Rogue Performer Previews: The Real Black Swann/What Piece Did You Lose?/Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life/Born Again in Berkeley/The Return of the Son of One Hit Wonders/Acoustic Voyager

By Lorie Lewis Ham

For the time being, all of our Rogue Festival articles will be here on KRL News, as KRL is undergoing a redesign. We also have a Rogue Festival event page here on KRL News, and you can learn more on the Rogue Festival website. You can find all of the other Rogue articles up so far this year by clicking here. This is the last of the Rogue Preview articles, we have collected the last ones all together for you in one big post! Watch for reviews to go up this weekend and next week!

Rogue Performer Preview: The Real Black Swann

Actor/Storyteller and veteran Rogue Festival performer Les Kurkendaal Barrett is bringing his storytelling show—The Real Black Swann, Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen—back to the Rogue Festival. This time it is in person.

Kurkendaal Barrett says, “Last year Covid forced us all indoors, and because of that, we had to do our shows on Zoom. I am so excited to be on an actual stage and perform for a live audience. I was very sad about not being able to come to Fresno last year.”

 “Since I was doing the show on Zoom, I was very limited with what I could do. But last year Zoom was our only option. This year, I am going to let loose and give you a fun, energetic show. I am truly going to be able to show the audience what the show was always meant to be.”

The show is based on the life of William Dorsey Swann. William Dorsey Swann was a former slave who organized underground drag balls in Washington, D.C. in the 1800s. In the 1880s, he was arrested for both having a drag ball and being in drag. He went to prison for this for ten months. He asked President Grover Cleveland for a pardon, and this made him the earliest Americans to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community. 

Kurkendaal Barrett says, “ As I am a black, queer performer, I find this story very inspiring. This man was not only brave, he was ahead of his time. Think about it, without Swann, we would have no Ru Paul’s Drag Race, no Madonna, and probably no rights for LGBTQ people. I wouldn’t have the career that I have today. I am an openly gay performer, and so he paved the way for me. I am able to stand on stage and speak my truth. I think it is a shame there is practically no information about William Dorsey Swann. It has become my mission to change that.”  The  show is at The Vista Theatre March 5 at 6:30 p.m.,  March 6 at 5 p.m., March 10 at 7p.m., March 11 at 8:30 p.m., March 12 at 2 p.m. For more info go to

Rogue Performer Preview: What Piece Did You Lose?
By Blake Jones

Blake Jones, one of the founding parents of the Rogue Performance Festival, has launched a new show in every year of the Fest. This is the 20th anniversary of the first festival.

At the beginning of 2020, we had hopes. In fact, we had concrete plans. Flights were booked. Hotel rooms were reserved. It was to be our band’s fifth trip overseas. The last had been in 2018, which had been our most extensive tour yet, it had taken us through Scotland, the north and south of England, and on into Germany. We were itching to get back there in May. In March, Rogue Festival #19 had just squeaked out its finale and the World closed down. We all expected the lockdown to be over soon…but soon it was clear: we’d have to cancel our trip. Borders were closing. Clubs were closing. We were sunk.

Blake Jones

Many of us came up with our own novel ways to stay sane and feel somewhat normal during that Lockdown Summer. I set myself the challenge to write, record, and release an album in the span of one month. Actually, it ended up taking me a bit more than a month just to write it, but by the end of the Summer it was out: The Homebound Tapes, a solo CD (not strictly ‘solo’, of course, it included a number of friends playing on it as well.) 

Our Rogue Fest show is framed around a pair of songs from that collection: “The Last Song of Summer,” and “The First Song of Summer.” But, it includes shades of other things. Other things that happened along the way.

Perhaps the lockdown led you to a time of contemplation. “How should I be using my time? When I step off the treadmill of life, exactly who am I? If I’m a musician, and I can’t go out and play music…what am I? what good am I?” Questions, of course, of identity and self-worth come up.  

