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The dreamers vs. Mr. Practical
For 15-year-old Chelsea Jones, it was one of those scratch-your-head moments.
Why would anyone build a Walgreens across the street — quite literally — from a Long's Drugs? And not two blocks from downtown Kingsburg?
“In her young mind that didn't make sense,” says Chelsea's father Blake Jones.
The rest of us, he says, we're kind of used to it.
And that's the heart of “Sprawlzilla vs. Mainstreet,” a 45-minute operetta Blake wrote with his daughter to perform at this year's Rogue Festival. The show is a dialog of sorts between the pair and a villain played by Todd Severson. Aptly, he's named, Mr. Practical.
They could have called the show “The dreamers vs. Mr. Practical.”
The dreamers — Chelsea and her dad — want to keep their vibrant, authentic town. Mr. Practical is looking at the bottom line.
Kingsburg is at a point in its growth where things could get ugly, Blake says. It could easily be swallowed up by Sprawlzilla, that monstrosity of large chain stores, tract homes and big parking lots that has killed so many great downtowns, including Fresno's. But what's the alternative? How does a town continue its growth while retaining its uniqueness and charm? And is either really all that practical?
“We needed an argument that was more than just the feeling of it,” he says. So, the pair spent some quality father-daughter time down at the library, brainstorming ideas and doing research on the topic. They read books, watched documentaries, even met with Don Burden, from Walkable Communities Inc., who gave a workshop in Kingsburg. Yes, this is a Rogue show with a bibliography.
In Fresno, they saw a good juxtaposition, Blake says. Where Kingsburg is just embarking down the road to sprawl, Fresno has seen 70 years of it. He remembers being in ninth grade at Tioga Jr. High, seeing a slide show of downtown Fresno and being wowed by the lack of planning he saw.
Through seven original songs, the show tries to come up with some workable...er...practical answers, Blake says.
Yes, they do exist. You can pull lots of them right from Fresno's Creative Economy Council Report.
You see, it's not an either or proposition, even if it looks like it. Because Mr. Practical might be a villain, but he's no Satan. The question is how can a couple of dreamers work toward some good, practical results?
“If you can answer that, he's going to be on your side.”