Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Squatters

Squatters was conceived by Jeremy Seghers. This was one of the few improvised shows at Fringe this year. Jeremy built the idea around the premise that a sitcom about people living through hard times can be funny. I arrived a little early and blocked in the set in my sketchbook since I knew the show was only half an hour. Logan Donahue was a guest star. Every performance of Squatters at Fringe would be unique. Jeremy said he had given prompts and suggestions the evening before in a prior performance and he suspected the actors had too much time to over think the possibilities. On the evening I sketched the actors were given prompts just moments before they went on stage.

I found myself doing improv once when director Aradhana Tiwari insisted I join her group of actors. I was way out of my comfort zone yet the thrill of scenes taking on a life of their own is a thrill. Therefore I was rooting for the cast with every quirky turn.

The show started with a stage hand wearing a head set came who out to announce the beginning of the show. We were the studio audience. The set consisted of an ugly lime green rug and furniture that looked like it was from the 60's. Hints that the family was squatting were subtle, like when Cody Bush bragged that he had landed a job at Walmart. Logan added a real spark when he entered as a new age guru with a purple mask painted on his face. Scenes where he seduced Ashli Conrad were inspired.

There were plenty of laugh out loud moments and some outright strange surreal moments that were so campy I had to laugh. The laugh track added another layer to the humor. I must say, I had fun and this show took many chances many of which paid off. This is what Fringe is all about.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Oral

I was delighted when Hannah Kugelmann the author of "Oral" contacted me. She first thought of the concept for this play while she was attending UCF. The show was first introduced to Fringe audiences in 2006 where it won "Best Fringe Newbie." The play began with Lindsay Cohen taking a thick piece of chalk and writing fellatio on the blackboard. Turning toward the audience she described the derivation of the word and then described the process of giving head in delightful detail. She stroked the thick stick of chalk absentmindedly as she spoke. I maneuvered the sketchbook onto my lap. She described a two fisted process of alternating hand movements that I am certain I have never experienced.

Each member of the cast would come out and write their own word of choice on the blackboard to begin their thoughts about oral sex. Though some scenes were a bit clinical, the open dialogue began to unravel the underlying importance of intimacy in relationships. A man came out and began a long argument about how he felt accepted when a woman swallowed. He punctuated his discussion with a sad face spitting and a happy face licking it's lips for swallowing. The misunderstandings and confusion that men and women have on the subject showed how difficult it can be to satisfy a partner if the subject isn't discussed. Brian Feldman walked across the stage at an arbitrary moment and several audience members clapped.

In the one scene where oral sex is simulated under the cover of sheets, the woman came up for air when she was done, and became annoyed when her partner praised her for her technique. The argument escalated until the man finally offered some advice. She was suddenly complacent and they cuddled in bed. He then started offering another suggestion, but she stopped him saying, "Don't push your luck." Who knew that an hour spent talking about oral sex could be so funny, educational and uncover so much about our underlying emotional needs. This was a delightful production that left me thinking... Why is it I have never ... , no I don't think I'll go there. But I might have intimacy issues.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Attendant

As one of his 11 performances at this year's Fringe Festival, performance artist Brian Feldman, decided to pose as a bathroom attendant. He set up shop in the Orlando Shakespeare Theater's men's and women's room. When I arrived at the men's room, Tisse Mallon was acting as an attendant in Brian's place since he was running late. He ran in with a rental tux slung over his shoulder and went to change in the handicap stall. Tisse helped him with his bow tie and cumber-bun. There was a large tip bowl and plenty of manly items for sale. Some items like Q- tips were complimentary. If you wanted baked beans, a pickle, condom or the latest copy of Jet magazine, there was a price list.

I had only sketched in a public bathroom once before. That time, the bathroom wasn't in use. This time men came and went frequently. Several men must have eaten something nasty from the vendors outside because there were some wet noisy gastric explosions. I suggested that perhaps there should be a quaint fountain sound track in case anyone was unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Some men turned away thinking there must be a line since some people stood around and gawked. I suppose having an artist sketch you while you pee could be distracting. Mark Baratelli came in and snapped pictures. Then he tried to coach Brian on how an attendant should interact with patrons. His examples were hysterical. When someone reached for soap he would thrust his arm in the way and say, "let me get that for you."

There were DVD's for sale as well like Mannequins 2, and films starring Silvester Stallone. I was surprised when one of the five hour energy drinks was sold. I erased it from my sketch. The oddest item was a crusty sea captain sculpture. Ear plugs seemed appropriate should a show be too loud and Advil would help the resulting headache. Tisse offered a tour of the women's room and I stopped my sketch to follow her. In the women's room there was a pregnancy test kit, stockings and an even wider assortment of goodies. It was an odd feeling being in there as women squeezed by to get to the stalls. As I was leaving a women was coming in. Her eyes widened when she saw me and she asked, "Am I in the right place." I said, "Yep, you're at the Fringe."

I rushed off to a show I had been invited to attend by the writers. It was pouring outside. Terry entered the lobby drenched. Through a series of volunteer mistakes and blunders, we were then turned away from the theater, our tickets given away to others in a completely sold out house. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Terry was furious at me for spending so much time in the men's room and not getting into the show I promised her we would see. I think I'm Fringe fried.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

0il change?

As one of the eleven performance pieces Brian Feldman is doing at this year's Orlando Fringe Festival, he promoted an event where he would change the oil in Beth Marshall's car. When I arrived Brian's mom, Marilyn, was there to greet me in front of the Shakespeare Theater. She stood near an old beat up Ford Ranger. Parked in front of the pickup was a sleek new black Mustang. Brian arrived dressed in blue mechanic's overalls. He announced that the performance was sponsored by Harriet Lake. I sat on top of a retaining wall next to Beth.

Brian had recruited his Uncle, Gary Wattman, to supervise since Brian had never changed a car's oil in his life. Brian crawled under the truck to find the oil drain plug while his uncle coached him. When the plug was found, Gary handed Brian a wrench to get it off. A small bowl was in place to catch the old oil. Brian groaned and strained in an effort to loosen the plug. He continued to groan for perhaps ten minutes. Beth shouted, "It sounds like you're giving birth under there!" Gary gave Brian a two foot length of lead pipe to slip over the wrench handle to gain some leverage. He couldn't get that plug off.

Then someone suggested they drive the front end of the truck up onto the curb to give him more room to work. The front wheels wouldn't drive over the curb. Fringe patrons continued to walk by. If the truck lunged up someone could get hurt. Beth called off the curb idea. They then considered using a curb closer to the museum. Before they got there Brian called off the oil change, conceding defeat. He decided to park the truck back at the original staging point. Instead of changing the oil he simply topped it off.

