||NEW WRINKLES HISTORY
The yearly New Wrinkles presentation at Fresno City College started in November 1988 with a newspaper advertisement seeking
seniors (age 55 plus) interested in performing in a senior variety show. The initial meeting was intentionally held off campus in the
community meeting room of Manchester Center which also housed co-sponsor, Sears Roebuck.
Years later, the project coordinator and later director Tom Wright explained: “It was suggested I hold the first meeting off campus so
as not to intimidate interested seniors with the perceived youthful surroundings of campus life.” Approximately forty five interested
seniors attended that first meeting. The following February (1989) auditions for the first show were held on the FCC Campus. From
that first year’s cast, two remaining members continue to be featured in the current Wrinkles presentation.
New Wrinkles got its start as a community involvement for seniors under the auspicious of the Sears Roebuck Company. In addition
to Fresno, they selected three locations across the country (Brainerd, Minnesota; Baltimore, Maryland; and Dallas, Texas) and
provided “seed money” for the first two years of production. In each of these locations this senior project was known by a different
name, with Fresno remaining as the only active company of senior performers.
FIRST DIRECTOR TOM WRIGHT
In that first New Wrinkles’ outing, director Tom Wright assembled a group of talented associates who would remain during his
fourteen year directorial tenure. Area high school music teacher and administrator Paul F. Anderson was the group’s choral
director. Anderson was also known for his direction of the area’s youthful, Lisle’s Boys Choir. Fresno City College’s theatre faculty
member Alex Molnar served as musical arranger and combo director with elementary teacher Barbara Mendes as choreographer.
Mrs. Mendes, the daughter of a show business family learned tap dancing at an early age and continues to teach the art form at
present. Those first fourteen years saw genial Dick Cruse doing double duty as the show’s creative co-scripter and Master of
Looking back, Tom Wright noted: “once the word got out that the show wasn’t ‘Mickey Mouse’, that is, old folks with kazoos, the
interest and participation greatly increased. In the second year show, there were 115 in the cast, as opposed to 76 in the first’s
year’s show”. It ran for two weekends and expanded to a three weekend run during the fourth year of the show.
In the program for the very first show May 26, 1989, director Wright greeted the theatre firstnighters with the following revelation:
“we felt our show was a new concept for this area and a new connection between ourA new wrinkle that has become an entertainment fixture in the area. Years later, at the end of year 2007 New Wrinkles was selected
college life and the vast and growing world of senior citizenry. In other words a new
wrinkle in Fresno entertainment.”
by Fresno Bee Theatre Critic Donald Munro as one of that year’s top 20 arts and cultural offerings
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Two other shows selected for the outstandingThe state-of-the art Fresno City College Theatre, with not an obstructed seat in the house, has always been the home base for the
Twenty list that year resulted from the current New Wrinkles director
Fred Bologna’s creative stagings of Beauty and the Beast and Thoroughly
Modern Millie )
New Wrinkles Shows. The theme for the very first show was celebrating life’s maturing years; also known as poking fun at old age.
Since that time, the continuing challenge was to bring the audience a different show and theme each year.
For example, the second year’s offering was a warm, affectionate tribute to the talents of Irving Berlin; four years later broadway
was saluted. In 1999, the seniors presented their bouncy version of the soon-to-disappear 20th century. Other yearly presentations
included a wonderful remembrance of old time radio …… bringing a startling new insight of the medium to some of the younger
audience members. During his tenure, director Wright mounted shows that saluted the country’s heroes; those of World War II and
the Twin Towers attack.
After 14 years with the Company, Tom Wright retired in 2003. On January 9, 2011, just 6 days shy of his 80th birthday, Mr. Wright
died. The 2011 New Wrinkles presentation was dedicated to his memory.
SECOND DIRECTOR FRED BOLOGNA
In spring of 2004, well known central valley theatrical director, choreographer and teacher, Fred Bologna assumed the show’s
Director Bologna studied dance in Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and London. In addition to his teaching duties at
the Roosevelt School of the Arts, Bologna served several years and held prime leadership roles in the development of the Fresno
Ballet. He is one of the original members of the Good Company Players and since 1974 has been instrumental in many of their
productions. His other involvements in the area’s arts includes his service as Board Member of the Meux Home Museum and
serving as board president for the Fresno Ballet, Fresno Arts Counsel and the National Society of Arts and Letters.
