Doing Da Rogue: A Guide To The Rogue Festival Through Its Vocabulary

Feb 26, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Community, Heather Parish

by Heather Parish

What’s that? You say you’ve never been to the Rogue Festival in Fresno before? Hmmmm. . . I think it is about time you did. Don’t let a little thing like the unfamiliar keep you from the adventure in art that is “Da Rogue”. But, like any other cultural event that has evolved (this is its 10th year), it has its own quirks, etiquette and, of course, buzzwords.

So, if you’ve never “Done the Rogue” before, perhaps this little glossary will help set you up for a better experience, and allow you to talk about the Rogue like a seasoned vet. (Special thanks to Marcel Nunis, Rogue Festival founder, for allowing me to use his
blog post as reference and inspiration)

“The Rogue Muse” is the cover art for all of the Rogue’s materials. There is a different Muse every year.


What is the Rogue Festival?
It is two weekends in the spring when Fresno’s Tower District becomes home to actors, musicians, dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, storytellers, poets and all things creative in a non-juried fringe festival. 19 different venues ranging from theaters to nightclubs to cafes to ballrooms host almost 80 different acts as diverse in style and point of view as they are in genre. In one day you can see several plays, go to a live music show, see an art installation, and take in a short film with time to stop in one of the Tower Districts restaurants for food and cocktails. Everything is in the Tower District’s six block radius so many events are within walking distance of each other. All of the acts are fresh to the area and many are written by the performers themselves. And the best part: the ticket prices for each show range from $3 to $10.

Fringe Festival- “Fringe” refers to alternative forms of art not done in the mainstream. Fringe artists usually work as individuals rather than established organizations and prepare shows unlike those usually performed in theaters. They are “on the fringe”, so to speak. Their presentations are less than an hour, stripped down and have to be set up and torn down within 15 minutes. As a result, the shows offered are all about story, emotion, and the presence of the presenter.

Non-Juried Festival: Most fringe festivals “adjudicate”– or judge– their applications for admission. Some get in and some are denied. They also often give prizes for the “Best of. . ” These are “juried festivals”. The organizers of the Rogue Festival do not adjudicate the shows that are offered. They accept all applications until slots are filled and there is no competition for the “Best of. . . ” This encourages good feeling among the artists and offers a wide variety of quality and style of work.


The Tower –This may be a big ol’ DUH! for many of you, but it must be specified. “The Tower” refers to the popular Tower District neighborhood just north of the 180 Freeway between Van Ness and Palm and centered around The Historic Tower Theater. It is a vibrant, culturally diverse area home to many of Fresno’s cultural events such has Mardi Gras, car shows, and various theatrical and music events. Since the late 1990’s The Tower District has bounced back from years of neglect and crime into a very happening nightlife center.

When going to the Rogue, orient yourself to Olive Avenue and Van Ness/Wishon streets to find your way around.

Map of the Tower

Pedi-Cabs: Tower District “rikshaws”– they seat two people and are powered by guys on bikes who know every venue in the Tower. The pedi-cab drivers work for tips and save you some leg time walking from venue to venue.

Venues. Here is what you can expect at each kind of venue the Rogue Festival supports.

Gallery: These are display spaces for visual artists– painters, photographers, etc. Each artist usually has a meet and greet time on the schedule for the galleries.

Film: A fairly recent addition to the Rogue, the Film locations are small but with the equipment to run various short films during the festival.

Veni Vidi Vici is a café, using their lovely bar/patio in the back of the restaurant.

Cafe: Usually a venue that is quite intimate with little distance between the performer and audience. They seat around 20 and usually host acoustic music, readings, storytelling, and monologue performances.
Mainstage: This is a venue that holds a larger number of seats than the other venues– usually around 50. They also have slightly more equipment like lighting and an actual stage for performers. But don’t be fooled– these are still very stripped down, very independent shows.
BYOV: Stands for Bring Your Own Venue. There are certain businesses in the Tower District who participate in Rogue by providing their space to the Festival but booking their acts themselves. They coordinate their schedule with the Rogue schedule. BYOVs are not operated by Festival volunteers or organizers, however, so your experiences there could vary.