Beth was asked why Brian was working on her husband's pickup rather than her sporty Mustang. "Are you kidding me? This car is new and he has no idea what he is doing. He might break something. We are thinking of getting rid of the pickup soon anyway." she said.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brian Feldman Reads the Fringe Program in its Entirety

Brian Feldman read the Fringe program in its entirety. A small makeshift stage was set up outside the Shakespeare Theater and his signature marquee sign sat at the foot of the stage. Two LED theatrical spot lights were on the ground but their purple light was hardly needed in the bright Florida sunshine. There were two rows of folding chairs set up in front of the stage and Beth Marshall was in the skeletal audience. There were several video cameras set up recording every minute of the reading. Tommy Wingo operated one camera and Tisse Mallon operated the other.

Beth was enjoying the performance. Periodically she would shout out, "I wrote that!" A few curious people stopped to try and figure out what was going on but they seldom sat and lingered. Brian read, "No alcoholic beverages are allowed outside the lawn of fabulousness. Beth laughed loudly and took a sip from her cup. A giant penguin sat in the front row holding a program in its flippers so it could follow along. After perhaps ten minutes the penguin got up to leave. But then it realized there were video cameras running and it did a silly dance in front of the stage. Brian laughed as he tried to continue to read. What does it all mean?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hench Bots

Some thought it couldn't be done. Dog Powered Robot was an instant flash fire hit at last year's Fringe. Back then the show was just three minutes long. Every night it won an award that said it would make a great full length Fringe show. Tons of dedicated hard work went into making the show a runaway hit at this year's Fringe. Now there is a small army of new robots all built from cardboard yet seeming high tech on a shoe string budget. It's the simplicity that continues to give DPR it's charm. In this sketch, "No Bones" lies on his flaccid bean bag chair. His delicate inflated ego needs constant re-enforcement from his two "Hench Bots" who were programed to offer constant praise and adulation. They weren't designed with legs however so they move on simple coaster wheels using their robotic arms for propulsion.

In one magical sequence in the play, a simple overhead projector shows transparencies that animate YouTube pop cultural viral clips. I was laughing uncontrollably when "Keyboard Cat" started tickling the ivories. I laughed so hard I couldn't breath. You could see the operator's fingers as he moved the transparencies to animate the cat's paws and pink head. But this is just one example. I laughed just as hard throughout the rehearsal. These two bickering "Hench Bots" played off each other like Laurel and Hardy but with metallic voices and endless robotic charm.

When Dog Powered Robot finally appears, the epic robotic battle still has an adorable humor to it because Fisher, the dog nestled inside the chest of Dog Powered Robot, steals the show. The show is cleverly written and expertly directed yet there is a playful quality that come's out in rehearsals and is sure to hit the stage. I can imagine flash mobs across the country breaking out and doing the Dog Powered Robot Ddddance!

5/26 THU 7:40PM
5/27 FRI 6:40PM
5/29 SUN 1:25PM

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Storyteller Country Joe Rosier

Joe Rosier was the first person to pose for the Mennello Museum mural I am working on. I met Joe at the Shakespeare Theater several hours before his tech rehearsal. After sketching him standing in line I then asked him to sit for an informal portrait sketch. I believe I first met him at poetry readings at Infusion Tea. He resembles Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his grey beard and character filled face. I have seen him at the Orlando International Fringe Festival every year that I attended.

Joe is a lawyer by trade but very much a storyteller who understands the power, cadence and lingering power of the spoken word. I know that around Halloween Joe conducts a night time ghost story tour. He has brought some of these "Scary Stories" to this year's Fringe for adults and children. He has shows in the Patron's Room, Kid's Fringe and at the outdoor stage. His stories speak for themselves.

Patron's Room
May 25 Wed. 6:40pm
May 27 Fri. 5:30pm
May 28 Sat. 9:00pm

Kids Fringe
May 29 Sun. 11:00am

Outdoor Stage
May 28 Sat. 5:00pm
May 29 Sun. 8:00pm

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fringe 0pening Night Gala Show

The Fringe Gala Show was hosted by the Oops Guys, Dennis Giacino and Fiely Matias. They introduced a game show spoof entitled, "Drop your Balls!" This was an adult themed game show, so parents don't let your children read this post! The five contestants were introduced and they sat in metal folding chairs in a neat line. Each contestant was given a clear nylon sack with several colorful balls. The sacks were tied to the contestants belts and they dangled between their legs. The rules were simple. At the end of the evening, the contestant with the most balls would win.

First in line for the brave contestants was an eating challenge. The challenges included, down that banana, spread the icing, suck a Twinkie or go down on Little Debbie. The first contestant was David Lee who is in the Pulitzer prize winning Fringe show titled, "Thom Paine" in the yellow venue. To find his challenge David had to "Spin the Asian" which involved gently pushing Fiely allowing him to spin in place. When he decided to stop spinning, he announced, "Suck that twinkie!" A chair was bought out to center stage and a plastic drop cloth was spread out on the floor with help from Katie Thayer dressed in a sexy red dress and knee high red leather high heel boots. She turned out to be from the show, "Big Swinging Dick's Topless Bar and Naked Drag Queen Farting!" a hilarious show written by Carl F. Gauze in the green venue. The twinky was placed on the chair and gentle music began to play with the chirping of birds. David removed the Twinky from its wrapper, then he re-wrapped the twinky theatrically in the drop cloth implying he would only perform the act if it was done safely. He shouted, "This kind of reminds me of a Lucille Ball sketch." He was awarded two balls for his performance.

Kevin J. Thornton from the show "I Love You, Were Fucked" was given the challenge to, "Down that Banana." He turned his back to the audience as he gently peeled the banana which he held at his crotch. He then got on his back and lifted his legs and hips touching his toes way above his head. He then lowered his hips until he was able to nip off the tip of the banana. I wasn't aware a person's back muscles could stretch that much! The crowd went wild! He was awarded 3 balls.

Rob Gee who is in "Smart Arse" was given the challenge to "Lick that Pie." He teased the pie by gently tapping it at first with his index finger until the crowd couldn't take it anymore. He licked the red filling once and then devoured the pie in one ravenous mouth filled, masticating gulp. Lisa Sleeper was the only woman contestant. She plays Sleeping Beauty in "Bitches of the Kingdom" which is a musical satire about the pissed off princess' of the Disney classics. Lulu Picart sang a song from the show. She plays Mulan. Since I worked so hard on that film with pride, doing so much overtime, I listened intently. The song was lyrical as she sang about how Asian girls are beautiful with those blossoms in their hair. But then she wondered why she was the only princess who didn't get the guy. She realized she might be a lesbian. Fairy tails might be fine with some Gertrude Stein! Now this was a twist I didn't expect, but I loved it, as did the audience! So Lisa had to contend with some sloppy banana action, she slipped the peeled banana in and out of her mouth multiple times before she dipped it in whipped cream and took a big ravenous bite. She was awarded two balls.

