Showing posts with label John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Phantasmagoria Photoshoot Fires off the Halloween Horror


On Sunday September 7th, I went to a photographers studio in Winter Park to sketch a Phantasmagoria photo shoot. The studio space was impressive with an upper balcony that allowed Kristen Wheeler to take photos of the cast from above. John DiDonna explained to the cast that they needed to express resolve and resolution as they faced certain death. Josh Geohagen shouted back, "Like in Toy Story 3?!" Everyone laughed, but even toys can express a solemn resolve before they face their fate.

Phantasmagoria features a unique and spectacular blend of storytelling, dance, large scale puppetry and aerial work. It has been wowing critics and audiences alike since its premier in 2010. Created and envisioned by playwright, director John DiDonna, each production offers new stories taken from the diverse centuries old literature of horror and the macabre!

The first official Phantasmagoria photo shoot of the 2014 Season had Kristen Wheeler the official photographer taking our picks, with help from Ryan McKenzie the company's artist,  and a videographer and photographer there filming the process for articles. This was a perfect storm of creativity. Images will be released soon from this two hour shoot including all poster shots, publicity shots, and shots done specifically for a Phantasmagoria themed Art Gallery show running in October. 

The photo studio was incredibly crowded with the whole cast on hand. Kristen shot the cast in small groups for use in show posters and promotional materials. The rest of the cast would wait on the sidelines when they weren't in the shot.  Kristen seemed to love coaching the actors. as she said, "It is easy to teach an actor how to model, but it is impossible to teach a model how to act. Dion Leonhard was close to tears for every photo. She would shut her eyes and rest between shots. This cast is always in character.

Mark Your Calendar! As we roll into October, Phantasmagoria seems to be everywhere. On September 27th, the steam punk group will make two appearances at Artlando from 11am to 5pm,  happening in Lock Haven park. the $5 Artlando event features, live performances by Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Central Florida Community Arts, Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, Phantasmagoria, Emotions Dance Company, Orlando Science Center and more! The Orlando Museum of Art is FREE to all attendees. There will be an outdoor art walk, live painting, installations and more! Beer and cocktails will be provided by The Hammered Lamb. Food from The Food Truck Bazaar. They will also appear at Lady Raven's Second Annual Cotillion in the Audubon Park Garden District (3201 Corrine Dr, Orlando, Florida) the same day starting at 7pm. The and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare CenterNow entering its fourth year, Orlando's original Victorian Steam punk Circus troupe offers Macabre and Delicious Halloween tricks and treats. On October 3-11 artwork featuring The Art and Horror of Phantasmagoria will be featured at Valencia's East Campus in the Anita S. Wooton Gallery. My sketches from past shows will be on display, so come to the opening and say hi.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Waiting in the Fringe Line

The John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center has an odd tower that is two stories high and the room is about eight foot square. A compass is incorporated into the floor tiles and a large banner is usually suspended from the ceiling.

Between shows during the Fringe festival there was an art installation consisting of hula hoops and cardboard tubes covered in strips of fabric. Everything was suspended on strings to create a mobile. I made my way inside so that I could sketch a Fringe line as it formed. The line was for, Bless Me Father For I Have Danced and it snaked from the theater entrance out the door with half the people having to wait outside. It is fun to see friends as they meet and hug. Half the fun of the Fringe is meeting people in line and comparing notes about what amazing shows HAVE to be seen. I decided what shows I should sketch based on tips from strangers I met in line. All the reviews in town couldn't beat good word of mouth.

This is a rare case of a sketch I didn't have time to finish. My wife Terry texted from another line suggesting I join her to see the show she was waiting for. Often we saw shows together but sometimes we went our own ways. I could only go to the Fringe every other day because of work commitments and on those days Terry was on her own and she would let me know what she had seen that I had to sketch. It was like having a field corespondent scouting out the talent. I don't know who created this kinetic art, and once the Fringe was over, it was replaced by a table and chairs.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Taking Out the White Trash


The Fringe show, Taking Out the White Trash  presented by Peemypants Productions featured Sherri D. Sutton, as she spilled the south's dark secrets in the intimate brown venue. This was a hilarious show that had me laughing the whole time. When asked to describe a Waffle House, Sherri said, "Imagine a truck stop restroom, but with waffles." Now, anytime I drive by a Waffle House, I laugh. She said being accepted as a lesbian comic has been hard since there is a stereotype that lesbians are always angry. She then performed a joke as an angry lesbian with expletives to hilarious effect. She said, "The thing about stereotypes is that they are often true."

