In a potent ‘Streetcar,’ Fresno State explores the Williams classic with finesse

THEATER REVIEW

Long before the #MeToo movement, audiences were perplexed by Stella, the younger sister in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” (Yes, that Stella, memorialized in one of the most famous lines in theater history.) Why, a viewer might ask, would Stella put up with her domineering husband, Stanley, whose misogynistic impulses are magnified when he drinks? Stanley can be aggressive and volatile. He considers himself “king” of his household. He sometimes belittles Stella.

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Jalen Stewart, as Stanley, and Reshma Meister (Blanche) in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Photo / Fresno State

And, worst of all, he beats her.

Yet she stays with him. Why?

In the carefully crafted and emotionally potent new Fresno State production of “Streetcar,” which runs through Saturday, May 12, I found myself wrapped up in this question more than ever. Much of the reason, I realize, has to do with the times in which we’re living. Issues of sexual harassment and assault seem ubiquitous these days. Plot points that would have sailed smoothly by audiences in the 1960s, say, can feel jarring to contemporary viewers. “Streetcar” might be a fiercely period piece, steeped in the societal attitudes and expectations of the 1940s, but you can’t help but view it through a lens of today.

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All you ever wanted to know about Fresno State’s ‘Streetcar’

Journalism students cover the production in an in-depth special report

Fresno State’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” opens today (Friday, May 4) and continues through May 12. Normally I’d offer one preview story to my readers.

Today I’m giving you eight.

They aren’t written by me but by students in my Fresno State journalism class (MCJ 104). For our final group project, they each picked a different aspect of the production to write about. Director Kathleen McKinley, promotions guru Miguel Gastelum and various members of the cast and creative team graciously offered their time and assistance. The result is an in-depth report.

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We went through every step of the editing and reporting process: brainstorming ideas; coming up with a story budget; editorial conferences and coaching; arranging interviews and visuals; peer editing; writing headlines and captions; and designing a standalone website that will continue, as far as I know, until the end of time (or until WordPress turns it off).

You can find that website here:

streetcarfresno.wordpress.com

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Now streaming: the May episode of ‘The Munro Review’

It’s our most ambitious episode of “The Munro Review” yet! The May edition features three guest segments, including a musical song-and-dance number. (Not by me. Although that would have been a sight.)

Here’s what you can catch in this chock-full episode:

♦ Kathleen McKinley, director of the new Fresno State production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” fills us in on this ambitious and cutting-edge experience, which opens Friday, May 4. She’s joined by William Ramirez, a student in my Fresno State journalism class, who drops in to talk about our special class project covering “Streetcar” from a number of story angles. (It’ll be unveiled later this week.)

♦ Mas Masumoto tells us about the campaign to put a sales-tax-increase on the November ballot that will fund parks, recreation and arts programs for 30 years in the city of Fresno.

♦ And two very special guests from the Selma Arts Center give a preview of the upcoming “The Little Mermaid.” Maria Monreal and Joshua Plowman chat about the show and also perform.

As always, I also offer my roundup of what I’ve been covering this month online and give a sneak preview of coming May attractions. Share the link (https://youtu.be/Y2_G9Oh98zE) and enjoy!


To subscribe to the email newsletter for The Munro Review, go to this link:

https://tinyletter.com/donaldfresnoarts

 

Donald’s list: Weekend choices (April 27)

Whether it’s cutting-edge chamber music or the classic play “The Crucible,” there are lots of options for the weekend. I’ve already filled you in on Good Company’s “The Heiress,” Jeremy Denk performing with Keyboard Concerts and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra in separate concerts, and the Fresno Community Chorus spring celebration of Leonard Bernstein. Here are even more choices:

‘The Crucible’

Don’t you love the poster for the new College of the Sequoias production? (Kudos to the designer.)

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“The Crucible,” of course, is Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic play about the Salem witchcraft trials, but it can also be read as a searing allegory about McCarthyism or more generally mass hysteria in times of political unrest. The new production is set in a post-World War II small town that “feels eerily close to our own.”

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This weekend, it’s Jeremy Denk times two

Noted pianist (and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow) performs with Keyboard Concerts and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra

When you have an artist with the prestige and virtuosity of pianist Jeremy Denk come to town, why not double the impact? That was the thinking of Keyboard Concerts and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, which are both putting the spotlight on Denk in separate concerts this weekend.