Pepe, who was there representing for Kids Fringe, was hilarious in every challenge. When asked to demonstrate how to give a flyer to an unsuspecting Fringe patron, Pepe provocatively insisted the audience member grab the flyer from his crotch with their teeth. When it came time for the contestants to count their balls, Pepe's sack split open spilling all his balls on the stage. When his balls were collected, Pepe was the winner with eight balls.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dog Powered Dreams

This was the first full run through of Dog Powered Robot that I got to see at a rehearsal. The laughs started right from the moment Lollybot came out to introduce the show. Lolly offered a lollypop to John Bateman's wife who had also come to see the rehearsal. When she sashayed up to me and offered a lollypop I was stunned. In her metallic voice she said, "You can have my sweets anytime." I swore I saw her bright pink pupils dilate and then she winked at me. I swooned. I love Lolly!

No Bones played by John Bateman is integral to the epic drama that followed. While the large cast of robots all move stiffly, John flails his limbs around like wet noodles. In the opening scene when I sketched him, his controlling manipulative ways became obvious as he played a futuristic holographic version of a video game. He isn't a villain, he is just someone who always has to win at any cost. I have had friends with a similar world view.

In a strange dream sequence, Allissa Foley came out as a slice of watermelon. She was a sinister slice who planted the seeds to a truly diabolical plot. Of course she was simply a recreation of No Bones' warped imagination and she sounded strangely like his mother with whom he had a contentious relationship. Much like the relationship between Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho.

5/24 TUE 5:15PM
5/26 THU 7:40PM
5/27 FRI 6:40PM
5/29 SUN 1:25PM

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dog Powered Rehearsal

When I arrived at the Chandler Art Market the entire Dog Powered Robot cast was gathered around a table eating pizza talking and laughing. Fisher, the dog behind the robot was dancing on his hind legs for scraps. He doesn't seem fazed by his sudden rise to fame. He still appreciates the little things in life like pizza crust. Christie Miga got things started by reading off what robot and set parts people would be responsible to get off the truck during load in. They would only have 20 minutes to get everything off the truck and get it set up in the theater.

For the first part of the rehearsal Katie Green, the stage manager,asked everyone to move all the robots, set pieces, and technological wonders from the back room to the main room. She set the stop watch on her iPhone and shouted go. The cast rushed through the narrow doorway and they scrambled like frantic worker bees to get everything in place. Once everything was in place, they then had to "suit up." Alyssa Folley who plays Lollybot squeezed into a shiny black nylon or spandex body suit with a hood. Christie was helping her slip on the glove. Center stage Doug LoCicero quickly maneuvered into his Henchbot. Fisher scrambled around until Christie picked him up. They were ready for showtime with time to spare. Of course at the Repertory Theater they would have to move everything a bit further depending on how close they could park the truck. Dog Powered Robot was ready to roll!

At the Green venue at the Rep Theater. Tickets.
5/22 SUN 9:20PM
5/24 TUE 5:15PM
5/26 THU 7:40PM
5/27 FRI 6:40PM
5/29 SUN 1:25PM

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fringe FLASH!

In the weeks leading up to Fringe an intrepid core group of dancers met on the green lawn of fabulousness to rehearse for a Fringe Flash mob. I promised the PR people that I would not show the sketch of the top secret rehearsals until after the flash mob had actually been performed. Having sketched several Flash mobs to promote tourism in the City Beautiful, I was used to seeing a much larger crowd rehearsing, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up in heart. I donated a design for the Fringe Flash Facebook page to help this grassroots promotion.

The music used for the choreography was from every high school musical film. For the first part of the rehearsal everyone was organized in lines as they followed along. Later they circled around a garbage can which symbolized a fountain that exists at Church Street Station. I particularly liked the music from Fame. I had worked on animation that used this music when I was in college in New York City so the song hits a chord in me of yearning to fulfill ones potential. I can't help but sing along!

I didn't make it to the final Flash performance at Church Street Station, but the video shot shows that the Flashers took everyone by surprise. I also got to see a second performance right after the ribbon cutting on the green lawn of fabulousness. I discovered that I messed up this year and I am not a Fringe performing artist like I was last year. I brought you coverage of as many shows as I could sketch last year. It was a magnificent theatrical drawing marathon. This year I feel naked, stripped of my lanyard. Not having a lanyard seems a sure sign that the Rapture is here and I am doomed to five months of torture. I will only be able to beg my way into a few shows where I know the performers. Oh well, there are other events to sketch and besides I need to focus on the Mennello Museum mural. Which reminds me, I plan to sketch particularly outrageous performers on the green lawn of fabulousness for the mural and to help promote their shows. I will be sketching the sensual performers from "Big Swinging Dicks" as well as Voci Dancers. I'm thinking that I should make a T-shirt that says, "Will sketch for tickets." I need to keep working the angles to get the next sketch.

I was told the Rapture will happen at 6pm today. Since I doubt I will rise to heaven, I should say it will be an honor and privilege to party with all the sinners left behind at the Fringe!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fringe Festival ribbon cutting.

The Orlando International Fringe Festival began May 18th. I got to Loch Haven Park around 5:30pm and the Green Lawn of Fabulousness was already crowded. Classic rock musician, John Lowbridge, was playing guitar on the outdoor stage. The large tented area was packed with people sampling food and drink. I rushed past the beer tent, but stopping to shake Mike Maples hand. He was offering red and white wine to help promote the show he is in called "Big Swinging Dick's Topless Bar and Drag Queen Farting." The title says it all.

Inside the Shakespeare Theater I bumped into Jeff Ferree who has the smallest venue at the festival, a walk-in closet where he is staging a puppet show. He says 13 people can squeeze in but it looks tight. I arranged to try and sketch his theater between performances. I doubt I could sketch with a standing room only crowd, I get claustrophobic. Then I ran into Pepe who was leaving a trail of white feathers from his flamboyant boa as he paraded back to the outdoor stage. There he took to the stage to announce to all the "mommys and poppys" that the ribbon cutting ceremony was about to begin. The Fringe cheerleaders held the ends of the purple ribbon. Beth Marshall, Matt McGrath and an assortment of board members were on hand. Patty Shehan made a proclamation announcing the beginning of the 20th annual Fringe Festival and with a quick snip the two halves of the ribbon fluttered to the ground.

After the ceremony most people went inside the Shakespeare Theater for the Fringe Gala Show in the Margeson Theater. John the guitarist started packing up his amplifier and the endless miles of electrical cords as he got ready to leave. We talked for a bit about music and art and then I packed my things to see if I could get another sketch inside the Shakes of the Gala show.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Team Dog Powered Robot


I went to some of the final rehearsals for Dog Powered Robot. Rehearsals were held at the Chandler Arts Market in Winter Park where Christie Mega works. Joey Corcoran was busy building a bot as the actors started to rehearse. The robot's skeleton was being built from pvc tubing. Joey measured his own leg and arm bones and then transferred those measurements to the PVC. He cut the PVC using a circular saw which was outside the back door. . With all the bones cut, he assembled the skeleton in minutes using PVC elbow joints and T-joints. Then the skeleton had to undergo numerous tweaks to to give the bot just the right crumpled gesture. Fisher, the dog behind Dog Powered Robot pranced around the rehearsal space inspecting all the action.