Much of the show then was built around the southern stereotype. From Wallmart, the KKK, to convalescent care, no topic was sacred. Having been raised in the south, much of her material came from first hand experience. Growing up lesbian in a conservative southern town can't be easy. She joked about southern names and that certain names guaranteed an infants trials or success in life. This show was a pleasant surprise and it was good to see lesbian couples cuddling in the audience. It made me hopeful that love can be cherished in all it's forms someday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Art Evolution

Emotions Dance Company will perform the World Premiere of Art Evolution, a collaborative arts experience on Friday, June 13 and Saturday, June 14, 2014, at 8 p.m. at The John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center’s Mandell Theatre (812 E. Rollins St. Orlando).

Art Evolution is inspired by the famous works of well-known artists. Audiences will experience live contemporary dance by Emotions Dance Company, including a piece created by special guest choreographer, Genevieve Bernard of Voci, visual art by Orlando’s celebrated sketch artist, Thomas Thorspecken, and spoken word poetry by Jesse Bradley.


 For this show I did a painting for each dance piece which placed the dancers inside classic paintings. The first dance was inspired by Andy Warhol's "Marilyn". Jesse's poem pointed out how Marilyn was consumed by the American public just like Andy's other subjects like Campbell soup cans. The three dancers wore neon bright outfits with tutu skirts. Tiffany Searle poured on the extra sass that really sold the high energy flirtatious flavor of the dance. There was a minor wardrobe malfunction, but it actually added to the flavor of the dance.

The next dance called "The Understudies" was inspired by Edgar Degas' "L'Etoile". Larissa Humiston the choreographer, and Emotions Dance founder explained, "It is about the girls in the wings that never get to perform." Sketching dance rehearsals has always been one of my favorite subjects. I've noticed that as a senior company dancer performs, there is often another dancer in the wings mimicking the dance moves with minimal gestures. I now realize that she must be the understudy.

The next dance is inspired by Edvard Munch's "The Scream".
Larissa explained that, " I am coming at it as though it is an impending war. The mother can see the tanks moving in, and is trying to protect her daughter." It was inspiring for me as a visual artist to get the inner thoughts about the choreography even as the dance was being created. Taylor Shepherd performed as the mother and Isabelle Lepp, the youngest member of the company performed as the daughter. This is the most dramatic piece in the show and it paired together two dancers whose every gesture and expression can be clearly read.

"New Soul"choreographed by Megen Gerth,  was inspired by Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus." This was a graceful, lyrical dance that celebrates beauty and grace. 

"Tag" was choreographed by Genevieve Bernard of Voci Dance. Genevieve explained her thoughts, "So, I went with Keith Haring, who for me, was a big inspiration when I was young. I was a fan kid and met him in NYC at a Swatch signing when I was in 9th grade. Anyway, I was going between using a specific piece as inspiration or him, and I kind of did both. At times the dancers in the piece represent him, all of the running and cross overs across the stage are my homages to the subway drawings he would do on black paper. When advertisements where expired in the subway, they covered them with black paper. He would draw with white chalk on them. The dancers running and drawing and running again represents him, having to draw and get his message out and often having to do it quickly so as to not get caught. I also have the dancers "drawing" on the walls, the floor, anywhere...as he also seemed to have the need to just draw and do it ...wherever, whenever...so I interspersed moments of "stop and draw" with the dancing and running. Some of the actual movements the dancers do trace the shape of a heart.." When I was going to the School of Visual Arts in NYC, I used to see Keith Haring's chalk drawings in the subway stations. I therefor drew the 23rd Street subway station that I passed through every day I went to art school. In the dance, Taylor Shepherd began drawing of the wall, floor and then in the air itself. It was a magnificent and graceful gesture that showed no limits when the artist is fully involved, lost in the moment and riding the creative flow.

