Quarantine discoveries: Fresno-area creatives share their picks (Part 4)
THIS INSTALLMENT UPDATED JAN. 21
After 10-plus months of staying at home, you’ve probably developed a much closer relationship with Netflix. And your Kindle. And Spotify. The list goes on. We’re grateful, because film, TV, books and music have kept many of us sane. But have you run out of meaningful stuff to consume? Inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal survey in which various national tastemakers — actors, artists, directors, musicians and other creative types — shared some of their quarantine discoveries, The Munro Review offers a local version. This series will feature a handful of new picks every few days, and you’ll find the older responses at the end of each new installment (see below). You’re welcome to put your own discoveries in the comments section.
Interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and professor of classics and humanities at Fresno State
Quarantine discoveries: “Alexa, which I thought was Big Brother incarnate when I saw it on my sister’s kitchen counter a year ago, but after receiving one as a gift in March, it’s become the amazing device that plays a vast range of music, provides scads of information and helpful reminders, and displays photos of beautiful places around the world that inspire dreams of future trips.”
Up next: Broadening her knowledge of all types of music until people can all gather again to listen in person.
Head of Music & Media services in the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State; currently “unemployed” actor
Quarantine discoveries: He finally finished the sixth season of “Schitt’s Creek” on Netflix. “My mom and I watched the entire season together on Christmas Eve, and there were most definitely happy/sad tears being shed at the bittersweet knowledge that this sweet, funny, quirky, and at times beautifully moving series was over. But for me, the biggest discovery of the quarantine was the chance to take part in a truly astonishing number of online and outdoor/socially distanced play readings. It started with Renee Newlove and the Zounds! Bardatine Readers Society, where we read the entire canon of Shakespeare (uncut/unedited) on Zoom in three months — I was only able to take part towards the end, but I had a blast in the shows I was able to participate in.
“And then came the Backyard Readers Theatre Lab, or BYRTL, as we affectionately refer to it. Started by Julie Lucido (with able assistance from administrators Marc Gonzalez and Nwachukwu Oputa), we have been meeting in small groups in people’s backyards where we set up chairs a minimum of 6 feet apart, wear masks and observe all safety protocols, and then proceed to read plays together for the joy of doing some kind of ‘theater.’ We have focused on reading plays that are by or about underrepresented voices in theatre, such as authors and characters of color, female playwrights, and plays about LGBTQ issues. We have had important discussions about race in theatre, the future of theatre post-pandemic, and many other important issues. But most importantly it has been a chance for us to come together (at a distance) and create art together in this crazy time. I am proud to say that I have only missed one reading out of the nearly 40 we have done (because it was scheduled on a workday), and I have been affectionately dubbed the “BYRTL Whore.” Right behind me is Camille Gaston, who has been given the title of “BYRTL Jezebel.”
Up next: Many books, tv shows, and movies. “But specifically, the next two books on my nightstand are ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ by Ijeoma Oluo, and ‘Modern Mending: Minimize Waste and Maximise Style’ by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald (full disclosure, the author is my sister who lives in Melbourne, Australia, and her book has created a huge deal of buzz in the mending world — it’s currently the highest-rated English language mending book – new or old – on Goodreads. I am a very proud brother). The next thing on my Netflix queue is ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,’ followed by the series ‘Bridgerton.’ I also recently decided to splurge and get HBO Max, so I’m looking forward to seeing new movies such as ‘Wonder Woman: 1984,’ and now I can FINALLY start watching ‘Game of Thrones’ — I feel like I’m the last human being on the planet to see it.
Board member of Valley Public Radio, Fresno Community Chorus, and Fresno Filmworks; recently retired technical writer
Quarantine discoveries: “Psych” streaming free on Peacock. “The comic chemistry of James Roday and Dulé Hill is a font of hilarity and silliness,” she says. “Just finished John Steinbeck’s ‘The Log from the Sea of Cortez’ in anticipation of eventually taking the trip to see the restoration of the Western Flyer that we’d hoped to do last summer. Walking-walking-walking in our Fig Garden neighborhood. Baths! A welcome and happy rediscovery.”
Up Next: Next read is “L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home” by David Lebovitz, a Christmas gift from her sister. Next watch (continuing) “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Newsroom.”
Fresno composer of more than 300 works, pianist, Professor Emeritus of Music at Fresno Pacific University, and grandfather of five. His mission is to create through music windows of sonic light that reveal Jesus Christ to the world.
