Monday, June 26, 2017

Leena Buchy Celebration.


The Leena Buchy Celebration was held at the Abbey in downtown Orlando. Leena was an arts advocate in Orlando throughout her career. She passed away after a long fight with cancer.

Shanon Larimer, Chairman of the Board for the Downtown Arts District, issued the following statement:
 “It is with a heavy heart that on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Arts District, we announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Leena Buchy.  Leena joined the Downtown Arts District in 2005 as the first employee of City Arts Factory and most recently served as the facility’s Manager of Operations.
As an arts advocate, Leena led the expansion of the organization’s mission-based programs and spearheaded special events that promoted cultural diversity and engaged participation.  She provided a significant contribution to the Downtown experience enjoyed by the citizens of our community and visitors to Central Florida.
It is because of Leena’s support and dedication that City Arts Factory continues to remain a catalyst for opportunity, creativity, innovation and artistic excellence.  We will forever be grateful for her service and friendship.  She will be missed.”

 Photos of Leena flashed on the screen as The Wild Tones performed on stage. After this band, Mia Longernecker, Leena's niece form Brooklyn New York got on stage to perform a song written my Leena. She strummed a ukulele and sang sweetly. She prefaced the performance saying, "Bear with me if I get emotional during this piece." Leena's lyrics were sincere and heart felt... "I go to sleep and imagine your there with me." Think it on over, is Leena's original song, "I was a dreamer and everyone noticed my hide away eyes, Think it on over, I would."

Leena's nephew Sam came on stage after Mia. Clearly Leena had inspired music to flourish. He had a mixing table set up. He had written his piece as Leena was battling cancer. His performance was edgy and urban with plenty of angst. A photo of Leena holding Sam as a baby stayed on the screen in stark contrast to the dark brooding music he mixed.

A fund has been created in Leena's name called the Leena Buchy Emerging Artist Fund. Tax deductible donations can be made to the fund payable to the Downtown Arts District (29 South Orange Avenue Orlando Fl 32801.) Specify that the gift is for the "Leena Buchy Fund".

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels at Lake Eola.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan and other community leaders and elected officials will hold a one-year remembrance ceremony at Lake Eola Park. The ceremony, Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels, will include remarks by community leaders, musical performances by Olga Tañón and Sisaundra Lewis along with a memorial reading of the 49 names of those who were taken during the June 12 tragedy.

Actress Peg O'Keef recited the opening monologue from O-Town: Voices from Orlando. This was likely the largest audience to see this performance. The audience was silent as she described our quiet little town that would be so much different the day after the Pulse Massacre. Orlando stood up to the challenge, rising up, and refusing to let hate or divisiveness be a part of the recovery. People lined u to give blood, a homeless man would relight the thousands of candles at memorial sites. Crosses would be driven across the country to be left at Orlando Regional Medical Center, each to honor one of the 49 victims.

Pam Schwartz and I found a spot on the lake within sight of the rainbow colored Disney band shell. Walking past the standing room only seating area we saw the glitzy projected graphics above the stage. Buses parked in the street blocked any opportunity to view the stage from a distance. They might have been parked there to block potential hate groups. Two women cuddled in front of us as we listened to the city officials. Back stage 49 angels could be seen struggling to get on their PVC and white fabric wings,

Buddy Dyer spoke in his soothing southern accent and the crowd responded with applause. To our left were two men and one was disgruntled. When Mayor Teresa Jacobs spoke, he started flipping the bird and cursing her name. We were far enough away so that his anger didn't reach the stage. His friend said,"Come on, lets get out of here, you don't need to be listening to this."  Eventually they did leave.

Patty Sheehan spoke in Spanish, so I am not sure what condolences she might have offered. My general impression of the evening was that it was too polished a production. Turn out was less than a year before but it had been raining all afternoon, so only lie-hards were here. It felt a bit like it was Disneyfied, with too much sugar and not enough substance. It was reassuring however to be in a crowd of so many beautiful people who all stood for the cause of love over hate.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The One Orlando De-install


On June 12th The Orange County Regional History Center mounted an exhibit that showcased items left behind one year ago at the various memorial sites that appeared in the aftermath of the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting that took 49 lives and left Orlando with open scars that could take a lifetime to heal. Museum curator Pam Schwartz asked me to share some of the sketches I have done in the last year that document Orlando's attempts to recover. I sketched at as many vigils and fundraisers as possible so that I could come to terms with reality utilizing the only tool I had which was sketching.

The exhibition was assembled from the items collected by the History Center in the weeks and months after the tragedy. For 37 days, museum staff sweated in the hot Florida sun collecting for the museum and scraping up melted wax so that people wouldn't slip and fall at memorial site. Items left at memorial sites had to be conserved and documented for posterity's sake. When you go to a memorial, you don't read every condolence card, but that was their job. It is an emotionally taxing responsibility to record history in the face of tragedy.  One hundred years from now these relics will be a hint at how we as a community came together to heal.

Instead of one set of rosary beads, there was a whole case full. One case was layered full of rubber bracelets. Instead of exhibiting one t-shirt design, a whole wall was covered. Instead of exhibiting one sketch by an illustrative journalist, an entire wall was covered. 49 wooden crosses were crowded into the far corner of the exhibition space. A sign warned that some items might be emotionally challenging to view.

Shortly after the shooting, Pam, the chief curator, realized that an exhibit space needed to be booked for an exhibit one year after the tragedy. She reserved the room but it was only available for one week because a wedding was also slated to go in the same room on the following week. This was the largest exhibit ever created in house by the museum staff using items from the museum's own collection. The staff rose to the challenge. The amount of work needed to create the exhibit was staggering but it got done. On the opening night victim's families and survivors were given a private preview. On that night over 450 people showed up. More than 3,000 people viewed the collection in the one week it was open.

I stopped in on the final day as the staff took everything off the walls. In one day the walls were once again bare to be spackled and painted for the wedding reception. The 49 portraits created by local artists were mounted behind Plexiglas, so they came down in three large sections and would later be stored away in a portfolio in the archives. Display cases were left for the next week when the items would be stored away in acid free museum boxes in the archives. Within two days the room would once again be barren. This was without a doubt the most well attended exhibit in years, but it was only available to be seen for one week. The history was swept aside because catering was considered a priority. This gorgeous old courthouse can't decide if it is an accredited history museum or an events hall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 24th and 25th.

Saturday June 24, 2017
11Am to 1PM Unknown price. Flower Essence and Yoga Class. Bloom Florist 325 West Gore Street Orlando FL.

7PM to 11PM Free.  Ybor City Art Walk. 7th Ave Ybor Tampa, Florida 33605. Featuring a number of arts organizations and artsy businesses, be sure to R.S.V.P. here to get the official map for the walk!
Here are the participating locations:
The Bricks of Ybor
Bloodline Tattoo
Ybor Arts Colony
Hot Wax
Wandering Eye Art Gallery
Dysfunctional Grace
Moon Over Havana Arts Gallery
Live Arts Labs
There will be other businessess joining the lineup so stay tuned! For any questions please feel free to contact the Ybor Art Alliance here through Facebook.
Expect to be wowed!

8PM to 11PM Free, but get food and drink. Jazz Saturdays. Cork and Fork American Grill 5180 S. Conway Road, Belle Isle, FL 32812. Saturday Jazz to make them an even bigger part of everyone’s family and they certainly continue welcoming everyone into theirs.