Then life goes on. Good things. Bad things. Some things influenced by the pandemic, some things not. I remember thinking in the Fall—“Geez, the world is under siege by a mysterious virus, the U.S. is bulging with the bullying loud-mouth of Donald Trump, AND the skies of California’s Central Valley have turned orange, black, and unbreathable from the constant wildfires! What’s next? A plague of frogs raining down from the sky? End Times indeed. 

Life crept on. One of the things that certainly kept me alive physically and spiritually is when the band began rehearsing again. We had no gigs, but the communal spirit of music held us together. We did a few things online, wore our masks, kept our distance, cranked up the circulating fan, and played on for life. 

So, like yourself, these times changed us. Not necessarily a bad thing. My friend Jaguar Bennet (whose show Jaguar is a Liar is a must see in this year’s Rogue) shared this with me: “You are not an object; you are a process.” Reminded me of what Bob Dylan once wrote: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” But, still it leaves one with questions, and thoughts, and for tonight, a few songs. 

This show: “What Piece Did You Lose?” features new songs performed by Jones and a few members of his band: Blake Jones & the Trike Shop: Mike Snowden on bass guitar, Scott Hatfield on keyboards and harmony vocals. All shows are on the patio of Veni Vidi Vici (1116 N. Fulton Street, Fresno, California) Times/Dates: Friday, March 4 @ 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 6 @ 3:30 p.m., Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 @ 3:30 p.m.. All shows are $5.

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Rogue Performer Preview: Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life

The highly acclaimed one man show Tomatoes Tried To Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life will be coming to the Fresno Rogue Festival from March 4 to March 12 at Dianna’s School of Dance, 826 N Fulton St., Fresno, California.

The show is the true story of a corporate CEO, Keith Alessi, who spent a lifetime building a banjo collection that he couldn't play. Upon receiving a deadly medical diagnosis, he learned to play and ultimately found healing in a circle of musicians in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Keith felt compelled to share his story of hope, survival, and healing. Playing his instruments solo in public was a promise he made himself in an ICU ward, and it gave him a tangible goal he needed to stay focused on. Initially he presented it at a number of small festivals in 2018 thinking that would be it. However, audiences were having very strong and positive responses to the show, so in 2019, a full tour ensued.

Told with humor and music, the show has toured the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., including a sold-out run, Off-Broadway, in New York City.

100% of ticket sales are donated to charity, and the show has raised over $400,000 since 2018. Proceeds from this run will benefit The Rogue Festival.

Rogue Performer Preview: Born Again in Berkeley
By Theresa Donahoe

Born Again in Berkeley, in the beginning, was not my idea.

In the Spring of 2018, I was working on a completely other show, Confessions of a White Mexican, when my solo performance teacher, David Ford, caught me holding back tears one day in class. It was during a scene where I admitted I felt like I couldn’t be open about my Christian faith in the city of Berkeley without the locals jumping to conclusions about who they thought I was simply because I believe in Jesus. You can be anything you want to be in Berkeley, except a Republican or a born again Christian. At least that’s how I felt, so I kept it to myself.  

But my teacher wanted to explore my faith story more (God bless him-literally). I told him I would write about my faith, IF he made sure the audience would still like me by the end of it and not hurl tomatoes at me. He promised to create a safe space for the performer and the audience, so I put a pin in my other show and Born Again in Berkeley, was uh…born.

I performed an earlier version of the show at the “Times Unseen Festival” at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco in October 2018, and the audiences seemed to like it—and me. No tomatoes were thrown, so I kept writing and have been performing short excerpts of the show in the Bay Area since then.  

When I started hearing about the protests of Adventure Church at the Tower Theater, I knew I had to bring my show to the Rogue Festival, for I, too, once attended a conservative church that was picketed – by gay rights activists. I have grown so much since then, so come on out and see the show…and leave your tomatoes at home.

