Rogue 2018: This millennial says, ‘Keep me engaged, keep me happy’

As the Rogue Festival comes to a close, here are some thoughts from a younger audience member. Could shorter performances be the wave of the future for more than just fringe festivals? Here’s a view from one of my students in the Fresno State journalism class I’m teaching. He originally wrote this piece for a class assignment:

By Nugesse Ghebrendrias


As a millennial, going to a two-hour movie or show just doesn’t appeal to me. I might be engaged to the halfway point, but by the time intermission or the end of the film rolls around, I’m already contemplating my hasty exit. I’m not saying long films or productions are bad. I sat through all of the “Lord of the Rings” films, which, by the way, average at least three hours.

Still, I’m 24. People my age prefer more options in a shorter amount of time. We need to be stimulated, but quickly. We need to be able to experience multiple avenues to see what we like.

Luckily, the Rogue Festival offers all those things, plus beer.

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Rogue 2018: I review ‘S’will,’ ‘The Dish,’ ‘Flower Tome’ and ‘ASS’

Fun stuff: I don’t work at The Bee anymore and can use ‘ASS’ in a headline

Once you’ve seen a show at Fresno’s Rogue Festival (which continues through Saturday, March 10), it’s become something of a tradition for audience members to offer their own quick reviews. The Rogue website makes it easy for you to do just that. There are a couple of hard-working websites that have already posted a number of their own reviews, too: Kings River Life and Marc Gonzalez’s “The Road to 1,000.”

UPDATE: I’ve added my review of “The Dish.”

Casey Ballard performs in “The Dish” in Marcel Nunis’ backyard. Photo / The Munro Review

‘The Dish’

The performer and concept: In this one-person show, Casey Ballard plays Coco, a free-spirited foodie (though the character loathes that term) who shares her remarkable story of traveling the world in search of the “perfect dish.” What follows is part travelogue, part culinary school history class and part bizarro gourmet episode of “Black Mirror.” All the while Ballard performs in writer/director Marcel Nunis’ backyard surrounded by a bounty of ingredients and kitchen implements. As she talks, she cooks, which is pretty cool.

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Rogue 2018: Whether on the street or inside a theater, these magicians just want to entertain

In some communities such as San Francisco, there’s a divide between those who work their magic inside and those who do it on the street

By William Ramirez

Kyle Elder and Chase Martin have loved magic since they were children. Magic has always seemed to love them, too, but in very different ways.

The Rogue Festival this year is hosting five magic acts. Among those acts you’ll find magicians with different performance styles. Martin is a street magician who relies on people walking by for his audiences. Elder is more a traditional magician who offers ticketed shows inside established venues.

At top, Chase the Entertainer performs his magic show on the streets of San Francisco. (Photos via Above, Kyle Elder is president of the Fresno Magic Club.

While their styles differ, both came to magic as a refuge. Martin found it to be a way to work for himself, something he desperately needed due to his fatigue and pain caused by his congenital myasthenic syndrome, a neuromuscular transmission disorder. Elder fell in love with the art when his grandfather, who was sick with cancer, bought him a simple coin trick from a magic shop in San Francisco.

They come from different magic worlds.

Martin mastered his craft in the magic community of San Francisco, which he said has a “divided” magic scene.

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Rogue 2018: For this Super Fan, there are never too many shows

Lori Williams got hooked on Fresno’s Rogue Festival almost a decade ago, and every year she makes the most of the experience

By Paige Gibbs

Some people zip over to the beach for a rest. Others fancy a quaint cabin in the woods. For Lori Williams, attending the Rogue Festival in Fresno’s Tower District every year is her version of a vacation.

After the show: Lori Williams, right, gets to hang out at the 2018 Rogue Festival with Les Kurkendaal, her favorite performer.

Williams, locally known by many as the Rogue Festival’s “Super Fan,” has attended for nine years.

Her first Rogue experience was to see her son, Jacob Williams, perform when he was in high school. Two years in a row, Jacob and a group of his classmates created an act.

“After a couple years of seeing shows, I did more and more and more,” Williams says. “And now I’m totally addicted. Rogue Festival for me is like two weeks in Hawaii. It’s fun. It’s lively. It’s alive. It’s different. You can run the gamut from heart-wrenching drama to hilarity to clowns.”