Sunday June 25, 2017
11AM to 12PM Free. Yoga Mass. Lake Eola North East corner of the park near the Red Gazebo.

Noon to 3PM Donation. Music at the Casa.  Vocalist Holly Sahmel and Friends. Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, 656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

2PM to 4PM Free, but get coffee. Irish Music. Olivia's Coffee House, 108 N Bay St, Eustis, FL. http://www.oliviascoffeehouse.com/

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Johnny Reb is removed from Lake Eola.


The statue of Johnny Reb was first erected in 1911 in Orlando near the courthouse which is now the Orange County Regional History Center. In 1917, it was moved to Lake Eola because the base was bowing, and because cars were becoming popular, there was a fear that it might collapse and become a hazard with all the new automotive activity. When the statue was moved this year starting around 7AM on June 20th, workers found a metal box inside the upper base of the statue. It was reported that a time capsule had been found. It was moved to City Hall. Paper on the boxes surface had disintegrated with age.

An Orlando Regional History Center historian, scanned newspaper articles from 1911 and found that the box contained newspapers from the dedication day along with several Confederate flags, some Confederate coins, a picture of General Robert E. Lee on his horse, Traveller, and a list of the members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and veterans responsible for the statue's creation. The box likely wasn't intended as a time capsule but instead was put in place to honor fallen Confederate solders. Since it isn't a time capsule with an intended opening date of say 100 or 200 years, there is some debate as to whether the box should be opened at all. 1911 United Daughters of the Confederacy meeting minutes are being sought and researched to find out if the box was ever intended to be opened. The fact that the box has been moved inside means that decomposition might accelerate if it were returned unopened to the statue which is being relocated to Greenwood Cemetery. The condition of the objects inside the box is uncertain. There is plenty of heat and humidity in Florida, so paper items have possibly turned to dust in the 106 years it has been sealed inside the statue's marble base. A City Hall spokesperson claimed that bugs are coming out from the box.To properly conserve the items inside, the box would need to be placed in refrigeration for about a week to be sure to kill off any bacteria and bugs inside. Items would need to be preserved with the same deliberate delicacy and dedication as the items collected from Pulse memorials. Staff at the History Center have opened 150 year old time capsules before.

I made my way to Lake Eola to sketch Johnny Reb's last day on Government property. An American flag waved over the scene rather than a Confederate flag and I found it fascinating that the 18 wheeler used to transport the statue had a rainbow colored coil that ran from the cab to the trailer. Across the lake the rainbow colored Disney Amphitheater also added color to the occasion. Online face-time videos of the statues removal elicited lots of angry faced emoticons along with a few hearts. I find it amazing that a public statue's relocation could bring about so many heated emotions.

Some feel that moving the statue to the cemetery is like ignoring or pushing aside aspects of our past while others feel it is removing a symbol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. Today, Tampa elected to keep a Confederate monument standing at it's courthouse. Our city is still recovering from a massacre that was fueled by hate at the Pulse Nightclub. Johnny Reb stood vigilant for 106 years without garnering much attention from the homeless gathered at his feet. In the 1960's his gun was stolen, broken, and scattered around Orlando. Sculptor Albin Polasek created a replacement gun. The sculpture's removal sparked many arguments about history and who gets to write it. Johnny is in storage while city permits are being acquired for building a new foundation at Greenwood Cemetery. I drive past Greenwood almost daily and see the four headstones of Pulse victims that are laid to rest there. Bright rainbow colored balloons were added in remembrance one year after the shooting. Perhaps Johnny Reb will one day hold rainbow colored balloons instead of his gun. In 1911 the statue was created with a budget of about $120.00. It is being moved and renovated with a budget of $120,000.00. The knee jerk reactions to this statue's fate seem like a diversion from the really important issues that allowed 49 innocent people to be murdered as they danced.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pulse victim families paint portraits.


The Orlando Traveling Mural organized by Colleen Ardaman at the Orlando Police Department (1250 West South Street, Orlando Fl). Artist Jeff Sonskin (Paint the Trail) offered advice to paint portraits of their loved ones lost. He had prepared panels that essentially allowed family members to paint by number.

Painting at this session were a Venezuelan family consisting of Aileen Caleos Carillo, the sister of Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez who died at the age of 31. Along Aileen was her sister Ariani, her mom and her boyfriend in the red shirt. With her back to me was Emily Addison the partner of Dionka Draton. The woman with the curly hair is Daphnie Josaphat, the aunt of Jason Benjamin Josaphat who died at the age of 49. Daphne encouraged Mina Justice, the mother of Eddie Justice  who died at the age of 30, to come out and paint. Zack Osborne was the videographer and he helped supervise. Three Orlando Police swat team members entered and were introduce to the families. Jeff Sonskin was always mixing paint and offering advice.

A reporter sat down and interviewed Mina. She talked lovingly about her son Eddie who was a prankster. He was a real mama's boy. After her son died, she was unable to leave her home. For months she avoided contact with everyone. Daphnie had dragged her out to paint. She admitted that working on the portrait made her happy. She has been feeling endless pain and loss but the simple act of putting paint on the panel occupied her mind and honored her son's memory. She wanted to get it right.

Across the room several long tables were pushed up together and canvases were covered with hand prints. The ,"We, Are a Hand print" campaign encourages families, survivors, first responders and politicians to add their hand print to the mosaic. 71 police officers added their hand prints to the project and to date 11 politicians. The painting sessions continued the next day and Jeff is also taking portraits to families homes to be sure every family member can add their talent to the process.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pulse: One Year Later.


On June 12th one year ago 49 people lost their lives in a horrific attack by a gunman at Pulse Nightclub. June 12th people gathered a Pulse for Reflections and Remembrance. Throughout the day, members of the community visited to honor the legacies of the 49 victims, their families and the survivors. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there was be a ceremony including various community speakers, reflective prayers, a reading of the 49 names, a display of 49 wreaths and music by Violectric. The Inspiration Orlando mural, our Angel Force, Hang-a-Heart, Stars of Hope and comfort dogs were present.

It was raining just enough to make sketching difficult. Watercolor and rain aren't a great combination. The first thing I saw when approaching Pulse was the huge Inspiration Orlando Mural. 6 foot high marine grade boards were mounted on a large sheet of plywood and supported in back by 2 by 4s nailed as braces. At the Mural, a victim's father was animatedly talking to Michael Pilato the artist. The father was upset that his daughter's partner was depicted large on the mural. Another father had refused to bury his son. A daughter eventually stepped in to take on the responsibility. When it came time to collect the money raised for families however, the father was happy to take the money.

As I did this sketch, I was offered water and You Matter cards multiple times. Someone even offered MacDonald's hamburgers and I kind of regretted not taking one. A mom had her daughter dressed in a bright rainbow tutu and they paraded around the site. A young girl across from me, wearing a rainbow cape,  was giving out free hugs. A reporter set up his TV camera and started asking  her questions. "We will not let hate win" was emblazoned on multiple posters and banners. 

While driving away, I passed a hate monger in front of the auto detailing shop next to Pulse. He was surrounded by people who were getting upset. They shouted Love will overcome hate loud enough to drown out his hate filled chants. Police were on hand and I was told that he toughed a policeman which is interpreted as an assault. 5 policemen wrestled the man to the ground while people shouted their message of love delivered with anger. It was a shame that the Angel Force had left because they could have surrounded the man.