The rehearsal involved the actors practicing the choreography involved in the epic fight scenes. It felt more like elementary playtime rather than a serious rehearsal as the actors moved in slow motion pretending to be huge menacing robots. No one was "suited up" since they wanted to practice the movements without the bulky robotic limitations. Joseph Geoghagen jotted down notes whenever any improvised line seemed particularly funny. I'm sure when the actors are encased in the incredible robot suits, the scenes will become even more epic. Everyone in the room was laughing.

This is one Fringe show you do not want to miss. I predict that these shows will sell out. I would get tickets early, or you might only hear rumors of the awesomeness as you drown your sorrow at the beer tent for having missed a historic Fringe sensation.


Show times are...
5/20 FRI 7:55PM
5/21 SAT 12:00PM
5/22 SUN 9:20PM
5/24 TUE 5:15PM
5/26 THU 7:40PM
5/27 FRI 6:40PM
5/29 SUN 1:25PM

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fashion Funds the Cure


Terry asked if I would like to sketch a fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue in the Florida Mall. I approached Saks from inside the mall and found the gate had been pulled down and a sign put up announcing a private party. I had to backtrack a bit then walk outside to enter Saks from the parking lot. The women at the reception table searched for my name on the list and they couldn't find it. I had been invited so I stubbornly told them to check again. They finally just let me in. There was food and drink but I wanted to get right to work. Most of the seats in the front rows had reserved signs on them. I fount a seat right next to where the models entered the runway. From my seat I could see the models backstage as they prepared.

The event was a fundraiser for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. This organization launched a new clinical trial to treat 18 children with relapsed Acute Limphoblastic Leukemia or ALL as it is commonly called. Each child's treatment would cost $13,000. My father had died from Leukemia shortly before I moved to Orlando so I know first hand how this disease can ravage and deplete a family member.

Eight year old Gina Marie Incandela started things off by singing "Baby you're a Firework" by Katy Perry. She had sung the National Anthem at a Magic playoff game I recently attended. Her song began tentatively then when she marched down the runway with her hands raised the audience was hooked. I wasn't ready for what followed. Angelys, an adorable young eight year old girl, made her way down the runway with her mom escorting her. Angelys along with all the other young models is battling Leukemia. The girls were smiling as they sported beautiful oufits down the runway. Several girls had lost strength in their legs and they still made it down the runway with adults escorts supporting them by the elbows. They exhibited strength and beauty.

The host, Brandi Williams would announce some enlightening snippet for each girl. One girls simple bio read, "I am so much more than my cancer." I saw women across the runway dabbing their eyes and I struggled to keep my eyes clear so I could sketch. Terry had to leave since the scene made her sad. For one shining moment every one of these survivors were superstars. A young girl got to the end of the runway in front of the video cameras and she did an extra sassy hip move that bought a loud cheer from the audience.

Then came an auction. A woman won an amazing week long trip to Colorado for just $2,000. A trip to Paris France had me tempted to bid. When the auction was over, the area quickly cleared out. Melissa Kasper was nice enough to bring me a plate of food as I finished the sketch. The pork and mashed potatoes were amazing. I got up to get a second plate. I found Terry talking to Rachel Kapitan who was helping Ella Kapul at Chocolate Provocateur.When Terry went to hug Jessica Mariko of Drip Dance, a martini glass crashed to the floor. Never a dull moment. We laughed so we wouldn't cry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Four Rivers

I am now on a quest to sketch the longest lines in Orlando. I put out a Facebook status asking where I should look. I got thirteen responses and four of those suggested I sketch the line of people waiting for Barbecue at Four Rivers Smokehouse (2103 W Fairbanks Ave.) I had been to Four Rivers before and indeed the line went out the door. Excited, I decided I had to sketch that night. Terry was at a writing workshop in the same neighborhood, so I planned to stop by and visit once my sketch was done.

It was a hot muggy evening. I sat in the shade of a church across the street. Sadly there was no epic line of people waiting. There was a steady stream of people coming and going so I figured the line might develop and grow as I sketched. Dave from the Auto Spa of Winter Park diagonally across the street from Four Rivers took an interest in what I was doing. He said, "You know that place is the best thing to happen to this neighborhood in 20 years. The place was intended to just house a catering business, but people kept stopping by for BBQ. The owner is a religious man and he had a vision of eventually owning 24 stores. He never wants to franchise. So within one year, he now has a place in Winter Garden and another one opening in Altamonte Springs."

When I finished my sketch I decided I had to order something. I got a "Burnt Ends" sandwich with beef brisket and pork together. I ordered a small side of macaroni and a Mountain Dew as well. The sandwich was good with a subtle lingering heat that warmed my throat. The macaroni and Dew helped cut the heat. I was full after finishing half of the sandwich. There were some hot sauces on the counter outside but I'm not that adventurous. Eight picnic tables were arranged out back and they were all occupied. I watched as people came and went from the gravel parking lot. Misters and industrial fans kept things cool.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Orlando Home Grown Show

As part of the week long Snap Photography celebration, there was to be an exhibit of photography from Orlando locals at the Orlando Museum of Art as part of First Thursdays. Johannah O'Donnel was there and I was told she helped organize the exhibit. On exhibit in the front gallery were paintings which all revolved around an urban theme. I made my way back towards the sound of music. I bumped into Joe Rosier who was promoting his one man storytelling show in the up coming Fringe festival. I am trying to arrange to sketch Joe since he has so much character.

In the central room of the museum with the giant blue blown glass sculpture by Dale Chilhuly a simple two man band was warming up. Adriaan Mol was playing guitar in his laid back fashion. The bands name was, Please Respect our Decadence. There was a nice tall cocktail table right in front of the stage so I started to sketch. I always get nervous sketching in museums now and I kept tracking the museum guards movements as I worked.

Jared Silvia said hello and he let me know where the photography exhibit was. When I finished sketching I went to the back gallery where the photo exhibit was hung. Jared let me know where his wife Silvia's piece was hung. She was near her photo talking with friends. I jokingly asked her to stop crowding the art so I could get a look. It was a stark almost black and white photo of a woman in a flowing white dress lying in a stream. I couldn't see the woman's face. It looked to me like a murder scene. I talked to Jared about it and he said I was wrong. It was a more romantic and symbolic image with personal significance. I mentioned Dustin Hoffman floating in the pool in a scene from "The Graduate." I hit much closer to the mark with that visual analogy.

Snap was like a week long shot of adrenalin. This dynamic, inspiring event shook me to the core making me realize the importance creative media can have to affect positive change. The city of Orlando really needs events like this to challenge, provoke and inspire creative change.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Line is the Point


If you are interested in being sketched for this mural, leave me a comment here or contact me on Facebook.

Flight out of Panama

Terry and I piled into a cab outside Alison's apartment building at four in the morning. The streets of Panama city were relatively quiet. At the airport there was a long line at the American Airlines counter. Why were they all up so early for? We waited to cheek our bags. Security was the usual hassle, removing shoes, getting the tablet PC into a separate storage bin to go through the x-ray machine. My assortment of art supplies usually sparks curiosity and a second search. This time I just had to put up with a pat down. Terry said the female security officer felt up her breasts.

