Thursday, May 31, 2012

On the Nose


As people filed into the Fringe Green Venue at the Rep Theater, Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell began to set up a movie screen. Mark walked off stage through a doorway and Sabrina followed with the screen. The screen slammed into the door frame stopping her. Together they struggled to set up the screen which was missing parts and seemed to resist their every effort. The screen crashed closed so loudly that I jumped in my seat. Finally with it set up and the audience in their seats, the film rolled. It was projected about four feet too high. Only a sliver of the image was on the top of the screen, but it lined up perfectly with the fabric screen already hanging at the back of the stage. Embarrassed, they put the home movie screen away.

On the Nose was part physical comedy and part documentary. The production took assumptions about clowns and turned them on their heads. Directed by Elena Day, the show redefined what a clown means world wide. In America, a clown is quickly associated with birthday parties with screaming children and twisted balloon animals. In Europe however, clowns are considered artists and are a respected form of adult entertainment. This reminds me of how animation is considered as children's fair in America, yet in Europe, it is a serious form of entertainment.

Interviews with female clowns were particularly insightful. It had been considered "unfeminine"  for women to be funny. When Mark and Sabrina did a pie routine, a young boy in the audience shouted out his pleasure since he wanted to see a pie in the face. Sabrina leaned forward and said to Mark, "Pie me." The implied sexual connotations made it funny for adults, and the young boy was squirming and delirious with anticipation.

Sabrina put on an electronic helmet and was given a quiz to see if she could identify clowns. Ronald McDonald flashed on the screen. She guessed, "Clown" and she reacted to an electric shock given by Mark's remote control. Stephen Colbert flashed and she guessed, "Not a clown" shock again. He is a clown. The red nose was considered, the smallest mask by many of the clowns interviewed. This show was lively and very enlightening. Send in the clowns.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm Saving It for Paul!


Nicole Antonia Carson wrote and directed, I'm Saving it for Paul. I was surprised that the venue was in an outdoor tent behind the Shakes. In the opening scene, the make shift curtain opened and Martha (played by Robyn Scriver) was making out with her fiance Max (Anthony R. Smith). She wouldn't "do it" because she was saving "it" for Paul, of the beetles. Earlier in the day I had seen Robyn in the Shakes lobby and thought, "OMG there is a movie star!" I had seen Robyn perform in the Banks Helfrich film, The AH of Life. I didn't scream & shout. The play was promoted on the Lawn of Fabulousness when a pack of girls ran through the crowd screaming loudly. I half expected to see the Beetles running ahead of them.

Martha's sole obsession is to meet Paul back stage. She is helped in this quest by Aunt Sadie (Tabitha Rox).  Sadie is responsible for the call girls who go back stage and she promised to bring along Martha. The call girl in black that I sketched was Loretta (Melissa Cooper). She was all legs and her ongoing gag was that she stuffed her bra. Martha's every dream comes true when she meets Paul McCartney (John Reid Adams). The actor really was a dead ringer for Paul and he did an awesome job with the British accent.

This was an enjoyable light hearted comedy about the screaming fans and groupies of the Fab Four. Who could not like a play about a woman who just wants to get laid?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Connected: An Interactive Experience


Connected: An Interactive Experience was sold out. Aradhana Tiwari directed the show, and Holly Harris was the choreographer. I had a ticket but unfortunately didn't have one for Terry. Jimmy Moore decided I could start sketching the space early so long as I used my artists stool. I picked a seat in the second row and saved a seat for Terry. All the seats in the theater had been set up with audio ear buds. This was a huge undertaking to set up in the 15 minutes or so before the house opened. Wired had to be duck taped to the floor and each audio connection tested. Terry and I were going to share a set of ear buds. The cast circled up in the center of the black box theater. Cole NeSmith said, "We are asking the audience to take chances, and I hope we all step up to take those chances with them." He climbed into a three foot square box and he shouted to me, "Don't look Thomas!" The stage manager shouted, "One minute to house open!" People shouted back, "Thank you one!"

The audience rushed in, and sure enough every seat was taken.  An announcer or guide, addressed everyone asking them to raise their hands if they could hear him. Everyone raised their hands, but I was sketching, my hands were busy. The show began with an isolated spotlight on the box, center stage. A light emanated from a hole at the top of the box. Two dancers circled and interacted with the mysterious box and then Cole, as Jacob was pulled out. Jacob's mouth was taped shut and he wore sunglasses and earphones. Jacob was shut himself off  emotionally from the world around him. As he faced moments from his past that caused him to isolate himself, he was awakened to deeper levels of intimacy in his current reality. The Guide invited each audience member on a unique, introspective journey into their own past. This illuminating process of discovery welcomed the audience into introspective and interactive moments that were risky, challenging, humorous and healing.

Jacob was in several scenes in which his hurtful past was dredged up. He was usually focused on some small undefined task as others argued and interacted around him. His mom berated him constantly. The small boy was meek and introspective but the elder Jacob shouted, "NO! Stop!" Everyone  in the audience had been given point lights. They were asked to illuminate the light if someone had said hurtful things that forever stayed with them. The room was aglow with point lights. Terry shifted and my ear bud fell out. As I fumbled it back in my ear, the guide said, "See you are not alone, we all face the same fears and challenges." Dancers walked on diagonals occasionally freezing in their hectic life as Jacob studied them. Audience members were invited to pose on pedestals along with Jacob. Long colorful paper ribbons were handed out to the audience and they were unfurled from person to person. A black light illuminated the ribbons and they glowed brightly in the dark room as dancers pulled them back in. Like Jacob, I was focused on a task. Sketching in the darkened theater was a challenge. With my earpiece constantly popping out, I gave up on it and sketched furiously. Without the guide, I was observing but very much isolated from the emotional involvement of the show. The performance rushed by and I struggled in the dark to catch a moment.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cannibal! The Musical


Cannibal! The Musical was written for the stage by Trey Parker who is one of the South Park writers.  I know the director, Logan Donahoo. I've sketched him putting on make-up to become one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I've also seen him in several past Fringe productions. The volunteer at the door was convinced that the director of the play was a woman. Logan is a beautiful person, but the volunteer must be blind. Terry and I were smuggled into the theater via the stage door and we walked off stage to front row seats. Logan was so gracious. I'm getting used to some of the chaos of Fringe.

The play is about a group of pioneers dream of a better life out west. It took place across Utah, the Colorado Territory and at a Ute Indian Reservation in 1874.  The Indian chief, (Danny Garcia) did a hilarious imitation of Pepe who is a flamboyant local entertainer. As the title implies, they are challenged by the wilderness and a few survive as cannibals. We were seated right near the pianist. The production had so many silly embellishments. A sexy horse was played by a female with a string bikini top and loin cloths. When the owner pet her, she would wrap a leg around him in a sensual embrace. It was both funny and unsettling. I noticed she couldn't see very well with the horses head on as she groped for the stage exit.