And that’s just one day.

Williams typically sees 34 or 35 shows during the run of the festival. Her record was 36 performances one year.

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5 things to know about Fresno’s newest piece of public art

“Acero Picado” will be unveiled in a Monday ceremony

The City of Fresno will officially unveil its newest piece of public art in a ceremony at Mariposa Plaza at noon Monday, Feb. 26. Here are five things to know about “Acero Picado,” a beautiful addition to the downtown arts scene:

Olga Bergstrom enjoys the new “Acero Picado” art installation at Mariposa Plaza downtown. Photo / The Munro Review


It’s substantial.

“Acero Picado” consists of three designs, each consisting of two parts. The larger pieces are 10 feet by feet. The smaller pieces are 3 feet by 8 feet. Each piece is made of inch-thick steel that has been waterjet cut in very intricate patterns, then powder-coated with distinctive colors. Benches are part of the design.


The artist is a big deal.

Gordon Huether, a Napa sculptor, has created public art installations for universities, hospitals, recreation centers, civic buildings, libraries, museums, airports, transportation centers, parking garages, and private corporations throughout the world, according to his bio. In his biggest project to date, he’s working with the Salt Lake City International Airport Department of Airports in designing, fabricating and installing multi-million dollar installations for its Terminal Redevelopment Program, which will be completed in 2020.

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KVPR family stunned by Mariam Stepanian’s death

Mariam Stepanian. Photo / Valley Public Radio

There’s sad news today for employees and supporters of Valley Public Radio: General manager Mariam Stepanian, whose name became synonymous with KVPR, died Thursday, Jan. 18, following complications from an illness. It’s no exaggeration to say she was a pillar of the central San Joaquin Valley’s cultural scene.

The radio station’s staff was informed Friday morning.

Stepanian had worked at the station since 1980, first serving as development director. She soon became general manager. You can learn more about her storied career on the KVPR website:

Under Stepanian’s leadership, Valley Public Radio became one the region’s leading providers of news and cultural arts media. With NPR and classical music programming, Valley Public Radio’s audience grew and eventually encompassed two stations, serving both the Fresno and Bakersfield markets.

Most recently, Stepanian led the effort to raise funds for the construction of a new state-of-the-art broadcast center in Clovis. The 10,000 square foot facility opened in mid-2016, and is a lasting reminder of her vision for the station and the community.

I’m planning to write a follow-up appreciation of Stepanian. If anyone has memories or other details to share, please email me at, or leave a comment below.

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A fond adieu to 2017

I’ve already told you my Top 20 favorite cultural events for 2017. Now here are a couple of year-ender wrap-up lists that I can’t resist:

My favorite stories of the year

My criteria: It’s completely subjective. I just like how these stories came out. For some, it was the fun in reporting them, and for others the joy in writing them. (Note: Because of my hybrid year — working through May as the Fresno Bee’s arts reporter, and the remainder of the year in my new role at The Munro Review — you’ll find stories from both platforms.) Here they are in chronological order:

In the moment of totality: my photograph taken from Mary’s Peak in central Oregon on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo / The Munro Review

In Delphi, a mysterious past provokes navel gazing: In this travel piece from Greece, I visit the strangely moody location where the famed oracles changed the ancient world.

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Fresno, meet the real Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

At Sunday’s final performance of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,’ the famed composer-lyricist team was in the audience

The setting: the final Sunday evening performance of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre.

The special audience members: In the crowd were none other than the real-life Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, famed composer-lyricist team that wrote such tunes as “Uptown” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” who are major characters in “Beautiful.”

Blast from the past: The real Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were in the Saroyan Theatre audience Sunday night for the last Fresno show of “Beautiful: The Carole King Story.” Photo / Julie Dana

Behind-the-scenes: I caught up with Fresno City College’s Julie Dana, who was in the audience, for the inside scoop. Her husband, Mike, found out early: He was playing in the pit orchestra, and the conductor told the instrumentalists there would be changes in the “bows” music at the end of the show so that Mann and Weil could be acknowledged. The cast wasn’t informed they were there beforehand.

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