Revenge on the menu

An intense and cerebral “Titus Andronicus” at Woodward Shakespeare Festival skips most of the gore, to mixed results

THEATER REVIEW

How important is it for a stage production of “Titus Andronicus” to be gory?

Descriptions of recent high-profile productions in England of Shakespeare’s arguably most violent play — at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre — make it sound as if explicit brutality is the expected theatrical order of the day. These productions offered severed hands served up on silver dishes and prisoners hung upside-down with throats slit, the dripping blood collected in bowls. If you stage “Titus” without at least a few of your patrons fainting, it seems, you aren’t doing your job.

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The end is near: Joshua Taber, left, Jay Parks, Jessica Reedy and Daniel Serrano in “Titus Andronicus.”  Photo / Victor DesRoches

Director Greg Taber takes a different approach in the more restrained and introspective Woodward Shakespeare Festival production.

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(Updated) Instagram photo contest: Win tickets to ‘Lion King’

Enter by posting an animal from your own “savannah” on Instagram

UPDATE: Congratulations to randomly selected winner Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young! She receives a four-pack of tickets to the closing weekend of Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “Disney’s Lion King, Jr.”

As promised, here’s a menagerie of contest entries, starting with Dorina’s. (They are all so sweet. I wish I could have given tickets to each and every entrant.)

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StageWorks is bringing ‘Fun Home’ to Fresno

The company announces its 2018 season, which includes “The Fantasticks.” Plus: recaps from Good Company Players, Fresno City College and Reedley’s River City Theatre Company.

UPDATED: I’ve added the seasons for Children’s Musical Theaterworks and Visalia’s College of the Sequoias.

ORIGINAL POST: Stop the digital presses: StageWorks Fresno has snagged the rights to perform “Fun Home: The Musical.” The show was nominated for an impressive 12 Tony Awards in 2015 and won five, including best musical.

In “Fun Home,” composer Jeanine Tesori and writer-lyricist Lisa Kron transform the cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s popular graphic-novel memoir, subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” into a spare and beautiful musical.

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National tour: “Fun Home” continues on the road through the end of the year. A local production opens June 29 in Fresno. Photo / “Fun Home” tour

Bechdel’s adult self is narrator, looking back at herself as a 9-year-old navigating through childhood and as a 19-year-old college freshman embracing the fact she’s lesbian.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Aug. 4)

Options include California Opera’s free production of “Cinderella.” Plus: “Hairspray” in Visalia; and “I Love You” in Oakhurst

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

California Opera

California Opera Association’s annual arts and education festival ends with a fully staged production Friday evening and Sunday afternoon of “La Cenerentola (Cinderella),” an operatic version of the beloved fairy tale, at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. Under the artistic direction of Fresno’s own diva, Edna Garabedian, the festival brings together opera students, advanced singers and professional faculty in a month-long program. “Cinderella” is the festival’s big finale. And because it’s free (donations gladly accepted), it’s a great way to expose children to opera as an art form.

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Fairy tale: Gabriel Manro and Alix Jerinic in the California Opera production of “La Cenerentola.” Photo / Owen Gailar

The production is stage directed by Richard Adamson, and the orchestra is conducted by Brian Asher Alhadeff, artistic director of Opera San Luis Obispo. Here’s the principal cast:

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The ‘Lion’ doesn’t sleep Friday night

Children’s Musical Theaterworks offers community-theater premiere of the Disney Jr. version of “The Lion King”

This is worth a roar for Children’s Musical Theaterworks: The company is opening one local premiere after another. CMT tackled “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” last month with its older players (ages 14-20), and now it’s offering the local community theater premiere of “Disney’s Lion King, Jr.” with a cast ranging in age from 6 to 13. The show opens Friday, Aug. 4, at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium.

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Circle of life: the cast of “Disney’s The Lion King, Jr.” Photo / Sandy Tacchino, Children’s Musical Theaterworks

Here are five things to know about the production:

1.

This show is exposing lots of children to the theater bug. There are 39 kids in the Savannah Cast and 41 in the Grassland Cast, making 74 total (six of them are in both casts.). The three biggest roles are the characters of Rafiki, played by Vega Ankrum (Savannah Cast) and Mia Carino (Grassland Cast); Scar, played by Jake Corson (Savannah Cast) and Jeremy Marks (Grassland Cast); and Simba, played by Nathan Gettman (Savannah and Grassland casts).

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A farewell ‘Titus Andronicus’

Woodward Shakespeare Festival tackles the bloody play about revenge in director Greg Taber’s last show as executive producer

THEATER PREVIEW

Greg Taber, whose dedication to Woodward Shakespeare Festival over the years has heated up half a dozen Fresno theater summers, is stepping down as executive producer after he finishes the last production of the season. For that milestone he decided to direct Shakespeare’s brutal and little performed “Titus Andronicus,” with Jay Parks in the title role. I caught up with Taber, known for his commitment to theater that nourishes the intellect, to talk a little about the play, which opens Thursday, Aug. 3.

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Revenge: Rene Ponce, left, and Jay Parks, right, who plays the title role in Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s “Titus Andronicus.” Photo / Victor DesRoches

Q: You mention in your director’s note that most people don’t know anything about “Titus Andronicus.” As you try to generate interest in your production this summer, what’s your 30-second pitch to people about the show?

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5 picks for August ArtHop

From Kerby C. Smith’s bracing winter photography at M Street to the glory of ink pens at Bitwise, here are promising options for Thursday

One of the great things about ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods, is that it’s year-round. We don’t take the month off in Fresno just because it’s a little toasty outside. Here’s a list of five cool picks for August. ArtHop at most venues runs 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, but check the Fresno Arts Council website for variations.

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Woman in red: Kerby C. Smith’s “Pohono Bridge.”

M Street Arts Complex

I like the way Kerby C. Smith thinks. He waits until the hottest time of the year to unveil his new exhibition of 18 images he photographed in January through March in the Yosemite Valley as the park was buried in winter’s bountiful snowfall. My guess is that your internal body temperature will go down a few degrees just looking at these crisp and creative works. (And it helps that the M Street Arts Complex galleries are air-conditioned.) I caught up with Smith to chat about “Cool in July,” which has been extended through August. The exhibition is sponsored by the Fresno Arts Council, the Chris Sorensen Studio, Electric Motor Shop, Horn Photo and Abby Pet Hospital.

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