The fire was an inflatable pool toy. All the songs were tongue and cheek. A group of people in the front row obviously knew an actor since they squealed whenever he was on stage.  An older lady was obviously drinking since she talked loudly and reacted with childish loud enthusiasm at plot twists. I wondered if she was a planted cast member. You had to be a South Park fan to get some of the humor, so Terry was lost at times. I laughed loud and often.

There was some extraneous full frontal nudity and a sensual horse striptease with tassels. Who can not love a musical number entitled "Hang the Bastard!" The cast seemed immense for a Fringe production with towns people, Indians, trappers, squaws, a horse and a sexy sheep. The play ended with the spirited "Shpadoinkle" finale. When the cast took their final bow, I suddenly realized that the sensual horse was played by Sarah Lockhard who is an actress and dancer who seems to be everywhere at once at the Fringe. She was in the very next production I sketched called, Connected.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Paul Strickland: Jokes, Songs, a Hat, Etc!

Beth Marshall was the producer of Paul Strickland's show at the Orlando Fringe Festival and she suggested I see and sketch the show.There was a line of people outside the Brown venue in the Shakespeare theater and I muscled into line. A volunteer scanned my ticked and then asked, "Do you have a button?" I said, "Of course." and pointed down at my bag that was covered in buttons. Looking down, I realized my Fringe button had fallen off. Thankfully she didn't notice.

I sat at the center of the top row of the bleacher seats. Jeremy Seghers and members of his cast from Mysterious Skin sat around me. The author of the play had been sent a link to the blog post and apparently he loved the sketch. I was flattered. A green light from the lighting tech booth illuminated my sketch as the room grew dark. Actress Sarah Villegas was visiting from out of town with her boyfriend. She had been in Fringe shows since she was 14 and this was the first time she came as a visitor. She said she missed Orlando and the Fringe in particular.

Paul's show combined comedy and music in a perfect blend. Many jokes centered around his feeling old at 30 yet they resonate even more when you hit 50. The woman seated directly in front of me laughed so loud that she set off a chain reaction of laughter. I identified with that strange feeling he got when a child stared at him. For some reason, children always stare at me on airplanes or in supermarkets. It is unnerving. Anyway he decided to warm up to this particular child and he made cute faces and said "Where can I buy one of you?" That would be fine he realized, unless the child was black! He performed My Way which is a song any artist who forges their own path can identify with.

You have one more chance to catch his show today, Sunday May 27th at 12:30PM. Tickets are $11. This show can be an exclamation point to your Fringe experience.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Classically Demented


Yow Dance brought Classically Demented: A Darkened Fable of Storybook Characters You Thought You Knew to the silver venue at the Orlando Fringe Festival. Several days before the Fringe opened, I went to the Rep Theater to watch the Tech rehearsal and several run-throughs of the show. Eric Yow was half way back in the theater seating counting out the beat as dancers went through the blocking. The dance company presented classic storybook characters, like Snow White, Cinderella, Bo Peep and many others in a darkened vision of the fairy-tales.

Mother goose was spry and graceful.  In one twisted dance number, a dancer cloaked in black entered holding an egg. The egg was split open over a bassinet dripping blood inside. At the foot of the stage there was a black board that was used to keep track of the casualties. Dancers collapsed  and were dragged off stage by their feet. The death tole rose. The costuming for all the dancers was elegant and beautiful. A dancer cut her toe on an exposed nail on stage. It was hammered down and taped over.

When it came time for the full run through, Eric shouted, "Have a great run dancers, Merde." I had never heard that term before. Apparently back in the early days of ballet, the companies used to use live animals in performances. Well, whenever one of the animals would dump on stage, someone would yell "MERDE!" from stage to let the dancers know to watch out so that they wouldn't slip! And I suppose that they said it so much that it just came to mean good luck! Addicted to Love  played behind one of my favorite dance numbers. Who wouldn't want to see zombie princesses devouring each other as they hunt for love? Eric himself performed as the evil queen. Michael Marinaccio, the Fringe producer stopped over to say hello before the second run through. He had his child with him and wanted to be sure the show was family friendly. I assured him there was nothing risque. As the dance began I began to wonder if a child would be upset by this darkened fable... Nah.


Show times:
Today, Saturday May 26th at 3:00PM
Sunday May 27th at 8:45PM


The show is in the Silver Venue at the Rep. Tickets are $10.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Sparrow and the Mouse


The Sparrow and the Mouse: Creating the Music of Edith Piaf was a solo Fringe show by Melanie Gall from Ottawa Canada. She performed as Edith Piaf's half sister Simone. A black and white photo of Edith sat on the dressing table along with an accordion. I just knew of Edith's beautiful singing from a scene in Saving Private Ryan. Edith and Simone's friendship spanned 25 years. Simone was raised by prostitutes. The two grew up poor together and they earned enough to by a scrap of bread by singing on the streets of Paris. Edith always dreamed of making it big with her singing. They worked in a club where Edith performed as a leading singer, but Simone had to dress in a slinky burlesque outfit when she sang for the men. Money was so tight that they shared the same bed.

Edith's tempestuous passions lead to her having a child which wasn't great for business. Melanie gave a hilarious performance where she tried to sing for change as a baby in her arms cried. Edith was eventually discovered by a talent agent who saw her singing on the streets of Paris. He insisted she change her name to Piaf which means sparrow.  At first she didn't like the name, but joking with Simone, she said, "If I am a sparrow, you are the mouse." These artists lead a tragic life with simple pleasures. Men came and went, but their friendship endured. Having seen The Sparrow and the Mouse, I now understand the deep yearning sadness in Edith Piaf's voice. Melanie's singing performances were memorable, yet I always yearned to understand the French lyrics. Time to learn French. I'll put that on my bucket list.

Show times:
Saturday May 26th at 6:00PM
Sunday May 27th at 11:30AM

The show is in the blue venue. Tickets are $11.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mysterious Skin


Mysterious Skin is a play by Prince Gomolvilas based on a novel by Scott Heim. This Fringe production was directed by Jeremy Seghers and produced by James Brendlinger. The show's promotional materials left plenty to the imagination showing a black and white photo of a mans naked belly. When I ran into Jeremy, I shouted "I'm ready for some Skin!" He laughed and said "Calm down."

The show follows Brian Lackey, (played by Anthony Pyatt Jr.) as he seeks the truth behind a childhood memory that forever haunts him.  In the opening scene, he sat center stage withdrawn and introverted. His mannerisms vividly reminded me of a nephew of mine who committed suicide. I was mesmerized. Avalyn Friesen (Marcie Schwalm) sat on her bed talking to him. She was a firm believer that aliens had abducted her when she was a child. Brian began to believe this might explain the memories of his past.

Neil McCormick,  (Michael Martin) New York City found himself draw to gay men and began to "turn tricks" which it turned out is a dangerous, and ego crushing way to make money. After seeing an old little league photo, Brian realizes that Michael played a part in the fractured memory of his child hood. Brian eventually finds Michael. Brian is awakened to the truth that he wasn't abducted by aliens when Michael shows him their baseball coaches abandoned home. The image triggered a flood of memories. In a moving scene near the end of the play Avalyn wrote Brian to describe her abduction. Her intense recreation made it seem that she and Brian had experienced a similar fate. When Brian finally faces the truth, his legs give out.

