by Don Priest
The 2017 Rogue Festival is almost here. KRL will be featuring several Rogue Performer Preview articles over the next few weeks, and a preview article on this year’s Rogue Festival as well. You can find all of the Preview articles so far in our Arts & Entertainment section.
We will also be reviewing many of the shows once the Festival begins the beginning of March, and we may even do some more video interviews. Check out our Rogue Performer event page for more information as it becomes available, and you can also check out the Rogue 2017 website.
Just over two years ago, a guy walked into a bar and says to his friends, “Let’s put on a show.” And like Spanky and Alfalfa in the old Our Gang movies, they all said, “Sure!” That’s how The Flower Tome Companion began. Then went on to be a smash hit at the 2015 Rogue Festival.
The guy was Mike Workman. The friends were John Alden, Glen Westers, Don Weaver, and myself. The bar was Sequoia Brewery in Fresno’s Tower District. And the show turned out to be a celebration of our lives.
If you haven’t seen it, The Flower Tome Companion is a parody of the radio program Prairie Home Companion, a show that’s musical, funny, and satirical. The idea to adapt that to a story about life in “The Tower” came from a casual conversation at Sequoia between Mike and John Alden, the business manager of the Fresno Music Academy, formerly The Voice Shop. As Workman recalls, “He told me about having an hour time slot for the upcoming Rogue Festival and had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t even know what the Rogue Festival was. I was only trying to help when I thought a parody of the Prairie Home Companion would be a fun thing to try to do. I had no idea that I would do anything more than give John the premise.”
Well, the premise took hold and in almost no time we found ourselves immersed in the production. Mike was the principle writer and motivator. The rest of us “Companions” came from our core group of friends who became the actors, musicians, and sound effects crew. It was a thrilling ride, and when it was over, we thought it was over.
But now we find ourselves preparing to do it again. Most of the original crew is back, plus a couple of new recruits. Rehearsals are going well. But as we gear up for the next installment, a lot of us are reflecting on why we’re doing it and what we’re gaining from the experience.
For John Alden, co-directing this year with Mike, it’s about collaboration. “The family that comes together to do a production like this is absolutely the best. We rely on each other in ways that bio-fams can’t. Ultimately, for me, it’s about fellowship, creating collectively, and family.”
For our Music Director, Larry Lindberg, it’s the opportunity to re-stimulate some creative juices. “During grad school at CalArts, I participated in an Interdisciplinary Studies program that involved collaboration between students from the music, theater, film & video, dance, and creative writing schools. We created and staged a multi-media opera as one of our projects. It’s been one of my desires ever since to work on projects like that again.”
For Valerie Priest, who splits time between acting and sound effects, it’s about growth. “My favorite part of the production process is when individuals arrive at ‘a ha’ moments. I truly love work shopping with open-minded professionals. It’s enlightening to see the progression of teamwork and focus.”
For Mike Workman, the meaning goes a little deeper. “My mom always wanted me to be a performer of some type. She was always after to me to audition for a local community theater group. One of my deepest regrets is that my mother passed away before this show was conceived. So, I’m doing this for Mom, my wife, and all those who believe in me more than I believe in myself!”
For me, it’s about loving friendships, creativity, and beer! Y’all should come see our show!