If the Tower District seems more crowded than usual, like there are more people milling about engaging in all matter of artistic expression, that’s just the Rogue Festival.
Fresno’s “largest, craziest and most courageous” theater and performing arts festival kicks off its 18th year Friday (with a teaser show Thursday). More than 250 theater, music, dance, comedy, spoken word and magic performances are happening at 11 Tower District venues over its two week run.
So, lots of choices, let’s say. Lest you become completely overwhelmed, we’ve complied a list of seven noteworthy shows. This should serve as a starting point.
A full list of performers and schedules can be found at the Rogue Festival website.
The hot ticket
“Pop Culture Jihad,” is a “dark comedy/epic rant about the dumpster fire that unites all Americans,” from a guy who debated global warming with Ben Bergquam (and on video, even). Shane “Scurvy” Spears has a history of creating buzz-worthy Rogue shows, the kind that end up standing-room only.
Details: 9:15 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 6:45 p.m. Sunday and 1:45 p.m. March 9. Veni Vidi Vici, 1116 Fulton St. $7, adults only.
The local pick
The Fools Collective (a group of Fresno performing/visual artists) presents “S’Will: Romeo and Juliet,” aka drunk Shakespeare. Beer and wine will be available, because sometimes that’s what it takes to get into Shakespeare.
Details: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. March 8, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 9. Tower Lounge, 809 E. Olive Ave. $10 cash/credit.
Martin Dockery is a Rogue Festival regular and a master storyteller. In “You Belong Here,” the Brooklyn-based actor/monologist tells a true story about The Forbidden City in China.
Details: 10 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, 5:30 p.m. March 8 and 6:30 p.m. March 9. Dianna ’s Studio of Dance, 826 Fulton St. $12.
The ‘underground’ pick
Each year, the Rogue takes in more performance submissions than it has room for. While it used to award performance slots on a first-come, first-served basis, the festival now uses a lottery system.
The “Artist Underground,” allows performers who didn’t make it through the lottery to create their own venues in commercial spaces, businesses and backyards.
“Lies My Father Told Me” is a storytelling performance/play from Marcel Nunes, who is hosting a series of shows in his backyard venue space.
Nunes happens to be the man who founded the Rogue Festival.
He’s also this year’s muse.
Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and March 6, 7 and 8. Tent of Tales, 416 E. Brown Ave. $10/pay what you want. Cash only.
Over the Rogue Festival’s 18 years, Blake Jones has done everything from staging off-beat musicals with his daughter to curating a round-table discussion on the history of Fresno’s local music scene. This year’s show, which Jones performs with musician Tom Magill, is called “5 New Songs, 5 Songs from Friends,” and is just what the name implies.
Details: 7 p.m. March 6, 7, 8 and 2 p.m. March 9. Tower District Records, 1930 N. Echo Ave. (across from Fresno High). Free.
On name alone
It can be dangerous, picking a performance basely on name alone. But the Rogue Festival is all about taking the risks. In “Stop Having Zombie Sex,” Malcom Grissom gives a “comical and honest monologue exploring love, sex, intimacy and monsters,” which is maybe about being a sex addict?
Details: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 4:15 p.m. Saturday, 7:15 p.m. March 8 1:45 p.m. March 9. Fulton Street Art, 1118 N. Fulton St. $7, adults only.
The timely choice
Because art should speak to the times, “#MeToo Monologues,” (from one-time Rogue Festival organizer Jayne Day) features #metoo stories and testimonials done as monologue, in dialogue, poetry and dance.
Details: 10 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Sunday, 5:30 p.m. March 8 and 8 p.m. March 9. Vista Theater, 1296 Wishon Ave. $12.
Various venues in the Tower District
$5 wristband. Individual show prices vary
Six other noteworthy events for the week
Steampunk Mardi Gras Parade, 1 p.m. Sunday. Olive and Wishon avenues. Free. www.towerdistrict.org