There is no clean resolution or moral to the story. The characters and their plights lingered with me. The play was haunting and hard hitting. Anthony, Marcie and Neil gave amazing performances. This play certainly got under my skin.

Show times:
Friday 5/25 at 9:15PM
Saturday 5/26 at 3:15PM
Sunday 5/27 at 7:15PM

The show is in the Orange Venue and tickets are $10.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Closet Zombies!

The smallest theater of the Orlando Fringe is in a closet at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. The closet was turned into a puppet theater by Jeff Ferree. The title of the play is "AAAAAAGGGHHH Zombies!!! ... Because Zombies Sell." Jeff won a small grant to help with the expenses of building the set and puppets. Performances are free with a small cardboard box outside the theater for donations. A small poster of a rabbit creating a shadow puppet of a human hand declared the closet to be the Jamie Mykins theater.

On the opening night of the Fringe, I found myself trapped inside the shakes because it began to rain really hard outside. As I relaxed in the lounge area, I overheard that the first performance in the closet would happen at 9pm. That gave me an hour to piece together a sketch. I opened the closet door and got to work. I was seated in a narrow hallway and volunteers had to squeeze around me. Ed Anthony, one of DEM Guys was first in line for the show. He stepped inside and looked around.

The walls were covered in canvas with violet and green brickwork. A make shift wall stood in the corner of the closet and a green zombie puppet hung limp out of the stage opening. Glow in the dark zombie faces hung from the ceiling along with what looked like lime green sea weed. There was a bag of those foam floaty rods in front of the stage. The line for the theater grew longer. Purple "Brain" cupcakes were served to audience members waiting in line. Jeff squeezed into the tight space behind the curtain and Jamie  declared the theater open. Jamie helped Jeff with the audience interactions. Together they broke the 4th wall. At least ten people must have crowded into that tight space, looking like an insanely crowded subway car or elevator. The theater door was closed. An important rule to remember at Fringe, is that if you leave a theater during a performance, there is no re-entry. If you are claustrophobic or zombiephobic then this might not be the show for you.

I stayed in the hallway, continuing to add color washes to my sketch. I heart laughter and shouting from inside the closet and kind of wished I had pressed inside. After the show, Jeff complained that a few cues were missed and he got nervous when he saw that theater critic Seth Kubersky was in the audience. All I heard however was laughter at the dead pan jokes. Gina Yolango was in the hallway and she was moved to tears when she began talking to Jamie about a Fringe show she had just seen called "Medicine" by T.J. Dawe . The Fringe has it all, from light hearted puppetry in a closet to theater moments that can affect your deepest emotions.

Showtimes:
Thursday May 24th at 9:00PM
Friday May 25th at 9:00PM
Saturday May 26th at 9:00PM

Performances are Free in a closet near the Fringe Volunteer's office at the Shakes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dog Powered Robot and the Subsequent Adventure.


I arranged to meet the cast of Dog Powered Robot at the loading door of the Orange Venue at the Orlando International Fringe Festival. As I approached the green lawn of fabulousness, I realized I didn't know where the Orange venue was. I decided to go inside the Shakes and that was a correct guess. Brittany Wine, the DPR stage manager was at the stage door in a stunning red dress. I asked about the loading door and she lead Gina Makarova and myself through a maze of hallways and back doors. Gina was using crutches and had on a temporary cast. It seems her cello had decided to wrestle her to the ground.

The DPR army gathered behind the theater along with a small mountain of cardboard robot parts and set pieces. Grace "Scully" Nolan had seen the DPR billboard on the drive over and the server saw her Blue DPR shirt and commented on how she loved Dog Powered Robot.  The servers name was Destiny which forebode a super awesome performance. Fisher was a furry bundle of energy and he barked his welcome an more people arrived. Evan Miga explained that a life sized VW van would drive across the stage Flintstones style, giving this Fringe show effects bigger than the helicopter in Miss Saigon or the Phantom's chandelier. . The metallic garage door opened, Christie Miga picked up Fisher and the DPR Army started moving the corrugated cardboard city inside.

I thought I wanted to sketch backstage, but most of the robot parts were out on the floor of the theater. I sat in a front row theater seat, but the arms were too restrictive so I ended up sitting on my artist seat partly on stage. Brittany announced, "5 minutes to house open!" and someone shouted back "Thank you 5!" I couldn't believe it, my sketch was barely blocked in. I would have to finish as the show progressed. Cast members in black outfits with black helmets with red miner's lights roamed the room scanning with a long pole with a spinning light rainbow device. They muttered to each other in an alien dialect reminiscent of a Muppet's song. The rear projection screen announced that they were Ninja Noids and were invisible. That didn't stop the Ninja Noids from interacting with the audience as they arrived. There was playful theater magic from the start. I sketched Vic-16, (Corey Violence) and Commodore, (Zach Scot) but they only had bit parts to introduce the play.

Lolly Bot (Serafina Schiano) was delightful and she was given time to shine. Audience members were offered a $1 discount if they showed up as a robot. Her counter part, a punk purple bot, Scraperella Overdrive, played by Jennifer Guhl, added sass and attitude to the show. The villain was a grumpy old neighbor who had robotic arms played by John Moughan, and by the end of the show he had used the embigi-fication matrix to extend his reach with many giant arms. I will not give away any of the plot points other than to say that the friendly blue Dog Powered Robot saved the day. The show had the audience laughing out loud and they cheered for Fisher, the little Pomeranian at the heart of the bright blue bot. The show returned to the dreams of the big city ideals that were endearing in the short production two years ago. It is hard to recreate the energy and surprise of that initial production. Call it destiny or call it fate, the show was a super awesome mega win!

Show times are:
Wednesday 5/23 at 5:15PM
Thursday 5/24 at 7:45PM
Saturday 5/26 at 1:15PM
Sunday 5/27 at 3:15PM

Tickets are $11.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Well...Since You Asked!


My first Fringe show was suggested to me by Denna Beena. Well...Since You Asked featured a solo performance by Kate O'Neal where she offered her opinions and personal life experiences. She would go to a small round table at the back of the stage to pick up slips of paper with questions, presumably from audience members and her mom. David Horgan, one of DEM Guys, was seated in the front row. An on running joke between us is that David always tries to pose in any scene I happen to be sketching. This time he succeeded being front and center. The center bleacher seating was full with run over audience members sitting on the sides,

Although much of Kate's monologue was funny and irreverent, she succeeded best when she spoke from the heart.  When she related one of the most tragic moments of her life, the theater went dark and she was bathed in a red spotlight. Everyone in the room seemed to lean forward, fully present. She sang several songs which resonated deeply with me. Desperado by the Eagles and Bridge over Troubled Waters. Her singing alone was worth the price of admission.

She  has met some fascinating people in her life and has been through a number of jobs and husbands. When she discovered her husband was having an affair with the neighbors wife, her retaliation had audience members gasping and laughing. This is why theater and the Fringe are magic. People will always want to gather in a darkened room to learn from someone elses life experiences. Kate shared them all, even her mistakes, bringing us along for the emotional ride. A show like this takes bravery and this was her first time doing a personal monologue. The Fringe makes taking such chances a reality for performing artists. I'm glad she took that chance. As she said, "It's never too late to be who you might have been."