Quarantine discoveries: “This was a good year to retire, which I did in June. Visiting grandchildren and their families and honoring COVID-19 protocols shows me how precious each minute and hour is with them. Taking them for bicycle rides gives us more quality time and better health! For families, church, and musical events, Zoom is a bit of a pain – and indispensable. The recent Fresno Pacific University ‘Festival of Lessons and Carols’ enabled me to become an arranger and have a brand-new arrangement of ‘When Jesus Left His Father’s Throne’ receive its world première during the virtual hour-long service.”
Up next: Get in 4,000 miles of bicycling during 2021 and enjoy the virtual season of the Fresno Philharmonic, which continues 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 “on a desktop computer extremely near me,” he says. “Also continue the “Tapisseries” series of piano pieces inspired by sister-in-law Ann Harwell’s quilt art (she’s still 30 quilts ahead of my pieces!) and finish the Second Symphony.”
Multimedia storyteller; advisory board member at Fresno Filmworks; communication specialist for Fresno State’s English Department
Quarantine discoveries: Virtual cinema. With the coronavirus pandemic mostly shutting down movie houses, art-house theaters improvised right away with online screenings of first-run movies, in partnership with independent distributors. “I felt lucky to watch, from the safety of home, several of the year’s major indies as they rolled out nationally: ‘Bacurau’ (via the State Theatre in Modesto), ‘Vitalina Varela’ (via Film Lincoln Center in New York City), and ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’ (via Fresno Filmworks in Fresno). We’ve seen so many changes to film exhibition in nine short months and 2021 will continue to change how we watch movies.”
Up next: “I’m just starting to watch a collection of seven beautiful 4K restorations of Wong Kar-wai classic films, via The Roxie in San Francisco.”
Director, Choreographer, Actor, Mom, Wife, President of Junior Company Foundation and UR Here, Creator of the Backyard Readers Theatre Lab, 35-year member of Good Company Players, Marketer for the produce industry, Past Co-Chair of the PMA Women’s Leadership Committee, Mentor, Coach, Non-stop type A theater lover (incapable of being brief)
Quarantine discoveries: “That not even a pandemic can get me down — or prevent me from some sort of theatrical experience. But seriously, rediscovering my love for language and Shakespeare by reading with the Zounds Bardatine Zoom Readers group and realizing I missed humans, so kick-started a socially distanced backyard readers group where we read 39 scripts with ‘Br’er Cotton,’ ‘Collective Rage,’ ‘A Play in 5 Betties,’ ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,’ ‘Quixote Nuevo,’ and ‘Dance Nation’ being some of my favorites. How talented — dedicated — beautifully hearted my theater friends are, and how connections can be made even during this challenging time. But also somedays are meant for wine with ‘Real Housewives’ and others for ‘The Tudors’ because ‘Game of Thrones’ is over.
Up Next: Next non-theater read on her nightstand is “Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies'”by Tara Schuster. Next script reading is going Greek with “Medea” and “Bash” followed by 24 more scripts planned for BYRTL (with more to come). Also: “Helping put together a Rogue Show for UR Here (a new theater company) with my artistic partners in crime Jonathon Hogan, Chris Mangels, Diane Fidalgo, and Marc Gonzalez. And returning to CMT to my ‘Matilda’ cast and crew and continuing teaching classes for them. And, other things up the sleeve for 2021……”
Coming in the next installment of Quarantine Discoveries: Brad Myers, Nikiko Masumoto, Anthony Cody, J. Daniel Herring, Miguel Gastelum, Julia Copeland and Ramon Torres offer their recommendations. Below, you can find responses from the first, second and third installments.
Creative Director of The Fools Collaborative, Filmmaker, Wanna-be Poet, Medusaphile.
Quarantine discoveries: “I read a lot on the collective social power of women’s rage during my last semester of grad school (Favorites: ‘Good and Mad’ by Rebecca Traister and ‘Rage Becomes Her’ by Soraya Chemaly.) After my (virtual) graduation in September, I’ve been spending the fall and winter trying to focus more on self-care. Friends turned me on to activists/poets like Sonya Renee Taylor and Trisha Hersey (the self-proclaimed Nap Bishop) who teach about self care through the lens of social justice. Also, LOTS of binge-watching television. ‘Euphoria,’ ‘Killing Eve,’ the new ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘The Great,’ and literally the entirety of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ have all helped me through. I also binged the ‘Nice White Parents’ podcast.”