I felt a bit depressed since it felt like most people were here looking for some form of attention or acknowledgment. Was I any different? Will these sketches ever serve a purpose? I was just growing frustrated and annoyed that the rain was making my job near impossible. I pushed through regardless. Any blotches and blemishes are all part of the story of creation.

Monday, June 19, 2017

WMFE: One Year Later.


I went to the 90.7 WMFE Studios, (11510 East Colonial Drive, Orlando),  to attend a taping of The Three Wise Guys of Friends Talking Faith Reverend Bryan Fulwider, Imam Muhammad Musri and Rabbi Steven Engel discussed how the community has changed since the Pulse nightclub shooting.  Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan was a guest on the show. She described experiences on the day of the shooting when she went down to the nightclub to witness blood in the streets. She said that as a gay leader, she had become used to experiencing hate, but what was more difficult to deal with all the love that she felt from the community after the shooting. 

When the dead had to be buried, a hate group from out of town wanted to come to Orlando to disrupt the funerals with their hate filled rhetoric. Locals came together to make walls to protect mourners from the hate. Angel action wings were created to also shield mourners.The idea of Angel wings first came about after the hate crime death of Mathew Shephard. Orlando eventually took the idea one step further creating 49 sets of angel wings, one for each victim. Patty said that Orlando has done an amazing job of helping overcome tragedy through creativity.

The conversation turned to the notion of "otherizing" people. Once a group pf people are the "others", then it is also possible to dehumanize them. With one years fast approaching it becomes not only important to remember, but also important to take a stand and do something to bring about change.Florida is the 50th state in the country in terms of money spent to help fund mental health. First responders might get money if they scraped a knee on the evening of the Pulse Nightclub attack, but they get no help seeking counseling to help deal with post traumatic stress disorder. Al attempts at passing reasonable gun control policies have all failed. Patty pointed out that if the mass murder had happened at a white male country club, then the political response might have been different. She honestly feels that no comfortable politician really cares what happened in Orlando.
 
Many churches that showed support right after the mass murder, now have no plans for the one year remembrance. 90.7 WMFE reporter Crystal Chavez talked about the shooting’s impact on the Latino community and her forthcoming Spanish-language podcast on the subject, Orlando Un Año Después. Questions were fielded from the audience, but several just were personal sermons rather than questions for the panel. Rabbi Engel thanked the audience for attending and hoped we all found something inspiring in the discussion. Quite the opposite is true I felt discouraged but the conversation. We live in a country that promotes gun violence and shooting incidents are accelerating rather than declining. a disgruntled employee just killed five of his former co-workers. What has gone wrong in America that allows such insane violence to seem like an option for some people? We are a country divided and angry. Orlando's flower child vision of love can only take us so far. The religious leaders offered solace but no concrete answers.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Inspiration Mural.


In July of 2016, shortly after the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, Michael Pilato began his work to create the inspiration mural. Yuri Karabash his assistant joined him shortly after. Chimene Pindar Hurst, a Thornton Park resident was instrumental in bringing this creative team to Orlando. Chimene's husband John was a college friend of Michael's so it was a creative reunion. A second floor studio was donated above Anthony's Pizza on the corner of Mills and Colonial. Local residents rallied to repair and furnish the place which needed lots of work. Michael recalled waking up one night to find a rat breathing in his face. He punched the rat and wet back to bed.

Michael attended my 49 portraits night in which local artists painted and sketched portraits of the Pulse victims in one evening. That night inspired Michael to want to use local talent to paint portraits on the mural he was creating. Some of the artists from my project painted portraits onto Michael's mural. Those portraits float above the surface in rainbow colored hearts. I painted 4 faces, several of which had to be moved and thus repainted. The mural was in a constant state of flux and is still a work in progress.

On June 12, the mural which is made from a series of marine grade boards was assembled for the first time and exhibited at the Pulse nightclub at the 2AM and 10AM events. The boards were mounted on large sheets of plywood and supported by 2 by 4s that were nailed into triangular braces. "Raising the mural into place was like a barn raising." said Chimene. After the Pulse event was over, the entire mural had to be moved again to go to Lake Eola where it would go on display during the evening's candlelight vigil. I was asked to sit at the Albin Polasek Museum table to help promote "Summer of Love: Reflections on Pulse at the Albin Polasek Museum (633 Osceloa Avenue Winter Park Fl 32789). That show which opened in May is running for five months.

There were concerns that the mural supports might become a hazard if people tripped on them. If the huge wall fell it could cause damage. It rained all afternoon and when I got to Lake Eola Vigil, I was pleased to see that despite the concerns, the mural stood tall on the walkway to the right of the Disney band shell.  Crowds of people walked past and took cell phone photos. The crowds got thicker despite the rain. I worked under my umbrella, trying to keep my tablet dry. Pam Schwartz, the History Center curator and some of her staff stopped to say hello and she was kind enough to hold the umbrella as I finished the sketch. We joked about how I had to leave out so many details from the mural because I had to work fast.

Beside me the Kimball sisters, Casadie 14, Delanie 11, Emmalie 10, and Fynnlie 7, were handing out paper hearts colored with crayons to resemble rainbows. These young girls had lost their father before the Pulse attack and thus they know what loss feels like. They were “Spreading love, because there’s too much hate in the world.” They had 2000 hand made hearts to pass out and when done they will have handed out over 20,000 hearts. Passers by accepted the hearts with thanks. There was visible love in the crowd. People hugged and couples caressed hands. The crowd wasn't as thick as the vigil a year ago, rain likely chased some away. But the memories are still fresh. There is a storm on the horizon. That will not keep Orlando down. we answer hate with love. Pulse themed buses were parked around the vigil possibly to block potential hate mongers. Connections in the community grow stronger and we all hope for a better world. It isn't a 1960's ideal, but something we need to work hard for.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Human Rainbow


On June 11th, one year after the horrific hate crime that took 49 lives at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, body painters gatherer at the Other Bar (18 Wall St, Orlando, Florida 32801) in Downtown Orlando to paint 49 models each a different color of the rainbow. The models each represented the lives lost last year during the Pulse Tragedy. The bar was packed and I had to sketch fast since, I had to get to the Shakespeare theater to see O-Town in which monologues based on interviews showed how local residents raised themselves up after the tragedy. 

Mandi Ilene Schiff of Base Orlando organized the event which was similar to a body painting event held last year. Each body painter was assigned a color and once a model was painted, another would quickly take their place. There was no time to waste when there were 49 bodies that needed to be covered in pigments. It was a triage of rainbow colors. After models were painted, they move to the other side of the bar where an impromptu rainbow dance party broke out. A body painter's shirt read, "We Are One."

Nix Herrera was painting blue people, and I focused my attention on the body painter in an American flag t-shirt that was painting her model orange. The body painter's husband watched me work and he was in charge of making sure models were lined up ready to be painted. With so much color and sensuality it was at times easy to forget the somber reason for the artistic effort. Outside the bar the 49 gathered and posed in line for the full effect of the 49 person rainbow as it illuminated the grey afternoon.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 17th and 18th.

Saturday June 17, 2017
6PM to 9PM Free. Black and White Art Show. The Barefoot Spa, 801 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL 32803.