"Behind the Smile" was choreographed by Larissa Humiston and performed by Taylor Shepherd.  This piece was inspired by Leonardo DaVinci's "Mona Lisa". Larissa explained, "There is something in that smile, yearning, sadness, jealousy, sass, sexuality? I am coming at it with that angle for that solo." The dancer, Taylor Shepherd commands attention. When she gracefully leaves the stoic Mona Lisa pose, her every gesture felt confident and appealing. She radiated that smile that hinted at playfulness and inner emotions that can only be expressed through dance. For this series of sketches, I studied rehearsal videos to catch the subtle graceful poses in mid action. Taylor always offered clear lines of action that were a pleasure to draw. Studying the video reference, I began to animate several of her moves just for the fun of studying and understanding her movement.

"Sibling Rivalry" was inspired by Grant Wood's "American Gothic". Larissa Humiston choreographed the dance which was performed by Megan Girth and Isabella Lepp. Isabella, an apprentice at Emotions Dance, has just been accepted by the Alvin Alley Summer Dance program in NYC. This playful dance number was a favorite of the ten year old girl who was at the dress rehearsal. The two dancers playfully nudged and pushed each other as they broke free of the stoic Gothic pose. They kept trying to upstage each other to win the audiences attention.


"Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali was the inspiration for Larissa's "Time Lapse". She explained, "This one is about life, the slow and mundane existence, moving as though suspended in time, the everyday rigamarole, and then of course, the sped up and frantic life. Each one affects the others for a minute, but then they ultimately return to their regular timing." Taylor moved in graceful slow motion for most of the performance. I wondered how she could remain so focused, so balanced for the entire duration. The strength needed must be staggering. Any yoga master would approve. Hannah Rusk moved as the accelerated counter point and thus I drew her movement more often. Karen James took the middle road perhaps representing a look at bland normalcy. 

Michelangelo's "David" was the inspiration for "Strength and Beauty" performed by Megan Girth. Larissa explained, "This solo is about strength and beauty, power, yet not in a bad way. Regal in a way I guess. David is really about beauty, strength, and pride. Just looking at the human body and marveling in its winders. The slow and controlled movement shows these concepts.the David solo just just about strength and beauty, power yet not in a bad way. regal in a way I guess." Megan moved with slow deliberation often reminding me of a proud Greek athlete. She moved like she was at the very first Olympics, proud and sure of her victory. I've actually sculpted David using digital tools and visited him in Florence, so it was a pleasure to revisit the pose.

The final piece is one of my favorites, and it is the first painting I executed after Larissa explained the project to me. The dance is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night." This is a full company dance in which half the dancers wore black sequins representing the night sky and the other dancers wore white sequins representing the stars. Each needs the other to complete the whole. They flow together in torrents and streams embracing one another. The lyrics from a contemporary pop tune keep reminding me of this dance, "The stars make love to the universe..." A majestic lift near the end of the dance reminded me of the crescent moon and Taylor reaching up towards the night sky reminded me of the flowing curves of Van Gogh's cypress trees.

Mark your calendar! Don't miss this show. The first performance is tomorrow, Friday, June 13 and Saturday, June 14, 2014, at 8 p.m. at The Lowndes Shakespeare Center’s Mandell Theatre (812 E. Rollins St. Orlando). Tickets are $20 at the door. All of my original paintings will be on display and there are $2  gift cards that feature the dancers in action. Stop in and say hello.




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flight: A Crane's Story


Ibex Puppetry, founded by Heather Henson, presented Flight: A Crane's Story at this year's Fringe in the orange venue which is the largest in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. The show Explored nature's deepest mysteries and the spiritual essence of life on Earth through the story a crane names Awaken. After human interference affected their environment, Awaken's family left on migration without her. The young crane friend had to learn to fly and navigate to find her family and her destiny.

I had quite a challenge sketching the show since the house lights went dark for most of the show so I couldn't see the page. Also there was nonstop action with kites constantly on the move. I focused my attention on the young crane most of the time ignoring the immense kites. Awaken was first shown as an egg just beginning to hatch. The indigenous North America music was performed live at house left. The woman sang beautifully while the other performer beat the drum. Awaken grew up through a series of puppets. By the end of the show there was a huge crane that would be worthy of being featured in the Macy's Day parade. I kind of wish I had waited to catch that huge apparition, but I was already committed to the sketch I was working on.