Up next: Everyone keeps telling her to watch “Soul” and I’m reading “White Rage” by Carol Anderson next. And I look forward to reading everyone else’s recommendations!
Reporter with The Fresno Bee. Also a writer, blogger, rock-band frontman and lover of all things (OK, most things) Fresno.
Quarantine discoveries: Youtube. “I’m way late to the game here, but since the pandemic started I’ve made a hard shift toward Youtube for all my quick-bite content (and some more long-form stuff, but I’m not watching movies or anything). I’ve become obsessed with skateboarding videos and in particular the Nine Club channel. On the music side, Two Minutes to Late Night has created Bedroom Covers, in which a who’s who of the metal/punk/hardcore collaborate on a series of cover tunes from the comforts of their homes. This cover of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” is Very. Metal. and yet still fairly listenable for non metal heads.”
Up next: He has been eagerly anticipating the release of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” remake. “David Lynch’s original film had a big impact on me as a child (alongside ‘Krull’) and I finally bought and read a copy of the novel this summer. I’ve been meaning to start ‘Lovecraft Country’ on HBO. I very much liked the book.”
Kathleen McKinley: Theater director and university acting professor. Last show was a video graphic novel production of “Darkside.” Campaign volunteer, Soon-to-be grandmother.
Quarantine discoveries: A British cop show, “Scott and Bailey,” recommended by an old friend who knows she’s been a big fan of women detectives ever since “Cagney and Lacey.” All 15 seasons of “ER” since the late 90’s and early 2000’s were way too hectic for TV — great guest stars, and younger Clooney and Margulies. Plus: “Once again,” she says, “I was comforted by rewatching seven seasons of ‘West Wing’ for the umpteenth time. Best holiday discovery urged by my daughter? The documentary ‘Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,’ with the fabulous Debbie Allen!”
Up Next: Glenda Jackson in “Elizabeth is Missing” on ‘”Masterpiece.” Her son-in-law is sure she will like “The Mandalorian.”
Artistic director of the Fresno Master Chorale
Quarantine discovery: “CuriosityStream” (especially the history episodes).
Up next: Now that the prequel “The Evening and the Morning” is out, reading the Ken Follett medieval series in sequence.
Veteran local actor, board member of the Junior Company Foundation.
Quarantine discovery: “During the pandemic keeping yourself entertained can be a difficult task. I was having a rough go of it. But my sister’s caffeine addiction helped me to find a way to keep busy, I decided to teach myself to make mixed coffee, brew espresso and make some pretty good coffee. So far I’ve made mochas, lattes, and even a few cold brews. It’s been a messy and interesting experience for me and I hope it sticks with me long after.”
Up next: “I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of metalworking and the ability to craft beautiful objects and images out of metal, so I’m going to give it a try. I’ve already started a few projects and they seem to be going well. Hopefully I’ll learn to become a good metalworker and craftsman.”
Sedentary local actor and movie fan.
Quarantine discoveries: “For aerobics, I grew a beard. Then travelled via streaming to Bosch’s Los Angeles and Mrs Maisel’s New York.” His favorite movie decades are the 1930s and 1970s. He loves cynical noir thrillers but is a sucker for any funny line or maudlin melodrama as he searches for forgotten Kay Francis films. His go-to stimulants: Buster Keaton, Ingmar Bergman, Astaire and Rogers, :Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Jules et Jim,” Kubrick’s “Lolita,” and any frame of Bea Lillie or James Mason.
Up next: “Just began watching the witty French Netflix series ‘Call My Agent,’ which includes cameos by major French actresses spoofing their careers. Fun!”
State employee by day; performer and vlogger by night.
Quarantine discoveries: “I’m a bonafide YouTube junkie and I heavily consumed content on gardening, minimalism, DIY projects, and climate change. I discovered content creators such as Planterina, Earth Mama Medicine, Hallease, and Yoga with Adriene. And I caught up on the at-home versions of ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ and ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.’ ” She binged podcasts on Spotify such as “Sustainability Defined,” “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” and supported local podcasters “Java with Jacob” with Jacob Moon and “Dead Folks Podcast” with Haley White and Brooke Aiello. She read about 25 plays with the Backyard Readers Theatre Lab (BYTRL), and my favorites have been “Br’er Cotton” and “Quixote Nuevo.”
