Monday, March 14, 2005

Rogue's Gallery

Getting away from politics for the moment, allow me to tell you about my weekend...

I took the opportunity of not having to attend a prior engagement that had fallen through at the next-to-last minute to be a jerk on the loose, and decided to get out of town. I headed south, to Fresno, to be exact.

(When I informed some of my fellow bloggers Thursday night of my plans for the next day, saying "I'm driving to Fresno tomorrow," Paperwight responded with, "You poor bastard."

I told him, "No, no, I'm going there by choice."

He hesitated a moment, then said, "You sick bastard!")

In Fresno, presided over by my pal Joel Dyer and his fellow organizer Marcel Nunis, and kept secured by my other pal in the valley, Chris Johnson, was the fourth annual Rogue Festival (think SF's very similar Fringe Festival), an unjuried exhibition of music, dance, comedy, plays, films and performance art. Last weekend was the last weekend of the Rogue, and I was there to enjoy as much of it as I could soak in in two nights and an afternoon.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I had one hell of a good time. The first performance I witnessed was fellow San Franciscan Steven Karwoski's one-man show at the Starline, detailing the trials and tribulations of his adventures as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles. It was a hilarious piece, made all the more so because it's all true. Karwoski will be bringing this same show to the Exit Theater at Eddy and Taylor in SF this May, so I'm recommending it to all San Franciscans, and will be sure to take Mrs. Generik with me when I catch it a second time.

Jaguar Bennett

After that, I was ready for anything, and anything is exactly what I got. Local hero Jaguar Bennett, a stand-up philosopher of the comedic persuasion (and possessor of perhaps the best show-business name in the entire Central Valley), held court on the patio of Veni Vidi Vici and ranted for nearly an hour on such philosophical conundrums as masturbation, boner pills, self-loathing, stalking oneself and foreign policy. It was seriously funny, in every sense of the phrase. Jaguar needs his own HBO special, or at least a gig shilling for British automobiles... or perhaps hand cream. His line about a "mercy jerk" had me rolling.

I ended the first night with the surf stylings of the Neptunes, who feature twice as many double-necked combination bass-and-guitar instruments than I've ever seen in any other band, anywhere. Wipeout, dude. Whoa! Tubular.

The following day I got to see my other Fresno buddy, notorious local musician Nate Butler and his lovely wife Cindy performing in an ensemble piece about relationships called Opposites Attract that was quite amusing. Definitely a good way to start the afternoon and evening.

Following that was a dance troupe, Altered Modalities, that combined ballet, jazz and hip-hop in a show that left me wheezing and trying to catch my breath. By then, it was time for a drink, so I popped in next door at Livingstone's in between shows and enjoyed the dark and the air conditioning for a while. Next up was Junkology, a troupe of found-object puppeteers led by Rogue co-founder Marcel Nunis. Using only a few rags and other cast-away pieces of erstwhile trash, they told a story of the recent tsunami about a baby that was found floating on a mattress days after the waves hit.

Baba Brinkman

The last show of the night was by far the piece de resistance. It was an encore presentation of The Rap Canterbury Tales, presented by Canadian rap artist and medieval scholar (!!) Baba Brinkman, and it totally rocked, dude. The venue was full to overflowing, and the crowd hung on to his every rhyme. Baba breathed new life into the Miller's Tale, the story of the Wife of Bath and more tales of greed, lust and revenge from Chaucer's timeless classic. He drew more than one standing ovation by the time he had finished.

After that show, the last one of the weeklong-plus Festival, the organizers and the volunteers held a party open to all. Marcel handed out awards to the best performers of the week. A '70s cover band, Dreamweaver, provided the dancing music, and in the middle of it all a surprise wedding broke out, complete with white dress and wedding cake. Joel and fellow Roguette Jen, both Universal Life ministers, officiated over the ceremony, and a seriously good time was had by all.

Or at least a good time was had by me. I could be wrong about the others, but it sure looked like everyone else was having fun.
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