Quick pick: Summer Arts, Session No. 2

The big idea: For a month, Fresno State host the annual CSU Summer Arts festival. The second of the two-week sessions kicks off today (Monday, July 16).

summerarts stage combat

The format: Read my Summer Arts overview post for a rundown. On almost every night of the week, you can attend a public performance or event featuring esteemed members of the Summer Arts faculty. The second session includes a number of literary readings from acclaimed writers. There’s also photography and TV news.

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Summer Arts pick: ‘Accent Olympics’ at Fresno State

Phil Thompson, Summer Arts master of accents, says it’s likely that you, too, have a keen ear for the ways people talk differently than you — even if you don’t realize it.

Humans are at their most fundamental small-group primates with an uncanny ability to detect the slightest variations in others. It’s a helpful trait when figuring out whom to trust.

“We are very, very good at detecting outsiders,” says Thompson, a professional actor and founder of Knight-Thompson Speechwork (KTS), a skills-based approach to training actors for detailed and nuanced accent work.

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Phil Thompson will preside over “Accent Olympics” at Fresno State. Photo / Todd Sharp, Summer Arts

Which is why I think I had a small but nagging problem with Emma Thompson’s performance as Hillary Clinton in the 1998 film “Primary Colors.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on it when I watched the film for the first time, but there was something just a tiny bit “off” in her otherwise exemplary performance. She didn’t sound a bit English, but there was something too perfect and almost sterile about her American accent that rang in me a linguistic warning bell.

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Great spirit at Summer Arts kickoff, but I’m disappointed in 1st performance

The scene: The opening Summer Arts performance on Monday at Fresno State. There’s always a fresh, optimistic feel on an evening like this: the heat of the day just starting to cool; the well-manicured empty campus giving off that lazy, inviting, vacation vibe; the clumps of newly arrived arts students wandering around getting their bearings. Community members in the audience — including the movers and shakers who are key to the support of the annual California State University festival — milled about before the performance begins, cooing and greeting. It’s nice moment.

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A moment from Spectrum Dance Theater’s “H.R. 3244,” performed Monday at Fresno State. Photo / Todd Sharp, CSU Summer Arts

The introductions: Rachel Nardo, the Summer Arts director, welcomed the community members in the audience. Honora Chapman, associate dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, likewise gave her pitch for the arts (which I always love to hear: Every student at Fresno State takes classes in the college, and it’s the one opportunity to smear some culture on them before they go on to their tightly defined job worlds).

The performance: The Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater offered “H.R. 3244,” choreographed by Donald Byrd, which received its world premiere April 5 in Seattle.

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Welcome to Summer Arts 2018: Here are 5 picks

Plus: You can win a pair of tickets to Friday’s ‘Evening of Flute’ event.

That blast of central air you feel coming from the Fresno State dorms is the whoosh of Summer Arts returning.

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Spectrum Dance Theater opens the 2018 CSU Summer Arts season on Monday, July 2. Photo / Spectrum Dance Theater

The Fresno-area arts community’s happy welcome continues for this annual California State University festival. Last year marked the return of the month-long program to the university after a five-year absence. The latest season opens 7 p.m. Monday, July 2, at the John Wright Theatre with a public performance of Spectrum Dance Theater. (This is sure to be one of the most popular public events of the festival. Not only is the company a big-name draw, but the first performance of Summer Arts also serves as a way to welcome students, so public tickets are limited. It’s important to buy them in advance.)

Following that, there’s a nice lineup of performances and lectures over the next four weeks that includes dance, classical music, comedy, photography and more. Regular tickets are $15-$25. And don’t forget the free student showcases (July 13-14 and July 27-28) that culminate each of the festival’s two-week sessions. They’re a great (and economical) way to experience budding creativity at its most promising.

To help you sort through the calendar, I checked in with Summer Arts marketing guru Tanya Osegueda, and we came up with 5 Events Not to Miss:

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Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 3

Sunday’s update includes a recap of Saturday’s wonderful percussion demonstration, certainly one of the highlights of this year’s festival

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the third week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com. For the public calendar of events, click here.

Drumfounded

The event: Two world-renowned percussionists, the Brazilian master Mario Pam and Afro-Latin bandleader John Santos, come together Saturday evening in a “Percussion Discussion” at CSU Summer Arts. (The above video is from a rehearsal prior to the lecture.)

The intro: The audience is greeted by Umi Vaughan, the course coordinator (and CSU Monterey Bay professor) who arranged the meeting. “You guys have walked directly into my dream come true,” he exclaims to the audience.

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Vocal variations with Vicki Lewis

“NewsRadio” and “Finding Dory” star is proud of her voice-acting students at CSU Summer Arts

Six things I learned when chatting Thursday afternoon with the delightful Vicki Lewis (“NewsRadio,” “Finding Dory,”), who’s helping teach the CSU Summer Arts “Voice Actors Toolkit” course:

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Summer Arts performance: Vicki Lewis speaks at the John Wright Theatre. Photo / Todd Sharp

1.

She’s got a great way with words. “I tend to wear my fried egg on the outside,” she tells me, referencing the fact that we’re all a bit damaged (something we learned about her at her dramatic Summer Arts lecture). She says she loves connecting with students on a healing level. “I get the most reward out of helping people relate to the human condition.”

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Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 2

Thursday update on the CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State: a raucous evening of jazz with David Sánchez

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the second week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com. For the public calendar of events, click here.

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Jazz at Summer Arts: Ernesto Mazar Kindelan, left, David Sánchez and Colin Douglas perform Wednesday night. Photo / Todd Sharp

Sold-out jazz

The scene: the foyer outside the Concert Hall in the Fresno State Music Building, crowded with people hoping to get into the CSU Summer Arts Latin jazz concert.

The excitement: This is the first sold-out event of the Summer Arts season. There’s an artistic electricity in the air, heightened by an air of exclusivity, as people on a waiting list petition the box office worker.

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Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 1

Saturday update on the CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State: tonight’s event is an evening with Vicki Lewis

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the opening week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com. For the public calendar of events, click here.

An evening with Vicki Lewis

vickilewissummerartsSaturday’s public event (7 p.m., John Wright Theatre) features actress Vicki Lewis, who is teaching in “The Voice Actor’s Ultimate Toolkit” Summer Arts class. Known for her roles on the TV series “NewsRadio,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” Lewis is also an accomplished Broadway veteran and voice actor.

At Saturday’s event, Lewis will be doing something similar to an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” format with a discussion of her career, video clips and an opportunity for questions.

(Updated 1 p.m. Saturday, July 1)

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