I’m in a blurby mood this morning. Lots of things to share:
A big week for me
On Tuesday, April 28, I fly to New York to work on an amazing story I’ve been following for months: the journey of the one-woman play “Janka” from pick-up theater production in Fresno to a sit-down run at New York’s June Havoc Theatre.
For years, Janice Noga — who plays her mother-in-law, Janka Festinger Speace, in this deeply felt tale of a young woman who survived the Nazi terrors at Auschwitz and Dachau — dreamed of taking the show to New York. Supporters in the central San Joaquin Valley raised $50,000 to help make that happen.
Noga has been performing in New York since the play’s first performance April 2. She’s there with her husband, Oscar Speace, who wrote the play based on a letter his mother wrote that he didn’t know about until after she died.
I will be in New York for the show’s final week, first planning to see the show on Wednesday night. During the week I’ll spend some time with Noga, who continues working every day on making her performance better. (Hers is an amazing story: She lost her ability to speak after surgery for a brain tumor and has worked hard to reach the point where she can memorize a one-woman show.) I’ll also be there for Saturday’s closing performance, which will be attended by a number of Janka’s relatives from around the world. It will all come together in a piece I’ll write that will publish next Sunday, May 3, in The Bee.
While in New York I’ll also take the opportunity to see some of Broadway’s newest shows, including two that have local ties: “Dr. Zhivago” (featuring Jacqueline Antaramian) and “Something Rotten!,” (with Heidi Blickenstaff in a leading role.) I’ll get the chance to interview both in their dressing rooms before their shows.
For up-to-date reports from New York, check in with me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter (@donaldbeearts) and read my blog posts on www.fresnobeehive.com.
Last night (Saturday, April 25) the Fresno Philharmonic made history by performing the world premiere of “Cantata for Living Martyrs,” a piece by Serouj Kradjian commissioned by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Fresno Committee.
Now, today (Sunday, April 26) the orchestra is making another bit of history by performing its first concert in San Francisco. Music director Theodore Kuchar, 65 instrumentalists and nearly 110 members of the Fresno Master Chorale and Fresno State Concert Choir (both directed by Anna Hamre) are making the trip along with soprano soloist Isabel Bayrakdarian.
It’ll be a long day for the musicians: They travel up by bus to San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in the late morning for the 5 p.m. performance, and will turn around and head home after.
Going on tour can be quite expensive. (Fresno Philharmonic executive director Stephen Wilson declined to tell me the costs.) It’s all possible because of the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California, with major support provided by Edward and Eleonore Aslanian.
A busy weekend
For local Armenians, the Fresno Philharmonic concert on Saturday was the culmination of a months-long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the genocide. But there’s another event today (Sunday, April 26) related to the topic that makes for a nice way to finish the weekend. Daniel Melnick, a professor emeritus of English at Cleveland State University, will give a reading of his book “The Ash Tree” 2-4 p.m. at the Fresno Barnes and Noble.
The novel, published by West of West Books, is about one family’s journey out of the Armenian genocide and its rebirth in California.
Mark Arax, who founded West of West, says the novel is informed not only by his Jewish family’s own persecution and exile to America but also by the fact that his wife, Jeanette, is an Armenian who grew up in Fresno.
I’d like this week to give a few extra classical-music plugs:
• Do you like the feeling of discovery when you listen to young, promising talent? Orpheus Chamber Ensemble presents the next in its “Next Generation” series in a 4 p.m. concert today (Sunday, April 26) at Fresno State’s Wahlberg Recital Hall. The spotlight is on cellist Aimee Dockum.
• The San Joaquin Chorale, under the direction of Roy Klassen, will perform the premiere of Kevin Memley’s “Sing Cantante Domino,” a commissioned piece. It’s part of the ensemble’s spring concerts in Reedley (7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at the First Mennonite Church) and Fresno (7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 3 at the First Congregational Church).
• Soli Deo Gloria, Fresno’s women’s chorale, also features composer Memley in its spring concert 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1, at University Presbyterian Church. Memley’s “Anadyomenen” “If I Were the Velvet Rose” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” are part of the program, along with a rollicking version of “The Erie Canal.”