Rogue 2023 Round-Up
Updated: 3 days ago
I had one day to enjoy as much Rogue Festival 2023 as I could, so I loaded up the schedule and took in five stellar shows. Below are some writings on the five performances I had the pleasure of seeing.
Hmong Class 101 (show #861)
Jasmine Vang’s solo show about Hmong culture, language, and growing up as a Hmong-American in Fresno was a stirringly engaging and illuminating performance. Delivered with a nice balance of astutely-tempered emotion and joyful turns as a Hmong teacher and family members of Vang’s, she both educated and entertained the closing day audience. Her use of Hmong clothing and teaching of terms and vocabulary wrapped the audience in as a class being taught by the tortured Vang, who equal parts demonstrated her pride in being Hmong and confused of what expectations she’s supposed to live up to. Vang’s charisma and personality shone through her well-paced performance and superb script, making this show a piece I hope Vang continues presenting to audiences across the Central Valley.
Every Good Story Ends with One
When professional storytellers are involved, the title makes sense whether you’ve seen the show or not. Fringe performing veteran Martin Dockery brought this new monologue to Rogue this year and “wildly entertaining” is the most concise way I can summarize his performance. Known for his eccentric storytelling demeanor and quick-fire delivery, Dockery’s story of performing for Australian audiences in Adelaide, a girl in a blue dress named Erin, and three mates/fellow fringe festival performers made for a seriously fun story to experience. Dockery’s side tangents always came back to serve the primary monologue, but he provided stellar commentary while allowing the audience’s laughs and reactions to guide his monologue. Dockery is always a sure-fire joy to see so, should he make his way to a venue near you, don’t hesitate in buying tickets to his show. Without spoiling this one, the very thing you think the story ends with pays off, but in a more-than-fulfilling way than you’d expect.
Ashes to Ashes: a Tragicomedy
Kate McKnight, accompanied by musician-vocalists Sarah Serafimidis and Abigail Nolte, brought a most vulnerable story with music to the festival this year, and we in the audience are better off for having heard it. Weaving stories of her parents, marriages, having a son, and where her career in education and theater have taken her, McKnight has been able to distill her journey and experiences into a tight-knit, emotionally-woven show. Complemented by songs which provide relevant lyrics and a moody soundtrack to her journey, McKnight allows the audience to get as close to her tragedies and triumphs as artistically possible. Her poise and delivery were at the same time captivating and novel, in that her delivery had no bumps in pacing; that’s the mark of a pro who has gone through the work to process her details and deliver them theatrically in a way that’s relevant to audiences of all experiences. Thank you, Kate, for bringing your story to the Rogue Festival.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If Ryan Adam Wells is performing a show near you, run, don’t walk. Wells’s new show, Powers, exposes audiences to the superpowers he had to acquire and develop throughout his life of loss and bonds. Through his well-written lyrics and superbly voiced score, Wells gave the audience plenty to ponder when it came to parental loss, something that is still raw for me. However, Wells has already found the balance—he is still in development mode for this show—between comedic relief and dramatic storytelling. Wells’s songs are structured flawlessly throughout the monologue, and his guitar skills are complemented by the occasional harmonica riff, adding a nice twang to his country-esque timbre.
Wells is a regular in the Texas scene and the fringe circuit, so do check out Powers if it comes to a venue near you. Bring your tissues, your favorite libation, and a mindset ready to be entertained and emotionally engaged.
S’Will 3 (show #862)
Fresno’s local intoxicated interpreters of the Bard are back it with their adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, it’s set in modern-day Florida, so no one is safe from ridicule and spoofing. The company did a top-notch job of incorporating massive amounts of …Dream’s established plot while infusing audience prompts and a three-timed rung bell, by the Queen in the audience, requiring a cast member to take a shot at a random time. The company’s comedy and inebriated status never got in the way of delivering a 50-minute show of complete enjoyment, enough to entertain those who love the Bard, who love Improv, or who simply love a darn good time.
S’Will 3 will be giving an encore performance at the ViSTA Theater in Tower District this Friday, 3/17 at 8pm with Pay-What-You-Can as the price of admission. Go check them out if you haven’t seen them yet or haven’t seen them enough!