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Get your Rogue on
An open letter to anyone who thinks there's nothing to do in Fresno:
Go to the Rogue Performance Festival.
— Yours truly, Fresno Famous
For everyone else, just know that Rogue (in it's sixth year) is big time. It is one of the largest fringe festivals in the United States, and the largest in the west.
That's right, in terms of performers, Fresno will out draw festivals in San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado, when it opens March 1. The festival runs weekends, through March 10.
Famous talks with the Rogue's promotions guru Jaguar Bennett, who gives advice on how to get the most from your eight days, plugs his own shows and straight out makes up words (at least it's the first time we've seen sucktacular used in a sentence).
So, we know the Rogue is big. But bigger than festivals in Boulder and San Francisco? Is Fresno really that f'in cool?
Yeah, Fresno is that f'in cool. Fresno is actually a tremendous arts town, with incredible artists and audiences that are hungry to see new art. The Rogue just brings the artists and the audience together. The local audience and artists deserve all the credit for making the Rogue a success.
Most of the 100 shows in the Rogue are from local artists. That shows you how much talent is in this area. We also have more national and international shows, because performers visiting the Rogue know that Fresno audiences love good art. That's how f'in cool we are.
I sort of feel intimidated by the sheer number of shows happening at one time, like maybe I'm going to miss something I would love. Any suggestions on proper Rogue planning?
Visit the Rogue website, www.roguefestival.com. On the site you'll find full descriptions of every show and a grid schedule. Plan on seeing at least three shows in one day, or make a full day of it. The whole fun of Rogueing is that you can see a lot of shows, and a lot of different shows, so take advantage.
Be sure to show up on time. Some shows will let you in up to 15 minutes late, but for the most part, we're pretty strict. When the doors close, that's it. Budget time for walking from venue to venue. Also budget some time for drinking, dining, and talking with your friends about how fantastic/sucktacular the last show was. That's also part of the fun of Rogueing.
You only have to time to see three shows. What are they?
Oh, God, don't make me say anything. If I pick just three, then somebody gets mad at me, because I didn't mention their show. And anyway, all the shows are great, and you should see all of them if possible. And finally, who am I, anyway, to tell people want to see?
I see you're going to insist. Oh, okay. Keep in mind that these are just my extremely idiosyncratic picks of the shows I plan to see:
1. "Tale End", by Theatre J'nerique, at Dianna's South. This is the first new play by Rogue founder Marcel Nunis in years, and I think it's his best show ever. "Tale End" takes a very simple situation — a man, a woman, a Target store late at night -— and creates so many twists and turns and reversals of fortune that you just go "Wha ... ?" It's an wickedly devious show with no weaknesses of human feeling. Plus it stars the uber-talented Greg Taber and the uber-scrumptious Renee Newlove in revealing lingerie. Uh, that's Renee in the lingerie, not Greg.
2. "Are ya Dating?", by Steven Karwoski, at Dianna's South. Steven is one of the funniest monologuists I have ever seen. His previous shows, "Are Ya Workin?" and "Adventures of a Substitute Teacher," were about the world of work. His new show "Are Ya Dating?" is about the world of love. If love gets the usual Karwoski treatment, this promises to be an evening of hilariously awkward situations and incredibly strange characters, all performed by the multitalented Steven Karwoski.
Incidentally, "Are Ya Dating?" made its world premiere at Rogue Year Round in Fresno last July, and later went on to be the hit of the Edmonton Fringe Festival.
3. "Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult", by Barry Smith, at Starline. This is one of those shows that would never appear in Fresno if it weren't for the Rogue. This is Smith's true-life story about how he joined the returned Jesus Christ in a cult compound in Montana. Smith describes his show as a "humorous look at everyday cult life."
I'm not going to miss it and neither should you. Bring along your favorite Christian fundamentalist to spread the outrage.
Do people in Fresno really finally "get" Rogue?
What's to get? The performers put on shows, people see them, and everyone has a great time. But there are two things that make the Rogue different that people have had to get used to. We have a lot of shows happening all at once. At first, audience members didn't get that there were multiple venues with multiple shows. By now, though, there are enough experienced Roguers who know to check out the Web site, get a Rogue map, and plan to see as much as possible.