Born Again in Berkeley will be at the Vista Theatre (1296 N. Wishon) with performances on March 4 (8:30 p.m.), March 5 (2 p.m.), March 6 (6:30 p.m.), March 10 (8:30 p.m.), and March 12 (5 p.m.). For tickets:

It’s Back…“ROTSOOHW” The Return of the Son of One Hit Wonders 
Submitted by Jeff Single

Heads up, Rogue Festival attendees, and head out to hear The Excursions’ expanded and updated presentation Return of the Son of One Hit Wonders. In addition to some new material, this year’s show also features the return of vocalist Mindy Sullivan at both Saturday night performances. Drummer Marc Wise will again provide his running commentary on the music.

In 2019, the band cancelled two of their four Rogue One Hit Wonder shows due to concerns about Covid-19. “Cancelling those shows was a difficult decision, but we couldn’t willingly create a situation where our audience could be at risk,” said band member Jeff Single. “We always look for something new, but because audience response was so positive (and it’s just so interesting and fun), we decided to bring back the show, with some improvements.”

The show presents songs that were very popular but were the only big successes for their performers: “One-Hit-Wonders” (OHW). Some still are well known today, but others have slipped into obscurity. With a wealth of material ranging from the 1950s to 2000s, some material is presented as short snippets or medleys, some as full-length versions. 

What makes a One-Hit-Wonder? Well, a lot of things, it turns out. Hitting the charts in the USA is one...but for an artist or band to find that special magic just once is a question, literally for the ages. “There are themes across the songs, of culture and musical styles, which really make it coherent, and more thoughtful than just a random selection of songs” (Willie Barrera, band member).

Woody Moise says, “It’s been fascinating to explore the artistic and social milieu of these songs. They are windows into the styles and the spirit of the times from which they emerged. I think of this project as paying homage to the composers, artists, and producers who put these songs, many of which are gems and really a blast to play.”  

 Where:Veni Vidi Vici (OUTSIDE, on the patio in back)
1116 N Fulton Street
When: Friday, March 4 @ 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 5 @ 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 6 @ 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 12 @ 8 p.m.
Tickets:$8, plus Rogue Festival wristband, at
Acoustic Voyager presents: “Follow Your Heart” Songs of Love and Loss, Mystery and Redemption
Submitted by Woody Moise and Jeff Single

Are you ready to laugh, cry, rejoice, reflect, and enjoy some good music?

Acoustic Voyager is the performing name for the collective effort of six Fresno-area songwriter-musicians. Acoustic Voyager's diverse compositions may each have been written by one person, but the music you hear results from a deep collaboration among the musicians. Melding their diverse backgrounds and experiences, they blend influences from folk, reggae, latin, bluegrass, and other genres into their own special sound. The performance features strong harmonies and improvisations textured by a variety of stringed instruments and percussion, all performed with a lot of heart.

The collective writes: “Our songs are like pebbles picked up on a voyage of discovery, polished and revealing many-faceted reflections: of people by whose presence we have been changed, of loves found and lost, of the magic of place and adventure, of hope, longing, hurt, healing, and faith—all of which give inspiration, meaning, and joy to our lives."

Most of these songs have never been heard by Fresno audiences, and some will be performed for the first time ever. Most, but not all, writers will also be performing.

Acoustic Voyager invites one and all: “Join us on a fearless trek into new territory where the only things we really need are just one more instrument, and always, one more song.”

Where: Goldstein’s Mortuary and Delicatessen (All shows are OUTSIDE)
1279 N. Wishon Ave.
When: Friday, March 4 @ 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 6 @ 3:30 p.m. 
Thursday, March 10 @ 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 12 @ 3:30 p.m.
Tickets: Admission is $8, plus a Rogue wristband ($5)
Tickets, wristbands, and other information from the Fresno Rogue Festival:
Most likely our Rogue Reviews will be over here as well so be sure to check back once Rogue is under way!
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie's mystery writing at Mysteryrat's Closet.