Show schedule:
Monday May 21st at 6:45PM
Tuesday May 22nd at 7:15PM
Friday May 25th at 7:45PM
Saturday May 26th at 12:45PM

Performances are in the brown venue and tickets are $8.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fringe Beer Tent


The Orlando International Fringe Festival is now in full swing. I strolled the green lawn of fabulousness and found Tod Caviness taping a string of Christmas lights to his poetry vending machine. He was glad it was sunny out, but he warned me that a storm was coming. My first order of business was the beer tent. I searched for the beer ticket booth and asked for one $5 ticket. Beer taps come right out of the side of the beer truck. I decided to order a German beer because I liked the bright yellow tap handle. It was a sweet smooth blend and I suspect it will be my beer of choice this year. I took a few sips and then started drawing the truck. Puffy white cumulus clouds looked thick and friendly. Twice I had to extract dead bugs from my drink.

Later that evening, I planned to see "Well Since You Asked" starring Kate O'Neal. Denna Beena had suggested I make this my first Fringe show.  Logan Donahoo suggested I see "Cannibal! The Musical" which was written by one of the South Park writers. Actress Marty Stonerock saw me sketching and gave me a warm welcome. "I know the Fringe has officially begun when I see you sketching away" she said. She was a fireball of excitement and energy. She had volunteered last year and had a blast. She couldn't wait to get started again this year. She took a photo of me at work and shouted, "Act natural!"

David Horgan, one of DEM Guys, stopped to say hello just as I was finishing my sketch. He stood in front of me posing with his cooler. Darn, I could have worked him into the picture had he arrived just a little earlier. He had posed for my Mennello Museum mural last year. DEM Guys are, David, Ed, and Myron. Every year they compete to see who can see the most shows. They also sponsor one of the venues. David hopes to see more than 60 shows this year. He gave me a DEM Guys pin which I was proud to put on my bag. With the sketch finished, I ran off to my first show. I felt at home. Happy Fringe!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Snap! Fashion Night


Snap Orlando was a three day photography celebration showcasing the work of renowned international, national and local photographers. Fashion night was held in the “Urban Wild” Space Wendy(400 Pittman St). This turned out to be an empty warehouse behind the Sheraton Hotel near the Bob Carr Theater. Lion King was being performed at the Bob Carr so parking in the neighborhood was difficult. Luckily Terry and I left my truck down in the parking garage where she works. I had a press pass and Terry was a bit upset that she might have to pay $25 to get in. As soon as we entered the warehouse, Wendy Wallenburg was there to greet us. We then walked right in. It was still early in the evening and the place wasn't crowded. While Terry searched for a bathroom, I hunted for my sketch.

Artist Andrew Spear was working on the second of two murals he was doing on the cinder block walls of the warehouse.  Using thick Krink permanent markers, he was transferring a crosshatched ink drawing based on one of the photos in the show. A woman was hugging the neck of a stag. Andrew stood stoically on his ladder adding the finishing touches to the animal's neck and head. He worked non-stop the whole evening to push the mural towards completion. He came over to greet me. We admire each others work since we share an affinity for the power of line. Of course admirers would interrupt his work but Andrew would embrace them and speak about art with enthusiasm. Naked couples embraced in photos encased under plastic sheets.

When I was done with my sketch, a fellow named Frank asked if he could flip through the pages.  Terry asked me for my press pass so she could go in the VIP area while I worked. With my sketch done, I went to go find her. I marched into the VIP area like I belonged, but one of the female bouncers stopped me saying I needed a ticket. I tried to explain that I was press but she wasn't buying it. I was wearing a suit but still had on my hiking boots. A dead give away that I didn't belong. Tommy Cannalonga, a gallery owner, greeted me from inside and as I turned to greet him and shake his hand, the bouncer said, "Oh, all right, go on in." Later I thanked Tommy and he said, "I knew that would help."

Sara Segal told me about the photographer's lectures she had been to that morning. She explained how photographer Frank Day's work had its roots in the history of European and American Landscape painting. She mentioned the Hudson River School's Frederic Church and I knew of his huge paintings. She pointed to a man seated alone on a couch and it was Frank, the same man who had flipped through my sketchbook. Frank had wide set eyes and a small nose on which thick glasses were perched. Sarah began talking to him about his work as Terry and I listened in. Terry bragged that she took some pretty crisp pictures with her cell phone, and she showed Frank a photo of our pet cockatoo. Frank was quite amused. Later photographer Gregory Scott joined us. Terry was convinced she knew the designer of his shirt and he allowed her to inspect the label on the inside of his collar. Across the way a man was tweaking another man's nipple as a photographer took a digital picture of a large red dragon tattooed on a woman's back.

By the time Terry and I left the VIP tent, the fashion show was already over. Terry and Wendy had an ongoing commentary going about the horrible fashion mistakes by many of the women in the room. Wendy was particularly offended at some of the purses. I was amazed at how many people were on cell phones. I held my cell phone up to my ear even though no one was on the other end, just so I looked like I fit in.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Eighties Strike Back


Imagine if the original Star Wars trilogy took place in the 1980′s – and it was a musical! That’s what this Fringe stage production is all about. The lyric from some of the most memorable songs from the eighties were changed up to re-tell, in detail, one of the most known and beloved stories of modern times. I first learned of this production when I took a required course at Full Sail called "Using Improve in the Classroom." Simon MacDonald was one of the instructors and the class was a blast. Simon is directing "The Eighties Strike Back."

A dress rehearsal was held at Lake Howell High School. It poured on the drive over. I ran under awnings and started searching the hallways for the auditorium.  A student finally lead me there. A band concert was going on and the audience was full of adoring parents. Trumpet solos blasted notes off tune but still the audience went wild. I started to think I was in the wrong place but then the concert ended. I watched the mad shuffle to move orchestra chairs and music stands. Then the stage stood empty with only a few students still posing for photos in the isles. Cody Donaldson stepped out on the stage dressed all in gold with a golden Frisbee on his chest. There could be no denying that he was an 80's version of C3PO. Kelly Dunn Lowenberg skated on stage as a roller derby version of R2D2.

The cast assembled and then they did a full run through of the show. The production certainly pulled out the Star Wars geek in me. Richard Barados rendition of Chewie in one of the musical numbers had me laughing out loud. Emily Cutting added some new dance moves to one of the numbers and as Leia, she will earn any fan boy's attention. Matthew Mendel as Luke was dressed as Marty McFly from "Back to the Future." He wanted to be sure I captured his hair wave accurately in the sketch. Adam Bellas had a fun rebel punk attitude as Vader and Simon was particularly hilarious as Yoda. I was bobbing my head and ended up singing along as I sketched. They get my vote for a super awesome, fun, Fringe show!

