About Austen Houts

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So far Austen Houts has created 33 blog entries.

Senior admires personal connection with artist

Fans of JJ Heller appreciate her folksy, acoustic songs that carry important messages about God’s love, while showing off her incredible voice, which is complemented well by harmonies sung by her husband, Dave. I first began listening to their music a few years ago and was immediately attracted to the laid back melodies and truth of the lyrics. With this in mind, I was eager to experience a live concert.

By |2012-05-11T00:00:00-08:00May 11th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Choral group enhances senior's singing passion

When I first enrolled to Fresno Christian as a seventh grader, I fought my parents on the decision to send me to a private school, away from my best friend from sixth grade, who would be attending a public junior high school. I was very quiet and afraid I wouldn?t make friends easily, plus I was only partially acquainted with one other girl, since we?d attended the same church for a few years.

On the first day of school, my mom dropped me off in front of Building Six. Intimidated by the lockers, eight class periods and a totally foreign environment, I was a bit worried about how my experience at this new school would turn out.

God clearly answered my prayers; by second period, I had made a friend, Rachel McDonald. We happened to have every class together, except eighth period (which was Drama for me, so I figured that would be an easy place to get to know people). She introduced me to her friends and a bit later in the year, the girl I knew from church, Julianne King, turned into one of my closest friends.

As I look back over the past six years, I realize how grateful I am to my parents for “forcing” me to attend FC. I give this school credit for giving me opportunities I definitely would not have had elsewhere and most importantly, for helping me find my voice.

I have always loved to sing. Disregarding my lack of talent as a child, I would lock myself in my room and shamelessly belt out the latest Hilary Duff song. I was determined to become a star simply by practicing and “wanting it” more than the average kid.

Finally, I reached an age where common sense ruled out and I admitted to myself that I would never be the next teen sensation. Although they would never admit it, I imagine this was probably to the great relief of my parents, who?d grown weary of hearing me try to reach the high notes in songs like “So Yesterday.”

My dream of being a singer was put away, with no intention of ever bringing it back for anything other than my own enjoyment, when nobody else could hear me.

This plan changed at the end of my sophomore year when I auditioned for Worship Team. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I completely lacked confidence, but I went for it anyways, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I remember the day in junior high when I first heard the strains of a talented female vocalist escaping from the high school chapel in Ground Zero. I was impressed and wanted to be like whoever was singing, (I didn?t even see who it was) simply because they were gifted with a beautiful voice.

I literally leapt with joy when I found out I had made it into Worship Team, and over my junior year my confidence and skill increased until I was able to start leading songs and singing alone at other venues, like my church.

Gaining all of this vocal experience led to my audition for Ensemble at the end of junior year. Consisting of nine singers (six girls and three guys), Ensemble has been the biggest blessing to me out of any class I?ve taken at FC.

The small class size allowed us to grow very close over a short period of time and some of my favorite high school memories are with this group of wonderful people.

It is incredible to be part of such a talented, close-knit group, doing something I am so passionate about. Whenever we are adjudicated, we are told that we communicate through our songs because of our size and the connection we have with each other.

Mr. [Michael] Ogdon is a fantastic director, and I want to thank him for all of the time he puts into us, for opening up his home to us for “Ensemble Bonding” and for pushing us to be better than we think we are. Our accompanist, Mrs. Schapansky (or “Pepe,” as Ivette [Ibarra, ’15] nicknamed her), has been an invaluable member of our team and I look back with fond memories at all of the times when she brought us ice cream or talked with us during class.

The thing I?m going to miss most when I go to college is this group. I know that I will never be a part of an ensemble that feels exactly the same because this was a special opportunity that doesn?t come around twice.

Still, I?ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from Ogdon, Pepe and my fellow ensemble members, vocally and otherwise. I appreciate everything I?ve experienced with this group of people and will carry the conversations and fun times we have had with me as I move on with my life and begin to pursue other dreams.

I am not entirely sure what I want to do with my life but I know I want singing to be a part of it. I would encourage the younger students at Fresno Christian to find their niche and make as many memories as they can because my favorite part of high school has been doing what I love the most with the people I love.

Senior Austen Houts will be attending California State University, Fresno, in the fall, where she will study Psychology.

For more senior columns, read the May 4 article, Senior expresses thanks to family-school atmosphere.

By |2012-05-09T00:00:00-08:00May 9th, 2012|Opinions, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Esterlyn lead shares modest start

When the band Esterlyn gave a free concert in Fresno Christian’s Ground Zero, I was incredibly impressed by their collective talent. I was especially moved by lead singer Luke Caldwell’s willingness to devote his life to whatever God calls him to do. He is a remarkable spiritual leader and I was very encouraged by the conversation we were able to have after the show.

The following includes a one-on-one question and answer time that he allowed me after the performance.

Houts: How were you introduced to singing?

Caldwell: I don?t think I was really “introduced” to singing. The first time I really remember singing was just worship songs at church. I?m not classically trained or anything like that. Honestly, I?d never sung before I was 19. It really wasn?t even something I was that interested in, until that girl walked up to me and gave me a guitar, telling me God told her to give it to me. That was really the start of my journey in music. It was definitely God?s call in my life, so he definitely introduced me to music.

Houts: Did you have a “backup plan” in case you didn?t make it in the music industry?

Caldwell: I never tried to make it, that?s the funny thing. I?m kind of the opposite from a lot of people. I never wanted to get into the music industry. I?ve always been focused on doing ministry, so I was actually a youth pastor for five years at a Bible college and I loved it. I had a big youth group, I loved teaching the word and I would lead worship here and there.

People just started contacting us, asking if we?d play at different things and it kind of progressed until it literally got to the point where we were getting so many opportunities to play that I had to make a decision and say, ‘do I want to do this? Is this what you?re calling me to do, Lord, or am I supposed to stay and be a youth pastor? Whatever you want to do, Lord, I want to be a part of it.’

My prayer since I was about 18 is that I want to be wherever it is that I can affect the largest number of people, so, wherever that is, that?s where I want to be. For this season of my life, this is where that?s happening.

As far as a back up plan, I definitely don?t have one. I just know that God will direct me to a different place wherever that may be, to affect more people, when that timing comes. I really don?t care what I do with my life; I just want to be affecting people each day. Right now I feel like this is definitely where he wants us to be, so we?re just continuing to be faithful.

Houts: How did you form Esterlyn?

Caldwell: I?ve had a lot of different people playing with me over the years. I definitely wouldn?t say that I put it together. I?ve always prayed that God would put together the people that he wants me to be with. A couple of the guys I?m with right now I met at church.

One of them was saved at our church a few years ago, and we have a drummer from Seattle. God?s definitely brought the people together, but I never know what God has planned so they could be a completely different lineup the next time I see you {Houts}.

Houts: What has been your biggest struggle as a musician and how are you dealing with that?

Caldwell: I don?t know if I necessarily have struggles as a musician; I?d say I have struggles as an individual. All of us, in living a life of faith, want to live with the Lord, walk in the Spirit, be legit in life and choose to walk in the newness of life.

As far as a musician, music to me has honestly been secondary. I like music, but I wouldn?t say I?m super passionate about it. To me, it?s more of an opportunity to speak into peoples? lives. Like tonight {March 5}, we love leading worship but we love being able to share with people.

Houts: Do you have any advice for young, aspiring Christian artists?

Caldwell: It definitely has to be a calling. I don?t know what everyone?s motivations are, but I know that in life, if you?re not motivated by love, it?s not going to be successful. God says in his word that anything we do in life that isn?t motivated by love means nothing. That has to be the driving factor. When people are driven just because they love music or because they want to be famous or make money?which isn?t necessarily going to happen?I don?t think those are good motivations.

I encourage people that they should seek God?s plan for their lives. God does put desires into our hearts. The Bible says that when we put the Lord first, he will give us the desires of our hearts. I think the goal is to put him first, and then those desires will come. How that looks will be up to him. It could be leading worship for your children?s ministry, a home group or just encouraging your friends. It also could be playing for thousands of people. That has to be left up to the Lord.

I don?t live life putting expectations on God where I?m like, ?this is what I want to do, this is how I want to do it,? so, I think that?s a healthy place to be. If you?re living life with these expectations of how everything should turn out, you?re ultimately going to be disappointed because none of us know what God has planned for us.

If you are an aspiring musician, you have to learn your craft. It takes practice, like anything in life, there?s no way around it. If you want to be a musician, you have to sing or play and learn how to craft songs. All that is important, and it also needs to be driven out of a heart of love. I?m not saying there?s anything wrong with being a musician that doesn?t sing about God, you can do that as a career. For us, it?s more of a ministry than just playing music.

For more features, read the April 24 article Guess Who: The 27th Subject.

By |2012-04-26T00:00:00-08:00April 26th, 2012|Features, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Special effects surprise audience in 'Singin' in the Rain'

Singin’ in the Rain is an iconic story filled with romance, friendship and catchy song and dance numbers. After its wide popularity as a movie, with the help of a live orchestra and director Jonathan Church, the Palace Theatre London hosted this classic, light-hearted production.

In the 1920s era of silent movies, two stars rise above their peers: the always dignified Don Lockwood (Adam Cooper) and his shrill leading lady, Lina Lamont (Katherine Kingsley). As the couple?s egos inflate along with their popularity, Don is surprised when he meets Kathy Selden (Scarlett Strallen), a talented showgirl with big dreams of acting on Broadway. Kathy’s down-to-earth personality prevents her from fawning over him like the rest of his crazed female fans. The initial clash of their equally strong wills makes for a bumpy start to their relationship, however, Kathy and Don manage to work out their differences and strike up a friendship. This allows her to acquaint herself with the lovable Cosmo Brown (Daniel Crossley), a lifelong friend of Don, who plays piano for Monumental Studios, the silent movie company where Don and Lina are employed.

Lina immediately objects to Kathy, as rumors concerning the co-stars? potential engagement have been circling, drawing even more attention to the pair. Despite Don?s attempts to deny any romantic involvement between them, Lina views him as exclusively hers and begins to harbor deep resentment toward Kathy, whom she sees as competition.

When the invention of the talking picture becomes a huge hit, the pressure for Monumental to follow suit with their upcoming production leads to possibly life-changing career opportunities for Don, Cosmo, Kathy and Lina, but it may also bring about the destruction of their friendships.

I held high expectations for Singin? in the Rain and they were definitely fulfilled. It is not easy to take on a role originally done by fantastic, admired performers like Gene Kelly, Donald O?Conner and Debbie Reynolds, but I think this trio would be proud of the actors who have filled their shoes in the live rendition of this beloved story.

Cooper?s portrayal of Don was splendid. He came across as arrogant while still remaining likable enough to not become obnoxiously prideful. His proficiency as a singer and dancer was obvious in this show, and I admire him for living up to a character once played by Gene Kelly. The performance of Singin? in the Rain was spectacular, and Cooper definitely deserved the standing ovation he received at curtain call.

Strallen?s role as Kathy also suited her well. Her speaking voice was even similar to Debbie Reynold?s, which showed her dedication to the part. Additionally, Strallen?s ability in terms of singing and dancing was most impressive, as she drew the audience into her performance through her tireless animation. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the dance numbers she was featured in. Kathy?s relationship with Don was believable and it was fun to see the sometimes comical yet always relatable incidences that initially kept them from getting along.

