gathered for this momentous event.

What do they do next?

They turn to the art.

“I miss art,” Michelin Curnyn says, an expectant air about her. “It’s part of normal life.”

Before them, two impressive shows to take in: the fiber art of Bonnie Peterson in “Another Glorious Sierra Day.” And the centerpiece exhibition, “Here She Stands,” a strong new show featuring noted women artists from the museum’s permanent collection.

The Munro Review

Jim and Micheline Curnyn enjoy the Fresno Art Museum on ‘reopening day.’

There is a muscle memory to the act of museum-going. Strolling through the quiet galleries. Pausing in front of an artwork that captures your attention. Sweeping your eyes across the room, the colors and textures beckoning. Many times during the past months, particularly on the weekends, I have craved those physical movements. My brain has longed for that mental space of reflection and appreciation. I needed to lose myself in a museum, if only for an hour or two.

The Curnyns stop in front of the entrance to “Here She Stands.” The wall is painted a pale green, and the wall text is framed by cutouts of big, vibrant flowers. Ahead they will find three galleries, meticulously curated, studded with such famed local names as Nancy Youdelman, Mary Maughelli, Elaine Lynn, Anne Scheid.

The tone is festive, dignified, hopeful. It’s the perfect aesthetic for a reopening. Jim and Micheline Curnyn walk into the show.

The museum is back. And the first visitors to return couldn’t be happier.

If you go: New hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays. Reservations and timed entry will be required for all visitors, and capacity will be limited to 25% capacity. Masks are required for all guests age 3 and older and will be provided to those who need them. Review the comprehensive safety protocols and COVID-19 specific guidelines by clicking here. Reserve your tickets in advance to guarantee entry and a more contact-free visit by calling 559-441-4221.

(Posted Oct. 23)

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The Munro Review

Host Jackie Ryle welcomes an impressive lineup to ‘Horizon 2020.’

Update: Ryleing up ‘Horizon 2020’ virtual celebration

I nabbed a room at the InterContinetal San Francisco (the hotel rates in The City are extremely low), and I spent the weekend in the trappings of luxury — and attending the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. After settling in for the evening, I watched “Horizon 2020” (see earlier post below), a virtual variety show offered by the Fresno Arts Council. Thanks, Jackie Ryle, for bringing your enthusiasm to this community-wide project.

(Posted Oct. 24) 

Fresno Arts Council

Saturday: Celebrating the Horizon Awards (but with no awards)

The event: “The Horizon 2020,” an online presentation.

The presenter: The Fresno Arts Council.

Why it’s important: The annual Horizon Awards have been a big part of the cultural scene for decades. This year’s event will be a little different: “The Horizon 2020” is a showcase featuring performances and presentations from local Fresno County artists and community leaders.

Highlights include: Fresno Poet Laureate Marisol Baca, Fresno Philharmonic conductor Rei Hotoda, and special messages from Fresno Art Museum executive director Michele Ellis Pracy and Radio Bilingue founder & executive director Hugo Morales (winner of the Murrow Award, MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.)

The host: None other than Jackie Ryle, who knows a thing or three about spicing up a performance.

Time and place: 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct 24, on your local computer screen.

Tickets: $10. Get them here.

(Posted Oct. 23)


Friday and Saturday: Costume sale at 2nd Space Theatre offers stuff you won’t find at Spirit Halloween

A Halloween bonanza: Good Company Players is cleaning out its (rather large) closets, and just in time for that socially distanced costume party you’ve been invited to on Zoom. The company’s Halloween Costume Pop-Up Sale is a first.

The goodies: Costumes for men, women and children are available. The company recently nabbed a big donation of costumes from a collector and couldn’t use it all, so there’s a lot of fine stuff to peruse.

Time and place: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, 2nd Space Theatre lobby, 928 E. Olive Ave., Fresno.

(Posted Oct. 23)


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 (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you, Donald, for always keeping us up to the minute with the arts scene. I love that things are happening, and you make sure we know about them! See you at the Horizon Awards (on the small screen)


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