7PM to 9PM Free. The Orlando Shuffle. Beardall Senior Center, 800 Delaney Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801. The Orlando Shuffle is always free, family-friendly, and fun. It takes place the 1st and 3rd Saturdays every month. Come play, learn, or just hangout 7 to 9 p.m. at the Beardall Courts, at 800 South Delaney Avenue between Orange and Delaney Avenues. Retro attire is encouraged.

8:30PM to 2AM $7 No Borders Presents The Tournament 2. The Geek Easy 114 S Semoran Blvd, Ste 6, Winter Park, Florida 32792. Our No Borders Art Competition began in April 2015 with two competitions every 3 months. One competition was on a 4ft x 4ft canvas with a 30 minute time limit the other was on a 6ft x 6ft canvas for 1hr. We equipped each artist with enough tools to complete their pieces while also challenging their creativeness.
However, we realized the 6ft x 6ft canvas might be a bit of a challenge for some artists so we created "The Tournament". It consisted of 8 artists on the 4ft x 4ft canvases that have never competed at our show before. The winners of that show will compete against the previous 4 winners on our 4ft x 4ft canvases come June 17th at The Geek Easy.
Our original rules apply:
4 Black markers with different tips
One color marker
4ft x 4ft Smooth White Canvas
30 Minutes to Complete
Artists get judged on 5 categories:
1. Creativity and Originality
2. Neatness
3. Time Management
4. Use of Color Marker
5. Overall Balance
The Crowd gets to pick The Peoples Champ before the judges ruling is announced.
Our trusty judges are:
Chris Rodriguez
Stazo Oner
Josue Ortiz
The host for the night will be Ozones own, none other than Madd Illz
Our house DJ spinning that 90's hip hop we all grew up listening to and falling in love with DJ Cubby (Chris Mendez) and Dean Rod Uno Rodriguez


Sunday June 18, 2017 (Father's Day)
 10AM to Noon Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources.

11:30AM $35. Father's Day Brunch: Die Hard. Enzian Theater 1300 S. Orlando Ave.
Winter Park FL. A special barbecue lunch buffet followed by a screening of everyone's favorite not-a-Christmas movie.

Noon to 5PM Father's Day Grill Out. Deadly Sins Brewing 750 Jackson Ave. Winter Park FL.
Free BBQ and drink deals all day.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Geezers at Breaktrough Theater.


Geezers written by Tommy Lee Johnston is being presented at Breakthrough Theater (419A W Fairbanks Ave Winter Park, FL 32789), through June 19th. Jack, (Sean Kenp) is a young aspiring author who takes a job a a retirement home that his mother has worked at before she died. He is socially awkward and not great around people. Gina, (Carol Palumbo) conducts an awkward job interview with him. She has her own issues, having had problems drinking in the past. Her primary concern is the person she just had to let go. He was found trying to have an affair with one of the residents. This is strictly taboo and she tries to find out if Jack might have similar interests.

Though socially inept, Jack has a rare talent for listening to people and asking pointed questions that peal away any layers of artifice to get to the heart of any story. He begins interviewing the residents, and each has an amazing story to tell. Emily, (Mary Lee Stallings) sat center stage hugging a kitten blanket and watching TV for most of the show. She never says a word. Alzheimer has taken her memories. A woman visits who was adopted and she researched to find out that Emily was her natural mother. She reads a loving letter written by Emily shortly before giving birth. The young Emily was forced to give up her child since she wasn't married. As her daughter read the letter, tears welled up in Emily's eyes and she mouthed the closing sentence. Memories had flooded back, but she was still trapped from expressing her love.

Each resident shared their story with Jack in turn. Kate, (Vicki Wicks) who gave off the appearance of being a confident sensual actress was actually insecure. Neil, (Gary Norris) was abrasive and cocky, but his story was about being a Vietnam vet who was welcome home to America as a baby killer and how much he missed his wife. Ray, (Larry Stallings) slept through most of the play holding a yellow pillow to his chest. His story was the most unsettling as he related his wife's battle with cancer.

The play was fascinating to me since I am sitting in and sketching so many oral histories surrounding the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I am working with incredibly talented interviewers who open themselves to allow the stories to unfold naturally. 49 stories remain untold, but family and friends share memories that prove that love is an amazing and universal force. Art is strongest when it expresses empathy. This play shares that empathy in spades.

Tickets are $20.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Christopher Hanson talks about surviving the Pulse Nightclub attack.

Christopher Hanson grew up in a small town that was just a 20 minute drive away from where Mathew Shephard was brutally murdered for being gay. On a vacation to Orlando her remembered gong to Universal and seeing rows of cherry blossom trees. It was a gorgeous sight and he decided at that moment that he would move to the City Beautiful. To him the trees symbolized universal love.

On the evening of June 12, 2016, he decided to put on his $3 American flag t-shirt and go to the Pulse nightclub for the first and only time to dance. Since the red striped ran vertically he felt the shirt thinned him a bit. He was new in town and hoped to meet new friends. His roommates didn't want to go. At 11PM his GPS made him pull into the club driveway the wrong way. At 11:08PM he had to pay for a $10 wrist band. He remembers because he had just missed the opportunity to avoid the cover. He walked through a curtain of beads to enter the club. "I want those beads" he thought to himself. He was meeting someone for a date and was an hour late. The gentleman who was a doctor wasn't pleased and he left. In the Adonis room dancers in jock straps and tennis shoes dances on the bar. "Wow" Christopher thought, "This is the kind of place I love to find." In a trip to the bathrooms, he thought to himself that the windows were rather small because he couldn't slip away from his date if he wanted to.

He ordered another double Jack and Ginger. It was Latin Night, so he couldn't talk to many people, but music is a universal language. He spoke to Kate the bartender. There was an underwear contest and the straight guy won with his denim underwear. After a few drinks and he leaned up against the wall to steady himself. J Low's song, "International" was playing.  He heard a Pow, Pow Pow sound. He moved to the beat thinking it was the bass. Then there was a repetition of bullets and he heard screaming. There was the sound of the liquor bar glass shattering. People fell to the floor around him and he dropped himself. Blood spattered. He saw the flashes from the barrel of the gun. He wasn't shot, so he crawled past the bathroom. People were running inside, but he knew that they had no way out. People stepped on him and over him to get out to the patio. The person to the left of him was shot. Outside on the patio, he stood. People were pushing against a fence gate to try and get out. It didn't open. He was amazed to find that the drink was still in his hand. He put the cup down. People crushed up against the closed gate until it finally gave way. Outside, a police office was pointing his weapon at the nightclub entrance.

Outside on a curb, Christopher helped a Spanish speaking man named who was shot twice. He took off his bandana and shoved it into a bullet hole to help slow the bleeding. Blood was bubbling up, boiling. He used his phone to call his dad, saying, "I'm alive." A girl was lying on the grass. She said, "Get me out of the grass." There were no medical gloves. She had been shot in the arm and back. He didn't know about the wound in her back but after he cradled her in his lap, he realized that the pressure from his legs might have slowed the bleeding from her back wound. Mina Justice was in the street looking for her son who was inside in the bathroom. She got a text from him that said, "I love you." "I'll never forget her face," Christopher said, "I remember passing the bathroom and thought, there is no way out." I hugged her and had to say, "It will be OK." He knew it was not going to be OK, and he sat down and broke down for the first time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Orlando One Year Later


The Orange County Regional History Center has mounted an exhibit entitled "One Year Later" that showcases a fraction of the items collected from the various memorial sites around Orlando in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting tragedy that took 49 lives. The exhibition commemorates one year of pain, grief, loss, love, fear, resilience, coping and community. The exhibit recalls the heroes in our community who banded together in defiance of hate, who support all those who continue to live through the nightmare, remembering those murdered and holding the victims families in our hearts.