Terry is usually nervous flying so she took a prescribed tablet to calm her nerves. We checked into the Admirals Club which is much quieter than waiting at the gate. Terry was out like a light. She slept while I sketched until a patch of sunlight crawled along the wall and then shined right into her eyes. At the gate people pushed and formed a long line when section A was announced for boarding. I stood at the back of the line and Terry walked up to the front of the line. She waved me up. She asked several people if they were in section A. They weren't. We cut in front of everyone. Terry explained that she had lived in Venezuela for a year and in Latin America everyone pushes to the front of the line. Bureaucratic courtesies like road signs were ignored.

Terry immediately fell asleep on the plane. An hour late, the plane taxied out to the runway and stopped. Half an hour later the pilot announced that one of the six fuel pumps wasn't working. The air on the plane shut off. The cabin gradually started to heat up. I wished I had worn shorts. I started sweating. People stood in the aisle talking nervously in Spanish. The plane taxied back to a runway and continued to wait. Still there was no air. I was getting lightheaded. There was less oxygen and too much CO2. I calmed my nerves. I might be hyperventilating. They could always deploy the oxygen masks, couldn't they? I was seated right next to one of the exit doors over the wings. I imagined I could force open this emergency exit before I passed out. But what if I passed out first? Terry was sound asleep. The pilot announced that they hoped to get a portable air system trucked in from another airline. An hour later the air turned on. Everyone raised their hands to check the flow of air. Several people stood putting their faces up to the air nozzles inhaling deeply and turning their faces into the breeze.

I don't know if they ever fixed the fuel pump. Three and a half hours late, we accelerated down the runway and took flight. We missed our connecting flight in Miami and had to get our bags to go through customs and head through security again. This time I had to stand in one of the new full body scanners. A bright light bar whirled around me as I stood with my arms up in the sign of surrender. I didn't get to see my nude scan, I was curious. At the Orlando airport we waited forever at baggage claim. Terry's bag arrived early in the process. Everyone else picked up their bags and left. Then an orange cone that said, "Last Bag" showed up on the moving beltway. We went into the office and found out that my bag was still in Miami. I had left a camera in that bag so I didn't have to carry it. What a mistake! A day later my bag was delivered to my doorstep with several new rips and the zipper handles removed. Luckily the camera, which I never did use on the vacation, was safe and sound in it's protective case.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On the Tip of Your Tongue

Mad About Words sponsored a writing workshop with Ellie Watts-Russell the current writer in residence at the Kerouac house. She organized the workshop to explore the power of taste, sound and touch as artistic triggers. The workshop began in the Kerouac house living room where she asked everyone to introduce themselves and point out one quirky fact from their lives. Ellie worked in a men's prison. The man in front of me said the smell of bacon always reminded him of his time in the navy. A woman related that she electrocuted herself in the kitchen once. Every person offered a fascinating taste and I wanted to hear more. An excerpt was read from several authors who explored the senses in their writing. One paragraph was from Jack Kerouac's Darma Bums, where he described his ascent up a rocky mountainside. It was vivid and clear. Ellie had a sweet British accent, and she would acknowledge writing she loved as "Brilliant."

Ellie then asked everyone a series of questions which would help indicate if you were a visual, aural, or tactile author. One question was, after buying an item of IKEA furniture would you,
A. Read the instructions.
B. Ask a friend for advice or
C. Start building and learn as you go.
I was sketching but I am fairly sure I am a visual person. Besides I haven't fully smelled anything since I moved to Florida.

Ellie then invited everyone to the back room of the house. There she had items to stimulate the senses. For smell there was a large Magnolia blossom floating in a clear bowl of water. For touch there was a brown puddle in a paper plate that held it's form when lifted like some primordial ooze. For taste there was some cotton candy which had collapsed in the Florida heat forming compact pancakes of multicolored sweetness. Ellie was mortified and put out some fresh "candy floss" but everyone picked up and tasted the hardened masses. On the wall there were photos. A man pushed a large block of ice. A long line of people struggled up a dune. A young girls face was illuminated by her laptop.

Then everyone sat down to write. Many authors sat outside to enjoy the beautiful day. I finished my sketch as they wrote. I wanted to get home to Terry so I didn't stick around to hear what everyone wrote. I thanked Ellie for letting me sit in and started home. On the drive back I passed a black limo and a hearse. It seemed sad that only two cars followed. Later a gleaming white hearse and limo made a left turn down the Orange Blossom Trail. A large white SUV screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection and two men in white suits jumped out to direct traffic so that the insanely long line of cars could breeze through. As an artist or author we always hope we can touch many lives with whatever we create. I wondered if my funeral would have one car or a long line in tow. It is a vain glorious thing to ponder but what matters is that I leave something behind, and that I never let my senses grow dull. Howl at the moon and rush off in search of the next sketch.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Guide

Terry hired a guide, named Rainald Framhein, to drive us around Panama City. The tires on his car had blown out the week before, so he picked us up in a new rental car. Driving in Panama is an adventure. Stop signs and lights seem to be considered suggestions often ignored. Cars merging into traffic would blindly accelerate assuming they would push in. There were several instances when I was certain I would die but our Rainald's lightning fast reflexes saved us. There was a constant angry barrage of horns honking and curses shouted out in Spanish. Alison spoke fluent Spanish after six months of intensive language studies prior to her posting at the U.S. Embassy. Terry knew some Spanish from having lived in Venezuelan for a year. I knew how to say "yes" and "thank you." Luckily many of Panama's citizens knew English. Even better they use American currency.

The first place we explored was the Parque Natural Summit. This natural refuge was established by the United States. We hiked up a two mile dirt road until we reached a grass clearing at the summit where we had a wide panoramic view overlooking all of Panama City. I didn't sketch since I was exhausted and sweaty from the hike and besides I had just sketched the city skyline the day before. As we relaxed, taking in the view, I noticed a long line of Leaf Cutter Ants as they marched down a tree trunk and then along the forest floor. I laughed when I noticed a smaller ant hitching a ride on a leaf fragment being carried by another ant. It turned out even this hitch hiker had a role to perform by keeping parasites away from the leaf. The constant activity reminded me of the angry traffic on the streets of Panama City. The ants were more organized than the concrete civilization below them. They cultivate the leaves to create a fungus which is their food source. They were successfully farming thousands of years before humans. To cleanly cultivate this crop the ants have been using antibiotics which the human race only discovered some 60 years ago. Research is being done that may help make hospitals more sterile and perhaps new drugs can be found from the never ending work of these tireless workers. When the leaves have been cleaned of their fungus, the ants remove the waste and pile it up in immense mounds which are easily seen on the rain forest floor.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mennello Museum

I went to the Mennello Museum for a quick meeting with Genevieve Bernard about a possible mural outside the building. We met in Kim Robinson's office. Her office window looks straight out at the blank wall. Executive Director, Frank Holt, wanted to be sure the final image was cohesive. The proposed wall is 48 feet wide by seven feet high. Next week I will be meeting students who will help with brainstorming for ideas. Apparently there is a competition which will help pick which high school students can help me out with the actual painting of the mural. Details are still being worked out. My challenge is to maintain my usual spontaneous style so the mural looks like a sketch done on location. The sun beats down on the wall which waits for inspiration to strike so it can fulfill it's potential.

