After years of listening to the cast album, I make the trek to Sierra Repertory Theatre for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”
THEATER ROAD TRIP
SONORA — Sometimes I wait for years to see a show. Example: I bought the cast album of a sweet and tuneful off-Broadway offering called “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” probably close to a decade ago. I loved it. And whenever I listened, I’d idly think that at some point I’d finally get to experience an actual production.
Which is why I’m at Sierra Repertory Theatre at a Saturday matinee in the cozy East Sonora Theatre, all pumped up to — finally! — see “Trailer Park” the way it was meant to be.
Curtain 5 production of Joe Calarco’s adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” is ending soon at Fresno Soap Co.
Blink and you might miss the stellar “R&J,” a CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP production at the Fresno Soap Co., which finishes up its brief one-weekend run with a 7:30 performance tonight (Saturday, Aug. 12) and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Aug. 13. This intriguing adaptation by Joe Calarco of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” imagines four boys in a strict Catholic high school who perform their own modified version of the tragedy after hours. Having a male play the role of Juliet adds a gay angle to the storyline — and it’s one that’s amplified and celebrated — but it’s also an interesting nod to the tradition of having young boys play female roles in Shakespearean times.
Director J. Daniel Herring creates two snugly believable worlds on stage using nothing more than a few wooden benches, a bright-red tablecloth and a smattering of hasty props used by the boys, including a bottle of what looks like prescription cough syrup for Romeo’s death scene. There’s the school itself, squared off by those benches, in which order and discipline prevail. And there’s the Verona of the play, a Wild West of two warring families, in which love seems bigger and danger seems brasher than anything a bored schoolboy could ever imagine. One of the most fascinating things for me is when the two worlds of the play bump into and bleed into each other. In the heady moments of love at first sight between Romeo (Steven Lee Weatherbee) and Juliet (Aaron Lowe), the reaction of the other two actors on stage (Sam Linkowski and Anthony teNyenhuis) is hard to pin down: Is the taboo they’re reacting to the scandal of a Montague falling for a Capulet, and vice versa? Or is it the realization that same-sex attraction is part of their schoolboy circle? At what point are these characters participants in a Shakespearean drama and when are they standing outside it, projecting their own contemporary attitudes onto the moment? It’s the ambiguity of it all that keeps things taut and engaging.
Weekend options include metal-meets-mariachi at Arte Americas and a new musical arts series at Bitwise Industries
I’ve already told you about two of this weekend’s big theater events (“Hedda Gabler” and “R&J”). Here are a few more promising (and, for this blog, a little off-the-beaten path) cultural picks for the weekend.
Mariachi meets metal
This concert has such an interesting premise that I can’t resist: METALACHI is the first heavy-metal mariachi band in the world. (I’m not sure if it’s the only heavy-metal mariachi band in the world — that would be a pretty small group, right?) And it’s returning to Arte Américas for a concert on Saturday, Aug. 12, in the outdoor Plaza Paz.
The ensemble uses traditional mariachi instruments to re-interpret songs by Metallica, Guns N Roses, Led Zepplin, Bon Jovi, and more. Add in painted faces, over-the-top costumes, raunchy humor, and raucous theatrics, and this isn’t exactly your grandfather’s mariachi concert.
A freewheeling discussion between star Brooke Aiello and director Heather Parish of “Hedda Gabler”? We’ll drink to that
It’s Hedda Gabler’s birthday morning, and she’s kicking off the celebration with a mimosa. The thing is, I’m so clueless about alcohol in the a.m. that I get to the end of a 90-minute breakfast interview at Irene’s Cafe before I realize that the grand dame of 19th century theatrical realism sitting across from me isn’t drinking straight orange juice. Champagne before 9 a.m.? I’m shocked. Aghast. This is no mere woman … this is a monster!
Actually, Brooke Aiello — one of Fresno’s most passionate acting talents — is nursing not one but four beverages as we talk about The New Ensemble’s new production of “Hedda Gabler.” There’s coffee from Irene’s, black tea from Starbucks, a glass of ice water and her tall, frothy birthday drink. There’s a method to all this, even though I don’t quite understand it: something about sweet followed by sweeter. Or is it sweet followed by bitter? It doesn’t matter; she has a process in mind. This is someone who has definite views on many things, including the liquids in her life.
“I’m going to be very well hydrated today,” she happily tells me.
An intriguing adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” at Fresno Soap Co. puts a new spin on a classic
In Joe Calarco’s “R&J,” four students at an ultrastrict Catholic boy’s high school ditch their dreaded Latin conjugations, take out their hidden copy of “Romeo and Juliet” and act out the story among themselves. In this rigid environment, Shakespeare’s play is forbidden, just like the love between the title characters in a dangerous Verona dominated by two feuding clans. The result is an interesting twist on gender and sexuality that circles back to the tradition of boys playing female roles in Shakespearean times.
J. Daniel Herring, chair of Fresno State’s theater department, directs Joe Calarco’s unusual and provocative 1999 adaptation in a CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP production opening Friday, Aug. 11, at Fresno Soap Co. The one-weekend run is just four performances, and limited tickets are available. (Opening night is already sold out.)
I caught up with Herring via email to talk about the production.
An intense and cerebral “Titus Andronicus” at Woodward Shakespeare Festival skips most of the gore, to mixed results
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.
The company announces its 2018 season, which includes “The Fantasticks.” Plus: recaps from CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP, Shine! Theatre, the Selma Arts Center, College of the Sequoias, Children’s Musical Theaterworks, Good Company Players, Fresno City College, Fresno State and Reedley’s River City Theatre Company.
UPDATE 6 (Sept. 27): The CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP cancelled its production of “Frida” at the Fresno Art Museum.
UPDATE 4 (Sept. 11): I’ve added the remainder of the 2017 season for CURTAIN 5 TheatreGROUP.
UPDATE 3 (Sept. 4): I’ve added the 2017-18 season for Shine! Theatre.
UPDATE 2 (Aug. 28): I’ve added the 2018 season for the Selma Arts Center.
UPDATE 1 (Aug. 13): 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.
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.