Joining Artistic Director Bologna as Musical Director and Vocal Coach was Dede Nibler, a Fresno area musician with a background
in public music education and community theatre. Mrs. Nibler, retired after 30+ years in public education, had directed Voices
United, an award winning Sweet Adeline Chorus, since 1982; has received numerous awards for her involvement in arts education;
was the director of Roosevelt School of the Arts for eight years; and has experience working with children’s theatre, church choirs,
and quartet singing. She is very active with the Sweet Adeline International and state organizations and teaches and coaches music
Creating Choreography for the Bologna-Nibler collaborations is long time area dancer and teacher Judy Jo Wilson. Dancing since
the age of five, Mrs. Wilson is a graduate of the American School of Dance in Los Angeles and has operated Judy’s School of
Dance in Clovis since 1971.
Year fifteen of New Wrinkles saw the emergence of Nick Hammel as the show’s light-hearted master of ceremonies. Hammel, who
joined the New Wrinkles Company in 1995 was a bay area showman and entertainer who relocated to Fresno in 1972 to pursue a
college degree. His business holdings in Fresno included a cocktail lounge and a floral shop. He often referred to himself as a
singing bar owner/businessman. After over seven years of recurring health problems, Mr. Hammel died on March 6, 2008. That
year’s show Wrinkles In Review was dedicated to his memory.
THE THREE “R’s”
In approximately fourteen weeks from audition Saturday to the special opening night benefit, the three R’s prevail: rehearsal,
rehearsal and more rehearsal! The keyboard accompaniment for the songs and the dances is repeated and rehearsed many
times. The person serving as rehearsal accompanist needs to be an extremely talented and extremely patient person. Since 2004
New Wrinkles has been most fortunate in obtaining several such talented and patient musical artists.
For two of the Wrinkles shows’ (Welcome to the Sixties and Red Hot and Cole) Fresno native and Fresno Pacific Graduate Mark
Woods was the patient pro with a smile at the piano: an attribute that may be attributed to being a Pastor of Music for twenty six
years. Mark has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Roosevelt School of the Arts and is currently a private piano
instructor and Music Director for Fowler Baptist Church. Mark also plays in a Motor Cycle Band called Hog Heaven.
In the shows following Mr. Woods, bay area native and local music instructor Elena Tsuchiya has provided many hours of rehearsal
for five New Wrinkles shows. This classically trained musician with over thirty five years of theatre performance often eased tryout
anxiety with a smile and a suggestion that resulted in an enhanced musical presentation.
For the 2011 New Wrinkles show, multi-talented Darryl Dote was the patient pro at the piano. Mr. Dote started piano lessons at age
6 1/2 and is a graduate of the prestigious Orange County High School of The Arts. Over the years his developing musical expertise
has greatly expanded, leading to increased opportunities in arranging, writing, and accompanist services. Experiences which have
afforded him the opportunity to collaborate and perform with many recording artists in various venues throughout California. His
musicality, which often included delightfully unexpected comedic keyboard responses, brought us a chuckle and enhanced
appreciation of his talents.
Following the theme shows of Tom Wright, Fred Bologna brought forth additional theme ideas with a sizzling salute to the sixties in
2006; a stylish tribute to the talents of Cole Porter in 2005 and a rollicking 2007 Broadway encounter with the talents of Richard
Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. New Wrinkles’ 20th presentation in the Spring of 2008 was a retrospective of
highlights from the previous 19 shows: WRINKLES IN REVIEW. The next year that production was followed by a light-hearted look at
Love And Marriage : For Better.... For Worse. In 2010, Across The USA highlighted a joyful junket across our great country. And
the 2011 theme was New Wrinkles Takes On Broadway.
FUN NOT FAME
From its earliest beginnings, the New Wrinkles Company has always been a multifaceted family of seniors experiencing the
energetic camaraderie involved in creating entertainment excellence. Over the years, many talented seniors have assembled for
the yearly shows. Life long friendships have formed and endured. Each year sees the addition of new faces and, sometimes for
various reasons, the loss of some veteran performers. Each year, those who gather in January: to sing, dance, memorize and
interpret dialogue put together a show by the last week in May. In three weekends, approximately seventeen performances are
given. When asked, some will tell you this is a commitment that keeps you young…..helps you forget (for a
while) the aches and pains that sometimes appear. For most, this yearly grind is the reunion of a convivial extended family. No one
is planning a show business career or looking for an agent. As two of our original performers, Leah Bader and Betty High
proclaimed in the New Wrinkles Show of 1990: “We’re here for fun, not fame.”
This is the happiness that prevails throughout the company and is reflected time and time again from audience members who at the
end of each show greet us with: “You guys look like you’re having so much fun up there.” We are! Backstage nervous jitters may
appear, but never in the spotlight. As in past years, the New Wrinkles Company continues its zeal to present the pure pleasure of
----Don La Mont
March 2008, updated February & July 2011
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