The kites were amazing, swooping down to within inches of the audience before sweeping back up into flight. Costuming was also amazing with some performers wearing costumes that made their arms like huge wings. Movies were projected on the circular screen at the back of the stage offering views of sunsets and the intricate courting dance of the cranes. I would love to see the show again, so that I could focus on some of the truly stellar moments that slipped past me as I rushed to complete the sketch. I envied the others in the audience who could simply relax and enjoy the moment without the obsessive need to capture the moment on a page. This was an amazing show and Orlando is fortunate to have Heather Henson as a unique local artist and entertainer.

The International Crane Foundation is committed to a future where all crane species are secure; a future where people cooperate to protect and restore wild populations and their ecosystems. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bless Me Father For I Have Danced


Bless Me Father For I Have Danced was presented by Yow Dance at this years Fringe festival. This was a blockbuster show that had a cast of over 30. The show presented amazing song and dance numbers form some of Broadway's best musicals. The show was tied together by a storyline about a young boy who desperately wanted to audition for a show, but his religious parents refused to let him follow his dream. When the boy goes to church and talks to the priest he still is as enthusiastic as ever and the song and dance numbers are used as evidence to present his case.

A sassy and sexy Bob Fosse dance number honestly swings the balance and the priest sees the boy's point to comic effect. The boy's parents aren't as easy to swayed until a secret is uncovered. The boy's mom was once a dancer and she gave up show business when she became a mom. As strict as the father was, he also ends up doing a song and dance. A couple of singers voices didn't hold up in the cavernous Orange venue, but as a whole the show had legs. There were dancing angels, patriotic sailors and bespangled female dancers and show stopping numbers from so many shows so that you definitely get your monies worth.

Word of mouth spread fast and there were incredible lines to get into this show often winding out the Shakespeare Theater door leaving people lined up outside in the heat. No single green room  could hold this huge cast and one day I saw them all behind the Shakespeare theater doing makeup and costuming in the tent set up for a piano near the beer vendor. Of course I couldn't catch the whole cast dancing, so I focused on the boy and surrounded him by dancers in a cross shaped pattern with a Sexy dancer at the base of the cross. This was without a doubt the biggest production at this years' Fringe and everyone wanted to see it. This was an ambitions show for Yow dance and the entire crew that payed off. If you didn't go, you missed a hell of a show.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

CRAIG'S LUST: a Sexploration


Ryan Price of Invisible Frisbee Productions is producing an improvisational comedy show for this year's Fringe called Craig's Lust. I went to a rehearsal held at Rollin's College. When I got there Ran was at the rehearsal space waiting for a meeting to clear out. The space was a small conference room on the ground floor of the Bush Science building room 102. This improv show had a creative edge because all the comedy skits revolve around the romantic crushes that people often don't act upon. "Meeting people is hard. Meeting sane people is harder. Meeting sane people on Craig's list is nearly impossible! Join us for an improvised adventure into dating, modern romance, and missed connections. Come see us, and who knows, maybe you'll be someone's missed connection… Your suggestions fuel the scenes. From the people who brought you 2013’s improvised version of The 39 Steps."


Stage manager Jamie Lynn Woods sat beside me filming the rehearsal. The rehearsal began with a quick session of zip, zap, zoop in which the cast members stood in a circle and threw imaginary knives at each other. Each comedy act was improvised with the actors building off of the scenarios that were offered by the other actors. I admire this sort of high wire act performed without nets. It was of course fun to watch the female actors flaunting their sexuality when needed, however if a male role was needed they could switch genders. It was when such roles were embraced with a flourish that I found myself laughing loudest.

One skit involved a company bowling outing. An employee's wife caught the eye of the boss as she leaned down provocatively to pick up the ball. The boss patted her on the butt and she didn't seem to mind at first. Such uninhibited lack of personal boundaries were often the source of a laugh. The woman's husband was up for a promotion, so he encouraged her performance while hoping it didn't get out of hand.

Nadia Garzon's friend was crocheting during the whole rehearsal. I could identify with his busy act of creation. At the end of the rehearsal, he gave me what he had made. It was a 4 inch high mushroom. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but it traveled with me on a trip to Virginia. I decided to "plant" the mushroom on a wrought iron public bench figuring someone would be happy to discover it. I like this idea of leaving tiny artistic tokens around town. I'm considering the notion of an Origami business card that I could leave behind wherever I have planted myself to sketch. What I lack is the time to create them.