When I entered the museum it was obvious that they were taking down the 1934 New Deal show and putting up a new show. The New Deal show featured paintings from the Smithsonian collection. The new deal program lasted for a very short time in 1934 and it encouraged artists to portray the American scene. Many of the paintings depicted the American dream for a brighter future. As these idealistic visions were crated away, new art went up from local Florida artists. In a side gallery paintings by Ron Van Sweringen were being hung. These paintings looked like Jackson Pollack drip paintings. The difference being that Pollack spread his canvases on the floor letting the paint drip down. Ron placed his canvases on a wall and then threw the paint at it. He referred to his painting method as "Astroism."

After the meeting I decided to sketch as the new exhibit, called "Fla-Art," was installed. A worker stenciled up the title of the show above the reception desk. The first new work to go up was of a man pushing aside a curtain and gazing out at the viewer. It has an ominous weight to it. Most of the other work was still from the New Deal. A miner drilled for coal, men pushed large blocks of ice in an ice house, men marched through a field to work.

As I sketched a young woman asked the receptionist about renting the museum for a wedding. She was given brochures and suggestions. Several artists walked in with canvases. I was impressed by some of the work waiting to be hung. The Fla-Art show is opening May 13th from 6-8pm. Members get in free and non-members pay $5. There will be a cash bar. The Florida Artists show will be on display through September 25th 2011.

Evenings with the Director. On Tuesdays 6/14, 7/12, 8/9, 9/13, 6pm experience an evening with museum Director Frank Holt. The walk is included in general admission. Reservations required. Call (407) 246.4278

Family Days are on Sundays,
6/12, 7/10, 8/14, 9/11 starting at 12:30pm with family arts and crafts activities and a children's workshop at 1pm. At 2pm there is a FREE guided tour.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Portobello at San Lorenzo

Terry loves old forts. Rainald drove us to San Lorenzo. The ruin of the fort was perched on top of a cliff high above the mouth of the Chargres River. It was first built in 1595 by Spaniards to protect all the South American gold being shipped down the river. It was destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671 and rebuilt shortly afterward. Morgan captured the fort by shooting flaming arrows which ignited the Spanish gunpowder forcing the troops to surrender. The jungle surrounding the fort was used for decades as a jungle training area by the U.S. military. On the drive in we spotted a large falcon feasting on its bloody prey high up in a branch.

Terry and I wandered the ruins together for a while rushing from one shady spot to the next, then she encouraged me to sketch while she read a book in the shade. I was delighted when she suggested I do a second sketch. Rainald was talking to a Scandinavian couple who had pulled up in an RV. They planned to camp overnight at the fort, and they chatted for quite some time in Swedish. I was feeling great after finishing the second sketch and I started walking back to the shady tree where Terry was reading her book. I was surprised when she met me half way in the forts mote.

She held up her cell phone showing me the calender. She said, "Does this day mean anything to you?" It was April 28th, her birthday. I hadn't looked at a calender since we arrived in Panama. "Oh shit," I thought. She was visibly upset and I didn't know how to make it up to her. As we sat in the shade of the crumbling ruins, Rainald cheerfully approached us, and we had to shout out that we needed some time alone. A week has gone by and I still haven't mended my oversight. I'm not sure I can. I really messed up this time. As I approach 50 I carelessly loose myself searching for the next creative rush. I loose sight of what is most important in life, perhaps overconfident in the impregnable strength of marriage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Snap Mothers Day Reception

The main photography exhibit for Snap was on the 5th floor of the GIA Building (618 East South Street.) I parked in Thornton Park and walked to the building. The exhibit took up the entirety of the 5th floor which was still under construction. Overhead, air ducts and beams were exposed. The walls had exposed insulation and raw metal studs. It was a wide open industrial loft. Surreal fanciful photos were everywhere. One large area was separated from the rest with a long black curtain. I stepped inside the ominous space. Large three foot high black and white photos shot by Barry Kirsch hung from the ceiling one after the other in two rows. Every photo was of a murder scene with one element, a gold watch, appearing in each shot. Most of the shots felt staged but as a whole the effect was disturbing and desensitizing.

After seeing everything I decided to focus by sketching the Dan Eldon exhibit. Mothers slowly began to arrive, and it was heart warming to watch them share the art with their children. This was an opportunity to spend quality time away from the distractions of TV and video games. They could share wild creative thoughts with abandon. Dan Eldon's mom, Kathy, came to the exhibit and she offered a guided tour of her son's photo journals.Dan was born in 1970 in England. When he was seven years old the family moved to Nairobi Kenya. This began his lifelong infatuation with Africa. His mom was a journalist and he accompanied her on interviews. His father worked with local community leaders. From his parents he learned how to transfer ideas into positive life affirming actions. A creative activist is someone who uses thought or imagination to catalyze positive change in our world.

He returned to Africa when he was 22 and photographed the horrible effects of famine in Somalia. His images helped spearhead a large international relief effort. He used his art to affect a positive change. Throughout his life he kept journals in which he would create expressive collages. The exhibit consisted of large screens on which large prints were made of pages from his journals. These pages offered a personal glimpse into his adventurous life. I jotted down a few of the quotes from his pages, "The most important part of vehicle maintenance is clean windows, so if you are stranded you will enjoy the view." "Death is just a horizon and the horizon is only the extent of your view."

On July 12, 1997 Dan Eldon was stoned and beaten to death while covering the conflict in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was just 22 years old. His mother, though devastated, had to find a positive way to deal with her grief. She formed an organization called Creative Visions and published Dan's journals in a book called, "The Journey is the Destination." She is intent to share his creative vision with the world. This mothers Day I got to meet an extraordinary mom. A mother's love is eternal.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Santa Clara Panama

Rainald took us on a several hour drive to the Caribbean coast. We stopped at a bustling roadside bodega and got some delicious mango and peach shakes. Outside the bodega women were seated behind folding tables selling lotto tickets. The tickets were displayed on an abacus style box, folded over metal support wires. Three policemen stood around a motorcycle with their machine guns slung over their shoulders. I of course wanted to sketch, but we had a schedule to keep. The point of a vacation seems to be to go to quiet, serene places to rest and relax. I seem to have a hard time doing that these days.

When we got to the coast we parked near a short boardwalk that lead to a restaurant and bar with a palm leaf roof. Lunch was delicious. I had some large garlic covered shimp that were finger licking good. People in the bar were shouting over a soccer game on TV. Terry asked our guide about a fishing village that was listed in her Foder's guide book. He explained that most of the fishermen had sold their ocean front properties. They would be offered large sums of money, like $100,000 dollars, and they couldn't refuse. 0nce the money was spent, many would no longer have a livelihood. At first I didn't want to sketch. The place seemed spindly and lonely to me. Once I started however I got lost in the process.

