In ‘Station Two,’ Marc A. Gonzalez turns up on the heat on his memories of Fresno City firefighting academy
While many of us took advantage of our forced home time during the pandemic to practice our Netflix-maneuvering and belly-button-lint-picking skills, Fresno thespian Marc A. Gonzales pushed himself in a different direction: He wrote a play.
His “Station Two” – no relation to HBO Max’s “Station Eleven,” which is not a Netflix show, mind you – will receive a staged reading at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the VISTA Theatre. It’s about a firefighter named Clyde.
Here are Five Things to Know about the show:
It’s based in part on Gonzalez’s experience spending a year in Fresno City College’s Fire Academy program.
“It was always a back-up to a back-up,” Gonzalez says of his dabbling in firefighting.
“My mom was a police dispatcher when I was younger, and though I knew I didn’t want to be a cop, I did grow up having an awe for all first responders. My bachelor’s degree is in Recreation Administration: Community and Youth Services, and on Day Two of my internship I knew that wasn’t the career for me, which led me to pursue firefighting. I had an incredible experience learning the ins and outs of firefighting, and I met some great friends along the way.”
Turns out Gonzalez did some bingeing during the pandemic, too.
He stumbled upon the podcast “California Burning,” hosted by Matt Fiddler. After the third episode, he realized that he learned more about fire history via this podcast than the year he had spent in the fire academy. The idea of a two-person play was born, one that brought forth some of the wildfire issues that Western states are facing.
“As the play developed, more characters and scenes came about, settling into this two-act play,” he says.
It’s set in a fictional small town named Rippington.
It’s a name that simply fell out of his head when he was writing the first draft. The first three iterations of the play had Rippington as the title, until many colleagues, and his wife, convinced him it shouldn’t be the title of the play, just of the town, and he agreed.
“The town atmosphere is rooted in my weird affinity for the accuracy and fallacy of how ‘small towns’ are depicted in literature, television, film, and theater,” he says. “I find that when a town is small enough to where everyone knows everyone, I want to be there. The camaraderie and ‘being a regular’-vibe is something I personally love.”
One character who became particularly important to Gonzalez during the creative process: Marty, the toy-store owner.
“He has no basis in my life; he simply fell out of my head and onto the keyboard. Billy Jack Anderson was the first actor I had in my head for the part, and I’m fortunate enough to have had Billy read for Marty at the initial table read back in June 2021 and again for this staged reading. It’s this character, I have been told, that I am actually learning from. I never expected a character I’ve written to teach me something, and yet, here we are.”
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There’s a theme of protest in the play, and a literal one, too.
Gonzalez is a bit miffed that he learned from a five-episode podcast as opposed to his year in a program where he was taking classes from industry captains, chiefs, and hot shots. “The protest (against the fire station in the play) is a way by which I can express my frustrations with the education I didn’t receive in terms of fire history. I am a studious student, and lover of learning, and I can’t recall a single historical detail from any time in the program.”
He’s well known to Fresno-area theater audiences.
Not only has Gonzalez appeared in scores of local productions, he staged a one-person show at the Rogue Festival about his life – and is also the theater teacher at Bullard High School. Plus, he documents his love for theater through his ongoing “Road to 1,000” blog that includes reviews of the shows he sees. (He’s on No. 815, which is almost the home stretch!)
As of press time, only 11 tickets for “Station Two” remained. You can reserve them by emailing Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safety protocols: Masks will be worn by all audience, crew, and cast, regardless of vaccination status. The venue is limited to two-thirds capacity to allow for more distanced seating.