Show times are:
Saturday, May 19th, 11:15 am
Sunday, May 20th, 3:00 pm
Wednesday, May 23rd, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 25th, 5:00 pm
Saturday, May 26th, 7:45 pm
Sunday, May 27th, 1:45 pm

Tickets are available on the Orlando Fringe website. Prices are $10 per show and there is a $1 handling cost. (If you are a card carrying member of the 501st or Rebel Legion you get a $1 discount.) It is also required that in order to see a Fringe performance that you have a Fringe button which is $8. All information is available on the Orlando Fringe Website.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The HeART of Theater


0n May 10th and 11th, Central Florida Community Arts presented, "The HeART of Theater, An Evening on Broadway." The event featured the Central Florida Community Choir, orchestra and Dance Team, at the Northland Church (530 Dog Track Road). When I pulled into the church parking lot, I saw a mini van unloading seniors in front of the venue. My NYC snobbery kicked in and I expected to experience an amateurish production. Most folks waiting in the lobby did have grey hair but I had to do a reality check, so do I.  The worship center was huge and the large crowd in the lobby filled maybe a third of the available seats. I sat midway back so I could capture the immensity of the space.

Joshua Vickery, the founder and Executive Director introduced the evening. He stressed that Central Florida Community Arts positively influenced the community by connecting, serving and performing. The group has a vision to make the performing arts more accessible and to help local charities achieve their missions. This volunteer singing group has performed for the Coalition of the Homeless, Runway to Hope, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hope for the Nations, Florida Hospital and many other great local organizations.

The ongoing theme to the Broadway Musical numbers performed, was how the arts inspire and enrich the artists who perform. Staged scenes, and dance numbers punctuated the evening between choral performances. I was swept along by the shear power and enthusiasm of the performances. This was an energetic evening of music that far exceeded my expectations. The last piece called "You Can't Stop the Beat", had everyone standing, clapping and singing along. Beach balls floated down from the catwalks high over head and the audience batted them about. This was an energetic, wild evening, with CFCA splashing on the Orlando Arts scene like a tidal wave reaffirming the creative spirit. I'm indebted to Sharon Hegedus, who first introduced me to this amazing group.

Upcoming performances include, American Pops on May 19th, The Classical Music of John Rutter on August 11th and a choral concert version of the musical, Titanic on September 7th to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. On August 4th there is The Heart of the Arts Gala, held at the Gaylord Palms, which will raise funds to help CFCA impact the community where we work and live.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Central Florida Composers Forum Concert


CF2 was evening of new music by local composers at the Timucua White House. I arrived with Terry about an hour before the concert because the idea had been tossed around with Serena Jones, that it might be nice for me to project a sketch I was working on live during the concert. Unfortunately for technical reasons, that didn't work out but I still got a great sketch from the second floor balcony. Serena worked the multi media imagery on a flat panel TV screen from her laptop.

The featured artist for the evening was Woody Igou. Woody set up a series of sculptures on card tables. One sculpture was of a series of hollow horns stacked up. At the beginning of the performance he mixed some gorilla glue with pigments and salt and he poured the mixture inside the horns. For the rest of the evening the mixture expanded like the blob, overflowing and oozing down like lava.

The CF2 concert offered contemporary composers an open forum to showcase their recent work.
Featured Composers on the Program:
Daniel Crozier (Rollins College) - Piano solo (2009)
Benoit Glazer (Music Director for La Nouba) - Brass Quintet and Percussion Quintet (2011)
Charles Griffin (Full Sail University) - Flute Quartet, prerecorded audio and video projection (2010) Rebekah Todia (Full Sail University) - Soprano and piano (2012)

Charles Griffin's composition featured animated projections that responded to the music. The audience was encouraged to repeat vocalizations as they appeared on the screen. Everyone followed with shhh, and ah, ah sounds. This gave a primal feel to the proceedings.

The concert was an invigorating multimedia mix of electro acoustic, post-minimal, contemporary art song, solo piano and big-band jazz pieces by musicians and composers from Rollins, Full Sail, UCF and of course, Benoit Glazer, the musical director of Cirque du Soleil, and resident of the (Timucua) White House.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Israel Independence Day Festival


Terry and I went to the Israel Independence Day Festival in Cranes Roost Park behind the Altamonte Mall. Cranes Roost Boulevard was blocked off and lined with festival tents and food trucks. It was hard to distinguish from any other festival except for the occasional tiny Israeli flag. There was a large kids play area with inflatable jumper rooms, slides, a bungee sling shot and even pony rides. I decided to get a sketch of the face painter. She wore butterfly wings and could bat out a face painting every five to ten minutes. There was often a line of kids and their parents waiting expectantly. The little boy I sketched turned into Spiderman.

Terry and I ordered some Israeli food from one of the tents and we sat in the shade of a tree on a cement wall. A chorus began singing Israeli folk songs and some people in the audience joined in. Artist Bonnie Sprung was there with her mom selling tie died shirts with hand painted designs. Terry bumped into some friends from book club and while I sketched, she finished up a crossword puzzle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Brad Meltzer


On the morning we arrived back at the port in Miami, Terry got incredibly sick to her stomach. Passengers started getting off the ship at 7am. I left her lying on the bathroom floor with a pillow, and made my way down to the medical office. No one was there. I then went to the concierge to try and get some medical help. There was a long line of people complaining about this expense or that. When I finally got up to the counter, the concierge informed me that the medical office had just opened. So, I went back down. The nurse gave me a few pills in an envelope and I rushed back to the cabin. Terry took them and sprawled out on the bed. Passengers disembarked in waves based on a letter printed on the room key. We were among the last called. Terry couldn't get out of bed so I went back down to the concierge to try and get a wheelchair. A porter came to the room with the chair and we were off. We slipped past lines of people waiting to get off. Elaine Pasekoff picked us up curbside and after a short ride, Terry got to lie down again in Elaine's guest bed.

Elaine is the host of a literary radio program called "The Book Report."  She interviews authors about their books. The show airs in nine major markets. That evening she was going to Books & Books to see author Brad Meltzer. I joined Elaine and Derek Hewitt on their outing to get a sketch, unfortunately Terry still couldn't move, although she was regaining strength. Brad was at Books & Books to talk about the book he wrote for his six year old daughter called, "Heroes for my Daughter."  A few years prior he had written, "Heroes for my Son" and his daughter kept asking, "Where the heck is my book?" Brad pointed out that our American culture seems to only highlight the achievements of sports stars and actor/celebrities. He told us how a middle school teacher encouraged him to write. She told him, "You can really write." He figured everyone knew how to write but she saw his talent and encouraged him. He sought her out years later to thank her. These were the types of heroes he wanted his children to know about. He was wearing a T-Shirt with Abraham Lincoln on it. The shirt said, "I am Abraham Lincoln." This line of shirts were designed for kids to emulate real role models.