Crossley possessed all of the impish charm required for his part: he was a source of comedy and was the glue that held Don together and prevented him from becoming completely obsessed with his fame and success. His most notable performance was, of course, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” which featured exhausting choreography, including multiple backflips. As expected, Crossley delivered this number successfully. How he managed to have enough oxygen and stamina to sing on pitch and run all over the stage simultaneously is a mystery to me, but it is one that I applaud him for.

Kingsley was a hit with the audience. She gave a convincing performance as the ungraceful, ditzy, scheming silent film star. Her affected voice rose about an octave higher than natural, and her delivery of Lina?s more famous lines, such as “I?m going to sue you” and “I can?t stand him” were well done, generating appreciative laughter from viewers. One of the most comical moments occurred when Lina is supposed to talk into a microphone hidden in a bush during the filming of Monumental?s first talking picture and the constant turning of her head prevented the microphone from picking up half of her lines.

As the live version of Singin? in the Rain differed slightly from the film, multiple songs were added, including a few solos for Strallen. Her voice was beautiful and the pieces showcased her range. While there were no major changes from the movie, I was disappointed at the absence of the fashion scene, where many extravagant outfits are displayed on live models.

My favorite numbers were “Good Morning” and “Gotta Dance.” The former features all three main characters and is such a catchy tune that I left the Palace Theatre with it stuck in my head for the rest of the evening. The choreography for this piece is essentially comprised of the three friends messing around and celebrating after experiencing an epiphany, their reward for staying up all night.

This song’s reprise involved only the extras, whose talent contributed to the quality and entertainment of the show. I was quite fond of this adaptation of the original song, as the costumes were typical of the 1920s and the dance incorporated a desk with multiple rotary telephones with long chords that the actors used to weave over and under each other around the desk.

“Gotta Dance” is a very long routine, but the bright and colorful set, lights and costumes made it captivating from start to finish. I especially liked the costumes in this number. The girls wore vibrant, fringed flapper dresses and the guys displayed equally showy suits of matching hues.

The most extraordinary aspect of this production was the fact that during Cooper?s performance of “Singin? in the Rain,” it actually rained heavily on stage. The first few rows of the audience were sprayed by the downpour when Cooper danced through the puddles.

Silent and talking movies produced by Monumental were projected onto a large backdrop screen upstage. These were humorous to view and added a sense of realism to the show. I felt like a member of the audience in 1927 who was seeing the talking picture for the first time.

The raw talent and originality of Singin? in the Rain evoked great enjoyment from those who had the privilege of witnessing it, and I would highly recommend attending this, as well as any other production that features the talent of any of these wonderful cast members.

For more drama reviews, read the March 19 article, 1000th ‘Memphis’ performance displays energy.

By |2012-04-18T00:00:00-08:00April 18th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Masterful company brings Shakespeare to life

Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors encompasses a tale of outrageous confusion, mistaken identities and the potential to reunite a long-separated family. Director Amir Nizar Zuabi and the Royal Shakespeare Company tackle this hilarious yet sometimes dark masterpiece, performing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The show runs through May 14, then July 16-Oct. 6.

About 30 years before the story begins, Egeon (Nicholas Day), a merchant from Syracuse, fathers twin boys, both of whom he names Antipholus. He purchases another set of twin boys, both named Dromio, to serve his sons. While traveling via ship, a storm separates Egeon from his wife Emilia (Cecilia Noble) and one pair of son and servant. In search of the other half of his family, Egeon embarks on a journey to Ephesus, where unbeknownst to him, the lost Antipholus and Dromio have resided for years.

His other son and servant are also coincidentally arriving in Ephesus, attempting to find their twins. In the midst of what is bound to result in a family reunion, Egeon is arrested for not possessing the proper credentials that allow him to legally enter Ephesus. He is sentenced to death at the end of the day unless he finds a friend to ransom him from the authorities.

Totally ignorant to their father?s plight are Antipholus of Syracuse (Jonathan McGuinness) and Dromio of Syracuse (Bruce Mackinnon). They are also in the country illegally, but have managed to avoid being detected. To their great astonishment, they find themselves treated as family by the locals: Antipholus is even made to believe that he has a very pushy wife, Adriana (Kirsty Bushell), although as they become better acquainted, he decides he prefers her younger sister, Luciana (Emily Taaffe). Poor Dromio is practically assaulted by Nell (Sarah Belcher), a very rotund and aggressive kitchen maid who insists he belongs only to her.

While the Syracusian pair are enjoying the unexpected friendliness and good fortune that continues to come their way, the Ephesian Antipholus (Stephen Hagan) and his Dromio (Felix Hayes) are encountering troubled times. Being denied access to their own home (as they have mistakenly been replaced by their twins) is only the first of many unpleasant and frustrating mix-ups they experience.

As the confusion mounts maddeningly, an explosive and dangerous conclusion is in store for the disorderly family.

I am not generally a fan of Shakespeare, as I find his language to be too indirect to easily decipher. In spite of this, the Royal Shakespeare Company?s superb production captured my undivided attention and made me genuinely appreciate the story. I was able to comprehend the lines, due mainly to the way they were delivered.

The actors? gestures and facial expressions made each character believable and I grasped concepts I might have otherwise missed. There were no microphones for the company, so the audience relied on the players? abilities to project their voices. Only in the first scene did I have trouble hearing some of the lines.

Although The Comedy of Errors originally takes place in the 16th century, it was given a modern-day twist through the costuming and sets. The set was quite remarkable: Adriana?s dining room was lowered onto the stage from above, with the actors seated inside. The free-standing front door to their home was brought on stage in a similar fashion. A steeply sloped wooden backdrop that covered the entire upstage provided a place for the actors to run up and jump off of, such as when Dromio of Syracuse tries to escape Nell?s grasp.

The music was done in the most interesting manner I?ve seen in a live production. During scene change, about half a dozen band members carrying various instruments walked onstage in costumes corresponding to the scene and played until the change was complete. This, in addition to sound effects projected through speakers, combined to bring an authentic and artistic feel to the show.

Although all of the characters were unique and very well played, my favorites were definitely the Dromio twins. At first, since I wasn?t familiar with the plot, I thought Hayes and Mackinnon were the same person. Only after a closer examination of their faces did I realize they were two different actors. I attribute this to their impressive mastery in imitating each other?s mannerisms and vocal intonations.

Not only did the Dromios successfully match their physical appearances, they were also equally hilarious and contributed heavily to the comedic aspects of this show. Mackinnon?s Dromio was more submissive: he was a lovable, well-meaning man who quickly endeared himself to the audience. Hayes?s Dromio was more assertive and his entrance with Antipholus of Ephesus involved him rapping and dancing, evoking hearty laughter from the crowd.

McGuinness and Hagan did a commendable job as the Antipholuses, although their significant height and age differences made them seem less like twins than their servants. They created believable characters and made the audience happy to witness the good luck of Syracusian Antipholus and sympathetic to the misfortune of Ephesian Antipholus. Hagan played an amusing part, as he was followed by a posse of men who broke out into synchronized humming at his cue.

Bushell?s portrayal of Adriana was another source of humor. She perfectly exemplified a bossy, high maintenance, neglected wife. Her tirades upon noticing her ?husband?s? lack of interest in her were hilarious. I also commend Bushell for marching about the stage in extremely high heels without tripping.

Despite the many humorous moments, there were also sinister tones to The Comedy of Errors, such as the opening scene where Egeon is being held captive by the Duke of Ephesus and his henchmen, who are torturing him for information about why he is in the country illegally.

The Royal Shakespeare Company?s rendition of The Comedy of Errors was by far the most well done Shakespeare production I?ve had the privilege to witness. They truly lived up to their reputation as one of the world?s best Shakespeare companies in the world.

For more drama reviews, read the March 19 article, 1000th ‘Memphis’ performance displays energy.

By |2012-04-11T00:00:00-08:00April 11th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

1000th 'Memphis' performance displays energy

Since its Broadway premiere in 2009, Memphis has claimed the title of “Best Musical of the Year” according to the Tony Awards, and continues to impress with its 1,000th performance. The musical is held at the Shubert Theatre in New York.

It is the early 1950s and in the heart of Memphis, TN, lies a rowdy, underground bar owned by Delray Farrell (J. Bernard Calloway). The atmosphere of this bohemian hangout is always brimming with animation, as each evening the vocal talent of Delray’s soulful younger sister, Felicia (Montego Glover) is highlighted for the patrons.

In an era where racial prejudice runs rampant, the bar is never visited by white people. As such, the siblings and their tight-knit community of friends are shocked when their establishment is frequented by Huey Calhoun (Adam Pascal), a poor and eccentrically dressed white boy, who is drawn in by Felicia’s remarkable and heartfelt performances.

Oblivious to their differences in color, as well as to the negative social effects his association with such people will inevitably bring, Huey is set on striking up friendships with these lively people; their passion for rock ‘n’ roll and blues music far surpasses anything he has heard in the music broadcast on local radio stations.

Huey has never held a job in his life, however he embarks on an out of character mission to remedy his town’s lamentable lack of truly good musical experience by bringing Felicia the recognition she deserves.

This uphill battle begins as Huey gets a job as the DJ of a local radio station, WHBQ, and enlightens his listeners with hits by black artists. Although this genre of music is initially met with trepidation by his more conservative audience, due to his infectious personality and well-meaning heart, his popularity soon soars among the young people.

As his feelings for Felicia deepen, Huey becomes better acquainted with Bobby (James Monroe Iglehart), who coincidentally works as a janitor at WHBQ. Huey is also introduced to Gator (Derrick Baskin), a gentle but silent employee at Delray’s bar, whose muteness is a result of the traumatization he experienced at age five when he saw his father die.

Huey’s reputation spreads throughout Memphis and he becomes increasingly well-liked by the younger crowd. However, his relationship with Felicia evokes disapproval from his mother Nancy Opel and dangerously violent opposition from the white supremacists who refuse to tolerate interracial fraternization.

As Huey’s fame grows and Felicia’s talent simultaneously becomes more widely known, the pair encounter amazing opportunities that have the potential to greatly further their careers, but may also prove detrimental to their relationship.

As this was the 1,000th performance of Memphis, the cast?s excitement and passion for acting, singing and dancing was obvious and shined through their individuality and dedication to their character. From the first scene in Delray?s bar, with the opening number “Underground,” I knew I was in for an awe-inspiring show.

Pascal’s performance as Huey Calhoun made him one of the best live actors I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. I’ve been a huge fan of Pascal’s since I first saw the movie version of Rent a few years ago, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see him perform live. It was truly a privilege to be in the presence of so much talent.

His distinct voice brought a raw, honest feeling to his songs. This contributed to the way viewers relate to his character and by the end of the show I felt emotionally connected to Huey. Pascal did a remarkable job of connecting with his character and playing Huey in such a way that clearly showed the various aspects of his personality without giving the appearance of being hammy or trying too hard.

Huey is quirky and original: he is unwilling to conform to the racist ideals of his community. His honesty and simplicity combined to create a charming, impish young man, whose ignorance regarding the severity of his association with Felicia reaches a point of danger.