One fishing family remained. A young man untangled a fish net the whole time I drew. Terry relaxed under the shade of a Tiki style beach hut. She checked her e-mails on her iPhone and then read a book before taking a siesta. We walked into the surf, but a very strong undertow discouraged us from swimming to far from shore.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Panama Canal

The French began construction of the Canal in 1882 but diseases like malaria took the lives of some 20,000 workers and construction stopped just six years later. The United States proposed to finish the job but Columbia rejected the proposal. President Theodore Roosevelt helped spearhead an independence movement along with U.S. Battleship backup. Panama declared its independence in 1903. In return the U.S. was ceded a ten mile wide strip of land in which the canal could be constructed. This area was fenced off with military support. For the next six decades this affluent enclave was separated from Panama. Workers were given housing just outside the U.S. zone and these remain slums to this day.

Protests by Panamanians became frequent in the mid 1970's. Several students died in these demonstrations. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter and General Omar Torrijos signed a treaty that allowed for the transfer of the Panama Canal back to the Panamanian government. This transfer was completed December 31, 1999.

There is a museum that documented the building of the canal. At 3pm the giant tanker ships began moving through the locks. The ships were guided by large train engines that used rails on either side of the canal. Once the ship was in the lock, the water would be flushed out until the water was down to sea level. Then the ship could sail out into the Pacific. Later in the day smaller ships could go through. It is indeed an engineering marvel and tourists lined up to take snapshots. In the harbors there was a constant line of tankers waiting to go through. When a cruise ship goes through the locks, each tourist must pay $200 so the canal generates a sizable income for the Panamanian government.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gamboa

The small village of Gamboa was established by the United States in the early 2oth Century to house workers of the Panama Canal dredging division. Located 20 miles northwest of Panama City, it feels remote since it is surrounded by a tropical rainforest. In the morning Rainald took us to Pipeline Road which is supposed to be a fantastic bird watching area. Terry excitedly started a life list on her iPhone noting each new bird species she saw.We had to wait a while when we first arrived for the rain to slow to a drizzle. We then hiked up the muddy road. Terry spotted a Toucan. Luminescent giant blue moths fluttered across our path. Then Rainald stopped and said, "listen." In the distance we could hear the crashing of leaves. Something was moving out there. The sounds grew closer and we moved up and down the trail trying to see into the dense foliage. I asked Rainald if I should be looking at the ground or treetops. He said, "look up."

There was a sudden guttural piercing howl that made my blood run cold. It sounded like an immense mammal on the prowl. I moved my sketchbook over my soft intestines. Then I spotted movement in the treetops. A large group of Howler Monkeys climbed into the tree right next to the trail. They feasted on the leaves. A mother climbed with a baby clutching her belly. One monkey eyed me curiously then went about his browsing. Thank god they weren't as loud as they sounded.

After lunch at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Rainald drove us to the home he first bought when he moved to Panama. It is typical of most of the houses in the village with the first floor being wide open on silts. He has been renovating the home slowly over the years. Now the structure is wide open with the windows removed as he is reworking all the interior walls. Terry was insisting he find me a place to sketch and I just sat on a curb to get this sketch done.

He then drove us to the central town square. Terry wanted to rest so she lay down on a picnic table under a gazebo This fire station with it's gleaming engine proudly jutting from the garage caught my eye. Rainald disappeared while I sketched. I glanced back and noticed a local man decided to take a siesta on a bench near Terry. As I was finishing my sketch Rainald walked up and introduced me to a local artist and her boyfriend who did research on butterflies. I gave her a sketchbook to flip through and we had an animated conversation about art. She was a portrait painter and she had a show going up on May 6th. She realized immediately that I would probably like to sketch the butterfly research facility. She explained how artists stay connected in Panama via Facebook. For me this chat was a real highlight of the trip, making me realize the unlimited potential in exploring a new culture. It was great to meet an artist in such a remote place. Unfortunately we were on the move and there wasn't enough time to follow these new leads.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the historic quarter of Panama City. It is located on a small peninsula just south of all the modern highrise construction. It is surrounded by slums and we were instructed to never walk into these districts. The old quarters streets are narrow one lane passages. The historic buildings are run down and life is lived in the open. People sit on stoops and lounge on balconies. Windows are all thrown open in the hopes of catching a sea breeze. On the way to a restaurant I caught a glimpse of a woman using her kitchen as a hair salon. A toddler stumbled unattended on a second floor balcony. Men shot craps in a narrow alley. Life bustled everywhere waiting to be drawn.

Alison brought Terry and I to a small outdoor cafe in the Plaza Bolivar. While we sipped drinks and had lunch, I sketched the monument to Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar the "Liberator of Latin America." An Andean condor was perched on top of the monument. In 1926 Bolivar organized a meeting of independance with the leaders from all over Latin America in the plaza.
At the base of the monument there were wreaths of live flowers. Alison wished the Embassy had given her an apartment in one of the 19th century buildings surrounding the plaza. She imagined lowering a basket from her balcony so the cafe could send her up a siesta snack.

Armed with machine guns and motorcycles, there was a constant military presence on the streets. This was unnerving at first. There were only a few tacky tourist shops. The quarter instead had a sincere lived in history. I could have spent the entire week there and never run out of things to draw.I rushed the sketch so we could drink in more of the sights.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kress Building Projection

Snap! Had a fantastic kick off event at the Kress building downtown yesterday. I drove to the site straight from work and thus arrived rather early. The techs from Paintscaping.com were busy setting up the projector, computers and miles of cables. I decided to take the escalator at the Plaza Movie Theater to a second floor balcony which had a view over the assembling crowd. As I sketched the sun popped out from behind a skyscraper and beat down on me for two solid hours. Just as I was getting ready to add color washes, it set. I painted everything but the facade of the building, waiting for the projection to begin.

A young couple going to a movie asked me why there was such a crowd. I explained a little about how Snap is a week long celebration of photography. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the building projection. There were video camera crews all around me and photographer's flashes fired off periodically, illuminating the gathering dusk. I of course smugly held the belief that a sketch still holds it's weight in gold.

The main event was spectacular. Phillipe Bergeron was the artist in charge of coordinating all the computer graphics in the projection. Be sure to watch the video! Of course after several hours of sketching, the projection took just five minutes. I chose to just paint in some flames quickly to set the warm colors against the increasingly cool night. Hundreds of cell phones lit up shooting video of the building, illuminating the crowd below me like stars. The video doesn't have quite as strong an impact as watching the event live. I was deeply impressed. Snap is turning out to be a world class arts event. Be sure to head out to the Snap "Homegrown" opening tonight at the Orlando Museum of Art curated by Stephanie Latscu and Heather Comparetto. It coincides with 1st Thursdays and is bound to be an equally spectacular event. Happening from 6-9pm admission for non-members is $10. Show your support for all the visual arts. Become a creative activist.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Snap!

