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Mini-Rogue Festival 2022 Preview

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

This year’s ‘Seattle-to-Fresno’ Mini-Rogue will take up residence at LAByrinth Art Collective after a two-year hiatus! Coming to the stage are four acts sure to inspire, entertain, and all out rock our local arts scene for one glorious weekend of fringe. I had the opportunity to check in with some of the artists involved in order to whet the appetite.

To kick off the festival is Alexis Elisa Macedo’s play, Chicana Legend, being produced by The Fool’s Collaborative, and directed by Gina Sandi-Diaz. When asked what inspired the writing of this play, Alexis explained, “During my summer as a Theatermaker at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, my teacher Ren Dara Santiago, gave my fellow playwrights and I the prompt of “Heritage and Myth,” asking us to explore our cultures and the roots we claim. Who are the legends that I look up to? What are the myths I fear? As a Chicana, who was pushed to assimilate, and not allowed to embrace or learn about the power of my roots, I feel as if I’m trying to win a game that wasn’t designed for me to win…that’s it…a game! By putting this piece in the world of a video game, I’m able to physicalize and animate fighting those battles and overcoming obstacles to become: a CHICANA LEGEND. Once I found the title, the rest of the play followed.”

When asked about her teaming up with Gina Sandi-Diaz as director, Alexis said, “I have been eagerly waiting to have Gina direct an original piece of mine. I’m honored to have her support in and out of this process. Her electric lens on this piece has given me the opportunity to see how my words translate to the stage and her director style invites actors to collaborate and share their ideas. I’ve always found that I get the best writing feedback, from actors, and holy crap this cast is sharp and witty and are exactly the voices I needed to help shape this piece. As it’s still in development, hearing in-the-room reactions and what they related to, tells me as the playwright that I’m giving a spotlight to stories that need to be told.”

If you care to obtain a copy of the play ahead of or after seeing it, you can find it at the New Play Exchange, where the play has been praised as: “endearing and powerful, funny and poignant, loving and scathing. An essential read, an essential experience, an essential story.”

“Alexis Elisa Macedo delights and devastates in this essential and resonant story, and her blending of video games and electric storytelling have me coming back for another play through.”

Show blurb

Young Lulu Mora is sent by her Mama and Abuela to embark on a video game, coming-of-age adventure to become a “Chicana Legend” - an inspiration and role model to her community. Lulu learns that her ancestors have greatly sacrificed to make it possible for her and couldn’t achieve it themselves. Speaking English, having an unsullied reputation, and being taught to bite her tongue to survive, Lulu is armed with a fighting chance to win the game. Now it’s up to Lulu to make good choices, combat small-town chisme, and defend her family’s reputation to make her ancestors proud. But will becoming a Chicana Legend mean abandoning everything that makes her Chicana? Press A to start!

Chicana Legend plays on Friday, 9/23 at 6pm and Sunday, 9/25 at 7:30pm.

Strangely is no stranger (oof, how many times has he heard THAT one in his career, huh?) to Fresno fringe audiences, so what festival would be complete without his antics! Strangely brings the specifically titled Happy Little Suicide Banjo to Mini-Rogue, a show sure to delight and inform. And while Strangely is mostly known for rockin’ the accordion he had the following to say about bringing a banjo to focus: “I've been playing banjo/ukulele for years as a secondary instrument. (This particular one is actually a combo of the two a "banjolele.") The sudden pivot to featuring just this smaller instrument is tied into my recent purge of most of my possessions in advance of my intended move to Norway. The accordion is still around, but it's a heavy instrument that can be logistically challenging. I'm trying to get to a place where I can tour without it for a while, living my life out of a single, mid-sized backpack.”