Glover also greatly impressed me. I enjoyed the soul she put into each of her songs. She is an extremely gifted singer, whose range and ability to hold out unbelievably long notes showcased her vocal proficiency. The conflict she experienced as a black woman trying to make it as a singer, on top of trying to keep her relationship with Huey a secret was heart-wrenching. The way she conveyed her emotions to the audience through her facial expressions and vocal intonations contributed to the well-roundedness of her amazing performance.

Baskin’s role as Gator was unique, as he remained silent for almost the first half of the show. Despite his lack of lines, his gentle nature and kind heart shined through his actions and expressions. The most moving moment of Memphis occurred when Gator broke his decades of silence by singing “Say a Prayer” after witnessing the brutality of a white mob that attacks Huey and Felicia after the pair is caught together in public. This scene reduced me to a sobbing mess and it was not until a few minutes into intermission that I regained my composure.

There were several especially dark and intense underlying aspects to Memphis. In keeping with the obvious theme of racism, there were specific examples of the extreme levels of the cruelty people reached as a result of their prejudice. A white father unforgivingly slaps his teenage daughter for listening to ?black music.? Delray exhibits a nasty scar that serves as a reminder of the treatment he received after drinking out of a white water fountain at the age of 14.

Inglehart?s role as Bobby was carried out with great enthusiasm and energy. I couldn?t believe he was able to maintain control of his voice and breathing because he danced and jumped around the stage during his performance of ?Big Love? on Huey?s show. He is a lovable character whose laid back personality complemented those who are more intense, like Delray.

The show closed with a duet between Huey and Felicia: ?Steal Your Rock ?N? Roll.? Although the mood was bittersweet, their voices blended beautifully, until the entire cast joined in, creating a high energy vibe that brought the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation.

After the show ended, I was so emotionally affected that I could hardly contain myself, so I rushed out to the lobby to purchase the soundtrack. I was very disappointed when I learned that all of the cast except Pascal is featured on the CD. This dismayed me, because his unique voice and way of making himself transparent while singing constituted 85 percent of my desire to own the soundtrack.

This is not to say that the rest of the cast does not merit my buying the CD, nor am I in any way dissatisfied with Chad Kimball’s voice, who plays Huey in the recorded version. I am merely a huge fan of Pascal and absolutely adore his vocal style.

I have the utmost respect for actors, singers or dancers who are able to evoke strong emotions from me as a viewer and each major performer definitely accomplished that feat.

Due to the powerful storyline, the incredible acting, singing and dancing featured in Memphis, this was by far my most enjoyable Broadway experience. I would take up the opportunity to see it again in a second.

For more play reviews, read the March 18 article, Hoffman, Garfield set standard for ‘Salesman’.

By |2012-03-19T00:00:00-08:00March 19th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Collaboration concert centers on worship

Christian bands A Current Affair and Esterlyn held a free concert/worship service in Ground Zero. Although this performance was open to all students, only a small portion of the student body showed up to experience what turned out to be an amazing evening, March 5.

I saw A Current Affair perform at a local church several years ago, but by now, lead singer Jordan Feliz is the only band member who still remains from the time. As such, I was not really familiar with their current music before this evening; however, after hearing their well-executed set list, I have definitely become a fan.

A Current Affair?s music used to have more metal qualities — something that I did not personally appreciate, but over the years they have toned things down and fallen into a Christian alternative/rock category.

The band opened with “Hear It Now,” one of their more popular numbers. Feliz?s voice was powerful without seeming over-exerted. His passion for music was evident through his performance and my favorite moments of each piece were when he effortlessly transitioned into his impressive falsetto.

Lead electric guitarist and ’10 FC alumnus Tyler Duerr brought much talent to the group. His solos showcased his talent and served as encouragement to those aspiring to pursue their musical dreams. I remember when Duerr was playing on the Ground Zero stage as part of the high school worship team, so although I do not know him personally, it was fun to see someone I am acquainted with, succeed in their decision to follow a musical path.

Bassist Andrew Kauffman and drummer Josh Redd made a vital contribution by keeping the beat consistent, which helped keep the music moving smoothly. These instruments are very important to any performance, as they are the backbone of each piece.

My favorite song by A Current Affair was “The Search.” I feel fortunate to have attended this concert, since Feliz announced that, since the song is older, they would be retiring it after playing it one last time. In addition to enjoying the musicality of this slower number, I found the lyrics to be meaningful and relatable.

The audience seemed to enjoy themselves, as they vigorously clapped to the beat, head banged, and waved their cell phones in the air.

The transition into Esterlyn?s performance was met with excitement; I was not entirely sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to experiencing what I assumed would be a very talented group, as their original song “Freedom is Here” made it to the number six spot on Air 1 Radio. They used this song as their opener.

The band is comprised of four members: lead singer Luke Caldwell, guitarist Tommy Torez, bassist Shawn Myers and drummer Ryan Tomlinson.

From the moment Caldwell began to sing, I was absolutely struck, not only by his incredible voice, but also by his humility while performing and his genuine desire to help those in the audience enter into God?s presence. He said, “The reason why we come here isn?t so you think we?re cool, or to promote ourselves. God has genuinely put it into our hearts to show His love and not just be people who play music and hang out.” This was just the beginning of an inspiring conversation Caldwell had with those fortunate enough to have attended.

Part way through the performance, Caldwell explained the origin of their band?s name and spoke powerfully to the audience about making themselves available to being used by God. “Esterlyn,” originally the name of Caldwell?s niece, was adopted by his sister from China. When she was eight days old, her biological family abandoned her; fortunately she was found and placed in an orphanage, until she was adopted by Caldwell?s sister.

When Esterlyn was three years old, she told her mom that she had a baby sister named Bella waiting for them to adopt her in China. The pair prayed together that evening and three months later, Esterlyn?s mother found a little girl named Bella, from China, on an adoption site. She inquired about this little girl and after sharing her amazing story with the agency, discovered that two families were already interested in adopting her.

Two weeks later, the agency called back, saying that both families had decided to move in different directions and Esterlyn?s parents were given first notice of this in case they were still interested in Bella. This story was definitely inspiring; it showed how God can work miraculously through anyone to make his presence and purpose known, regardless of the age of those he uses.

Caldwell brought up a passage in James 1 which states that pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans and keeping ourselves pure from the world. He challenged us to use our lives to show love to those who need it; to open our eyes and help people receive God?s unconditional love and stop focusing on ourselves.

Caldwell commented on the extreme self-centeredness that is advocated in our world, saying, “I don?t want to be like that because that?s not how God was. It?s not how Jesus was. If Jesus Christ is your king, it means you follow him and his example. He laid down his life for others. Shouldn?t we do the same? That?s true Christianity. It?s God?s heart for people. May we go out and show his love to those around us. That?s what little Esterlyn has taught me.”

In addition to playing some of their original songs, including “Everyday Your Love is New,” which debuted at this performance, Esterlyn interspersed well-known worship songs such as “Hosanna,” “How He Loves,” and “Beautiful Things,” during which the audience was able to sing along. These moments were especially meaningful to me, as they enabled me to enter into my favorite state of worship: singing. I was truly touched by Esterlyn?s presence, and I very much hope to see them again.

Near the end of the performance, Caldwell felt called to set aside about ten minutes to reach out to those who may be hurting around us. Torez, Myers and Tomlinson came down into the audience to enter into a time of prayer with anyone wishing to receive encouragement, repent of past mistakes or accept Christ.

The overall quality of Esterlyn?s performance, based not only on their remarkable musical abilities, but also on their complete desire to be used by God according to His will was very inspiring. I left feeling encouraged and refreshed and I very glad I had the opportunity to be led into worship by such a wonderful and talented group of people.

For more music reviews, Alesana discovers ambrosia with latest album.

By |2012-03-07T00:00:00-08:00March 7th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|5 Comments

Ballet companies put contemporary spin on children's classic

A beautiful ballet rendition of The Secret Garden, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, graced the William Saroyan Theatre, March 2-3.

The State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara teamed up with the Fresno Ballet Theatre to bring this classic children?s tale to life. Director/producer Rodney Gustafson and director/choreographer Josie Walsh collaborated to create a truly masterful interpretation of this charming story.

The Secret Garden centers around young Mary Lennox (Season Winquest), who is left alone in the British colony of India when cholera takes the lives of her well-to-do parents in the early 1900s.

Brokenhearted, she boards a train to London to live with her estranged uncle, Archibald Craven (Michael Waldrop), who is mourning the loss of his wife, Lillius (Angela Rebelo). With her passing, Archibald has locked her favorite rose garden in an attempt to push away the natural beauty that reminds him of her.

The Cravens?s crippled son, Colin, is also dealing very poorly with his mother?s death; he resents the help of the servants and his physician (David Eck), and frequently throws tantrums and verbally abuses them. Both father and son lament the loss of good feelings between them, but neither knows how to rebuild their relationship.

Mary is initially very lonely due to the Cravens?s lack of compassion and the constant disapproval of Medlock (Samantha Bell), the head servant. To combat her inner turmoil, she escapes to Lillius?s secret garden.

In this wonderful and enchanted world, she encounters Dickon Sowerby (Ryan Camou), a mystical boy who brings her the friendship and happiness she has thus far lived without. The creation of this relationship brings healing not only to Mary, but to Colin as well when he is befriended by the pair and experiences the beauty of his mother?s garden.

Since I found so much enjoyment in the last ballet I attended at the Saroyan, I was very excited to see State Street Ballet?s interpretation of The Secret Garden. I was very impressed by their performance; they turned a beloved childhood story many people are familiar with into a more modernized dance that still managed to appeal to the different generations represented in the audience.

The last ballet I experienced was much more traditional; a live orchestra provided lovely music and an elaborate set brought intriguing and believable transitions between scenes. However, I was more intrigued by the entire design of The Secret Garden, as the dancing was more contemporary than I expected. I appreciated this as its unique choreography contributed to the overall quality of the show. Instead of a normal set, complete with backdrops and various props, the stage remained empty throughout the performance.

The setting was projected onto a large screen behind the actors, and the movement of the elements in each scene indicated the dancers? movements from place to place. The music, composed by Paul Rivera, Jr. was played over a sound system, which allowed the sound effects to have a greater variety than if the music was being played by a live orchestra.

Furthermore, the dancers’ costumes were elaborately and interestingly made; in addition to accurately reflecting the time period, they made the garden scenes visually captivating. The use of vibrant color for the fairies? costumes, along with the way the locked gate was represented through black leotards, gave the outdoor scenes an intense feeling and enabled the viewer to be fully transported into this fantasy world.

While each dancer brought a unique character and great talent to The Secret Garden, there were a few standout performers. Winquest played the part of a lost young girl convincingly; she successfully communicated her frustration and despair to the audience and the emotional journey she underwent was understood by viewers.

Bell did a commendable job portraying Medlock’s sour disposition. She danced with an intensity that made her character interesting to observe. Stewart’s interpretation of Colin was enjoyable to witness as well; his ability to express his feelings of neglect due to his broken relationship with his father evoked feelings of sympathy from the audience.

Beautiful solos were performed by Winquest, Waldrop and Rebelo. Their command of the stage helped the audience feel drawn in to each of their worlds and provided a more personal connection, making their characters very relatable.

My favorite dance featured the introduction of Medlock and the other household servants. The clever use of props such as mops, pails and feather dusters in this number added a visually captivating element, causing this performance to be exceptionally fun to witness.