I sketched on the final day of the exhibition install. Museum staff were putting up the final vinyl lettering on the walls and making sure everything was in its place. Over 5000 items were collected from memorial sites. This exhibit encapsulated the shear volume of what was left. Rather than showing just one rosary, there are twenty, instead of one t-shirt there is an entire wall. One wall is covered with a sampling of the hundreds of paintings i have done at vigils and fundraisers since that fateful day last June 12th. Also on display are the original paintings and sketches done by local artists in one evening of the 49 victims of the attack. I hosted the evening and felt it was important to do the work in one evening since all 49 lives were taken in one night of terror.

Above the Angel Action Wings, built from PVC and white fabric, there was a quote... "I don't have money to give, but I can spread love and I can spread hope. I was waiting for the opportunity to use the one thing I do have, which is the skill to sew, I can sew like the wind." Jeannie Haskett, a theater seamstress and Angel Action Wings volunteer, to the Miami Herald.

I made my way through the exhibit reading every panel, circling the huge room counter clockwise. At the entrance there was a long platform with artificial grass covered in candles, rainbow pinwheels and flowers. The pinwheels spun in the breeze, recreating in a a memorial site in a ghostly way. The room is organized into sections, each honoring members of the Orlando community. There was a wall for first responders, a wall showed the worldwide response and outpouring of love after the tragedy. There were lines of prayer flags, and a floating wall of stars decorated with rainbows and messages of hope. An Ikea couch was covered in messages as well as the water cooler that was filled daily by church volunteers for people who were visiting the Pulse memorial site. In the corner of the room was a gorgeous dress made from a rainbow of hearts. In a secluded alcove, were the 49 crosses that were left at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. All the crosses grouped together in the tight space, left me feeling overwhelmed by the loss.

There was an opening for the families of victims and survivors. It was incredibly well attended. Probably over 500 people attended the opening night. This was an opportunity for families to get out and see items left in honor of their loved ones for the first time. There were 20 therapist at the opening wearing bright yellow shirts that said, Feeling sad? Lets talk. With so many therapists, it must have been difficult to grieve in peace, let alone move around the exhibit. One therapist handed out stress balls any time there were tears. There were also 11 therapy dogs on hand who performed their jobs with honor.

In my sketch, Whitney Broadaway is putting up vinyl lettering that encourages viewers to use #OrlandoOneCollection when posting information about the show online. Her baby bump proves that new life begins as tragedy ends, just as baby Cory Connell was named for his heroic uncle who died at Pulse. A large interactive area encourages people to write notes on a six foot square sheet of paper with permanent markers. Messages of hope and condolences are added every day. The exhibit runs from June 12th to June 17th when it has to come down for a wedding ceremony. This is an incredible, moving and inspiring exhibit, and I encourage anyone who feels they are a part of the Orlando community to get down there to experience it. The museum is open from 10AM to 7PM each day and admission is free.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Superior Donuts at Theater On The Edge

I attended a dress rehearsal for Superior Donuts written by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tracy Letts at Theater on the Edge, (5542 Hansel Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32809). The theater is small but I am always excited to see how the stage has been transformed. The small space places the audience right in the midst of the action on stage.

The play opened with the house lights going black and then several people dressed in black vandalized the shop writing "pussy" in the wall and shattering glass and throwing donuts everywhere. It was rather uncomfortable to watch, I wanted to get up and intervene. The theater lights came up to show the carnage. Arthur Przybyszewski who owns the decrepit donut shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, entered and started cleaning up. Police showed up and tried to determine who might want to do so much damage. A Russian neighbor entered the shop blaming blacks despite the fact that one of the officers was black himself.

Franco Wicks, a black teenager enters and starts telling Arthur how he should fix the place up. The whole time Franco is cleaning up and helping out. It is a rather direct and inverted job interview and he becomes Arthur's only employee. The first act has several monologues in which Arthur reminiscences about his past. His fathers disappointment in him, and his own disappointment at the loss of his marriage and daughter, hint at why he takes the young Franco under his wing. Franco is young and sure of himself, having written what he feels may well be the great American novel. Arthur has sort of settled into the routine of his donut shop and has few ambitions. He lazily smokes weed blowing away his ambitions.

Arthur reads Franco's his novel which is hand written out on many note pads. He is amazed to discover that he absolutely loves the story. When he tells the aspiring author they both get swept up in the dreams of aspirations that might become true. Arthur then snaps back to reality and yells at his employee that dreams never come true.It takes hope to raise a child, and all of Arthur's hopes were dashed when his wife left him, forever separating him form his daughter Jamie.

It turns out that Franco has a huge gambling debt. He started working at Superior Donuts to escape his past but it catches up with him. A horrific act of violence dashed his dreams as he is physically mutilated and his book is destroyed. Arthur can't stand to see his young friends dreams destroyed so he personally pays the debt. A huge fight was treated like a school yard brawl but the stakes were very high.

This comedy-drama explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship. I had a blast and was often laughing out loud and then choked up as I saw dreams fade from youthful and middle aged eyes. The cast of nine hit so many strong emotional notes right on the money. I left feeling hope can always survive as long as you have friends.


The show runs from Sunday June 8th to Sunday July 2nd. Tickets are $19, $22 and $24.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

One Orlando Collection at the Orange County Regional History Center.


About 50 Analog Artist Digital World paintings will be part of the expanded One Orlando Collection on display at the Orange County Regional History Center for one week (June 12th - 17th). The paintings document Orlando's attempts to heal after the Pulse Nightclub attack. Also on display are the original 49 portraits created by local artists in one evening shortly after the tragedy. Curated pieces from the One Orlando Collection will feature items left at memorial sites around the city, collected directly, and images that showcase the wide-ranging support that was received following the tragedy.

The amount of work that goes into a museum exhibition like this is quite staggering. First, the exhibition space needs to be prepped. All the walls need to be patched and painted from previous use, as well as temporary walls installed designed specific to the exhibition. Memorial items, artifacts, art, photographs, and more, are measured individually and images are placed in a scaled Adobe Illustrator file exactly as they will appear on the walls. Everything is planned out, including electrical outlets and fire boxes so that there are no surprises during installation. As an entirely bilingual exhibition, copy (the text of the exhibit) has to first be written in English before being translated into Spanish.

Copy is printed on vinyl, different colors for each language, cut on a vinyl cutter, weeded of negative space, before transfer tape is applied for placement on the wall. Photographs are also printed on vinyl and then mounted on gator board. The 49 portraits are mounted behind plexiglass with the names printed in black vinyl on the front. Layouts for each wall are printed and artifacts, copy, and images are measured, leveled, and adhered to the walls. Individual cases are spread throughout the space and are carefully arranged with a variety of artifacts. Typically the staff has two weeks to install and then to de-install an exhibition. However, due to scheduling, they have one week to install and three days to de-install 'One Year Later'. The show must come down for a wedding.

The overall theme of the exhibition is to share the shear magnitude of the worldwide love and support after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. If there is one t-shirt, there are 15 on display. One rosary, there are 50. One silicon bracelet, there are 29. The Center has collected thousands of items that reflect this support, but only a fraction can be shown within this space.

