Virtual Rogue Reviews: Piaf and Brel, The Impossible Concert/The Real Black Swann/Rosegold/Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour/Fringe Factor: Online Edition/Blood Harmony/Trudy Carmichael Presents The Improvised One-Woman Show

Mar 10, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Music, Rogue Festival, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance McArthur

Virtual Rogue Festival has one more weekend to enjoy some great shows! Just like Rogue is different this year, we are posting our reviews differently this year–we won’t be posting them all together, though they will still be in groups. Here is our second group of reviews! You can find all of our Rogue Festival Performer Preview articles and reviews by going to our Rogue Festival section, and you can also learn more on the Rogue Festival website and purchase tickets there.

Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert
Review by Terrance McArthur

Melanie Gall is possessed of a voice of clear, operatic, bell-like quality. It rings through the computer and wakes the mind. She loves to sing, and she loves to sing French and Flemish music. She brings that music to the screen in her Rogue show, Piaf and Brel: The Impossible Concert.

Piaf and Brel never met, but Gall brings their songs together gloriously. This Canadian chanteuse bubbles over with excitement as she weaves the triumphs and failures of singers she admires into the fabric of their songs. She’s a “Jenny Appleseed” of the musical kind, planting interest in Brel, Piaf, Tin Pan Alley music, 30s movie singers, World War I (and II) songs about knitting, and opera in many parts of the world.

Even if your knowledge of French is limited to “Allons! Debout! Ne reste pas dans la neige!” (which translates to “Come on! Get up! Don’t just lie there in the snow!), you can enjoy these songs sung mostly in French and Flemish (a language of Belgium): “Bruxelles” (Brussels), “La Vie en Rose” (The Rose-Colored Life), “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (Don’t Leave Me, popularized in the USA as “If You Go Away”), “Ne Me Regrette Rien” (I Regret Nothing, used in commercial like the one of a little girl growing up to be an old woman while eating chocolates). Song lists may change, but the enjoyment stays the same.

Your last chance to see this electrifying performance is Friday, March 12, at 5 p.m.
You can purchase tickets here.

The Real Black Swann
Review by Terrance McArthur

While Les Kurkendaal-Barrett waited for a suddenly urgent operation, a friend sent him an article about an ex-slave who organized drag balls in the 1800s. Under sedation, William Dorsey Swann appeared to him, and The Real Black Swann, Les’ new one-man show at the Rogue Festival, was born.

Les Kurkendaal

Swann’s story is interwoven with the loss of the imaginary pink bubble Les conjures up to insulate himself from racism and homophobia, Swann’s life as a gay man of color in a dress, at a time when a man in a dress was a criminal offense, awakens Les, making him confront a world with George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, and Brianna Taylor. It’s uncomfortable, it’s funny, it’s hallucinatory, and—dare I say—it’s educational. I cried.

One of Swann’s drag parties in Washington was raided by police. All the blacks were arrested, but the whites were not charged…and testified at the trial. It’s a case that ended up on the desk of the President of the United States as a clemency appeal.

Les has a knack for taking you to places you’ve never understood and giving you the mental tools to help you find your way to the heart of the matter, and end the trip with hope.

You can hire Les as your tour guide for his last 2021 Rogue performance, Friday, March 12, at 9 p.m.
You can purchase tickets here.

Review by Terrance McArthur

A horror story at the Rogue Festival. We’ve seen Rogue horror shows before, shows that have us shaking our heads as we leave…but a real horror story? An experience that lowers the room temperature and raises goosebumps? Do you wanna get scared? (reviewer grins slyly)

Donna Kay Yarborough is a chameleon-like entertainer who can slide from a blithely oblivious country-western singer to a sex-swapped Frank Sinatra to an Appalachian witcher-woman with ease, bringing laughter and thought to Fresno audiences. Last year, she brought a newborn project to the Rogue, and she returns to the Pandemic Virtual Rogue with a fully developed version of Rosegold, a gently escalating exercise in horror that stands in the ranks of H. P. Lovecraft, Rod Serling, and Stephen King.

Picture a virtual AA meeting. A woman introduces herself as Jamie, an alcoholic. She tells the group about her pathway to addiction, and drags us with her down a rabbit hole littered with dead bodies, mountain lions, creatures that aren’t supposed to be seen, how she survived a massacre…and how a part of that seemed to follow her.

Yarborough is earnest, engaging, and EEEEK! Yeah, this show is creepy. Let it creep up on you Sunday, March 14, at 6 p.m.
You can purchase tickets here.

Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour
Review by Terrance McArthur

Last year, Naom Osband put on his seersucker suit and brought Brother Love , an over-the-top, counter-cultural evangelist to the Rogue Festival, performing a mock tent revival in an actual tent, singing, preaching, and collecting offerings (in Monopoly money). In a new year of pandemic distancing, what could a man of the cloth (seersucker) do?

Take heart, brothers and sisters! Brother Love’s Good Time Gospel Hour is here, broadcasting live, and prepare to ask for your donations with his 501(c)(3) non-profit status!

Osband’s first Fresno visit laid bare hypocrisy and poked fun at the faithful. This year, the focus turns to sex—our attitudes, double entendres, and the adventures of a clergy who wants to know more about sin by…well, he says “You’ve got to sin to get in to heaven.” There are touches of Johnny Standley, Brother Dave Gardner, and Marjoe Gortner, by way of Jimmy Swaggart.