My experience with The Secret Garden was thoroughly intriguing and enjoyable; I was drawn in to Mary?s mystical world and appreciated the amazing talent each dancer possessed. Their ability to successfully convey a story without words speaks to their proficiency as actors as well as dancers.

The next local ballet performance is Giselle, put on by the Northwest Studio for Ballet, at the Saroyan Theatre, June 10.

By |2012-03-05T00:00:00-08:00March 5th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Lackluster play fails to maintain interest

When We Are Married, written by J.B. Priestley and directed by Dan Pessano, opened at the Second Space Theatre, Feb. 23.

In the past, I have always enjoyed the productions put on by this company, so I was eager to experience what I hoped would be another excellent show. Unfortunately, I left feeling a bit disappointed.

The plot centers around three wealthy, older couples — Joseph (Henry Montelongo) and Maria Helliwell (Joyce Anabo), Albert (Larry Mattox) and Annie Parker (Karan Johnson) and Herbert (Noel Adams) and Clara Soppitt (Laurie Pessano) — who are celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries.

These well-to-do individuals possess strong personalities; this was made evident through Clara’s domineering attitude toward Herbert, Albert’s complete disregard of Annie’s opinions and wishes and Joseph’s scandalous deceit toward Maria.

The six friends were married Sept. 5, 1883, by Reverend Beech. On the eve of their celebrations, a journalist and photographer from the local newspaper plan to frequent the Helliwell?s house to write a story about the couples.

This seemingly simple and enjoyable evening is thrown into an uproar by a shocking announcement made by Gerald Forbes (Tony Hamby), a young man who is secretly courting Nancy Holmes (Katie Lewis), the Helliwell?s live-in niece.

Forbes tells the men that he ran into Beech during a recent trip to Africa, and Beech confessed that he was not officially ordained as a reverend when he joined the three couples in holy matrimony, thus they have never really been married.

A botched attempt to keep the matter hushed up to avoid scandal makes for a stressful evening of arguments and dissension amongst the sextuplet, as feelings kept hidden over the years finally come to light.

Although the actors did a good job with the material they were given, the script and overall storyline failed to keep my interest. This was intended to be a comedy, although the rest of the audience seemed to respond well to the bits of humor incorporated throughout the show, I was personally not very amused.

Perhaps this plot appeals more to an older audience who can relate more to the couples? troubles and experiences, but as a young person I was not very diverted by the follies and foibles of these six friends.

Of the six main characters, the Soppitt?s relationship was the most interesting for me to observe, as it underwent the most development. Pessano successfully conveyed an irritating, controlling, judgmental wife, and I was pleased when Adams overcame his passive nature and finally stood up to her, gaining her respect.

In addition, there were certain aspects of the story that did not seem to be resolved, such as Forbes and Holmes? relationship. These young people never seemed to reveal their love to Holmes? uncle, nor did they really grow as characters, so I was a bit confused as to how their part of this show ended.

The set and costumes remained the same throughout the performance, as the entire show took place in the Helliwell?s living room. Keeping true to the time, the furniture was of the scarlet and mahogany color scheme. The costumes, dresses and suits complete with coattails and pocket watches, accentuated the feeling of the early twentieth century setting.

Performances of When We Are Married will continue through April 15, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission and $15 for students and seniors. For tickets, visit the Good Company Players website.

For more drama reviews, read the Feb. 27 article, Clovis North amazes with comedic play.

By |2012-02-28T00:00:00-08:00February 28th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Divas deliver wicked performance at Saroyan Theatre

Saturday, Feb. 11 brought Broadway stars Emily Rozek and Nicole Parker to the William Saroyan Theatre to perform with the Fresno Philharmonic in Wicked Divas. This show is dedicated to the powerful female stars in the musical Wicked, as well as to other famous Broadway divas, such as Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady, Christine Dae

By |2012-02-16T00:00:00-08:00February 16th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Seemingly dark plot lights up stage

A production that predominantly features the topics of a manslaughter charge, suicide, lost opportunities and the harsh reality of growing older would not typically be thought of as a comedy. However, when coupled with a fabulous cast and a cleverly-written script, this unusual feat can be pulled off successfully.

Thus, Good Company Players presents Crimes of the Heart, a poignant and, at times, darkly humorous comedy by Beth Henley.

The show observes three eccentric sisters who are brought together and ultimately deepen their understanding of each other in the midst of their equally upsetting and challenging lives. Director Denise Graziani teamed up with six actors at the 2nd Space Theatre to bring this touching production to a Fresno audience.

The year is 1974 and oldest sister Lenny MaGrath (Elizabeth Fiester) has never left her childhood home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. She is a shy homebody who has been too busy caring for her ailing grandfather to indulge in romance. On her 37th birthday, she is surprised by the arrival of her younger sister Meg (Britt Downs), whose failed singing career in Hollywood, coupled with an abundant string of meaningless relationships have left Meg feeling alone and disappointed.

The pair must rally together to protect their youngest sister, Babe Botrelle (Brandi Martin) from a murder charge. Babe is accused of trying to kill her husband, Zachary; however when asked what motivated such a rash action, she refuses to explain herself and merely replies that she ?didn?t like his looks.?

They join forces with a serious young lawyer, Barnette Lloyd (Raul Reyes), to clear Babe?s good name. This will not be an easy task, as the MaGrath girls? reputations are already a bit tarnished due to the national news coverage their mother received when she committed suicide by hanging herself along with her pet cat.

Despite this seemingly tragic turn of events, hilarity ensues as Lloyd falls for his kind and misunderstood client, Meg ignites an old flame with her childhood friend Doc Porter (Rick Timmons), Lenny experiences the thrills of a new romance and the sisters deal with their obnoxious and pretentious cousin Chick Boyle (Laura Tromborg).

Although I had never heard of Crimes of the Heart before, I am familiar with 2nd Space?s high quality shows and held high expectations for this production. I was not disappointed.

While the plot is incredibly depressing at first glance, the cleverly incorporated humor made it much more lighthearted and enjoyable than it may appear. The quirky characters each brought a unique feeling to the show, for their individual personalities perfectly captured the small town stereotypes they embodied.

I was pleased with everyone?s performance; however, the three sisters stood out to me, partially because they were the most relatable and likable and partially because their acting was truly impressive.

Fiester did a wonderful job with creating a timid, lonely, single woman whose fears prevented her from seizing the somewhat risky opportunities life presented her with.

Downs?s role as the fearless, wild sibling provided a stark contrast to her sisters? less abrasive personalities. As a singer I related to her desire to make it big in Hollywood and I admire her gumption, although at times it has gotten her into trouble.

Martin?s portrayal of a will of the wisp girl was carried out with talent. Her character?s personality was complex and she managed to clearly convey all of the emotions a well-meaning young woman who finds herself in over her head would experience in that stressful situation.

All three were convincing in their parts and their relationships and interactions with each other were fun to watch because they were believable.

There was only one set throughout the performance: the MaGrath’s kitchen, which contained the usual appliances as well as a table, cot, nightstand and rocking chair. Even though there were no set changes to visually enhance the show, it held my interest the entire time.

I appreciated the director’s attention to small details with the props, such as when Babe and Meg made lemonade by squeezing real lemons. The carrying out of these menial sorts of tasks made the scenes more realistic.

One of the most comical moments occurred when Chick managed to remove and don a pair of nylon stockings. This was no easy task and hushed exclamations such as, “I can’t believe she’s trying to put those on, it’s so hard!” were whispered throughout the audience.

The actors each underwent one costume change to signify the arrival of a new day. The costumes consisted of 70s-esque clothing and suited were appropriate to the personality of each character.

I thoroughly enjoyed Crimes of the Heart and would love to return to see 2nd Space’s next production, When We Are Married, which opens Feb. 23. I always walk away from this company’s shows impressed by the acting and overall quality.

Crimes of the Heart will be showing Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 19. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors and $16 for general admission.

For more drama reviews, read the Jan. 11 article,
Seinfeld evokes laughs through acclaimed, off-beat humor.

By |2012-02-02T00:00:00-08:00February 2nd, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Pianist delights audience with world-renowned skills

Garrick Ohlsson, winner of the 1970 International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, graced the community with a memorial recital at California State University (CSU), Fresno, Jan. 11.

The concert was in honor of Philip Lorenz, who was an internationally-acclaimed concert pianist, a professor of piano at CSU, Fresno, and the founder and lifetime director of the Keyboard Concerts series until his passing 20 years ago. This marks the series?s 14th performance.

Born in White Plains, N.Y., Ohlsson was introduced to piano at the age of eight. By 13 years of age, he was accepted into The Julliard School in New York City, which is an accomplishment worthy of praise. This veteran of piano is no stranger to being recognized for his musical prowess, as he is a proficient recording artist and won a Grammy for Vol. 3 of his ten-disc set of the complete Beethoven sonatas for Bridge Records. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

According to his interview with The Fresno Bee, Ohlsson?s first appearance at the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series occurred in the ?70s and he has returned six or seven times since then. Ohlsson knew Lorenz on a personal level, as the musicians would convene after Ohlsson?s concerts in Fresno to ?gossip like crazy about the music world.?

I am not very familiar with classical piano music, nor am I an avid fan of this genre; however my first experience in this sort of venue left me in awe of Ohlsson?s breathtaking talent.

His repertoire is incredibly vast, encompassing pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Chopin. Despite his wide variety of options, Ohlsson chose to perform seven songs composed by Franz Liszt.

The first half of the concert featured two longer pieces, which were darker and more intense than the songs played after the performance’s intermission. Ohlsson?s acute familiarity and emotional connection with these pieces was evident, as he moved with the music, charming the keys into releasing the perfect sounds for each measure.

The latter half of the show included five shorter, lighter pieces. These impressed me greatly. Ohlsson?s fingers moved so rapidly that they seemed to fly up and down the keys of their own accord. His ability to allow the music to take over his entire body was evidence of his mastery. Although I do not know any of Liszt?s works, I partially recognized certain moments in one of the songs.

Ohlsson’s ability to flawlessly perform such technical, demanding pieces evoked a great deal of respect from me. I would prefer to experience a more easily recognizable Impressionist composer, such as Debussy, but, regardless, this personal preference does not lessen my appreciation for Ohlsson’s selection of pieces.

Those who had the pleasure of experiencing Ohlsson?s performance may want to return to the CSU, Fresno Concert Hall to witness Daniil Trifonov?s performance of works by Schubert/Liszt, Schubert, Debussy and Chopin, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. This 20-year-old Russian pianist was a gold medalist in the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and a winner of the 2011 Rubinstein International Piano Competition. Tickets are $18 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $5 for students.

For more information on CSU, Fresno, events, visit their website.

For more reviews, read the Jan. 13 article, Teahouse brews beverages for Fresno community.

By |2012-01-18T00:00:00-08:00January 18th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Seinfeld evokes laughs through acclaimed, off-beat humor

The legendary Jerry Seinfeld visited the William Saroyan Theatre to grace the city of Fresno with his hilarious stand-up comedy act, Jan. 6. The 57-year-old master of humor has been performing onstage since the age of 21.

As a huge fan of Seinfeld and an owner of all nine seasons of his popular ?90s sitcom, I was very excited to see him perform in person. It was sort of surreal to be an audience member at one of his shows; I felt like an extra in the audience at one of the episodes on Seinfeld.