The museum will be open and free to the public from 10AM-7PM Monday, June 12, and 10AM-5PM Tuesday - Saturday, June 17th for the exhibition.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Titus and Andronicus Holiday Special at Fringe.


Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare's bloodiest play. I had never seen the play but that didn't stop me from seeing the Fringe Holiday Special based on the beheadings and mutilations. Knowing nothing about the Shakespeare play was a definite drawback. I was quite honestly lost for most of the production. I sketched as the barest of set pieces were being assembled. Producer Albert Pergande whacked someone with a pole as they were setting up the makeshift fireplace. This sort of real life slapstick was also to be found in the play as several puppets with Beavis and Butthead voices raped and dismembered a female puppet. There were moments of laughter, but I suspect they came mostly from audience members who appreciated the references to the Shakespeare play.

An applause sign hinted at the desired audience response. Bloodshed was combined with Christmas Carols, but I'm not sure why. The production was so Fringe that I didn't know what to make of it. I was happy for the opportunity to sketch people wearing togas. Now that Fringe is over, I kind of miss seeing people wearing sheets in public.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 10th and 11th.

Saturday June 10, 2017
9AM to 11AM Free. Bloomingdale's Pride Opening. Bloomingdale's at Mall of Muillenia, 4152 Conroy Road, The Mall at Millenia, Orlando, FL 32839. Painting from Analog Artist Digital World of Pulse vigils and fundraisers will be on display through July 5th. Rainbow flags will line the cosmetics section and the Orlando Gay Chorus will be singing at the opening.

4PM to 6PM Free. Young Voices. JB Callaman Center 102 North Parramore Ave Orlando FL. Teen Open Mic Every second Saturday of the Month.

10:30PM to 12:30AM Free but get a drink and or bite. Son Flamenco. Hot blooded Flamenco dancing to live guitar. Ceviche Tapas Orlando, 125 W Church St, Orlando, FL, United States. 

Sunday June 11, 2017
10AM to Noon. Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources

7PM to 9PM  Free. Human Rainbow for Pulse by BASE Orlando. The Other Bar, 18 Wall St, Orlando, FL 32801. BASE Orlando is creating another Human Rainbow with 49 painted bodies to represent the lives lost last year during the Pulse Tragedy. We will be gathering at The Other Bar on Wall Street and then walking over to take a group photo at the park near the Orange County Regional History Center. We already have the BASE artists lined up for this event. Special thank you to Fairvilla for sponsoring our paint and The Other Bar for hosting us!

7PM to 9PM $20 O-Town Voices of Orlando. Orlando Shakespeare Theater, 812 East Rollins Street
Orlando, FL 3280. O-TOWN Voices from Orlando. A World Premiere Event. One Night Only.
The entire collection of monologues performed together for the very first time
A Very Special performance on the eve of the One Year Anniversary of the attack on Pulse Nightclub.
This performance will be at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Loch Haven Park.
David Lee, recipient of the 2016 Orlando International Fringe Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award has created an original theatrical event that shares stories and experiences from the days, weeks and months following the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub attack that occurred in Orlando on June 12th, 2016. Interviews, blog postings and stories from the Orlando Sentinel newspaper come to life on stage in a very personal and intimate way through a company of 18 local Theatre Artists.
A Special One Night Only Performance will take place on the eve of the One Year Anniversary of the attack on Pulse Nightclub on Sunday June 11th @ 7pm in The Margeson Theater at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Loch Haven Park. Tickets are $20 General Admission and $50 for VIP Reserved Seating. All net proceeds from this event will benefit The onePulseFoundation. Tickets.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Emotions Dance Company presents Element Earth.

Emotions Dance Company explores the relationship we have with each other as well as with our planet using the elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. This professional performance carries a message of perseverance of the Earth and of dance as an art form. Emotions Dance Company founder, Larissa Humiston did much of the choreography, and the guest choreographer was Carrie Crawford (Crawford Jazz Project).
I went to a dress rehearsal to sketch. The dance routines revolve around the elements of Earth, Fire, Water and Air.  There were 15 dance routines in all, some involving much of the company to an exhilarating solo performance called Last Breath. I am always looking for dancers who are able to express emotions through their facial expressions as well as their movements and some dancers performed above and beyond. Dancers in the sketch were pulled from various dance routines over the course of the run through. 

One dance called Forest Fire had two dancers in red tights acting as flames that then consumed two dancers in neutral colored tights who were the trees. Elements 1 and Elements 2, were full company productions in which dancers personified all the elements that were used as inspiration throughout the show.
The performance of Element Earth is Friday, June 9th from 8PM to 9:30PM. Orlando Shakes 812 E Rollins St, Orlando, Florida 32803. Tickets are available at the door for $20 and $15 for students.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Commencement at Fringe.


Commencement written by Clay McLeod Chapman was brought to this years Orlando International Fringe Festival by Beth Marshall Presents. Beth had wanted to bring the play to past Fringe Festivals, but it was never picked in the lottery.

The play began with the mother of the shooter (Beth Marshall) seated on stage among the ephemera of youth in the children's wing of a hospital. A teddy bear leaned innocently against a plastic crate filled with toys. A jack-in-the-box sat on a small table next to her as she spoke. She recounted the tale of her son swallowing marbles to win the favor of a popular student. He nearly choked to death but his esophagus closed up forcing him to stop. It became clear that her son had been picked on his whole life. Beth was clearly emotionally shaken and on the verge of breaking down at any moment. She said she was sequestered away from the other moms, unable to share in their grief.

The mother of a shooting victim, (Jamie Middleton) took to the stage after Beth left. Jamie had lost a daughter. She was angry and bitter. Social workers and politicians had offered condolences but their words of comfort were not for her. She just wanted her daughter back. She had gone to the school commencement ceremonies to watch the other students graduate, she felt terror when her daughter's name was skipped over. Her daughter had written an inspired commencement speech that she could never deliver.

In stark contrast, a student school library volunteer, (Rose Helsinger) bounced onto the stage with youthful vigor. She knew the shooter better than anyone else since he was well read. He used to write notes in the margins of books and she decided to become his friend by writing notes in response in the margins herself. They had a long clandestine conversation in the margins of multiple books throughout the shelves. It was a romantic meeting of minds, but she never acknowledged him in the halls. The thrill came from the mystery of their relationship. She recounted the fateful day when she heard a series of pops as she sat in class. It could be the drum corps but the rhythm was sporadic. She was surprised to see her mystery library pen pal enter her classroom. He wasn't in her class. She thought he might have discovered who she was. There was an innocent thrill. But then she saw the gun and students dropped to the ground around her. She realized he didn't know who she was and then she felt a tightness in her chest.

The young girl's mom insisted that the shooter's mom read her daughter's commencement speech. In tears, Beth tried to read. This play is so powerful as it hits home in a community still recovering from the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The number of students shot was never clear but one number always came to my mind. The sadness was overwhelming. The performances stellar. A sobering show like this proves that the Fringe Festival isn't all about fun and games, it also is a showcase for inspired serious theater.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Evacuated at Fringe.

Erika Kate MacDonald told an unforgettable story of her time in Indonesia as an exchange student at Fringe this year. She recreated the bustle and excitement of the crowded city, often stopping to explain what some exotic word might mean. She was so well versed in the language and culture that she might forget to explain every nuance.