The other uniquely Rogue thing is that we don't put any censorship or restrictions on what performers can present. We only ask that they take the responsibility of rating their shows. So far, the performers have really stepped up to this challenge, and they've produced some great, challenging, thought-provoking shows
You're also a perfomer. Feel free to plug your show. Then, tell me how does having something like this in town affect the way your able to do you're craft?
First let me answer your second question. The Rogue makes it possible for me, an individual writer/actor, to put on a show for a total investment of $75. I don't have anyone bugging me about the content or the commercial viability of my show. The Rogue gives me an incentive to write more and produce more that I wouldn't have otherwise.
On to my shows. Actually, I'm in three shows this year. Yeah, that's right, three. Read 'em and weep:
1. "Bullet Point". This is an original one-man show that I've written and will perform. "Bullet Point" is the world's first tragedy told in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. I play Larry Driscoll, a businessman with serious problems. His company is about to go under, he and his wife are estranged, he's haunted by death and facing a spiritual crisis. He's trying to make an important business presentation, but his personal life keeps getting in the way...
2. "Thread", written and directed by Christine Autrand Mitchell, produced by Entandem Productions, starring Gabriela Lawson, Suzanne Garcia and me. "Thread" is the story of Lisle Thread, a corporate consultant who is silent, impersonal and efficient. Lisle is an expert at cleaning up troublesome situations. But when a woman with a mysterious past moves into his building, Lisle's carefully constructed life begins to unravel.
3. " 'Dentity Crisis", written by Christopher Durang, produced by Epic Theatre, directed by Janine Chrisl and Julie Lucido, starring Ashley Hyatt, Adam Schroeder, Lori Gambino, Jessica Reedy and me. Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Jane is nursed and nagged by her relentlessly cheerful mother, and confused by her oversexed brother — who keeps changing into her father, her grandfather and her mother's French lover. Eventually all (including Jane's psychiatrist, who undergoes a sex change operation and swaps places with his wife) change characters again and become Jane herself — leaving her with no identity at all and pointing up the near impossibility of self-identification in our uncertain times.
Rogue only happens once a year. Is it possible, or feasible, to create that sort of "Rogue" feeling all year long?
Absolutely. So much art goes on in this town all the time; the only problem is that the public isn't always aware of it. The Rogue was originally conceived as a way of promoting the arts to create awareness of Fresno's year-round arts scene.
In 2006, we extended that mission with our Rogue Year-Round, shows, which were a series of special presentations of previous Rogue performers over the summer. There will be more Rogue Year-Round in 2007, so keep an eye out for it.
But overall, keeping the "Rogue spirit" alive during the rest of the year is a responsibility for the whole community: the artists need to be more aggressive about promoting their work, the media needs to be more involved in covering the arts, and the audience needs to be more curious and more willing to seek out new cultural experiences.
Marcel, who's sitting over my shoulder, adds "The audience needs some responsibility to stop bitching that nothing's happening in this town and go out and find what is happening."
You're doing some new things on the Web site this year. Can you explain that?
The Rogue site has been updated to be easily cross-referenced and more interactive. Each show has its own page that is tagged by venue, component and date. So it's easy to find all the shows at the Starline, or everything playing March 3, or every Café show. The site is now actually a big blog, which makes it easy for audience members to add their own show reviews to the site. The review function will be activated as soon as the festival opens on March 1. There is a slight bug in the system; to review a show, you must search for it by the venue, component or date tag. If you go directly to the show page, the review function won't show up. Our ace tech squad is working on this, but that's probably how it will be during the festival.
Free space. Anything else you'd like to say should go here.
I'd just like to add that the success of the Rogue has been because of the great support we have gotten from the audience, our volunteers and our sponsors. This is truly a community event, that the community has made possible and that the community should be proud of. That being said, this is also an event that the community should take responsibility for.
If you love the Rogue, support it by seeing as many shows as you can.
Bring your friends who haven't been to the Rogue before. Donate your money and time to the Rogue. As an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, we always need more volunteers, more staff, and better funding.