Fans of Strangely have gotten to know him throughout the years of performances, shared drinks, and impassioned conversations, so when I inquired about what we can hope to learn about him in this show, he said, ” The show is basically going to be a summary of what's happened so far this year, threaded through with an exploration of mental illness. People will learn why I didn't end up on a plane to Norway (bureaucracy), and find out exactly how many times I almost died this year already (three). Oh yeah and there's jokes. I hope that I will be able to bring my usual level of entertainment, while being a bit more open about some of my darker experiences which have informed my performances. I have always been very good at putting on the "show face," smiling through the pain and getting it done, I hope that I can share a bit of what a toll that can take on a performer, while keeping it light enough that we all have a good time. I cannot promise much, but there is a new "Strangely Covers an Unexpected Pop Hit from the Past," I'm really excited about. The show might have a slightly darker tone than folks might expect from me, but at the same time, it's the same me they've come to expect the unexpected from. I'm pretty sure we're gonna have a good time. If for no other reason than you'll get to see me take four highly specific shots of alcohol during the show!”

Happy Little Suicide Banjo plays Friday, 9/23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, 9/25 at 4:30pm

*Also, keep on the lookout for a possible one-performance only showing from Strangely and friends, to be announced closer to the date!*

Jon Bennett brings Fire in the Meth Lab to Fresno audiences, a show described as a “comedy about a dark topic.” When asked about the inspiration of such a head-turning title, Jon dove into, “Well my friend is a musician and she wrote a B-side song called "Fire in the Meth Lab of My Heart" and I wanted to use it as a soundtrack for my show but by the time I wrote the show she couldn't find the recording! She's a really great musician: Prudence Ree-Lee. I still get the chorus of the song stuck in my head! "Fire! Fire! In the meth lab of my heart..." I followed up with asking about the insight audiences can expect to gleam from seeing this show, and Jon said, “I think most audiences relate deeply to having a family member who is troubled or what is called a "Black Sheep" and no matter what they go through you seem to find a way to love these family members. A lot of us remember being tortured by our siblings. People tell me their specific one's after every show. It seems a lot of us have had a sibling hold them down and go to spit in their face and suck it up just before it hits!”

Fire in the Meth Lab plays Friday, 9/23 at 9pm and Saturday, 9/24 at 7:30pm.

It wouldn’t be a true Rogue event if there wasn’t a game show from Minion Productions, and Grant Evan Knutson is bringing it to the stage, as the transparent: Rent Check edition. Strangely will provide house band tunes, and Grant describes this version of the game show as one that, “…will be even more high-energy & 'seat of our pants' than usual (if you can believe that), since our goal is to coax a few extra donations from the crowd! We did the 'Rent Check Edition' of the show a few years ago for the last live Mini-Rogue, and I've never been more exhausted after a show. But it was super fun.” If you ask me, it looks like Grant is challenging audiences to exhaust him even more with enthusiasm and those money donations, huh? “

The Game Show will play on Saturday, 9/24 at 9pm ONLY so book your time and ticket to that one-and-done event!

In addition, The Inner Ear Poetry Jam will continue their tradition of providing audiences with fantastic fringe spokenword and poetry! When I asked Bryan Medina, whose heads up The Inner Ear Poetry Jam to give us some insight on the event and why it's become a staple of Fresno fringe festivals he said, "I believe it's a love of all things art and through that connection~bringing artists and like-minded fans together for special one of a kind experiences through the craft of Spokenword/poetry. Being from the California Central Valley there's an aire of hard work and realness that defines both its people and its writers; who taste the seasonal fruits, speak the many diverse languages found here and know the  wretched summer heat like that of a lover scorned. Keeping alive an old tradition handed down from the century's under the rhythm of a heartbeat. This is why they (the fans) and we come back.

I asked Bryan about what affect Inner Ear has had on him over the years and shared, "If there's anything that being in the local community for 21 years has taught/affected me, it would be the importance of building long lasting relationships with fans, venues, artists, and benefactors. These are things that keeps events like ours running for as long as we have. Truth is~It's not about the show (per se) it's about the people who get something out of it."

In conclusion, Bryan wants audiences to know that, "We're excited to be back at this year's  Seattle to Fresno Festival to share valley stories crafted from the heart, told by different voices and diverse backgrounds 

landing in hungry ears..."

The Inner Ear Poetry Jam will be holding court on Saturday, 9/24 at 6pm and again on Sunday, 9/25 at 6pm.

Whether it be Spring or Fall, it’s never a bad time to support fringe in Fresno with your patronage, so I hope you find your way to the Tower District this week and go Mini-Rogue it up!

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