Rogue Festival Reviews: Jaguar Is a Liar/Thinking Out Loud/Blood Harmony/The Real Black Swann

Mar 10, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mallory Moad, Music, Rogue Festival, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Mallory Moad
& Terrance McArthur

Here are 4 more Rogue Festival show reviews-Jaguar Is a Liar/Thinking Out Loud/Blood Harmony/The Real Black Swann–with more to follow today and tomorrow! Be sure to head out to weekend two of this year’s Festival starting today! You will be able to find all of our Rogue Festival Reviews in our Rogue Festival Section here on KRL!
Due to the recent redesign over here on KRL all of our preview articles and our Rogue Festival event page have been posted over on KRL News and Reviews! You can find all of those articles, including some performer preview articles, by clicking here! You can find our Rogue Festival event page here. For more information be sure to check out the Rogue Festival website. Be sure to check out their website for their current Covid safety policies.

Jaguar Is a Liar: What I Saw During the Fight for the Tower Theatre
Review by Mallory Moad

“This will be my least funny show.” That is how Jaguar Bennett described his current Rogue piece, Jaguar Is a Liar: What I Saw During the Fight for the Tower Theatre. True, this is not a straight-up comedy show but that is not to say there is no humor in this true account of his involvement in the Tower District’s fight to defend the neighborhood – the place where Jaguar “made himself”- from a predatory church. The subject matter may be serious but his razor-sharp wit is intact.

Opening the show with instructions on how to bring down an in-your-face Nazi (which I will not repeat here), Jaguar takes the audience on an informational, inspirational, yet entertaining trip through a world of egotistical, so-called “Christian” leaders, corrupt city government officials, greedy property owners, white supremacists and enraged Fresno residents who are not afraid to fight for what they believe in. He’s got a lot on his mind and shares it all, saying, “It’s more important that you hear the truth and get angry than hear a lot of stupid jokes that make you relax and make you think everything is going to be OK.”

You need not be familiar with the ongoing conflict (sixty-two weeks and counting) to understand where Jaguar is coming from. He’s got your back. Well-researched and fact-checked, this is not an empty rant. I never imagined I would learn everything I need to know about zoning laws at the Rogue Festival, or that I would enjoy the lesson. At the conclusion of Jaguar is a Liar, the audience is left with a homework assignment that, if completed, will empower them. That’s not a bad way to end a show.

I recommend Jaguar Is a Liar for those who are curious about the fight for the Tower District, those who love the Tower District (or any community), and anyone who appreciates intelligent entertainment.

Jaguar Bennet Is a Liar: What I Saw During the Fight for the Tower Theatre will play on Thursday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m. and Friday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. at Veni Vidi Vici.

Thinking Out Loud
Review by Mallory Moad

Thinking Out Loud is one of the most “fringe” shows I have seen in the Rogue Festival. In her one-person performance, Dana Merwin enthusiastically embraces DIY in a presentation that explores life, death and (in her words) Costco. Part storytelling, part improv and part puppet theater, it’s funny, unpredictable and, at times, just a little kinky.

Crafting is a big deal in Thinking Out Loud – the stage is referred to as the “Crafeteria”- and Dana pushes the envelope, using everyday objects as puppets. Fish crackers, a plastic egg, a coffee pot, a potato and body parts transform into characters and illustrations. A moment in which a bottle of ketchup becomes a pistol is both weird and touching. Early in the show, we are introduced to Martha the Maggot, a hand puppet constructed from a stuffed nylon stocking, bottle caps, and pushpins. With a voice like a gravel road, Martha cracks crude jokes about death, but offers some profound observations about grief as well.

Energetic and charismatic, Dana leads the audience through twists, turns, and surprises. A series of random questions asked of an audience member becomes an essential element in a sequence that is sweet, goofy, and meaningful, while Pla-Doh and thumb wrestling lighten things up in an unexpected way.

I recommend Thinking Out Loud for anyone who appreciates a unique, cleverly crafted production that is charming and thought provoking.

Thinking Out Loud performs at the Spectrum Art Gallery, 608 East Olive Ave., Fresno. The remaining performances are Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m.

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.

Blood Harmony
Review by Terrance McArthur

Blood harmony? What’s that? Is it when two killers commit murder the same way?

No! It’s the way songs have a special something extra when sung by members of the same family, the way the Everly Brothers or the Mills Brothers sounded.

The Murray Girls are back for another Rogue Festival performing a program of Blood Harmony, and that is cause for joy. Leigh and whatever number of her daughters who happen to be available whomp up an a cappella storm without breaking a sweat. Who needs a band when you have voices like these?

Leigh is the master of the bawdy ballad, regaling audiences with songs of the widow wearing out the Devil with her sexual appetite, and a girl with a twisted family tree. She also knows the ins and outs of murder ballads. The ticklish tunes usually produce embarrassment of resigned forbearance among her daughters.

Two of Leigh’s three daughters joined her on the first weekend of the Rogue Festival, and each had their featured numbers. Songs of the British Isles, tunes of the Appalachians, and occasional modern melodies flow smoothly. Toes tap, heads nod, hands clap, and the audience has a grand old time.

The Murray Girls’ last Rogue 2022 performance of Blood Harmony is Thursday, March 10 at 8:30 p.m. in the Veni Vidi Vici patio, behind 1116 N. Fulton St., Fresno. Give a listen. You’ll be amazed at what you will hear.

The Real Black Swann
Review by Terrance McArthur

Don’t you want to be safe and protected? To make it so life can’t hurt you? Les Kurkendaal-Barrett felt that way—until George Floyd died. Anesthesia for an operation put him face-to-sort-of-face with William Dorsey Swann, a former slave who threw drag balls in the 1800s, forcing Les to deal with reality without the “pink bubble” he used to keep the hard facts of the world at bay. All the adventures and situations of his experience are onstage at the VISTA Theater for Les’s Rogue show, The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen.

Hallucinatory, disorienting, and thought-provoking, Black Swann ratchets back and forth from Swann to Les’s youth and his experiences as a gay Black man. Swann organized drag balls where men in suits and drag queens met. He was faced with racism and homophobia, jailed, fought in the courts and when faced with police breaking up his parties, appealed to the President of the United States, and became the first gay activist in the country.

Les is a charming fellow, and a frequent Rogue performer with a following of fans. His journey of realization that he has to face the world and the challenges it presents him is a solid theatrical experience.

The Real Black Swann has remaining performances Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m., March 11 at 8:30 p.m., and March 12 at 2 p.m. at the VISTA Theater, 1296 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno.

Watch our Rogue Festival section for more reviews! Tickets for all shows can be purchased on the Rogue website and at the door, but be aware they do not accept cash.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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