The show opened with a short performance by Carol Leifer whose writing contribution to the hit TV show Modern Family earned her a nomination for the 2012 Writers Guild Awards. Although I respect Leifer as a prestigious woman of the world of comedy, I was not a fan of her style of humor.

Seinfeld?s comedy, on the other hand, was fantastic. His act was cleaner than Leifer’s, which I appreciated. He successfully kept the audience laughing while maintaining appropriate themes throughout the evening.

A sense of camaraderie was established with the audience when Seinfeld opened the show with a bit about the superfluous amount of raising grown in California. This was continued at the end of the show, when an enthused audience member ran onto the stage with the hope of obtaining Seinfeld’s autograph. While speaking into the microphone in hushed tones, he told her that he needed to get back to the rest of the audience and would give her his signature later. He explained he understood how it felt as though the two of them were alone because everyone was drunk on raisins, but it was necessary that he return to his act.

Though all of his acts were absolutely hilarious, my favorite part of the show occurred when Seinfeld discussed the weight problem in the United States, claiming that it is nonexistent until people are so fat that no one can move and everyone is squished together like olives in a can. Seinfeld also evoked much laughter from me when he covered the way bounce houses are like portable insane asylums that reveal a child?s true personality, how Facebook is the great trash receptacle of human time (I agree!) and how ironic alcoholic coffee is, saying that only the strange motivation to be the opposite of sober and tired could drive people to consume such a beverage.

Seinfeld closed with his observations about the embarrassing nature of public restrooms, as they are made from the most sound-reflecting materials and the stall doors have gaps and do not even reach the floor.

Throughout the evening, Seinfeld?s exaggerated facial expressions and physical humor added to the amusement of the show. His vocal intonations provided additional diversion and the fact that he appeared to be having as much fun as the audience created an all-around enjoyable performance.

After the completion of his act, Seinfeld reappeared onstage after receiving a standing ovation to answer any of the audience’s questions. After starring in Seinfeld, he decided to return to the occupation he loves most: stand-up comedy. Additionally, Seinfeld shared about his personal life, stating that he has been married to Jessica Seinfeld for twelve years and is the proud father of three young children.

He also revealed that, although it is hard to choose one favorite episode of Seinfeld, he particularly liked The Marine Biologist, when his neighbor Kramer accidentally hits a golf ball into the ocean and it lands in the blowhole of a whale. He was also a fan of The Rye where Jerry — he played a version of himself on the show — steals a special bakery?s last rye bread from an old woman to give to his friend, George.

When asked about the most embarrassing moment of his career, Seinfeld admitted to appearing on The Merv Griffin Show with his fly down.

My experience with Seinfeld was incredibly fun and I would love to attend another one of his shows if the opportunity arises in the future. I believe that the rest of the audience agrees with me, as the crowd was very responsive and showed their appreciation by heartily laughing and applauding after each punchline.

For more reviews, read the Jan. 11 article, Mi4 provides fill of intensity, adrenaline (VIDEO).

By |2012-01-11T00:00:00-08:00January 11th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|2 Comments

'Game of Shadows' continues quirky detective's tale (VIDEO)

Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows premiered, Dec. 16. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. James Watson, this unbeatable pair returned to deliver the second Holmes movie in the current franchise. The excellent special effects and intense action scenes packed full of explosions and harrowing scenarios made it identical to the first in quality, but it surpassed the first in comedy.

A Game of Shadows begins with Holmes, the famous and brilliant detective, requesting that the newly-betrothed Watson embark on one final adventure before saying his vows and settling down to a more peaceful lifestyle. Watson hesitantly agrees, and Holmes fills him in on the case they are about to undertake.

When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, suicide is said to be the cause of his passing. However, Holmes suspects that his arch nemesis, the remorseless Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), is behind the prince’s death.

As more evidence is revealed, it points to Moriarty’s involvement, and the detective and his assistant uncover startling information regarding a plot much more deeply intricate than they could have imagined. If executed properly, Moriarty’s plans posses the power to alter the course of history.

Overall, the sequel entertained and impressed me. Downey Jr. and Law’s roles suited them well and I especially enjoyed the comedic aspects of their adventures.

Downey Jr.’s numerous disguises were just one of the many aspects of physical humor that helped to lighten the generally dark tone of A Game of Shadows. His portrayal of the eccentric detective was admirably done. He succeeded in continuing to develop his character’s personality in a hilarious and endearing way, while drawing respect from viewers with his intelligence and ability to solve complex mysteries.

Law’s performance was equally impressive. His role as Holmes’ level-headed partner and friend was touching to watch. Although his character was less crazy and slightly more emotional than Holmes, their differing personalities balanced each other out nicely, making their partnership work perfectly.

Likewise, Harris’s portrayal of a heartless genius was very believable. He thoroughly captured the essence of an evil professor bent on pursuing his own selfish ambitions, willing to inflict destruction and pain on anyone attempting to stand in his way.

The score, composed by Hans Zimmer, featured folksy, Celtic songs. The music was comprised mainly of stringed instruments, which provided a darkly intense feel and created tension in the scenes.

My favorite part of the movie was the slow motion scenes where Holmes mentally calculated the outcome of his encounters with those intending to harm him. The special effects and complex choreography of these fight scenes made the movie incredibly interesting to watch.

While viewing A Game of Shadows, I was a bit confused in regards to the plot, but this was probably my own fault as it was way past my bedtime and I was incredibly tired. The idea of early 1900s plastic surgery that is advanced enough to alter one’s face to exactly resemble someone else’s is not believable. This aspect of the plot was ridiculous, albeit intriguing.

The surprising twist at the end of the movie was also unrealistic and differed from the canon’s original ending, however I did not mind the change as it provided the possibility of turning Sherlock Holmes into a trilogy. If a third movie were shot, I would certainly return to see it.

I definitely enjoyed A Game of Shadows and I highly recommend that others interested in viewing the continuing story of Holmes and Watson’s adventures while experiencing wonderful acting coupled with intriguing special effects see it as well.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is rated PG-13 for some drug material, intense sequences of violence and intense sequences of action. The movie runs at 129 minutes and is playing at most local theaters. For tickets and showtimes, visit Fandango.

For more movie reviews, read the Dec. 5 article, ‘Muppets’ proves to be year’s ‘happiest’ movie yet.

By |2012-01-09T00:00:00-08:00January 9th, 2012|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|5 Comments

FSU takes modern twist on 'The Tempest'

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, tells the story of familial betrayal, first love and redemption that come as a result of being stranded on a deserted island.

Under the direction of Kathleen McKinley, California State Univeristy, Fresno’s theater department set out to perform their rendition of this tale. I had the pleasure of seeing one of Fresno State’s Shakespeare plays a few years ago, so I was hoping for an equally enjoyable experience this time around.

The envious Antonia (Kelsey C. Oliver) enlists the help of Alonso (Miguel A. Gastelum), the King of Naples, to overthrow her brother Prospero (Terry Lewis), a magician and the Duke of Milan.

They set Prospero adrift with his three-year-old daughter Miranda (Kia Vassiliades). The pair wind up stranded on an uncharted island, but manage to survive due to the kindness of Alonso’s counsellor, Gonzalo (Dane Oliver), who secretly provides them with food and water.

During their next twelve years on the island, they encounter many spiritual beings and Caliban (Matthew Rudolf Schiltz), the malformed, monstrous son of Sycorax, a dead witch who had previously been banished to the island.

When Prospero learns of the presence of Antonia, Gonzalo, Alonso, his son Ferdinand (Aaron J. McGee) and a few others of royalty on a nearby boat, the magician causes a frightening storm to wash the vessel ashore onto his island. He divides the travelers into three groups and chaos ensues as each group struggles to survive while assuming their companions are dead.

While the language remained the same as the original, the entire show was given a contemporary twist, making it more understandable and relatable for viewers.

The clothes were well done although fairly simple, reflecting a more modern style than what would accurately reflect the time in which The Tempest was written.

The entire cast did a wonderful job of creating unique and believable characters. Since I was unfamiliar with this story, I was a bit confused at the initial introduction of all the characters. By the second half of the play I’d made sense of the plot and people involved and there were a few stand-out performance.

I expected an impressive performance from Lewis, who is a veteran of local theatre and I was not disappointed. The emotional journey his character experienced was delivered with honesty.

Vassiliades did an excellent job of providing a relatable and endearing young woman who experiences love and friendship with a young man of her own age for the first time. The evolution of Miranda and Ferdinand’s relationship was adorable to witness.

Schiltz’s commitment to his character was remarkable. He used his voice, movements and facial expressions to portray a believably crazy and animalistic inhabitant of the island.

My favorite characters were Stephano (Magnus Chhan) and Trinculo (Dillon Morgan), butlers of the royal company. Chhan and Morgan’s performances were hilarious. The majority of the comedy centered around them. At times their dialogue and gestures were a bit on the inappropriate side, but generally they brought humor and lighthearted enjoyment to the show.

Three female spirits that inhabited the island appeared multiple times to showcase their lovely, lilting voices in accompaniment to eerie music. Their musicality was a pleasant addition that gave the sound effects a more full feel.

The set was comprised of a large, revolving spiral staircase. Although the set never really altered, it remained eye-catching because the lighting changed and the staircase moved to indicate each new place.

The props were well done, albeit few in number. The most interesting props were cap guns belonging to the King of Naples and his royal company. When fired, the shots genuinely startled me, adding an element of surprise to the production.

Fresno State’s rendition of The Tempest was definitely worth seeing and I recommend returning to witness their future productions. The acting was impressive, the spiral staircase was visually captivating and the overall production was done skillfully.

The Tempest will be showing through Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Speech Arts Building. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

Fresno State’s theater department will next perform Bront

By |2011-12-07T00:00:00-08:00December 7th, 2011|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Sacramento 'Nutcracker' exceeds expectations

The Nutcracker, choreographed by the Sacramento Ballet?s artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, tells the timeless tale of a young girl?s imaginary journey into a world of confectionary delights on Christmas Eve.

The Sacramento Ballet partnered with about 100 local dance students to bring this charming production to Fresno?s William Saroyan Theatre, Nov. 26-27.

During a Christmas ball at the wealthy Stahlbaum residence, the children, Clara (Emma Zanira) and Fritz (Lexie Stahl) eagerly anticipate receiving their Christmas presents.

A family friend, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer (Nolan T?Sani) is invited to attend the party and he brings Clara a beautiful Nutcracker doll. Fritz, jealous over his sister?s special treatment, breaks the Nutcracker?s jaw in an envious rage. Dr. Drosselmeyer comforts the crying Clara by repairing her toy?s jaw with a handkerchief.

Later that night, Clara sneaks out of bed to retrieve the Nutcracker, but, unable to find him, falls asleep and crosses from reality into the imaginary land of dreams, where anything is possible.

Dr. Drosselmeyer turns into a magician and causes the Christmas tree to grow larger and larger, until it towers far above Clara?s head. He also transforms the Nutcracker (Robert Cisneros) into a life size creature with an army of soldiers who engage in a battle with the vicious Mouse King (Michael Separovich) and his evil mice followers.

