Options include Fresno State’s new production of “Native Son,” Arte Americas’ big “Cala Gala” festival, theater openings in Oakhurst and Visalia, and the National Chamber Choir of Armenia
Here’s a roundup of promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:
Fresno State’s theater department opens a new adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic novel about a poor black man living in 1930s Chicago accused of killing a wealthy white woman. I caught up with director Thomas-Whit Ellis for a rundown on the show.
The new adaptation:“Native Son,” which Wright wrote in 1940, was adapted into a play soon afterward. (It was directed by Orson Welles and opened on Broadway in 1941.) In 2014, a new adaptation by Nambi Kelley opened in Chicago. Ellis had become a fan of Kelley’s work when he directed “Hands Up,” a 2016 Fresno State production written by seven playwrights. He saw the new “Native Son” in a production by the Marin Theatre Company. Fresno State is one of the first universities in the country to produce it, he says.
The format: Kelley adapted the novel into a compressed, taut, 90-minute series of vignettes in a “hard hitting, fast-paced manner,” Ellis says.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
From James Dean at K-Jewel to an artistic musical bash at Tower District Records, here are promising options for the monthly open house of galleries and studios
If it’s the first Thursday of the month, it must be ArtHop. My own arts home might have changed recently, but at least one thing is still the same: my picks for this popular monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District areas. Here are five venues that sound promising:
K-Jewel Art Gallery
S.W. Parra, or “Surfwest” as you might know him under more breezy circumstances, is a well known local artist thanks to his long tenure as a cartoonist and illustrator at a certain Fresno daily newspaper. In January I was wandering through the Chris Sorensen Studio “Black and White” show when I bumped into Parra and his big, award-winning entry in the exhibition: a 5-foot-by-6-foot painting of James Dean titled “Icon.”
Youth Orchestras of Fresno offers season-ending extravaganza, the Fresno Community Concert Band celebrates Memorial Day, ‘Nights at the Plaza’ kicks off at Arte, and don’t forget ‘New Wrinkles’
On my list for promising cultural weekend options:
Famous violinist, famous violin
Youth Orchestras of Fresno is known for ending its seasons with a (timpani) bang, and this year is no exception. The concert “Coming Home,” which will be performed Sunday, May 28, at the Saroyan Theatre, features a professional guest artist with a big name in classical music: violinist Vadim Gluzman, the Russian-born pianist known for his many recordings and appearances with the world’s major orchestras.
I caught up with Gluzman by phone the day before he got on a plane to Fresno, and we talked about 1) why he’s coming to Fresno to perform with (very talented) students; 2) the famous Tchaikovsky concerto he’ll be playing; and 3) the equally famous violin he’ll be playing it on. You can read more here.
But Gluzman isn’t the only draw of the Sunday concert, which features three orchestras and 300 young musicians. A highlight will be a newly commissioned work titled “Coming Home” inspired by William Saroyan’s novel “The Human Comedy.” Four Fresno State composers — Alexander Bianco, Chris Carreon, Mason Lamb, and Matthew Wheeler, working with music composition professors Benjamin Boone and Kenneth Froelich — reference themes in Saroyan’s novel, in which home is a thinly disguised Fresno.
Boone explains the process:
The multimedia project was a collaboration between music and mass communication/journalism students. They chose a culture other than their own (Armenian, Japanese, Hmong, Hispanic, or African-American), examined their biases and interviewed people representing those cultures. The music students composed a movement for orchestra inspired by the culture, and the MCJ students selected clips from their recorded interviews for an audio montage to be used along with the composition.
The program includes Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.” And the concert will close with “Conga del Fuego Nuevo” by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. Thomas Loewenheim conducts.
Details: 4 p.m. Sunday, May 28, Saroyan Theatre. The concert is free, but “your much-appreciated $15 or $20 (or any) donation is welcome at the door.”
What’s five stories tall and makes you proud of downtown Fresno?
The answer is a massive mural livening up the historic Fresno Bee building painted by Francisco Letelier and Mauro Carrera. The Arte Américas project will officially be unveiled at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 11, in a program that will include outgoing U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
Musicians Omar Naré and Patrick Contreras will kick off the program, which also will feature words from supporters of the project and the reading of a poem by a student from a neighborhood school.
Frank Delgado, the executive director of Arte, says:
This is the thirty year anniversary of Arte Américas, and this mural simply emphasizes the impact that our organization has made on the Cultural Arts District and is a testament to the dedication that we have in continuing to make the Valley a flourishing place for Latino art. The best part is that we have plans to continue to install murals in the Downtown Fresno area.
Tiles will be sold to run along the base of the mural as a fundraiser for those murals.
A reception at 11 a.m. will follow at Arte.
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