Up next: She’s excited to read more plays, particularly “God of Vengeance” and “Indecent.” Her next podcast to binge is “Black Hair in the Big Leagues” with Fresnan Salisha Thomas.
President & CEO Fresno Philharmonic, Board Member Association of California Symphony Orchestras
Quarantine discoveries: “The standout series I streamed during the pandemic was ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’ (And yes we bought a chessboard afterwards!) The acting, writing and mid-century period setting all made for great watching. Early in the pandemic, I also did a deep dive into classic film noir: ‘Out of the Past,’ ‘Double Indemnity,’ ‘The Killers, ‘The Asphalt Jungle,’ ‘In a Lonely Place’ and ‘The Big Heat,’ among others. This was such an amazing era of film and, for me, it was helpful to experience American culture from a time when the default assumption was that things would not turn out well.
Up next: Several books are up for him: Barack Obama’s memoir, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross’s book on Wagnerism, and Scott Anderson’s ‘The Quiet Americans’ about the CIA in the early years of the Cold War.
Author/Op Ed Columnist; recently co-authored: “The Words Between Us: A Pandemic Abecedarius,” a docu-memory about life during Covid.
Quarantine discoveries: Binge watched “The Restaurant,” “Last Tango in Halifax,” “Riviera,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Paris, je t’aime.“ And she loved stumbling across a pirated version of “Grey Gardens” on YouTube. “Such a guilty pleasure,” she says.
Up next: Submitting a “Tiny Love Story” to New York Times and putting finishing touches on a spring course for OLLI at Fresno State: “Embracing the Journey: Writing Your Heart Out!” And a COVID vaccine so I can book flights to New York and Paris.
Poet, Professor, author of “Scar and Flower,” finalist for the 2020 Northern California Book Award in Poetry.
Quarantine discoveries: More Bong Joon-ho films. “I loved ‘Parasite’ so much that I bought it on DVD and have watched it five more times. There’s something new to love every time I see it. I loved ‘Okja.’ I also watched and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘The Host.’ I’m watching ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’ tonight.
Up next: “Lovecraft Country.” He liked Jonathan Majors in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and some good friends recommended the series.
Rogue Performance Festival co-producer, recovering theatre director and blogger.
Quarantine discovery No. 1: “Virtual programming I couldn’t have attended live. This year I enjoyed the Virtual Dickens Universe Conference at UC Santa Cruz, which highlighted Frances E.W. Harper’s “Iola Leroy,” a 19th Century novel by an African-American woman I hadn’t known before. Also, I got to produce and moderate a panel of theatrical artists from all over the nation regarding adapting Austen to the stage for the Jane Austen Society, and I’ve enjoyed fringe performer Martin Dockery’s almost-monthly shows streaming on YouTube called ‘Right Now.’ Virtual programming doesn’t replace live, but I predict that it will create its own space in our arts ecosystem.”
Quarantine discovery No. 2: TikTok. It may inspire mockery from the uninitiated, but she says that TikTok has grown beyond cute dances and lipdubs into an incredibly muscular tool for creativity, communication, humor and ideas. “There is a ton of informative, inspirational, educational, and downright theatrical content with a DIY flair. As always with social media, though: your mileage may vary!”
Up next: After finishing “Bridgerton” on Netflix, “Lovecraft Country” on HBO, and listening to “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama on Audible, “I’ll be producing Virtual Rogue Festival 2021 in March where we’re beaming in performers near and far for two weekends of storytelling and indie theatre. . . all from my tiny desk in the Tower District.”
Board president, Children’s Musical Theaterworks; local business owner who found her way back to the family business (Fresno Neon Sign Co., Inc.) after working the first half of her career as an attorney.
Quarantine discoveries: After 10 years with a jam-packed schedule and literally no free time (work, family, volunteer work, kids sports, theater, family trips, etc.) she caught up on some older TV shows she missed, including “Blacklist” (Netflix) and “Once Upon a Time” (Disney Plus). “I also re-watched ‘Lost’ (Hulu), which was a show that I loved in my pre-kids life, but missed the ending when life got too busy. I just have the season finale left (so don’t spoil it!). I also loved ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ ‘Ozark’ and ‘Locke & Key.’ My husband and I introduced the kids to a few of our favorite childhood movies, like ‘War Games’ and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’and we also watched ‘Hamilton’ on Disney Plus to see how it compared to the live version that we saw last year in San Francisco. I read ‘The Lions of Fifth Avenue’ (Fiona Davis) and every Kate Morton book I could get my hands on. I had the time to try a few different things with my garden, growing quite a bit of our family’s fruit and vegetables.The lettuce is my favorite, but I have a secret source for the best lettuce seeds!”