And he sings. He pounds his keyboard, he fretfully strums the ukulele, and he makes a joyful noise about “Bowling for Jesus” and “I Want to Lust for the Lord.” It’s cheerful blasphemy, offensive fun, ribaldry rude and rapturous, and will make you pray for forgiveness.

The last service is Saturday, March 13, at 12 noon.
You can purchase tickets here.

Fringe Factor: Online Edition
Review by Terrance McArthur

Grant Knutsen’s Fringe Factor game shows have become a staple of Fresno’s Rogue Festival, pitting teams of Rogue performers against each other through outrageous stunts, physical challenges, and party games. How do you do that and be socially distanced?

Here comes…..Fringe Factor: Online Edition!

Knutsen is a Seattle-based producer who facilitates shows for Fringe Festivals. He presides over his game show mayhem like a scruffy cross between Garrison Keillor and Bob Barker. Each show features different teams, some different games, the one-man house band Strangely, the efficient Megan Gott as stage manager and handyperson Vanna, and varying amounts of alcohol.

This year’s Off-Rogue show’s theme is Fresno versus the World. Different teams of performers representing different regions of North America go head-to-head with players from the Fresno area. They may have Rogue shows this year, or they may be former Roguers. Some of them may be in the same room as a teammate; some may be across several borders from their fellow players.

The games may include—
• One person seeing a strange picture, and then describing it to their team, who have to draw a reproduction of that picture.
• Each team gets an odd object to feature in an infomercial, explaining what it is, how it is used, and why you should buy it.
• A lightning round of trivia questions for each team.
• An alphabetical scavenger hunt requires the teams to find things in their home or apartment to represent each letter from A to Z.

It’s fast and loose, and the times the teams work together are covered by performances by Strangely or guest artists. It’s wild, it’s silly, and it’s a chance to see your favorite people outside of their normal roles…or a chance to discover someone you would like to see in their own show.

Fringe Factor: Online Edition
—catch it Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m (the only Rogue show of the night), or Friday, March 12, at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased here.

Blood Harmony
Review by Terrance McArthur

You know how music seems to have extra harmony when sung by members of the same family (Everly Brothers? Donny & Marie and any of the other Osmonds? Nelson? The Wilson Sisters of Heart? The Maguire Sisters?) There’s a name for that phenomenon: blood harmony, and “Blood Harmony” is the title of the Murray Girls’ show at the Rogue Festival.

I have been watching Leigh and her three daughters (Kenneshae, Kinborough, and Killean) brave the chill of the Veni Vidi Vici patio for many festivals, and we are all so much more comfortable on my computer screen, one of the few benefits of the pandemic. The quartet performs professionally from a studio or studio of stage with a multi-camera set-up, and their names are thoughtfully written in large script on signs in front of each singer. There are no back-up musicians or recordings. This is a capella, and their voices rise in the air; they probably don’t need cables of microwave to reach your device. It’s talent that carries their wavelength.

Each gets solo and lead time, breathing new life into old murder ballads, classic laments of wronged women, and “It Goes Like It Goes” (Oscar-winning song from Norma Rae).

Leigh is a lively one, animated and gleeful, powering her way through the “naughty” songs, her twinkling eyes knowing what the Devil is doing all night with the willing widow, and her sly smile belying the truth of why the young men can’t be married to the frustrated maid. She supports Kinborough on a heartfelt rendition of “Jolene,” and is always a guiding presence.

When they close with that sentimental favorite, “The Parting Glass,” you can raise your own glass in the privacy of your home. Here’s to the Murray Girls! Long may they sing!

Their final performance for this Rogue is Sunday, March 14, at 4 p.m.
You can purchase tickets here.

Trudy Carmichael Presents The Improvised One-Woman Show
Review by Terrance McArthur

This is not Wayne Brady, the comedian on Whose Line Is It, Anyway? who makes up a few songs on the spot. This is a whole show where the performer improvises songs based on suggestions from the audience. It’s Trudy Carmichael Presents the Improvised One-Woman Show.

Robin Rothman becomes Trudy, a diva of the lounge set, an easy-listening chanteuse, whose cabaret-style shows are popular with the crowd she calls her “Beautiful Babies.” She sings snazzy, jazzy songs in Covid isolation from her white -upholstered living room, framed by stained-glass peacocks (a Graceland-style green-screen backdrop image), while her accompanist, “Frankie Keys.” Tickles the ivories from New York City (Oh, the wonders of Zoom!)
Watchers use the chat function to type in title suggestions, and side comments often appear as lyrics. “Trudy” can deftly transform “Bananas by the Cabana” into a quasi-Caribbean near-samba. The Lonely Lumberjack” chopping along, builds sexual tension. “Bling Bling, Love That Ring,” a comment on her bejeweled hands, becomes a very-Dolly-Parton country-pop tune. It doesn’t matter what you throw at her, she knocks it out of the park.

It’s truly interactive theatre, where the watchers become actors, and the actor is the show.

You can be part of the creation one more time, Saturday, March 13, at 2 p.m.
You can purchase tickets here.

Check out our Rogue Festival section for more reviews.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom you will have seen on local stages. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new Christmas episode went up this week!

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

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children’s tales to splatterpunk horror. He’s an odd bird, but he’s nice to have around.


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