Just as the Mouse King is about to run the Nutcracker through with his sword, Clara intervenes and saves her friend by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King. After this event, the Mouse King?s spell over the Nutcracker is broken, and he becomes a dashing prince.

The pair hops aboard a hot air balloon that flies them through the magical Snowflake Forest to the Kingdom of the Sweets, where they meet the Snow King and Queen and their many subjects, who perform beautiful dances for their guests to show their gratitude for defeating the Mouse King.

I had never seen The Nutcracker performed live before, so my high expectations for The Sacramento Ballet were exceeded by leaps and bounds. The music provided by the Fresno Ballet Theatre Orchestra was a wonderful touch. Their involvement marked the first time in a few years that The Nutcracker was accompanied by a live orchestra in Fresno.

This was truly the most exquisite production I have ever witnessed, and I applaud Cunningham for his excellent work. His choreography was beautiful and he managed to incorporate humorous steps among the breathtaking numbers.

The casting was superb. The locally auditioned children in this production all did a wonderful job and brought an endearing quality to the show. Zanira did a fantastic job and I was especially impressed as she is such a young performer.

Cisneros?s numbers were executed with precision and skill. His battle with the Mouse King was carried out with a combination of comedy and believable danger.

T?Sani?s portrayal of an eccentric doll maker was well done and his mysterious nature gave the otherwise lighthearted tale a slightly dark twist.

My favorite characters were Dr. Drosselmeyer?s dolls. Their dances were amusing as their limbs remained rigid to reflect the construction of mechanical toys.

The set was fabulously well done, complete with very intricate details which made the stage very visually captivating. The lit candles adorning the Christmas tree and the moving wings of the owl which sat atop the grandfather clock in the Stahlbaum?s home are just a few examples of the details that made The Nutcracker?s set incredible.

A hot air balloon suspended from the ceiling was used to carry Clara and the Nutcracker to the Snowflake Forest and the Kingdom of the Sweets. This contributed to the set?s far above average quality and made the stage appear larger as it took advantage of the open space over the actors.

The most interesting aspect of the set changes occurred when the downstage lights dimmed and a transparent curtain behind the dancers revealed another scene upstage.

The Nutcracker was by far the best local performance I have had the pleasure of witnessing thus far and I hope to see more ballets by The Sacramento Ballet in the future.

For those interested in seeing another company?s take on this ballet, the Lively Arts Foundation?s 20th production of The Nutcracker will take place at the Saroyan Theater, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.

For more drama reviews, read the Nov. 18 article, Fresno Pacific fails to employ show’s potential.

By |2011-11-29T00:00:00-08:00November 29th, 2011|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Thanksgiving memories: Join the discussion, 2011

For many, the Thanksgiving holiday is a time filled with traditional, family-oriented celebrations, such as watching football and gathering around a crowded table to eat a delicious meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

However, this stereotypical description does not satisfy everyone’s Thanksgiving memories, as numerous individuals possess more out of the ordinary recollections of this festive time.

Since this holiday is fast approaching, The Feather has collected several stories about past Thanksgivings. Over the next several days, additional stories will be published below.

In addition to these responses, The Feather encourages readers to email their own memorable stories to The Feather until the day after Thanksgiving.

Building relationships at Thanksgiving
Natalie Griffin, ’15
Nov. 21, 2011

Since most of my Thanksgiving memories are generally the same, I don’t have one that stands out in particular. Even so, I look forward to Thanksgiving every year because I enjoy getting together with family and carrying on the tradition. I appreciate a majority of my family getting together in one household to spend time with each other. I thank God every day because He has blessed me with such a closely knit family. It’s great to get together with them every year.

Pacific Grove
Holly Reimer ’13
Nov. 21, 2011

My grandma has a timeshare we stay at every year in Pacific Grove. We cook a ham because most of our family doesn’t like turkey. There are monarch butterflies that migrate to that area this time of year so we go and look at them.

Relax and rejuvenate
Grace MacNeill ’14
Nov. 21, 2011

My family usually goes to my aunt’s house. We all bring food and hang out. My aunt and uncle have a hot tub and a massage chair, so it’s pretty nice.

Pumpkin pie and movies
Theresa Perez, ’13
Nov. 21, 2011

Every year for Thanksgiving, my whole family heads to my aunt’s house for dinner. My mom and I always go early to help make the turkey. My favorite part would have to be making the pumpkin pie. After dinner everyone just hangs out and watches movies.

Motocross at Thanksgiving
Clint Wells, ’13
Nov. 20, 2011

Last year (during Thanksgiving break) my dad and I went to the desert to do some re-training for Motocross. Just doing some nice trail riding is fun since I put in so many laps at the tracks. It was super cold, but it was pretty fun. My family tends to switch up the routine for Thanksgiving, and I am very thankful for what I have.

Grandparents’ last Thanksgiving
Jennifer Smith, ’15
Nov. 16, 2011

My family spent last year’s Thanksgiving in a retirement home visiting my grandparents. They were ecstatic to see us. At the time, I didn’t know that would be my last Thanksgiving with my grandfather. He passed away a few months ago, but I thank God that we were able to spend the day with him. To me, it was one of my most memorable thanksgivings. My grandparents were incredibly thankful that we brought Thanksgiving to them. Seeing them so happy and sharing family love made that Thanksgiving one of the best.

Cutting more than turkey
Johnathon Brushwood, ’15
Nov. 16, 2011

I remember in 2009 I had thanksgiving dinner with family. However the day before was not so great. On the day before, I got a bad injury by cutting my leg open. So on thanksgiving I was in a lot of pain.

By |2011-11-21T00:00:00-08:00November 21st, 2011|Features, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Behind the scenes of 'Gift of the Magi'

The Gift of the Magi, FC’s fall drama production, marks seniors Kendall Wheeler’s and Jacob Williams’s second-to-last high school performance. I met with both students to gather information about their feelings regarding this bittersweet occasion.

Their accomplishments of attaining the lead roles, coupled with their dedication to drama throughout high school, provided me with a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of the people behind characters, Jim and Della Young.

Kendall Wheeler (Della Young)

Houts: Describe your experience with Susan Ainley, the new high school drama director.

Wheeler: Mrs. Ainley is the third drama teacher I?ve had while at FC. Each one has been completely different than the last. I really like Mrs. Ainley, though. She knew what plays we would be doing before the year even started and made us get going on it way beforehand. And I love that, because I?ve never felt this prepared for a play before.

Houts: How do you relate to your character, Della Young?

Wheeler: I somewhat like her, but it?s really different this time around. I?m having a really difficult time connecting with my character. She?s this ever-happy, always joyful, optimistic person and I?ve never really been an optimistic person about everything. However, I do like her a lot and playing this role has inspired me to be a little bit more optimistic.

Houts: How do you feel in regards to your accomplishment of acquiring the lead female role?

Wheeler: Playing the lead is an interesting thing. This is the second time I?ve had a somewhat large role and I always love it. I would love to play any character, but I feel really honored to be allowed to play the lead. It can get a bit stressful when I have no time to memorize lines or I have to miss drama for other activities. Yet, I do enjoy the rush and the feeling of being on stage and acting while trying to remember a million lines.

Houts: The Gift of the Magi takes place during the Christmas season. What is your opinion about this holiday?

Wheeler: I love Christmas. I absolutely adore Christmas. It makes me so happy and joyful. There aren?t really words to describe it. I love being with friends and family and the winter and the lights and everything.

Houts: What have your biggest obstacles been throughout this production, personally and as a group?

Wheeler: As a cast, it?s been a struggle probably meshing together. While we have become great friends and quite close, there are a lot of new people in drama this year. It?s a completely different class with a completely different group of people and trying to find a niche and figure out what to do with each person in the play has been a bit difficult.

However, we have overcome this and now we are really close. We know what each other?s strengths and weaknesses are and we work to help out and overcome these problems. When one person is struggling with lines, another offers to go over them and if someone needs help with blocking, another person can help them get it down.

Personally, my own struggles have been juggling drama along with all the other stuff going on in my life. With three AP classes, clubs and a lot of extracurriculars, it?s difficult to memorize every line and have the blocking down perfectly. It?s a struggle, but I?ve figured it out and have attempted to make it work out. I think it?s going well so far, even if I do get a little stressed out what with being pulled in so many different directions.

Houts: Describe your experience with Mrs. Ainley as the new high school director.

Wheeler: It scared me at first because I knew that she’d only taught junior high before this, but it’s worked out. She’s different from the other teachers we’ve had, but it’s been a fun experience that I’ve enjoyed.

Jacob Williams (Jim Young)

Houts: How can you relate to your character, Jim Young?

Williams: I see him as a lot like me. He bumbles a lot and has to make things up on the spot because he doesn’t really want to show his wife the way he cares for her, he wants to surprise her. He isn’t good at lying and I see a lot of that in me as well.

Houts: How do you feel in regards to your accomplishment of acquiring the lead male role?

Williams: It’s fun, I’ve been waiting for this since freshman year. Freshman year I got into the play for that and ever since, it’s always felt as if the reason why I didn’t get the lead roles was because I wasn’t yet a senior. So now that it’s senior year, it’s fun to have a lead role finally.

Houts: Have you enjoyed working with Wheeler as the other lead?

Williams: Kenna is a lot of fun. She’s always out there. I’ll make a joke and she’ll come right back at it, so it’s a lot of fun to work with her.

Houts: Why do you enjoy drama?

Williams: It’s really family-oriented for me. Drama goes way back in my family to my parents and grandparents acting, so it’s been fun to keep the family tradition going.

Houts: How does it feel to be participating in your second to last high school theater production?

Williams: It’s fun because I know that this is important since it’s my senior year, but it’s also a little-heart jerking because I know this is my second-to-last play as a high school student. Freshman year I thought “Oh, this will go on for years,” but it’s almost over so it’s a little hard.

Drama will be performing The Gift of the Magi, Nov. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. in Ground Zero. For more information, read the Nov. 15 article,
BRIEF: ‘Gift of the Magi’ sets drama’s holiday season in motion.

By |2011-11-18T00:00:00-08:00November 18th, 2011|Features, Uncategorized|5 Comments

Fresno Pacific fails to employ show's potential

Neil Simon?s classic romantic comedy, Barefoot in the Park, highlights the ups and downs of a young couple?s first few weeks of marriage. Fresno Pacific University’s (FPU) drama department decided to add a modern twist to this light-hearted love story by setting it in the present day.

Paul Bratter (Brennen Jones) and his bride Corie (Misty Ann Stewart) are trying to adjust to life in a cramped New York apartment after their luxurious honeymoon. The process of dealing with Corie?s lonely single mother?s adjustment to their evolving relationship is taxing on their marriage.

This challenge, combined with their introduction to Victor Velasco (Trevor Thomas), a crazy neighbor who lives above their room in the attic, is enough to drive any new couple up a wall. When Corie’s attempt to set up her mother with Velasco goes awry, the Bratters’ loyalty to one another is tested as their relationship encounters troubled times.

In theory, this plot sounds quite engaging, however FPU’s rendition did not do justice to the original script.

In its defense, Barefoot in the Park marked Bethany Rader’s first experience as a director for FPU after being an assistant director for Hayfever and Spirit of Hispania.

I had never seen or even heard of this production before, so I wasn?t entirely sure what to expect. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by FPU?s mediocre take on this play. The acting didn’t impress me, and there were only six members in the cast, which created more pressure on each of them to be able to carry the performance.