The room was packed, with people standing in the back of the room. Brad's wife and children were there, as a matter of fact his six year old daughter did the reading. An audience member asked Brad how to get started writing the first book. Brad equated writing a novel to placing grains of sand in a bottle one at a time. "If you write a page a day, then at some point you will have a book." Another question came from a comic book fan. Brad has written for the comic book industry for years. The fan wanted to know if there was any comic art that Brad favored above all the rest. Brad did covet some art done by Rags Morales of Batman and Robin crying. Brad went so far as to contact the artist to purchase the original art. Unfortunately it had already been sold to another fan. Years later Brad was signing books at a comics convention. A fan walked up to him and asked him to sign the very same piece of art. He tried to convince the fan to sell it to him but he must have come on too strong. He scared the fan away. Years later however the fan contacted him and sold him the piece.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

St. Martin


I didn't do much sketching on the islands since time was limited and we were always on the move. When the Celebrity Eclipse docked in Puerto Rico, we hiked from the cruise ship towards Castillo San Filipe del Morro. There was a path, called Paseo del Morro, that followed the shoreline. 20 foot high cliffs covered with foliage were on our right and the rocky shore of San Juan Bay was on our left. Kites were everywhere, their strings winding among the vines, lost in the foliage. A fortress wall was at the top of the cliff. The path lead us to the foot of the fortress but there was no way to get up to it. We had to hike all the way back and find another route through Old San Juan. We eventually did explore the fortification. Cannonball shrapnel was still lodged in the walls from a battle hundreds of years ago.

In St. Martin, we rented a jeep and Terry drove around the whole perimeter of the island.  We drove up to Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island then got lost in the city of St. James. This sketch was done when we stopped at the beach. We sat under an umbrella and a local immediately asked us for $10. Rather than pay, I walked back to the shade under a tree to sketch and Terry went for a walk on the beach. I sketched quickly to try and finish by the time she got back. When the sketch was done, we went to a beachfront bar and ordered Pina Coladas. Terry had things she needed to say. I was speechless. The waves crashed and the gorgeous aqua water sparkled behind the bright yellow umbrellas.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ice Sculptor


On the deck of the Celebrity Eclipse, near the pool, an ice sculptor demonstrated his techniques. The activities coordinator had a microphone and she kept the crowd guessing as to what he was sculpting.  Large chunks crashed to the deck and then he chipped away, refining the shapes. I never caught the sculptors name but he was from the Philippines. Another crew member had a squeegee and he collected the pile of shavings and chips. Children were discouraged from taking any of the ice chips since there was salt in it.  The first sculpture, completed in less than 15 minutes was of a parrot. The second sculpture I believe, ended up being a turtle riding a wave.

Within half an hour, the sculptures were done. Parents posed their children next to the new creations and then the kids grabbed large chunks of ice and ran to the pool or hot tub. The parents were too relaxed to care.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Avengers ASSemble


I went to a rehearsal for "Avengers ASSemble." This will be a burlesque show put on by Skill Focus: Burlesque, themed after the recent blockbuster hit." The cast, featuring, Ruby Darling , Rosita Sparkles, Cherry Bob-omb,, Syber Digit, Shy LaBuff , Nekkid RoboJoe and Stephen Focking were going to assemble at Theater Downtown (2113 North Orange Avenue.) When I arrived at 9pm, Ashley Small, the Skill Focus stage manager, was the only person in the theater's lounge. She looked like she was in charge, so I asked her if I was in the right place. The room was a furnace, partly because I had just walked several blocks from Ethos Kitchen.  She informed me that the cast had a multilevel stage to work with and that tonight would be an undress rehearsal of sorts.

Cherry Bob-omb went into the theater, and I decided to follow and check out the stage. The theater itself was thankfully cool. I immediately found a seat and started sketching the complex set with it's multitude of levels. The cast assembled all at once and they quickly got into costumes. Syber Digit was the first out of the dressing room and she had on an awesome Thor outfit, complete with a large hammer. She relaxed on the set and I was exited to sketch my namesake. Ruby came out in her black wig and a stunning red and gold, Iron Man themed outfit. She asked the cast at hand to pose with her and I sketched frantically. I was self conscious about how much time I was taking, so my hands flew.

Stephen Focking had a vintage WWII helmet painted blue with the letter A inscribed on it. He found a  large Tupperware lid in the dressing room and he used it as his Captain America shield. Each performer in turn went through their strip tease. Each item of clothing was telegraphed and the gyrations accentuated. This troupe has a wonderful way of taking an age old tradition and making it fun and playful. You will scream, holler and cheer as they shake it down Marvel style! The performance will be at Theater Downtown on Saturday May 12th. Doors open at 10pm and the show starts at 11pm. Tickets are $10 at the door or in advance.  There will be an after party in the lobby with the cast.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eclipse Theater


On the Celebrity Eclipse, I took the glass elevator down to deck five. Dropping down I watched the library slip by and I watched people in the opposite elevator as they rose up. I walked down a long hallway past flashy boutiques, the Molecular Bar and the flashing lights of the Fortunes Casino. Terry was in our cabin reading, while I made my way to the Eclipse Theater to see an Iron Chef style cook off. I sat in the nose bleed section of the upper level to try and capture some sense of the enormous space.

The chipper activities coordinator announced the contestants. Two passengers had been picked to compete against each other with the help of some of the ships chefs. I believe they only had 15 minutes to prepare their dish using the raw produce available on the back tables. The female contestant talked smack by saying her opponent wasn't even working his pans over the burners. She had a point, the crew chef was helping out quite a bit.

When it came time for the judging, an oval platform rose up with three passenger judges. One judge was from France and she said that the female contestants dish reminded her of her childhood. The male contestants dish however had too much spice. Every judge actually didn't like the male contestants dish. They didn't hold back their criticisms. The female contestant won.

I was still working on the sketch as everyone rushed out of the theater. It seems that these cruise ship activities are designed for audiences with short attention spans. A tech came out of the sound booth and approached me. He told me I would have to leave the theater. I can't believe it. This was the second time I had been interrupted while trying to finish a sketch on the cruise. I asked why. He said they had to rehearse that evenings performance. I asked if I could do another sketch of the rehearsal. No, he had rules to follow and I left fuming. I don't like being herded around like cattle. The final color washes were added in the cabin. We never returned to the theater to see the show.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hot Glass Show


On the top deck of the Celebrity Eclipse, next to a grass lawn and between the two huge smoke stacks sat a glass blower's studio. The Corning Museum of Glass partnered with the cruise line to bring this working glass blowing studio to the high seas. Several ovens were burning brightly to heat the glass on metal rods. Three glass artisans were at work creating an octopus from a child's drawing. Children on board the ship had entered a competition to see who's sketch would become a glass menagerie.  Bob Swederball and Dan Alexander worked as a team while Tom narrated the process for a crowd of passengers on bleachers. Bob sat at the work bench forming the body of the creature while Dan heated some glass that would be used for tentacles.