Craig's Lust is being performed at the Orange Venue, Lowndes Shakespeare Theater (812 East Rollins Street, Orlando Fl.)
Thursday, May 15th, 2014  10:30pm to 11:30pm
Sunday, May 18th, 2014  10:30pm to 9:45pm
Thursday. May 22nd, 2014  8:15pm to 9:15pm
Friday, May 23nd, 2014  6:30pm to 7:30pm
Tickets are $11 along with your $9 Fringe button which is needed to get into any show.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Love Out Loud


I went to a tech rehearsal for "Love Out Loud" a DiDonna Productions new multi media dance performance choreographed by McClaine Timmerman. It  takes an intimate look into the world of dating, relationships, and love today. The multi-talented cast explores the struggles, opinions, feelings, hopes, fears, and doubts that we all experience at one point or another. McClaine uses an amalgam of modern dance, projection, and live music to express the topics under investigation.

Showing their commitment to original music, Timmerman and DiDonna utilize all original music throughout "Love Out Loud" including works by Scott Hall, Nigel John, a collaboration between Keifer Curtis, Aurelio Guimaraes and Jeremy Studinksi, and features original live music by Paige Keiner. Paige was at the rehearsal. She explored social media on her phone before the rehearsal started and then performed a solo acoustic piece on her guitar as the cast performed. I had never seen her perform before and I was impressed by her silky confident voice. One of her songs, "What Good is a Throne When You're All Alone?", featured an incredible dance performance with McClaine and a male dancer. McClaine was in a black night gown and the male dancer in PJ's. They danced intimately before bed but their differences and inner turmoil erupted as they performed. This wasn't a peaceful loving couple but a couple who never seemed to connect. Their bodies rippled in angst as they resigned themselves to the inevitability of being at war yet sharing the same bed. As the lights slowly faded, they lay down together and then their touching arms rose up and their fingers laced together.


McClaine accomplishes something I've never seen before. The show is part documentary, part drama and part modern dance. Interviews are projected during the performance that have people sharing their raw honest feelings about what it is like to love in a digital age.  Have the words "I love you" lost their meaning? Social media brings people together in a hive mentality and yet separates us behind computer and cell phone screens. Interpersonal, one on one conversation, is becoming a lost art form.  Is it possible to find a long term relationship while voyeristically following everyone else's relationships? Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

One dance piece had a male and female dancer circling each other as they fingered their cell phones firing off texts. The flirtatious texts were projected on the back wall of the stage. Through the whole dance they only occasionally glanced at each other. It is easy to fall in love with an illusion through text. The next couple on stage fired off an accelerated angry barrage of bitter texts at each other. They bumped into each other like football players forcefully and immaturely jockeying for dominance.


A dance number about "selfies" had all the dancers lined against the wall as they shot iPhone photos of themselves alone and in small groups. The photos were projected above them in accelerating frequency. They all arched their backs raising the phone high above them in a graceful chorus line. They pouted and puckered their lips and smiled and over acted for each shot. Any individuality became lost in the sea of self absorption. McClaine brings humor and fun to each piece while exploring raw emotions. I found myself laughing often with delight. The show offers dance with a deep personal and insightful twist.

The cast includes choreographer McClaine Timmerman, along with her troupe including Andres Avila, Alina Gavrilov, Aurelio Guimaraes, Felipe Vasques, and Nagi Wakisaka. Dancer Dion Leonhard was at the rehearsal to offer notes to McClaine. As McClaine warmed up, stretching a leg above her head, Dion said, "I'd like to have a relationship with your extension McClaine." "Whatever, you've got your own extension." McClaine fired back. I could feel the love and respect these talented performers had for each other.

Mark your calendar! "Love Out Loud" will be presented for four performances only, at the Santos Dantin Theater in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (Loch Haven Park, Corner of 1792 and Princeton Street Orlando FL.) Performances are 8pm on Thursday May 1st, Friday May 2nd, and Saturday May 3rd, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday May 4th. Tickets are $15.00 general admission, and $10.00 student admission, and are available at the door cash only, or by reservation (will call cash only at the door) by calling 407-721-3617.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fringe Lottery


