The countdown begins

Big changes are ahead for The Munro Review. Take a minute to get a preview:

Everything happens Sept. 4. Until then, the site will be dark as I prepare for the transition.

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

We focus on three big stories in the September episode of “The Munro Review” on CMAC: the official grand opening of Vernissage, a new gallery in the Fresno High area, on Sept. 14; the opening of “The Last 5 Years,” a StageWorks Fresno production, which runs Sept.7-16; and a sneak peek at the new look and membership/sponsorship structure for The Munro Review.

For our Vernissage story, producer Kyle Lowe and I went on location to explore this cozy new gallery and get to know Ma Ly, the owner. We also talked to Stephanie Ryan, who is the featured artist for the grand opening. Along with that event on Sept. 14, you’ll also be able to visit the new gallery at September Arthop on the 6th.

Our “Last 5 Years” coverage includes an in-studio interview with director Joel Abels, a Skype interview from New York with stars Taylor Abels Rodriguez and Daniel Abels Rodriguez, and also a special song performance from Taylor and Daniel that they recorded in Fresno after they arrived from New York. (The travel and taping schedules got complicated!)

Continue reading “Now streaming: the September episode of ‘The Munro Review’”

Fresno Master Chorale and Sierra Foothill Musicians offer special Sunday concerts

For classical music fans, there are two stellar events this weekend not to miss:

A rare opportunity

You’d have to be a musical sleuth to track performances of the Ukrainian composer Kyrylo Stetsenko’s haunting “Panakhyda” (Requiem) outside his native country. The choral piece has been performed in Ukraine, of course, but beyond that, it was harder to document.


Victoria Malko, a Fresno State professor and coordinator of the Holodomor Education Program, approached Anna Hamre of the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale a few months ago about performing the piece to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, a deliberate famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Hamre started searching for an edition but couldn’t find one. So Malko created one.

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Only one weekend to check out this intense ‘Baggage’

Fresno City College presents an original play by Charles Erven as a fundraiser

Fresno City College theater professor Charles Erven, an accomplished and award-winning playwright, is unveiling his latest creation this weekend. I got a chance to see the play “Baggage Check,” which he also directs, at a dress rehearsal two nights before opening. Here’s a rundown:

James Knudsen, left, and Danielle Cash portray a divorced couple in ‘Baggage Check.’ Photo / Mark Tabay, Fresno City College

The play: It’s an intense, two-person, character-driven drama about Gordon (James Knudsen) and Dot (Danielle Cash), divorced couple with simmering issues remaining from their marriage. (They also had three kids together.) When Dot flies in to Tucson for a business meeting, she asks Gordon to pick her up at the airport. From there on, it’s a day filled with revelations and confronting long-age tragedies, all the while peppered with bickering, flirting, frustrations, laughter and all the complexities of two people who remain intertwined with each other whether they want to or not.

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Great local music highlights a benefit concert for Mike Rhodes scholarship fund

I want to give a special shout-out for an important benefit concert on Sunday in the Fresno community. The Mike Rhodes Social Justice Scholarship Fund will help support law students at the San Joaquin College of Law who have a special interest in defending the rights of disenfranchised groups (like the homeless), and working to increase social and economic justice.


Rhodes is a towering figure in the social-justice community and founder of the Community Alliance newspaper. He was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer earlier this year. Steve Malm, Howard Watkins and others banded together to organize the event. “We are raising money for a scholarship in Mike’s name to underscore what he has given the Valley over many selfless years,” Malm says.

In an article for the Community Alliance, Rhodes writes:

Social and economic justice is a constant struggle and by supporting this event you can help move Fresno in a better direction by ensuring that law students who have an interest in these issues can graduate and help us all defend our progressive values.

The concert is 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, at Fulton 55. The all-star lineup of musicians features the Richie Blue Band, the Roger Perry Band, The Hi-Desert Ramblers, Glen Delpit and Steven M Ono. The donation is $10.

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For Chlorissa Prothro in GCP’s ‘Magnolias,’ steel can be beautiful

Fresno State student finds a sense of sisterhood in the Good Company Players production of ‘Steel Magnolias’

Chlorissa Prothro, who plays Shelby in the new Good Company Players production of “Steel Magnolias,” missed the 1989 movie version when it opened. She couldn’t help it. She wouldn’t be born for seven more years.

So Prothro, a Fresno State theater major making her GCP debut, definitely marks a new generation for this beloved and oft-performed title.

Chlorissa Prothro, left, is Shelby, and Valerie Munoz is Truvy in “Steel Magnolias.” Photo / Good Company Players

I thought it’d be interesting to talk to someone in the new production who wasn’t even around when “Steel Magnolias” first made a splash. Here’s our interview:

Donald: The movie version of “Steel Magnolias,” based on the 1987 play by Robert Harling, was a big deal. All those stars in one movie! Sally Field! Shirley MacLaine! Julia Roberts! I recall especially that women in my mom’s generation were abuzz. I’m always curious how someone who missed the debut of a famous movie because they weren’t there to experience it firsthand are able to assimilate such a pop-culture milestone into their lives. Did you see the movie first on video? DVD? YouTube? (I have to ask these days.) Before you got the role of Shelby in the new Good Company production, had you ever really paid any attention to the movie?

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I’ll give ‘Some,’ but not ‘Much,’ ado about ‘Nothing’

Woodward Shakespeare Festival production continues for 2 more weekends


Woodward Shakespeare Festival is heading into its third weekend of “Much Ado About Nothing,” a youthful production at its strongest when it comes to physical comedy.

A gaggle of current and recently graduated Fresno State and Fresno City College students dominates the show. They including director Summer Session, who especially has fun doling out amusing bits involving an impish Benedick (Quincy Maxwell), the famed half of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved bickering couples. (Casey Ballard, as Beatrice, gets in some entertaining moments, too.)


I had mixed feelings about the opening-weekend performance I attended. Some thoughts:

Beach setting: Session opts to put “Much Ado” in a 1940s Long Beach setting. (The location is an unexpected choice — I associate Long Beach more with big container ships and the CSU Chancellor’s Office than a California beach vibe, but, then again, I’m not really a SoCal guy.) The beach theme does fit in nicely with the casual, lawn-chair atmosphere of the outdoor Woodward Park setting. And it helps set the tone for a funny scene in which the shirtless Claudio (James Anderson) and Don Pedro (Andrew Trevino) enact an amusing muscle-beach routine that is a nod toward their characters’ preening masculinity.

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