Denk returns to the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series for an 8 p.m. performance on Friday, April 27, at Fresno State’s Concert Hall. The next evening, at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28, in the same location, Denk will perform Beethoven’s famed “Emperor” piano concerto with the Fresno State orchestra.

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Jeremy Denk performs with Keyboard Concerts and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra. Photo / © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Denk is a winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year award. He’s written for The New Yorker magazine and has a popular blog. His musical collaborators have included Joshua Bell and Steven Isserliss, and his recordings have reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Chart.

How is Fresno lucky enough to have not one but two Denk performances?

Andreas Werz, artistic director of Keyboard Concerts, explains that the timing was fortuitous.

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For classical music fans, it’s a winning weekend

Enter to win tickets to Keyboard Concerts, Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, Fresno Community Chorus and ‘Broadway on Van Ness’

Just call it the Big Ticket Giveaway.

This coming weekend is huge for the Fresno-area classical music scene. To celebrate, I’m giving tickets away to FOUR events. And you can enter all four giveaways with just one comment. Here’s what you can win:

A pair of tickets to hear acclaimed pianist Jeremy Denk perform for Fresno State’s Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series (8 p.m. Friday, April 27, Fresno State Concert Hall). His program includes Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30, Shubert’s Sonata in B-flat, and Prokofiev’s complete “Visions fugitives.”

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Jeremy Denk performs April 27-28 at Fresno State, first with Keyboard Concerts, then the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra.

♦ A pair of tickets to hear Denk — in a great crossover collaboration — perform Beethoven’s famed “Emperor” piano concerto with the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Loewenheim (8 p.m. Saturday, April 28, Fresno State Concert Hall). The program also includes Prokofiev’s monumental Symphony No. 5.

♦ A pair of tickets to the Fresno Community Chorus big spring concert featuring its Master Chorale and Coro Piccolo ensembles, all in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth (2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 29, Shaghoian Concert Hall). “Chichester Psalms,” here we come.

♦ One of two pairs of tickets to “Broadway on Van Ness,” featuring past chorus members from Fresno Grand Opera (5 p.m. Sunday, April 29, with a reception an hour beforehand, First Congregational Church). The program includes classics such as Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” to newer tunes such as a selection from “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.”

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When Google gets it wrong: Safiya Noble exposes how search engines reinforce racism

Noble, a prominent digital-age scholar and proud Fresno State alumna, will talk about her new book on Friday, April 20

Google hadn’t even been born — much less conquered the world — when Safiya Umoja Noble was a student at Fresno State in the late 1980s and early ‘90s protesting against apartheid, arguing for social justice and pushing for racial and gender equality on campus. When she wanted to “search” for something, she did it the old-fashioned way, in the library: She thumbed through yellowed card catalogs, hunted through ghostly microfilm and perused voluminous abstracts.

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So much has changed today, of course. Google is one of the most powerful companies on the planet, impacting our lives in a significant manner. And Noble has become an integral part of the digital age herself — in an academic watchdog role. Now a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, she’s been studying Google and other Silicon Valley behemoths, all the while arguing for accountability.

Noble’s new book, “The Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” is a pointed critique of how Google and other search engines marginalize people in “erroneous, stereotypical, or even pornographic ways.” She will speak on Friday, April 20, about the book — which is drawing national attention — at Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library as part of the J. Printise Womack Lecture Series.

“It’s a hot topic,” she says in a recent phone interview.

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5 picks for April ArtHop

Fresno State’s new exhibition of art from Avenal State Prison is a highlight of the month. Other picks include Spectrum Art Gallery, Fresno City Hall, Corridor 2122, Arte Americas and fres.co

My ArtHop picks for April include a meaningful new exhibition at Fresno State’s M Street Graduate Studios. “Insider Art: Exploring the Arts Within Prison Environments” features work from incarcerated individuals serving time at Avenal State Prison. More than 100 paintings, drawings, sculptures and other work — most created by men in prison art classes — will be on display. But this is more than a simple exhibition. It’s meant to be an immersive experience. The multimedia elements include a video of a performance by the prison’s theater group, recordings of music from the prison’s five different bands, recorded interviews with some of the artists, and a series of photographs by Fresno State professor Neil Chowdhury offering a behind-the-scenes view of prison life.

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Joseph Frye, who contributes to the catalog for “Insider Art,” has this artwork in the show.

ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods, runs from 5-8 p.m. at most venues on Thursday, April 5. My other picks (which you can read about below) are at Spectrum Art Gallery, Fresno City Hall, Corridor 2122, Arte Americas and fres.co.

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