A hurting ‘Mother,’ 20 years later

In StageWorks Fresno’s “Mothers and Sons,” Terrence McNally revisits characters he wrote about in 1990

Joel C. Abels saw the original Broadway production of Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” a few years back, and something about the show — which is about a sharp-tongued, homophobic mother having a tense reunion with her dead son’s former lover — really stuck with him.

“ I knew it was a play that I wanted to produce — a story I wanted to tell,” Abels says.

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Tense reunion: Billy Jack Anderson, as Cal, and Amelia Ryan, as Katharine, in “Mothers and Sons.” Photo / Ron Webb, StageWorks Fresno

The StageWorks Fresno production, which opens Friday, Sept 8, at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium, is a Fresno premiere.

I talked with Abels, who directs the production, and Amelia Ryan, who plays the mother character, to get more of a feel for the show. Here are 10 things I learned.

1. It’s a sequel, of sorts. In 1990, McNally wrote a film titled “Andre’s Mother” that was broadcast by PBS. The film is set at the Manhattan memorial service for a gay man named Andre Gerard, who died of AIDS. Katharine, his mother, who never accepted her son’s sexuality, cannot share her grief with Cal, her son’s lover.

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Onstage, this marriage is in trouble

Chris Mangels and Diane Fidalgo, married in real life, play a couple caught up in an affair in the College of the Sequoias production of “Betrayal”

It’s been barely a blink since we last saw husband-and-wife actors Chris Mangels and Diane Fidalgo in the same cast in StageWorks Fresno’s raucous production of “The Full Monty.” (And in that show, we got to see a lot of Mangels.) Now the pair is reuniting for a very different theatrical experience that is a lot more revealing in an emotional sense: Harold Pinter’s classic play “Betrayal.”

The play opens in 1977 when longtime lovers Jerry and Emma meet after her marriage to her husband, Robert, dissolves, and then backtracks all the way to 1968 when their affair first began.

Faculty cast: Chris Mangels, left, and David Rasner in the College of the Sequoias production of “Betrayal.”

The production at Visalia’s College of the Sequoias is a fundraiser to kick off the theater season. I caught up with Mangels via Facebook Messenger to chat a little about the event.

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5 picks for September ArtHop

“Geek Artistique” returns for a 2nd year of pop-culture art dedicated to science fiction, fantasy and comics. Also: Don’t miss shows at Gallery 25, Jeffrey Scott Gallery, Clay Hand Studios and CMAC

Lisa Anderson and Martin Shapiro, professors at Fresno State with very busy lives, didn’t quite realize what they were getting into nearly eight years ago when they organized an exhibition titled “Art Scientifique” at the Chris Sorensen Studios. They hadn’t thought beyond that first year. But Sorensen, a wily arts administrator and judge of human behavior, knew exactly what he was doing when he talked to them about the show’s success.

“You have the March slot now,” he told Anderson, as she remembers it.

Greetings from a Minion: a work by Todd Runberg in “Geek Artistique.” Photo / The Munro Review

They’ve kept up the schedule, opening the seventh annual “Art Scientifique” in March.

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A Fresno fringe weekend

You can win tickets to “Seattle to Fresno,” the annual mini-fringe event sponsored by the Rogue Festival

Nat Vickers and her bike, Luna, have been through a lot of kilometers together.

More than 25,000, in fact.

The Toronto fringe performing artist will tell you about life with Luna in “Girl on a Bike,” her solo show at the “Seattle to Fresno: Best of Fringe” three-day weekend festival at Mia Studio & Gallery. Vickers took the burgundy colored Norco touring bicycle, which is covered with stickers from places around the world in which the pair has pedaled, on a 7,000 kilometer bike trip across her native Canada. It took them three months.

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Road trip: Nat Vickers and Luna, her bike, traveled across Canada. Photo / Fraser Elsdon

Win tickets to any performance of “Seattle to Fresno”: See details on how to enter below.

She camped along the way, staying in places she figured she wouldn’t be bothered (graveyards were always a good bet), inevitably bumping into fellow travelers and accumulating wacky and poignant vignettes.

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When in Sacramento, don’t miss the Crocker

On the road: The Crocker Art Museum is a great way to spend a few hours or more while in the state capital


SACRAMENTO — I’ve always loved the Crocker Art Museum. Even the act of getting there. After I exit the confusing downtown tangle of freeways leading to the museum — yep, I’m still a little mystified by Sacramento traffic after all these years — I’m able to slip into the relaxed ambiance of the parklike setting. Seven years ago, the Crocker embarked on an ambitious expansion campaign, connecting a sleek modern building to the original 1871 mansion, and the result is a sophisticated blend of old and new that tripled the size of the museum.

Old and new: Sacramento’s Crocker Museum includes a strong collection of contemporary art. Photo / The Munro Review

On a recent drive through I reconnected with the museum, which I hadn’t visited in several years. I highly recommend dropping in the next time you’re in Sacramento. Give yourself a few hours to experience this high-caliber institution.

Here are five tips:

1. Don’t miss the strong special exhibitions. You’ll have to visit soon to catch “Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose,” which runs through Sept. 17. This exhibition highlights works by artists who have been prominently featured in the contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose. There are 51 works in the show by such artists as Beth Cavener, Mark Ryden, Olek and Tara McPherson.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Sept. 1)

Hanford’s Kings Players and Playhouse Merced open new shows

Here’s a rundown on promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

‘Swim Club’

You’ve got to hand it to the folks at the Kings Players in Hanford: They know how to counter program. On a very quiet weekend because of the Labor Day holiday, the company opens a new show: “The Dixie Swim Club,” directed by Debbie Walker.

Old friends: Mary-Catherine Paden, left, as Dinah, Nicole Devol as Vernadett, Samantha Highfill as Jeri Neal, Bethany Reynolds as Sheree and Danielle Bellman as Lexie in “The Dixie Swim Club.” Photo / Kings Players

I wrote a few months ago about the experience of visiting the Kings Players. You can read my “theater road trip” story here.

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Masked identities, lucha libre style

Southern California artist Sergio Teran visits Arte Américas Saturday in a reception for his exhibition “South of the Grapevine”

Arte Américas has a lot to celebrate this month. On Sept. 30, the cultural arts center marks its 30th anniversary with a big bash. And it’s nearing the end of a successful run of “South of the Grapevine,” the second annual exhibition featuring well-known Southern California artists.

One of those artists is Sergio Teran, who will be honored at an artist’s reception at Arte noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2. (He’ll give a lecture at 1 p.m. followed by a gallery tour of his show.) Teran is particularly known for his lucha-libre mask motifs and his examination of bicultural identity.

Devil winds: Sergio Teran’s “Jardine Del Diablo.”

Teran shares the exhibition with fellow artist Rick Ortega. “The two create strong works that excite the eye and engage the soul,” says Arte executive director and exhibition curator Frank Delgado. “The colors of their palettes are bright and distinctly Latino — and their content is beautifully executed and filled with deep narrative.”

I caught up with Teran via email to talk about “South of the Grapevine.”

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Nielsen stepping down from community band

Robert Nielsen
Robert Nielsen: final season.

After serving on the podium since 1994, Robert Nielsen will give his last concert as conductor of the Fresno Community Concert Band on May 27.

Nielsen, one of the co-founders of the band along with Larry Huck, will pass the baton on to Sandy Headrick and Bruce Weinberger, who will take over as co-conductors in the 2018-19 season.

The band, which regularly plays to standing-room only audiences, is made up of a mix of some professionals, retired professionals and “many exceptional amateurs,” Nielsen says.

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