Large air ducts blew cool air which was used to cool the glass on occasion. The molten glass glowed orange as they worked. One oven had multiple doors allowing for larger openings as the glass was formed. There was a four foot high glass wall around the working studio to make sure passengers didn't get burned and the reflections made it a challenge to sketch at times. The octopus was created in a matter of about an hour. With a gentle tap, the glass sculpture was broken free of its iron rod. Once it was finished, all the children in the bleachers filed out and the craftsmen then started to create an ornate vase by folding the glass and twisting several different colors together. The three craftsmen all came from fine arts colleges where they first started molding glass. Their fine artwork used glass in unique ways. Not a bad gig for a working artist.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eclipse Southside Band


Anytime the Celebrity Eclipse left port, there was a party on deck. The dance floor doubled as a fountain with a small stream of water shooting up from each floor panel. The streams were illuminated from below as well making a colorful display at night. The stage and fountain both looked out over the pool. Terry always wanted to be on deck when we departed. This group, called The Southside Band, from the Philippines was performing covers of pop tunes just about anywhere we went on board. Sand bags held the music stands in place and once a musicians music was swept away by a strong wind. A passenger helped him grab it before it blew overboard.

Every day there was a four page pamphlet that outlined the activities for that day on the ship. Every minute of every day at sea there were activities. There were fitness classes, seminars, dance classes, Texas Hold'em Poker Tournaments and movie screenings. They actually had a screening of "Contagion" in the movie theater on board. That movie is about a virus that was spread do to contact with some infected food. That virus spread causing world wide panic. Anytime we entered the dining hall, crew members insisted that we use a hand sanitizer lotion. Perhaps the virus was on board.What genius decided to run that movie? Did they screen "Titanic" or "The Poseidon Adventure" as well?  One of the Canadians at dinner confirmed that they did indeed screen "The Poseidon Adventure."  There was a huge central chandelier in the dining hall and I kept wondering how it might shatter when a passenger fell head over heals into it. Terry and I went to the movie theater just once, to see a much tamer movie called "Mr Popper's Penguins." It was a light hearted way to kill two hours.

Terry took a line dance class while I sketched. Later that evening I saw her on TV dancing along with a dozen or so other passengers. This sort of voyeuristic video surveillance seemed like a good idea. I studied her every move as I relaxed in our cabin.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saint Kitts


When the Celebrity Eclipse pulled into port at Saint Kitts, we were still asleep. We had a quick breakfast and then gladly set foot on solid land. We decided to hire a driver. There was a crowd of men busy corralling tourists for rides. Clement Williams was our driver for the day. I sketched quickly as we drove over bumpy roads. Clement talked non-stop as we started off. He spoke of the slave trade in the public square. Terry just wanted to get to the Brimstone Fortress so she had to interrupt his monologue to let him know we just wanted a lift to the fort.

He was happy to just drive. The steering wheel was on the opposite side and everyone drove on the wrong side of the road so we were happy that he was behind the wheel of the Hiace family van. Clement had been a school teacher for years but now he made his living driving. A billboard showed a volleyball team. Everyone on the island was proud that Saint Kitts had a  volleyball team that would compete in the next Olympic games.

Getting to the fortress involved driving up narrow one lane roads. The entrance was very narrow, cutting through a thick black volcanic rock wall. Four cannons surrounded the entrance making it even narrower. Clement inched the vehicle through the entry slowly.  I asked how many time he drove through that narrow space and he laughed and said "Thousands of times by now." The Brimstone fortress has incredible panoramic views of the island's coastline. It is 800 feet above sea level. A worker was cutting a vast hillside of wild grass with a weed eater. We wandered the abandoned fort where 130 cannons once defended the island.

On the drive back we stopped to see  the Romney Manor  which is an old plantation estate that houses the Caribelle Batik works. Inside the plantation a woman explained how the tie died batik fabrics were created using wax to isolate where colors would stain the fabrics. I was hoping to see a factory setting with dozens of workers but for the most part the place was just a tourist store. Outside there was a lush tropical garden and a 350-year-old Saman tree.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Eclipse Pool


While my wife, Terry, was working on crossword puzzles and reading in our stateroom, I went on deck to sketch the main pool. There was another indoor pool as well near the workout rooms. I stood on a walkway between the outdoor bar and a burger stand. I starred off in the shade but the boat must have shifted it's course because I soon was in the full sun. The pool had four jacuzzis. Two of the jacuzzis were almost always filled with children. There was a stage at the foot of the shallow end of the pool and there was often live music.

In the lounge chairs, passengers fingered their iPads, read actual paper books and soaked up the sun. Terry and I talked about getting in a jacuzzi, but we never got around to it. A mom snapped photos of her kids in the jacuzzi. A woman in a hijab stood at the edge of the pool but she never got in the water. I noticed her later in a lounge chair with only the oval of her face exposed to the sun.

In the evenings, Terry and I would take walks on deck, doing full laps around the perimeter of the ship. The Celebrity Eclipse was 1,033 feet long and 121 feet wide. There were 2850 guests on board. In the evening, the pool and jacuzzis were closed. Nets were secured over the waters surface to keep people out. I never noticed a life guard but some crew member must have been watching.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Easter Brunch


The first night out I drifted off to sleep to the gentle rocking of the boat. I rather liked being rocked to sleep. In the morning Terry and I went to the main dining hall where a lavish Easter brunch was stationed. There were ice sculptures of bunnies, and there was an ice tower with blood red lobsters perched at every level. With so many choices, it was close to impossible to decide what to eat. People circled, backed up and bumped into each other in their quest for food. They swayed as they walked since no one had their "sea legs" yet. The noisy clanking of plates and the rush of the crowd made me uneasy. There were dozens of solid foot high chocolate bunnies on display and one woman plopped one on her plate and walked off. As a young child, I remember trying to eat a whole chocolate bunny in one sitting. The result wasn't pretty and I refused to eat any chocolate for years afterwards.

All of the excess must have resulted in people gorging themselves. There were certainly plenty of overweight passengers. It had the opposite affect on me. I ate light. I believe I scooped some scrambled eggs on my plate, picked up a yogurt, a cup of orange juice and then went upstairs.  This was to be a full day at sea and I didn't need to have anything sloshing around inside me. A porter tried to seat me near a port hole overlooking the ocean, but I insisted on overlooking the lavish madness.  Terry struck up a conversation with a lady at the table next to us as I sketched. Out of the blue the woman told Terry that she had a book in her. Terry was shocked since she has just begun toying with the notion of writing a book. The woman said she was clairvoyant.

We returned to this huge dining hall each evening to sit at a table with three Canadians and two women from Miami. I would say that cruising is much like trying to survive a week long wedding reception with its lock stepped schedule of planned events and formal dining.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Celebrity Eclipse




Elaine Pasekoff and Derek Hewitt drove Terry and I to the Miami docks where our cruise ship was docked. There was some paperwork to fill out and the passports had to be checked, but getting on to the ship was a fairly painless process. There were maps of the ship near the elevators and we decided to go to the Ocean View Bar at the back of the ship to wait for embarkation. We ordered drinks and I relaxed into my first sketch on the voyage. Half way into this sketch the loud speakers crackled on and we were told that everyone had to report to an evacuation station point. I always finish a sketch yet here on vacation there were more interruptions than ever.

At the evacuation point we had to see a film and listen to crew members much like stewardesses on an airplane. Terry sat on my artist stool as the room grew hot from all the people pressing into a small space. After the film, Terry went to our cabin and I hiked back to the Ocean View Bar to finish my sketch. Signs that said, "Private Party" were blocking the entrance to the bar. I ignored them and made my way back to the bar. The Brits sipping their drinks with umbrellas must have been exclusive VlP's.