Up next: “The Queens Gambit” and “Salt Fat Acid Heat” (both on Netflix). “I may even read the book by Samin Nosrat, since it appears that I will be eating nothing but my own cooking for a few more months at least, so I may as well get inspired!”
Retired Professor of Art at Fresno State, former director to three Fresno Arts Councils and maker of the mosaic bench panels on the Fulton Mall. “I’ve stopped taking on large art projects since moving to San Joaquin Garden, except for painting designs on small rocks to scatter around the grounds.”
Quarantine discoveries: “I’ve been rewatching “Pie in the Sky,” a series I got hooked on when I spent a lot of time in England in the 1990s. It’s about an English detective who would rather be cooking in his restaurant than solving crimes. I follow that up with ‘The Great British Baking Show.’ It’s my way of canceling out all the daily news.” She recently read the “Splendid and the Vile,“ by Eric Larson, about Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II and how the British got through the Blitz. “It was especially interesting to me because of the years I spent teaching in London.”
Up next: She’s getting ready to read “Livewired,” by David Eagleman, an investigation of the ever-changing ability of the brain to adapt.
Saxophonist, Composer, Fresno State Educator, Husband, Dad.
Quarantine discoveries: “Schitt’s Creek;” “Ted Lasso”; Jimmy Kimmel; the new Frederick Douglas bio; Jackie Ryle’s punny crowd-sourced Facebook posts; Ten Percent Happier app; occasional movies like “Roman Holiday” (“Diana Marcum suggested we get a projector/screen for the backyard to get us outside.”)
Up next: “Dust off my old vinyl albums; learn some guitar; finish “Behave (The Neuroscience of Psychology)”; edit/record another album.”
Editor-in-chief of The Fresno State Collegian, contributor with CalMatters
Quarantine discoveries: “A Man Called Ove,” Fredrik Backman’s 2014 novel. “It’s a story about an old man named Ove who lives alone and is extremely bitter. Ove’s story is both filled with moments of joy and sadness, and the book really makes you appreciate the small things in life.” He also finally got the chance to watch the movie “Spotlight,” which details the Boston Globe’s investigations into the Catholic Church. “The immense level of detail they put in to show newsroom culture and just how much work goes into an investigation made me gain a greater appreciation of investigative journalism.”
Up next: Listening to more late ’60s and ’70s music. “I’ve really loved listening to The Velvet Underground lately, so I want to find more bands from that time.”
Creative director, Good Company Players. Writer, director, actor.
Quarantine discoveries: “Schitt’s Creek.” “I watched all the seasons in a few weeks. Loved it. Caught up on ‘The Crown.’ Was riveted by ‘Turn.’ Enjoyed some brilliant comedy: Seth Meyers’ “Lobby Baby,” Mike Birbiglia’s ‘The New One,’ Steve Martin and Martin Short’s ‘An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life,’ and Carl Reiner’s ‘If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.’ I got acquainted with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work, reading some of his articles and his bestseller, ‘Between the World and Me.’ And I’ve watched soooooo much HGTV and read way too much news.”
Up next: She wants to learn to juggle.
Actor/Coach/Director/Writer: Playing next in the play “The Line” (Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen) for Rogue 2020; pre-production for “landslide” (an original web-series by him); and spearheading The Valley Theatre League.
Quarantine discoveries: At the beginning of shelter-in-place, he and his kids vowed to geek out and watch all of the titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe … in order. That led to the discovery of the “Defenders” series, et. al. “However, with the onset of protests in reaction to the senseless killings of people of color, I felt drawn to literature and reference materials addressing Social and Emotional Wellness. I even received my Certification in Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Training, thereby expanding my skill set to better address the trauma of racial inequities.
Up next: “I plan on binging on some old faves (‘A Million Little Things,’ ‘This is Us’) and some new discoveries (‘Death to 2020,’ ‘Dear White People,’ ‘When They See Us,’ ’13th’), as well as catching up on some new theatricals that have been stockpiling (‘Into the West,’ ‘The Mad Ones,’ ‘Edges,’ ‘Tales from the Bad Years,’ ‘Daddy Long Legs’).”