To my chagrin, they were not able to pull it off. The dialogue seemed forced and unnatural and although there were a few moments of comedic relief, it was inconsistent and failed to completely engage me as a member of the audience.

Steward and Jones were consistent throughout the performance, but their characters lacked development and in my opinion they did not connect and draw the audience into their newlywed world. Paul and Corie were not very relatable or intriguing characters and I was not at all emotionally invested in the fate of their marriage.

Chase gave a fairly convincing performance as a lonely, middle age, single mother adjusting to life on her own. Her dialogue and physical humor were usually comedic when they were supposed to be. Her embarrassment upon realizing she has been set up on a blind date with Velasco was believable.

The most amusing character was probably Victor Velasco. Thomas portrayed his quirky personality and the fact that many of his lines were intended to be comical made him the most interesting for me to watch.

On the plus side of this otherwise negative review, there were multiple costume changes. The set, which essentially remained the same throughout the show, was comprised of a small apartment. What began as a bare living room area was redecorated with furniture after the first act, giving it a cozier feel.

The most interesting part of the set was the skylight, which was suspended from the ceiling and had a large hole due to the negligence of the landlord, who is out of town in Florida, much to the annoyance of his tenants.

My only complaint regarding the set is that it became increasingly less captivating from a visual perspective as the show progressed because every scene occurred in the apartment. Perhaps I?ve been spoiled by other theater productions, but I prefer to witness set changes, as they help to keep viewers more into the performance.

I’m sorry to say that, compared to Fresno City College’s The Illusion, Barefoot in the Park did not measure up. City’s staging, acting and costuming were definitely superior in quality.

As Barefoot in the Park left me wanting much more, I do not believe I will return to Fresno Pacific?s next show. Performances will continue in the Ashley Auditorium Nov. 17-19 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors.

FPU’s next show, Godspell, opens March 22 and will be showing through April 1.

For more drama reviews, read the Nov. 7 article, Good Company Players adapt Christmas classic.

By |2011-11-18T00:00:00-08:00November 18th, 2011|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

After graduation: Join the discussion

Throughout the first few months of school, many students scramble to prepare themselves for the future, whether that be through participating in standardized tests, applying to higher-learning institutions, or touring college campuses.

With the Nov. 1 deadline for submitting early applications recently passed, The Feather recently asked several senior students what their post high school plans are. During the next several days, additional stories will be published below.

In addition to these collected responses, The Feather encourages readers to email their own pursuits to thefeather@fresnochristian.com until the end of November.

Kendall Wheeler, ’12
Nov. 10, 2011

I am going to Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, Oklahoma. I will be majoring in biology. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue schooling after that on the East Coast. I hope to become an environmental marine biologist and be involved in deep sea research.

Gigi Thao, ’12
Nov. 9, 2011

I know for sure that I want a college with a good pre-medicine program. I do not have any particulars about where I am applying and so I have a very different assortment of colleges, ranging from UC Irvine to Stanford. I just know that God will put me where he needs me.

Jeff Roseth, ’12
Nov. 8, 2011

After graduating I plan on going to college. Right now a couple of my top colleges are Chapman and UC Irvine. I am not sure what I would like to major in yet, but I plan on taking a wide variety of classes and looking at a lot of different options.

Mary Hierholzer, ’12
Nov. 8, 2011

All I know for sure at this point is that I am planning on college. I just submitted applications to my top choices, but I just won’t know anything for sure until I get the results and visit all of my options. This is really my one certain chance to try a new atmosphere, so it’s important to me that I try out something other than the California life I’ve always known. I’d like to try my hand at cold weather, so I hope to end up in Boston or Seattle for school.

Wherever I go, I want to channel all of my interests into a career, and combine journalism with Christian missions. On one hand, it is a very specific idea, but it also leaves a broad range of possibilities. If I had it my way, I would write for a Christian organization in England after I get a solid college education in America, but I’ll just have to see where I end up. My ideas are certainly subject to change, so I’ll be interested to see where my education takes me!

Josh Hopper, ’12
Nov. 7, 2011

I have been accepted to Azusa Pacific University, but I’m not sure if I’m going to attend. I’m still trying to figure out whether I want to go to college. I feel like if I go to college to simply please other people, it’s not the right reason to go college. I want to be completely sold out that I want to go to college before I make that decision.

There is so much pressure these days to go to college and it makes me mad. People say you need to go to college otherwise you’re a worthless individual and I don’t believe that to be true at all. If I didn’t go to college I would start a small business or a non-profit organization or be in a band or make cookies. I don’t need a college degree to live my life.

Adam Wood, ’12
Nov. 7, 2011

After high school hopefully I will go to college; I don’t really know what I want to major in, but hopefully I get to play football because that’s been my dream for a long time and hopefully I get recruited. I hope that I go somewhere that I get to play and it’s somewhere that I want to be, at least a state I want to be in.

I want to stay in the west part of America, I don’t want to go to the East Coast because it’s kind of to far. I have not applied anywhere yet, but I plan to in the near future; I’m waiting for my SAT score. I’m not sure what I want to be yet, maybe a police officer or a special education teacher.

Jeff Barth, ’12
Nov. 7, 2011

I haven’t done much to get ready for college, I’m not sure where I want to go; I haven’t applied yet, but I plan to soon. I want to apply to Northern Arizona, the lumberjacks, or probably like city, or a Christian school like Tabor.

I will probably go to a city or a smaller school like a D II, I want to play football. I’ve played football since 7th grade so I will probably go on to play Canadian football.

Trevor York, ’12
Nov. 4, 2011

It has been a long process and I have sorted through many colleges. In the past month, however, I have decided that Chapman University is my favorite with Gordon College at a close second. I plan on studying something along the lines of business administration or public policy with a foreign language for a minor.

I’m not sure what I want to do with my life. I have many choices such as going into law, or business or maybe a job with politics in the government. I know that I do want to live in a big city and eventually settle into a job where I am in charge of things and lead this country. I’m not sure what job that I specifically want, but I am sure it will involve either business, politics, law or possibly all three. I am confident that I will find the right job for me and excel at it.

Dana King, ’12
Nov. 4, 2011

My dream is to move to New York and go to Columbia University and double-major in music and neuroscience. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for all of high school and, although it sometimes seems almost impossible, I still believe that I can one day achieve it.

Of course part of me wants to pick up and travel for a few years and just live. To have no responsibilities except for myself, to play music and meet all of the beautiful people in this world.

I want to be happy and do what makes me happy, so if that means that I have to be poor and be in a profession that isn’t acceptable cookie-cutter life according to whoever determines normal, then so be it.

Nick Avery, ’12
Nov. 4, 2011

I want to eventually be a writer, so my options for college are very open. I’ve recently come to the realization that no matter what my plans are, they will ultimately not be 100 percent of what I expected, which actually opens up a lot.

I was recently accepted into Whitworth University up in Spokane, Washington, with a pretty substantial scholarship, so that looks like a very feasible option. I’m also interested in journalism, so for the past few months I’ve been looking at Indiana University, which has an amazing online journalism program.

Hopefully, at the end of it all, I will be content wherever I am.

Gee Hyun Park, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

I haven’t applied yet, but I’m thinking about applying to art school in New York City, including Parsons New School for Design and the Pratt Institute. Since my parents disagree with me going art school, I’m applying to Cal Poly for architectural engineering as well.

I really want to move to a bigger city like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. I have lived in the city all my life and I spent my most recent two years in a rural area compared to my hometown. I feel like it’s time to get back to my original lifestyle.

Everything is stressful right now. Being a senior, feeling like I haven’t accomplished much, facing either many choices or no choice at all … most of all, taking the SAT in a non-native language is so stressful — I guess it’s a foreigner thing.

I hope the rest of the seniors are doing well, unlike me! Good luck guys!

Ryan Neufeld, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

I am applying to Tabor College and California Baptist University. I want to play baseball and get a degree in athletic training, and I hope to become a personal fitness trainer.

Josh Grinage, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

After high school I want to go into the Marines, and possibly special sniping or a special operations unit. I may go to about two years of college before entering, but I would really like to make a career in the Marines. My grandpa was in the Marines, and it always sounded fun to me when I was a little kid. When I got older, it just sounded better so I looked into it a lot more, and the more I did, the Marines just became that much more interesting to me. I’ve applied to some colleges, specifically one in Texas. So the stress some people have been facing doesn’t really bother me that much.

Sarah Schoneman, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

I am applying to Fresno City, Fresno State, Fresno Pacific University, The Master’s College and the Joshua Wilderness program. I am interested in pursuing the subjects of science and math, so I plan to attain a biomedical degree. I want to stay in Fresno, but God may call me to go somewhere else.

Nicole Hensley, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

I’m applying to Christian colleges like Westmont, Azusa, Biola, California Baptist University, Concordia, Fresno Pacific University. I am also applying to Fresno State. I wish to major in business and go into accounting.

Brahamjit Randhawa, ’12
Nov. 3, 2011

I am applying to Fresno State University and most of the UC colleges. I plan to get a medical degree and become a pediatrician. I hope to stay in Fresno.

For more from this series, read the Sept. 7 article, 9/11, ten years later: Join the discussion or the Dec. 31, 2010 article, Christmas traditions: Join the discussion.

By |2011-11-08T00:00:00-08:00November 8th, 2011|Features, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Good Company Players adapt Christmas classic

Jean Shepherd?s A Christmas Story is most likely categorized as a Christmas staple by anyone wishing to experience the feeling of holiday spirit. The plot centers around middle-aged Ralph Parker?s recollection of a Christmas year that was very monumental to his childhood. Ralph narrates the story as the audience is taken back to his childhood home in the late 1940s.

Here, we encounter his crazy younger brother Randy, his patronizing yet well-meaning mother and his eccentric, hot tempered father. In the middle of winter, Ralphie has his hands full with avoiding the school bully, experiencing a first crush and choosing the perfect Christmas gift to wish for.

All little Ralphie wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB gun. Present-day Ralph begins to explain the comical misadventures he experienced in his attempts to acquire the desired gift from his parents, who were reluctant to bestow such a dangerous toy upon him.

I saw the movie version of A Christmas Story for the first time last December and unfortunately did not enjoy it. The slapstick humor and classic childhood troubles Ralphie encounters ceased to amuse me, so I was unsure of how I would respond to Good Company Players? live presentation of this Christmas story.

To my surprise, I genuinely enjoyed their production. Although the general storyline is not my favorite, the excellent acting captured my attention, drawing me into Ralphie?s world. I was very impressed by every member of the cast, but a few characters stood out to me.

Ralphie?s parents (Jonathon Hogan and Elizabeth Stoeckel) did a commendable job of portraying the couple?s strong personalitites. Hogan?s tyrannical rants and Stoeckel?s motherly disposition added the perfect touches to their roles.

The narration of the Ralphie’s adult counterpart (Brian Rhea) was also superb. He engaged the audience with his spirited yet nostalgic account of childhood. The tone of his voice was perfect for storytelling due to its rich qualities.

Naturally it was Ralphie (Samuel Linkowski), who became the star of the show. His exaggerated facial expressions, gestures and verbal intonations allowed him to create a very real character and connect with the audience through his schemes to acquire a BB gun. As Linkowski already possesses so much talent at such a young age, he has the potential to attain great success in his future acting career.

