As the Selma Arts Center production of the provocative musical opens, the current discussion about sexual harassment casts an interesting shadow
Theater doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As a live art form, it instantly becomes part of the time in which it’s performed. Cultural context matters. A play presented five years ago might resonate quite differently in the social environment of the here and now.
Think, then, of the new Selma Arts Center production of the musical “Spring Awakening” with the present in mind. There have been many versions of this show produced since its Broadway debut in 2006, but only those opening in the past few months have been performed against the backdrop we find today: an unprecedented national discussion about sexual harassment. And add to that a broader debate about the dynamics of consent in sexual relationships.
Those who know the show are aware of a key plot point: an explicit sexual encounter between a young teen girl and a boy a few years older whom she’s known for a long time. (Note: Much of this story focuses on this plot point, so consider this a spoiler alert for what’s ahead.)
Is the encounter consensual?
Ah, that’s a tough one.
“Yes and no,” says Kindle Lynn Cowger, who plays Wendla, a naive girl of about 15 growing up in a 19th Century town in Germany.
With its new “Sense and Sensibility,” Good Company Players gives a fresh coat of paint to the Jane Austen classic
Jane Austen’s classic “Sense and Sensibility” gets a rousing and quick-moving new adaptation at Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre. How quick? Just as in the recent New York production, the furniture in the Fresno version is on rollers — which makes it all the easier to whisk the set pieces around.
Director Kathleen McKinley is known for her long career working with students at Fresno State, but she’s getting out into the community with this production, now in its opening weekend. I caught up with her to talk about the show.
Q: Tell us about this new adaptation.
A: Written by New York City actress Kate Hamill, this adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” premiered in 2014 to rave reviews. The play compresses the action of the book to focus on the adventures and plight of a widow and her three daughters who are left penniless due to British inheritance laws of the 1790’s. They are evicted from their manor home by a greedy daughter-in-law and must rely upon the generosity of enthusiastic, but nosey, boisterous relatives who are intent upon finding husbands for the daughters. As the Dashwood women resettle in a tiny cottage, the two older daughters, Elinor and Marianne, are thrust into the company of bachelors, both eligible and not, along with intrusive socialites both in the country and London.
Brooke Aiello leads a consummate cast in a memorable production of Ibsen’s classic “Hedda Gabler”
“Let me go,” Hedda Gabler says softly, almost imperceptibly.
You might in this moment think of a cranky child trying to escape the clutches of a doting elderly relative. The truth isn’t far: In this early scene in Ibsen’s famed play, Hedda’s new aunt by marriage has dropped in unannounced on the new couple the morning after Hedda and her husband return from a six-month honeymoon. So much for a bit of time and space for Hedda to get used to her new marital digs: Here’s selfless Aunt Julia, the titaness of social respectability, wrapped up in a great swath of a formal dress and wearing a brand-new hat, barging in to make sure everyone in the household knows of her smotheringly good intentions. In a moment of forced intimacy, Aunt Julia has grabbed Hedda’s hands without permission. In Hedda’s world, that’s a no-no. And it captures, early on, a sense of the entrapment that she feels as she begins this new marriage.
Is it any wonder that the title character in “Hedda Gabler” has a snippy side?
Actor and storyteller added to the greater Fresno cultural scene over the decades; supporters are raising funds for Storyland in his memory
Autumn Lindberg got used to being interrupted with her dad, Ted Esquivel, at the grocery store when people would come up and say they remembered a story he’d shared years ago.
That’s what happens when you’re a professional storyteller.
Esquivel, who died June 8 at age 62, knew what he was doing when it came to stories, his daughter remembers. His trick was to get the audience involved. In one classic tale of his, about a fox who gets his tail chopped off and has to jump through a bunch of hoops to get it back, Esquivel would divide the audience into sections and have one play, say, the river. He’d point at them from time to time and ask them to put up their hands to suggest a whooshing sound.
‘He got people so engaged that people would remember those stories years later,” Lindberg says.
Mr. Esquivel plied his trade at the aptly named (for him) Storyland in Roeding Park, as well as various elementary schools, private schools and camps, and youth parties and adult parties as Santa Claus, says longtime friend William Raines.