To explain the beauty found in the culture she decided to sing a song about a popsicle.  The song was so lyrical and moving but was only about walking with a frozen desert. 

Erika described an evening as she tried to go to sleep. In the corner of the room was a strange scraping sound; something was trying to climb the wall. it would get half way up and then collapse back down to the ground. She lay in bed terrified not sure what to do. So, she decided to research what it might be. She never found the answer but the book fell out of her hands and crushed whatever it was. 

She described an evening swimming in the pool with friends and seeing what looked like shooting stars. The flashes came at regular intervals until she finally realized that they weren't stars at all. The flashes were actually bats flying through the spot lights. There was magic and mystery all around her.

Then came a day when all the TV stations showed news of uprisings in Jakarta. In a particularly jarring scene with flashing colored club lights, Erica recreated a plea of a woman telling everyone to get out of the country, that foreigners were not welcome. Foreigners had to be evacuated. The exchange students went to the airport as fast as they could with the help of others, but flights were booked. They returned day after day trying to escape. The uncertainty and fear of the students and parents became visceral in her telling.

This show had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. This kind of straight forward storytelling is why the Fringe Festival is so magical. Personal experience can come alive when played out on the stage.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Uncertainty at Fringe.


Eric Pinder wrote and stars in Uncertainty, in which he goes back in time to give advice to his younger self, Blake (Clark Levi). Clark has an uncanny similarity in appearance to Eric and he manages to mimic Erics every Mannerism. Blake's demanding mother (Jessica Hoehn) is determined to see her son go to Princeton to become a lawyer but he has more artistic ambitions. The house lights flashed as Pinder returned to his past to confront his younger self in his 1960s tie die shirt. His first advice to himself was to moisturize his skin. Of course Blake doesn't believe he is speaking to himself so Pinder had to convince him by remembering very specific  events form his past.

In a very convincing scene, Blake confides in a boy friend that he is attracted to him. The feeling is mutual and there is nothing quite like seeing young love bloom. When his mom finds out he is gay, she is confused. It doesn't fit into her grand plan for her son. There is a lovely scene in which her husband comforts her and the love between the married couple feels tangible. That level of affection used to seem unreal but I'm starting to appreciate it. The mom as the antagonist was on stage for only brief moments, yet she must have been a huge influence on young Blake. Why did she project so many ambitions on her son?

At on half hour, the show flew by leaving me wanting more. I barely had time to get my tiny sketch on the page. I imagine that going into your past could be useful, but the only tangible message seemed to be to stay true to yourself. The visit from the future must have prompted the ability to come out to his parents. Hiding who you are must have lasting future repercussions, but they were never discussed in the play. Friends and family accepted him for who he was. Most already knew.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Black in the Box at Fringe.


Black in the Box starring Marlon Andrew Burnlet was held in the red venue. The screen at the back of the stage flickered with static, and the actor suddenly was thrust out from behind the screen. He would recover and make his way back only to be trust our again. Audio of slave auctions and viscous bidding filled the room. Whips snapped.

Ultimately he dragged out a large wooden box wrapped in chains. It was heavy judging from his gestures and the sweat that flowed down his back. He struggled to unwrap the box from its chains and then he looked inside and froze in horror. The audience couldn't see what was inside. He stepped inside and the screen flickered backwards the dates jumping back decades and hundreds of years at at a time. In this was he immersed us all in the world of his past ancestors, reliving the lives of those who came before.

Slaves struggled and toiled with whippings and starvation as their only reward. Families were ripped apart. Ultimately the Civil War brought with it the hope of freedom. The actor wore a tattered uniform and fired a gun at his oppressors. However this hope of idealistic freedom was short lived as racism meant that jobs weren't much better after the war.

Just being able to wear shoes was a luxury and as soon as he put the shoes on he began to tap dance, feeling the rhythms of his past. Vaudeville offered a place to earn a buck through dance but it was grueling work. Hecklers from the audience treated him like a dancing monkey, an oddity. Between performances he took out a hip flask and sipped booze. His pants were piss stained. Throughout, the actor wore masks that were grotesque visions of how blacks were seen by their oppressors.

This was serious and strong theater. I felt uncomfortable at times, perhaps guilty of my white privilege. I glanced around the audience to see that there were no black reporters in the press preview. The actor threw himself into the rolls, sweating profusely and exerting himself in every way. Historic photos reminded me of every phase of my country's inhumanity to man. Several hundred years later that inhumanity remains. An insane man can use an assault rifle to gun down dancing patrons a dozen at a time, blacks, whites and Latinos.  Progress is slow and painful.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Lawn of Fabulousness at the Fringe.


Much of the magic of the Fringe happens on the Green Lawn of Fabulousness. The beer tent is the place to go to order a beer and talk to actors and producers to find out the buzz about the top shows each year. As I was finishing up a drink and waiting for a friend, I noticed these fairy wings being created. I asked to do a sketch and she was fine with me sitting and observing. The wings made from flexible branches and light pink weave were going to be used for an interactive show happening in the evenings at the large live oak tree in front of the Mennello Museum. This wings had two battery packs which illuminated a series of tiny lights.

The wings were for Phoenix Tears Production's Stardust After Dark immersive experience.The production company featured two immersive audio dramas at Orlando Fringe. With nothing more than a smart phone and a pair of headphones they will transformed the area around Loch Haven Park into the magical Stardust Kingdom. In Stardust After Dark, which takes place in the evenings, the audience encountered two characters as they invite you to shed the mortal world and come and join them in an 18+ celebration full of pixie dust, rum, and the seductive call of a Siren.

I didn't have a chance to catch the actual show. My only hint at the magic was this pair of light gossamer wings which were crafted with loving care.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for June 3rd and 4th.

Saturday June 3, 2017
9am to 1pm Free. Orange County Hurricane ExpoSouth Econ Community Park 3800 S. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando FL. Learn about hurricane preparedness and pick up free emergency supplies like weather radios and first aid kits.

10aqm to 4pm Free. Florida Highwaymen Meet and Greet.  Meet seven of the African American artists who found success in the segregated South of the 1950s and hear their stories. Art available for purchase.

Noon to 2pm $9 Pulse Tribute Event: The Birdcage.  Benefit screening of the Robin Williams comedy. Net proceeds go to the Better Together Fund.

Sunday June 4, 2017
10:00an to 11:30am Free. Healthfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources.Weekly.

3:30pm to 4:30pm Free, Paul Adey. R and B. Orlando Public Library 101 E. Central Blvd. Downtown Orlando Fl.

5pm to 2am $35-$45 Arena Nighttime Pool Party: onePULSE Tea Dance.  DoubleTree By Hilton Orlando at Sea World 10100 International Drive I-Drive Universal. Close out the 27th annual GayDays Celebration. A portion of the proceeds go to the onePULSE Foundation. 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cows invade the Green venue at Fringe.


We are all familiar with the cows that paint roadway billboards that read "Eat more Chikin." The fact that cows cant spell comes across as endearing and cute. The fact that they are calling for the slaughter of countless chickens to save their own hides makes sense but might make more sense if they wanted everyone to become vegetarians or eat vegan.