Cris Phillips-George, the marketing director for Snap, invited me to a media roll out for this year's Snap events. Jeremy Seghers introduced me to Cris as soon as I arrived at Urban ReThink. Cris introduced us all to the five day event called Snap! Snap is a celebration showcasing the work of local, national and international photographers. Starting today, there will be over a dozen exhibits, artist appearances, workshops, lectures and parties. The theme this year is "Perception & Reality." Tonight Snap's kick off event is a larger than life projection of photos and 3-D animation onto the Kress building (130 S. Orange Ave.) There will be four hourly shows between 8 and 11pm. Admission is free. Cris showed a sample animation to the group and the effect is stunning. The first screening will be hosted by Mayor Buddy Dyer.

On May 5th a "Homegrown" photography exhibit will open at The Orlando Museum of Art (2416 N. Mills) from 6-9pm coinciding with 1st Thursdays. The theme is "Perception & Reality."

May 6th is the official Snap Opening Night gala and Exhibition honoring the 2011 international artists. This huge 25,000 square foot exhibition space is in the GAI Building (618 South Street) at 7pm. Tickets are needed.

May 7th is Fashion Night with two art inspired fashion shows. There will be guest speakers and lectures at UCF and CEM (500 West Livingston Street) from noon to 5pm. Tickets are needed.

May 8th is Mothers Day with a youth art reception at the GIA Building from noon to 5pm. (Ticket) There are also photography workshops at Orange Studio (121 North Mills Avenue from 10am to 6pm. (Ticket)

Cris showed us samples of some of the photographers work being exhibited. One photographer, Dan Eldon, was known for creating journals of his work. He traveled to Somalia photographing the famine and human rights violations happening there. The idea hits home to my love of the sketchbook journals I use for the blog. I can't wait to see his work. He used his art as an activist to spearhead change in the world and unfortunately he was killed at a very young age in Somalia.

There is an online Instant Snapification competition that invites anyone from around the globe to submit digital images taken with their cell phone. Approved images are posted online almost instantly. So whip out those cells and start snapping! Snap is a huge celebration of creativity. It promises something for everyone. I will sketch as much as possible, but get out and experience it for yourself. Feed your eyes and fan the flames of your creativity!

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Gandi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Panama

Terry's niece, Alison Brown, has just begun working as a cultural attache at the American Embassy in Panama. Terry and I decided to fly down for a visit. As the plane approached Panama City I was surprised by all the new sky-rises that sparkled like the Emerald City. Alison picked us up at the airport in her sporty little yellow jeep. Getting into and out of Panama City by car is apparently a challenge. Allison couldn't find the highway back to the city so we wandered the back roads back to the city. Coca Cola signs and Kentucky Fried Chicken joints were everywhere. Housing for many consisted of hastily constucted tenements with tiny balconies where laundry was hung to dry. The cement structures were covered in a dark wet mold that dripped down the facades.

Alison's apartment was in a brand new sky-rise tower that looked like it belonged on the Las Vegas strip. Her thirteenth floor balcony had a great view of all the new construction so I grabbed a dining room chair and sat outside to sketch. Walking up to the low glass railing gave me vertigo but once I was busy sketching, I forgot the height. Alison's neighborhood sprouted up in the last year. She lives across from a brand new hospital and a block away from a sparkling mall. Land has been cleared for two new sky-rises behind her building. Little had been done in these empty lots in the months that she has been working at the Embassy.

At night the skyline is mysteriously dark. Most of these new buildings are deserted. Few lights flicker against the starry night sky. There are rumors that Colombian drug money is laundered into the new construction. It is hotter in Panama than Orlando. My shirt was sweat stained before I completed the sketch. Alison took us to the mall for some delicious tapas. The mall looked like any mall in America with its chrome furnishings and giant screen ads.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fringe Preview

The Preview for the 20th Annual Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival was held at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Fringe is twelve days of art, music, dance and theatrical madness. Fringe begins May 18th through May 30th. I decided to sit in the mezzanine which was at the very back row right in front of the sound and lighting booth. I figured the green light issuing from the booth would give me enough light to sketch in and that theory worked out. There were 30 acts listed in the program so there is no way I can give you a taste from all of them. Each act had a thumbs up, a thumbs down and an F you hand gesture to rate the acts. Things got off to a great start when the "Downtowners" hobbled on to the stage. This singing and dancing group were all aged 70 to 95 and their rendition of "Stayin' Alive" took on a whole new meaning. The audience loved them.

The festivities were hosted by Beth Marshall and Michael Wanzie. The smallest and Fringiest venue last year took place in a closet and Jeff Ferree will once again feature puppets in this cramped walk-in theater. In the preview if any act ran over three minutes, they would be interrupted by the Fringe Cheerleaders who would shout out Gimme an "F", gimme an "R" until the audience spelled out and shouted Fringe! This kept the show moving at a fast clip. Kevin Thornton's film where he tried to explain and justify his show "I love you (we're f@#ked)" was hilarious.

I was disappointed when it was announced that "Dog Powered Robot" could not perform at the preview. Instead a show titled "Squatters" took to the stage. They set up a small cardboard shanty town and started an insipid act about hunting for Easter Eggs. They were then rudely interrupted by Dog Powered Robot sending Easter eggs flying and cardboard boxes tumbling. The audience didn't know what hit them. It was a fun evening where anything could happen, and usually did. Fringe is fast approaching like a freight train with no breaks. Order tickets for your favorite shows now or you might be left in the irreverent dust.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here Come the Mummies!

Carl Gauze had an extra ticket to see "Here Come the Mummies" at the Plaza Theater. I met him there and we waited with the crowd to get in. We grabbed some beers and sat in the lobby. Carl wrote and is producing a Fringe show titled "Big Swinging Dicks topless bar Presents the Naked Drag Queen Farting." Without a doubt this had to be the longest and most controversial title of the year. He presented me with a matchbook with all the show dates and a sexy pinup girl on the cover. I had seen a read through of the play and we talked about it for a while. Then the house lights flashed and it was time to go inside.

I was surprised to see that most of the theater seats had been removed leaving standing room for everyone. Barricades separated the standing crowd from the stage. I squeezed my way through the crowd to get close to the stage. When Here Come the Mummies ran out the crowd went wild. They stomped and danced in place. The lead mummy came out in a red carnival barkers jacket with tails. He thrust his hips towards the audience as he sang, "Carnal Carnival." The rowdy rock & roll music has a flavor of New Orleans jazz, and is pure sinful fun. Libido Knieval had the whole audience dancing in place and singing the refrain.

The high energy performance never let up. Here Come the Mummies were constantly on the move as they belted out tune after tune. I loved it! I wondered how it was that they didn't sweat to death given their non-stop aerobics. They must have been wrapped in the lightest of gauze. At one point the lead singer came out with a cowbell attached to a leather codpiece. The mallet was suggestively attached by a hinge below it. He played the instrument by thrusting his hips at every woman in the audience. Now that must be a fun instrument to play.