California Arts Academy Severance is a BYOV

DOING DA ROGUE or ROGUE-ING (a plan to catch multiple Rogue shows in a day) is an amazing way to experience what the Tower District and Fresno arts have to offer. The neighborhood brightens ten-fold during Rogue. Here’s how you do it up right:
The Rogue Map-– It isn’t an actual map. It’s a program listing every act with their times and venues. “The Grid” of shows, times, and venues is included as well. Since shows are shorter than mainstream entertainment, you can often fit in three shows plus dinner in an evening of Rogue-ing. You need to find a Map early, though, as they usually run out by the second weekend of the Festival. Maps can usually be found at the tables in front of the Mainstages or at Starline Grill, Tower Theater, The Revue & Ashtree Studios.
Rogue Ready Passes— a $35 pass gets you into three mainstage shows and 2 cafe shows which will save you about $5 overall. But mostly they are awesome for the convenience factor– since the venues are cash only a pass allows you to go cash free. Passes are available at the Tower Theater Marquee during the run of the Festival.
Review the Rogue— Fringe Festivals thrive on audience feedback. The rogue website is set up so that you can go to any show’s listing and leave a comment to let them know what you thought. You can also leave comments at the Rogue Facebook Page.
Plotting Da Rogue— for those type A’s out there who want to know what they’re doing, when and how, Plotting the Rogue is for you. Get a Rogue Map and a map of the Tower District Then plot out the venues, restaurants, cafes and bars. Then take a look at the Grid and check mark (in pencil, because it WILL change) the shows and times you’d like to do. Then look at the venue locations, and plot your path through a day of Tower District Fun. Knowing where the venues are, when you can stop for a meal break and, perhaps, where you can get a great Stockholm Royale when you need one (Veni Vidi Vici’s) will allow you to enjoy the shows since all of the other decisions have been made!
Crap Shooting da Rogue— this one is for the more free-wheeling Rogue adventurer. This is where you hop from show to show, venue to venue, and see what you can in the hope of being pleasantly surprised. This method usually yields seeing some of the best of the Rogue and the worst of the Rogue.
The First Fifteen— some shows allow latecomers during the first fifteen minutes. Some shows don’t allow them at all. The best bet is to be on time or skip the show and pick it up later.

The Fresno Dance Collective (NoCo) will perform at Cal Arts Severance.

INSIDER ROGUE— when some folks have been around the Rogue Festival for a while, a certain knowledge and vocabulary sinks into their everyday speech. Wanna sound like you’re in the know, hit up these:
The Blah Blah – The short (hopefully) introductory announcement at the start of every show performed by the venue manager or articulate volunteer. A creative venue manager can make their Blah Blah a little show within a show. Pay attention to the different styles you encounter.
The Begging Bucket— A sort of tip jar for the Festival. The money in the buckets is used as start up money for the festival the next year. It helps offset costs since 100% of the shows’ ticket sales go to the artist.
Rogue Worthy— a show that lives up to the ideals of the Rogue– portability, originality and creativity.
The Rogue Kick Off— a soiree on the Thursday of the opening weekend at Full Circle Brewery where you can mingle with the performers and see a few previews.
One Big Rogue Party— yet another party at the end of the Festival celebrating the performers, volunteers, and audiences.

“The Godling” runs at the Broken Leg Stage.

All in all, The Rogue Festival is a great way to spend a day (or two or three) celebrating the creative life of our area and the ways in which we can all come together for the arts in our neighborhoods. Enjoy the Festival!
This year’s Festival runs from March 3 through 12. To learn more about the performers, tickets, etc. you can visit the Festival website. You can also find even more detailed information about some of the performances/performers on the KRL Rogue Performances Event Page.
More upcoming Rogue related articles: The Road to Rogue-March 5, and reviews of various Rogue shows throughout the Festival. Learn more about the history of Rogue in the February 19 article
Rogue Festival Celebrates 10th Year!


Heather Parish is a freelance writer and theatrical director. Originally from Visalia, she is the artistic director for The New Ensemble in Fresno.



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