I finished the sketch just as the boat started to move. Loud horn blasts announced our departure. Terry texted me to let me know she was coming to meet me. She got lost so I went on deck to find her. She was easy to find, since she was a few yards from where I exited the bar and went on deck. The water churned as the huge ship backed out of the dock. Everything moved in slow motion. It started to drizzle so I went to our cabin for the first time. My luggage was in the hall, so I rolled it inside and looked around. I relaxed on the balcony and watched the Miami skyline slide by as we went out to sea. The Celebrity Eclipse had set sail.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Miami Beach


Stillman & Birn, a sketchbook manufacturer here in the United States sent me about seven sketchbooks to test out in preparation for NAMTA, an artist materials convention coming to Orlando in May. At that convention, I will be showing people the sketches I did and discussing the books from an artist's perspective. I have been using, Handbook Artist Journals for the past three years to do all of the sketches on this blog. I have noticed recently that the pens have been making indentations on the Hand Book pages that show up on the back of the page. Since I sketch on both the front and back of the pages, this became a problem. For the past month I have been searching for a better sketchbook, trying Canson and Strathmore books. I just haven't found the right weight and feel to the books I picked up at Sam Flax. Then out of the blue, I am told by an employee at Sam Flax, that a representative from Stillman & Birn wanted me to test out their sketchbooks..

It was Spring Break at Full Sail where I work part-time and my wife Terry decided to book us on to a cruise ship leaving from Miami and sailing the Caribbean. We drove to Miami Beach where we stayed at Elaine Pasekoff and Derek Hewitt's gorgeous condominium. It was a long drive and when we arrived, Elaine and Derek were out at a Passover diner. I went out on the windy ninth floor balcony and looked east towards the beach.

This is the first sketch I did in one of the new Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. I was delighted that I could lay colors down thickly and I loved how vibrant the colors were. I scrubbed some areas violently and with the previous Hand Books, the paper would come up in pieces, thinning the page. With this new sketchbook, I imagine my sketches will become more painterly and I can "work" the sketch with far more abandon. I can't help but "geek out" about these new sketchbooks. I feel like a kid who has finally found a new indestructible toy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Connected, An Interactive Experience


"Connected : The Interactive Experience" is the story of a man named Jacob who has shut himself off relationally from the world around him. As Jacob faces moments from his past that have caused him to isolate himself, he is awakened to deeper levels of intimacy in his current reality. But Jacob isn't the only one journeying into his memory. Through the use of technology, The Guide invites each audience member on a unique, introspective journey into their own emotional, physical and relational past. This illuminating process of discovery will welcome the audience into introspective and interactive moments that will surely be risky, challenging, humorous and healing. This 60 minute theatrical experience combines drama, choreography and technology to connect the audience with the performers on stage, with one another and to the deepest parts of themselves.

I first learned about "Connected" when I went to Cole NeSmith's Facebook page to ask him about "The Tree of Light". It turns out that "The Tree of Light" will be installed at Lake Eola on a cement pier that juts out into the lake on the Roseland Avenue side. The tree is just on hold until Cole finishes his work on "Connected."  When I asked Cole if he felt that the Connected rehearsals are "sketchable", he replied, "Yes, stop on by tonight!"

The rehearsal was at Downtown Credo (706 W Smith Street). Credo is a coffee shop in College Park where you pay what you want for your hot cup of Joe. I couldn't imagine a dance rehearsal in a coffee shop so I had to see for myself. When I arrived, I noticed the dancers warming up in a back room. Holly Harris, the choreographer told me I could sketch from anywhere. I couldn't place Holly, but she later let me know that she did the choreography for "The Pink Ribbon Project" which I had sketched. There was a couch in the room where the dancers were warming up so that is where I ended up. The cushions kept me from moving my arm as I drew, so I sat on the arm of the couch and moved the back cushion for freedom of movement.

In the first dance sequence, Cole sat in the center of the room wearing headphones and sunglasses. He held a flashlight which illuminated the ceiling. Dancers explored and swirled around him essentially guiding away from his insular world. Holly explained that some of the dancers would be holding canvas panels which would catch the shadows cast by fellow dancers. The dance studio was dark and Cole began to explore the edges of the staging area which meant he would be interacting with the audience. At one point, he lit up my sketch pad and looked down in wonder.

The second dance sequence was even more complicated. Dancers walked along diagonal lines and then froze for a moment while Cole moved among them. Later a group of four dancers stood center stage and individual dancers would move between them being tuned and toned through touch in a swift staccato factory styling before moving off refreshed and invigorated. Holly explained that these central dancers were "teaching people to connect."

Connected will be premiering at the Green Venue at the Orlando International Fringe Festival in May. Tickets are $9 plus a Fringe button which is good for all the Fringe shows. Mark your calendar and get Connected!
  • Thursday 17 May; at 7:45pm
  • Saturday 19 May; at 8:30pm
  • Sunday 20 May; at 11:30am
  • Monday 21 May; at 5:45pm
  • Tuesday 22 May; at 8:45pm
  • Friday 25 May; at 10:15pm
  • Saturday 26 May; at 2:45pm

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Snap! 2nd Live Fashion Shoot Out


The Snap 2nd Live Fashion Shootout was held at the Orange Studio (1121 North Mills Avenue). At this event, photographers were given two beautiful models fully made-up and styled, a light and an infinity background. They then had five minutes to shoot. There was a cap at 40 photographers who could be professionals or amateurs.

I parked on a side street in the Mills/50 neighborhood. I passed a car with press credentials in the windshield and saw that it was from the Murder City Photography. Darn, I thought, I should have arranged a press pass to this event. I bumped into photographer Barry Kirsch outside near the entrance. He wasn't going to be shooting photos. The suggested donation was $5 and I paid at the door. Patrick Kahn, the Snap Orlando Producer, greeted me and said, "It's officially an event now."

Inside I debated about sketching DJ Nigel who worked the sound board all night. I then noticed the models were still being primped and preened. I started a sketch but didn't commit because the make-up was done before I could finalize a composition. I then found a spot in the corner of the photo studio that let me sketch the models and photographers. Models posed for a fraction of a second at a time as photographers shot. Each shot was then projected live on a screen so bystanders like me could see what the photographers were doing. Later in the evening, someone told me that a photo of me sketching was up on the screen. With my hiking boots and jeans I'm the antithesis of a fashion statement.

People on the sidelines were snapping cell phone pictures as well. A billion or so pictures must have been taken of the six lovely models. Tisse Mallon worked with two models, getting them to interact and have fun. Much of the time however the models glared at the camera threateningly. The room got packet with people sipping Peroni beer, and watching the leggy models vogue for the cameras. I had a chance to chat with Lisa Bates after the sketch was done. It seems her closet exploded like a volcano when she went in searching for an 80's outfit for the Don Cornelius Soul Train Dance Party the following evening. The Orange Studio is becoming quite the social hot spot.