This play, Now with Chikin was staged entirely on a billboard platform as two cows wrestle with the ethics of what they have been hired to do. The female cow had a pink fanny pack where her utters would be and the male cow wore a pink baseball cap. A slick advertising executive showed the audience that had a chart showing that the most successful advertising campaigns had cute animal mascots, like the Geico lizard. To sell more chicken, animal mascots were needed. The executive recruited a disgruntled female cow who was angry about the genocide of her species for burgers on Memorial Day. The other cow was concerned about raising enough money to raise his family. He did the job but had concerns about how chickens would now be murdered.

An angry chicken started throwing tomatoes at the cows as they worked. Tomatoes meant for the cows also bounced off into the audience. She had plenty of activist spunk. This was a fun premise for a show but it would have worked as a short much better than as a full length production. I started to drift as the cows discussed the ethics of their profession.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PeeVira's SCAREavan at Fringe.


I went to a press preview for PeeVira's SCAREavan at the Orlando International Fringe Festival. The van pulled up in front of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. A chauffeur wearing a black cap came out and welcomed the audience. She guided us ti the back of the van and opened the doors. A blood spattered curtain welcomed  us. This felt a bit more like a kidnapping rather than a show. we piled in and wedged ourselves up against the walls of the van cabin. I started sketching the cramped quarters immediately. We lurched forward and the show was on the move.

The van was driving over cobblestones. It made sketching a real challenge. Then PeeVira opened the curtain and sate back in the cabin with us. She got a phone call from a menacing third party and was told that if the people in the van didn't answer trivia questions, then the van would be blown up. Each of us were given a microphone and we began singing a series of 70s and 80s TV theme songs. Luckily one passenger knew her stuff. Each right answers was awarded with some smarties candy. I managed to win one round by knowing the theme song for Sex and the City.

Most pop music trivia however eluded me and I kept getting soaked with a penis water pistol being fired by PeeVira. periodically there was a loud scream and we all wondered if the chauffeur had run over a pedestrian. From my sketching vantage point, I could see that we were circling the Shakespeare parking lot. The show was an unexpected change from the usual Fringe performance. It was fun if a little unnerving.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

ThanksKilling the Musical at Fringe.


ThanksKilling the Musical is based on the motion picture, "ThanksKilling" written by Jordan Downey and Kevin Stewart. The musical features music and lyrics by Jeff Thomson and Jordan Mann. With songs like "Boobies", "The Jock and the Hick and the Nerd and the Slut" and Gobble Gobble Mother Fucker", you know you are in for a fun ride. A stereo typical group of teens take a jeep on a road trip. It breaks down leaving them stranded. They make the best of the situation and build a campfire. The teens are terrorized by a killer turkey that began his killing spree because of some totem pole desecration.

One by one the students and then their parents are picked off by the killer turkey. One particularly memorable number featured Ali (Kayla Alvarez) having sex with her boyfriend the Hick (Johnnie Maier) . Greg is taking Ali from behind. Te turkey sneaks up behind Greg and slits his throat and then rapes Ali who is singing a song about Jon Benet Ramsey. She didn't seem to notice the turkey as being any different than her boyfriend, until the turkey snaps her neck.

The remaining students do research and discover that they must remove a talisman from around the turkeys neck before they can murder the beast in a fiery blaze. All the music was campy and over the top. As one boy dies in the nerd's arms they remember the amazing times they had together and sing a song of man love. Both are killed by the turkey and find themselves dressed in white singing a reprise to man love. If you like gore, sex and plenty of campy weird horror, then this is the musical for you.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Show Up at Fringe.


Pete Michael Marino from New York City, grew tired of seeing solo Fringe shows about a person's life. He decided to instead create a show built around the lives of members of his audience. He pointed out a quote by Woody Allen that said "Showing up is 80 percent of life. Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both." Since we had shown up for his show, he felt we were all 80% of the way towards an amazing and entertaining show.

Pete picked out a cute young woman from the audience and he dubbed her his stage manager. Her job became to reorganize the chairs and table for each scene. On the back wall of the theater there were large post it notes that were used to define the basic structure for the stories to follow. The audience was asked questions that then became the underlying structure for each scene.

Pete confided that he had been diagnosed with an early case of Alzheimer's.... by his friends. He therefor was fine with staying "on Book" referring to loose notes he had scribbled on a sheet of paper. Much of each scene however was pure long form improvisation and he flew by the seat of his pants. According to him, he had no idea what he was doing which added to the allure that the show could potentially self destruct at any moment. He managed to keep the show light and entertaining despite the challenges.

After the last scene he divided up the audience into sections and invited us all to mingle on the stage for a party. I was assigned to serve imaginary drinks which I did with gusto. Once everyone had imaginary drinks in hand they felt comfortable to mingle and mix on the stage. A string of Christmas lights was unfurled among the party goers. It was certainly a fun and unexpected way to end the show.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

There aint No More; Death of a Folksinger, at Fringe.


Death of a Folksinger is a one man show based on the legends of American Folk Music and the early vaudeville stage. Willie Carlisle took the audience on a high energy romp through the history of the music genera. The scene opened with Willie wearing an old man mask as he sang a lonesome tune. Different characters played banjo, violin, and a squeeze box.

He did a quick series of snippets as if performing with the USO for troops over seas. He would hold the banjo suggestively to his hips and thrust if forward announcing his presence at hill 69. Of course the hill had another number instead. A scroll behind him was turned to show a series of black and white shadow illustrations that visualized the characters in a song.

Described as a haunting and heartfelt hootenanny, the multi layered show had Willie exhausted and sweating as he danced and performed his heart out. The mask he wore had a skull painted on the inside surface and when he saw that he performed with even more gusto to try and save off death. I had fun documenting this very American musical performance.

Beau and Arrow: Crash Landing at Fringe.


A Little Bit Off, from Portland, Oregon presented Beau and Aero: Crash Landing, a show featuring a whirlwind of acrobatic and slapstick antics. Pilot Beau and his sidekick Aero,two bumbling aviators,have crash landed, and will try anything to get back in the air. These foolish pilots live in a world where balloons are bountiful, laughs are abundant, and hardly a word is spoken.

After hearing a plane crash in the darkness of the theater, Beau stumbled out wrapped inside a parachute. A rag doll version of Arrow was thrust up and over a black backstage curtain. The house went black Beau tried to revive his side kick. she was fine, but playfully slid back to a reclined position any time Beau turned his back.

Much of the involved playful uses for balloons. Beau offered a balloon to a young girl in the audience and right before she grabbed it, he let go ad the balloon spit out air and flew away in s spiraling trajectory. A woman picked from the audience held a fool wide hoop which Beau shoot a sputtering balloon through. The balloons always flew off course. Somehow a ping pong ball was thrust inside arrow's balloon. She squeezed the balloon and it shot the ping pong ball right into Beau's chest. He then went into slow sequence in which he acted out his horror ad shock about being shot. He stumbled over to the woman from the audience, and she held him much like the Pieta as he faded away. The sweat on Beau's brow reminded me that all the antics aren't easy.

As a giant 5 foot high red balloon was inflated, the audience was covered with the parachute. Amazingly both Beau and arrow crawled inside the balloon. The audience was warned that there would be a loud noise, and the balloon popped To show that Beau and Aero had both changed into brightly colored acrobat's jump suits. It is rare for a show to make me feel a child like wonder, but Beau and Arrow accomplished that.

Remaining show times,
Sunday May 28, 2017 at 4:30pm in the Green Venue 1001 East Princeton Street Orlando FL.