I especially enjoyed the dream sequences in which Ralphie envisions all of the amazing ways he could save his family from danger if only he possessed the BB gun. The physical comedy — specifically on the part of Linkowski — was quite humorous.

There were numerous costume changes, as the story ranged over a period of several weeks leading up to Christmas. I am a fan of 40s fashion, so I appreciated this aspect of the show.

Additionally, the majority of the set was comprised of the kitchen and living room portion of the Parkers? home — it was quite elaborate, featuring real food. The kitchen appliances, which were of course appropriate for the time of the story, added a quaint, homey feeling to the show. The most remarkable aspect of the set was the Parkers? car, which folded out from boxes that also served as seats in the set’s elementary school.

The Good Company Players cast most certainly did justice to this Christmas classic. They surpassed my expectations and their live performance transformed what I considered to be an obnoxious movie into an enjoyable production.

A Christmas Story will continue running through Dec. 18 at
2nd Space Theatre. For more information, contact the Good Company Players box office at 559.266.0660, or visit their website.

By |2011-11-07T00:00:00-08:00November 7th, 2011|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Psych Season 6

The season premiere begins with Shawn slipping into a formal black-tie event?that is being held in British Ambassador Richard Fanshawe’s home?for the purpose of retrieving an eleven year old boy?s collectible Darth Vader action figure from his friend?s room. While communicating with Gus (who is waiting in a car parked outside of the fancy abode) via walkie-talkie, Shawn is about to sneak back out of the house but he hears two men speaking in hushed tones as they ascend the stairway. Shawn darts into a bedroom and hides under the bed, however he is very shocked to discover that he is not alone down there, for the dead body of a female wearing a lovely dress is lying beside him.

In his hurry to escape the crime scene, Shawn attracts the attention of the men by noisily clambering out the second story window and leaping off of the roof. He manages to run to Gus?s car and they drive off before the men catch up with them.

Back at the station, Shawn ?divines? the presence of the girl?s body and convinces Detectives Lassiter and O?Hara to accompany him to the ambassador?s home, only to find that the spot under the bed is now void of anything other than dust. After some acute observations on Shawn?s part, the body is discovered in the outdoor pool.

The victim is Annabeth York, an employee of the ambassador whose position on the technical staff was of little importance. She is significant for an entirely different reason, for she was responsible for locating a witness that cleared Colin Hennessey, a British exchange student, of the charge of strangling his girlfriend, Sarah Peele. The party Shawn sneakily crashed was in celebration of Colin?s freedom and to say goodbye to Fanshawe who will shortly be flying back to New York.

Meanwhile, Lassiter and Juliet?s partnership encounters troubled waters when Lassie suspects that Juliet is secretly dating Shawn. He hooks her up to a polygraph machine with the hope of finally getting the truth. After initial hesitation, she comes clean about their affair. Lassie, offended by her lack of trust in him, requests that the chief assign him a new partner. His wish is not granted and the pair continue to work the case together.

While trying to referee an argument between the two eleven year old ex-friends, Shawn lifts the key to the ambassador?s house from Mason, the snobby son of the British diplomat. He breaks in a second time to look for any information that may point to the ambassador?s involvement in the crimes. In the midst of his search, Shawn is interrupted and forced to once more take refuge under the bed when the ambassador and his wife enter their room. From this position, he overhears the ambassador telling his wife that they need to get Shawn on their side and plan to grant him diplomatic immunity to ensure his help with this case.

A new lead gives the detectives reason to believe that the murderer was a guest at the party; most likely he was also the last person to leave. This evidence points to Colin and when Shawn and Gus spot the suspect on the street, their laughable attempts to chase him down result in the arrest of all three of them. Colin is released shortly. Lassiter visits the incarcerated pair and shows them a blurry photograph of what appears to be Shawn wearing a suit at the ambassador?s party.

To prove his innocence, Shawn is attached to a lie detector and manages to speak truthfully enough about his whereabouts on the evening in question to create an alibi and avoid setting off the machine. He also admits to loving Juliet, but just as he appears to be in the clear, Lassie unexpectedly asks Shawn if he possesses real psychic abilities. A tense moment passes, but inexplicably when Shawn affirms that he does indeed possess the ability to see into the future, the polygraph shows no indication of deception.

Once Shawn is vindicated, he solves the case. He recalls that while hiding under the ambassador?s bed the first time, he noticed a pair of men?s shoes in the closet. It turns out that said shoes were covering the feet of Fanshawe’s public affairs officer, Colin?s host and Annabeth?s murderer, Charles Wignall. He was hiding in the closet after killing Annabeth due to her knowledge of his guilt in Sarah Peele?s death, which Colin was previously accused of. With no way to refute Shawn?s claims, Wignall is handcuffed and carted off to jail.

In the last few minutes of the episode, Lassie warns Shawn that if he fails to treat Juliet with all the respect she deserves, he will ?discharge his weapon.?

A flashback of Shawn?s childhood reveals that he was taught to outsmart a polygraph machine by his father, who considered this to be a useful enough skill to pass on to his son for potential future use.

As a huge fan of Psych, I had high expectations for the premiere of season six and they were definitely met. James Roday and Dul

By |2011-10-13T00:00:00-08:00October 13th, 2011|Arts & Entertainment, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Band marches in 1st Annual Big Fresno Fair Big Band Review

Competing against ten other local high schools, FC?s band marched around the dirt horse tracks at the Big Fresno Fair’s First Annual Big Band Review, Oct. 12. Despite the difficulty of the uneven ground provided, the band managed to take home awards as well as have an enjoyable time.

Band director Michael Ogdon said that the greater challenge arose when the band had to march through the crowd; this was one of the few times that having a smaller group worked to their advantage.

Sophomore Eric Cowin was awarded first place in the Open Drum Major category and placed second overall; the drum line took fourth place in the Percussion Competition. Although no award was given for the majorettes?s performance, sophomore twirler Ileana See placed in third.

The judges complimented the band on their choice of music, positive carriage and fullness of sound despite their small size. Some criticisms was made about sometimes being out of step, the volume of the percussion instruments, tone control and wearing white socks.

The band scored in all categories: marching, music, showmanship, twirling, drum major and flag team and after viewing the recording of this parade, the participating students remarked that they appeared to be more involved and enthusiastic than they were in the Caruthers Fair Parade a fortnight ago.

In regards to Cowin?s first place achievement, Ogdon says that he is excelling in his position as Drum Major and his first place award is a reflection of this.

“He has been working really hard to improve his skills,” Ogdon said. “He decided to try leading this parade without the traditional drum major mace and do it ?corps style.? There are an awful lot of things a drum major has to do to be successful. Eric has really grown in his leadership and he?s still only a sophomore. He will likely begin to mentor younger ones aspiring to take his place when he graduates.?

According to Cowin, ?The parade itself was a little disorganized, probably because it was the first year. Our band played strongly and placed well. The percussion was excellent; their beats were dead on.?

His level of talent at such a young age is truly impressive and the fact that he is being recognized and awarded bodes well for his future in music.

?I have a lot to learn and a lot to teach,” Cowin said. “It?s an odd combination.?

Freshman Lindsey Biehler who plays alto/tenor saxophone, participated in the event as well.

?I always like parades because it?s fun to play,” Biehler said. “Overall, we did pretty well, although we were a little off step. Marching through the crowd was really fun because we had to dodge all of the people in order to reach the entrance of the fair.?

Biehler?s brother, Andrew, is a junior at Fresno Pacific University and is majoring in music; both share the same passion.

?It?s cool to be following in his footsteps because when I was little I remember watching him do everything I get to do now,” Biehler said.

Overall, Ogdon was proud of his band’s performance and the awards they received. Their improvement since the Caruthers Fair Parade in September was noted and rewarded.

He says, “We like to think that we will be invited to perform again next year because of our sincere improvements.”

The marching band will have one more performance this year: the 92nd Annual Veteran’s Day Parade in downtown Fresno, Nov. 11. This is the largest parade of this sort west of the Mississippi River.

By |2011-10-13T00:00:00-08:00October 13th, 2011|News, Uncategorized|0 Comments

FCC production evokes audience emotion

The Illusion, written by Pierre Corneille and adapted by Tony Kushner, explores the mystical and elusive world of memories transfered to the theatre. The illusion of love and the profound power it has over those in its grasp is explored and exemplified through each of the play’s characters.

Directed by Janine Christl and performed by the Fresno City College (FCC) Theatre Department, The Illusion opened, Oct. 7.

The story takes place in southern France in the 17th century, in the cave of an eccentric magician named Alcandre (Keshawn Keene), who is sought by Pridamant of Avignon (Luis Ramentes). Fifteen years prior, Pridamant banished his son from his home and now, riddled with remorse, he wishes to discover what has become of his offspring.

Alcandre warns Pridamant of the dangers of looking into the past, saying that he cannot alter anything that occurred and great pain and difficulty will be experienced if he tries to cross over into the world they are observing. These warnings are shrugged off rather flippantly due to Pridamant’s desire to see his son, so the clock is reversed by fifteen years and the past is replayed.

The first scene of his son’s past takes place in the garden of a wealthy nobleman. Pridamant’s son, Calisto (Jono Cota), has fallen madly in love with the nobleman’s daughter, Melibea (Bridget Manders). To the young couple’s misfortune, Calisto is a peasant, and therefore not permitted to marry Melibea, so their love is kept a secret. Only Melibea’s maid, Elicia (Lena Auglian), who is also in love with Calisto, knows of their affair.

Meanwhile, Melibea is pursued by two other ardent suitors, Pleribo (Josh Hansen) and Matamore (David Manning), both of whom are wealthy and respected, making either of them a desirable match for a nobleman’s daughter.

Despite her father’s protests, Melibea is determined to be with Calisto. However, unexpected interferences from the jealous and scorned Elicia, Pleribo and Matamore are about to ruin her plans.

Though the tone of the play is generally dark, there are a few unexpected twists at the end that simultaneously tie up the loose ends of the storyline and leave the viewer in a more hopeful mood.

The cast, consisting of only nine people, was fabulous despite its small size. Each actor created an equally-convincing character and managed to connect with the audience emotionally. Although the characters possessed very different motivations and personalities, I genuinely enjoyed everyone?s performance.

That said, three of the actors especially stood out to me. Manning delivered a hilarious and memorable portrayal of a pompous ladies’ man with a feminine air. This was a very interesting combination of characteristics and his use of physical comedy increased the audience?s amusement. Despite the diversion Matamore?s character provided, he was also able to show an emotional, poignant side when the story called for such a display.

Cota played his character with a smoldering intensity that captivated the viewers? attention. I was intrigued by the various aspects of his personality. He incorporated a great deal of passion, arrogance, foolishness and impulsiveness into his character, yet he managed to avoid becoming dislikable by delicately balancing his flaws with his more endearing qualities.

Lena Auglian (Elicia) memorized extensive monologues, which she recited impressively with believability and emotion. While Auglian?s character required a more serious nature, her ability to realistically present a heartbroken, love-struck young girl torn between her desire to seek revenge and her desire to forgive the man she loves resonated with members of the audience.

Although the set did not really alter during the play, it was intricately-designed a