On December 2nd the Fringe Lottery was held in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (812 E. Rollins St, Orlando, Fl).  This was an opportunity to see which shows would be selected for Fringe 23. Michael Mariaccio and George "Fringe" Wallace hosted the lottery. Lottery tickets were picked from green buckets. The Fringe is a completely non-juried week of theater and any show could be selected. The theater was packed full of producers and directors who hoped their shows would be picked.
  1. Participants were selected on a non-juried basis, through a first-come, first served process, a lottery, or other method approved by the Association.
  2. The audience must have the option to pay a ticket price, 100% of which goes directly to the artists (government taxes notwithstanding.)
  3. Fringe Festival producers have no control over the artistic content of each performance. The artistic freedom of the participants is unrestrained.
  4. Festivals must provide an easily accessible opportunity for all audiences and all artists to participate in Fringe Festivals.
 Orlando city commissioner Robert Stuart did the actual picking from the bucket.When he selected "Boylesque" from the bucket he had to hesitate before pronouncing the title. Michael Wanzie shouted out from the audience, "Your going to have to learn how to pronounce "Boylesque" if you want the gay vote!" He got quite a good laugh. Later the politician assured his votes by shaking Michael's hand and kissing him on the cheek. The audience erupted. So, take a glance and anticipate this year's line up.

- ORANGE -
The All New Nashville Hurricane [Chase Padgett - Burbank, CA]
Ennui [Circus Arts - Polk City, FL]
Boylesque [Sensuality N Motion / Visual EFX Productions - Orlando, FL]
Bless Me Father, For I have Danced [Yow Dance - Orlando, FL]
BARE: A Pop Opera [Penguin Point Productions - Winter Park, FL]
FLIGHT: A Crane’s Story [IBEX Puppetry - Orlando, FL]
Something’s Weird in Weeki Wachee [John Ryanand Diva Productions - Orlando, FL]

- SILVER -
Money Shot! [RUSH Theatrical Productions - New York, NY]
Grim and Fischer [Wonderheads - Portland, OR]
Oyster Boy [Haste Theatre Company - London, UK]
Under the Rainbow [Alan Gerber - Orlando, FL]
There’s No Place Like Home [Wanzie Presents / D-Squared Productions - Orlando, FL]
Smooch [PB and J Theatre Factory – Winter Park, FL]
TBD [The Downtowners – Orlando, FL]
Fifty Shades of Gay [Homicidal Orphan Productions – Orlando, FL]

- YELLOW -
Marathon [TJ Dawe - Vancouver, BC]
God Is a Scottish Drag Queen II: An All New Testament [Mike Delamont - Victoria, BC]
The Surprise [Martin Dockery - Brooklyn, NY]
Killer Quack [James Judd Entertainment - New York, NY]
Conversations with My Divorce Attorney [John Montgomery Theatre Co. - New York, NY]
Tappin and Yappin [J&J Pickle Productions: Ocoee, FL]
Pasion Flamenca [Flamenco del Sol Dance Company - Sanford, FL]
Frankenchrist! The Musical [Acting Passionate Productions - Lakeland, FL]
Professor Soap’s Musical Machine [Cadence Creative - Loughman, FL]

- PINK -
Ruby Rocket, Private Eye [Stacey Hallal - Portland, OR]
Chaotica [Christel Bartelse - Toronto, Ontario ]
House [Ribbitre Public Theatre: Edmonton, Alberta]
Black Stockings [Dangerous Theatre: Denver, CO]
Immortals [Wind Whistle Theatre - Nevada City, CA]
Donating Sperm to My Sisters Wife [Stewart Huff - Winterville, GA]
And Baby Makes Four [Utmost Productions - Orlando, FL]
The British Invasion [My Dream Tree Productions - Casselberry, FL]

- BROWN -
Jem Rolls [Big Word Performance Poetry - Surrey, UK]
TBD [Keith Brown - London, Ontario]
Train Your Man [Kirchmann Productions - Alberton, South Africa]
Taking Out the White Trash [Peemypants Productions - Savannah, GA]
Baba Yaga [It Ain't Shakespeare - Dallas, TX]
Radio Free Fringe [RFF - Orlando, FL]
Hungry! The Musical [Madmymn Payne Prod - Kissimmee, FL]
All Shook Up: A Rockabilly Revival [Bare Ass Productions - Winter Park, FL]

- GREEN -
Roller Derby Saved My Soul [Broken Turtle Productions - Ottawa, Ontario]
The Death of Brian [A Zombie Odyssey: Theater Simple - Seattle, WA]
40 Something Still Single [Cougar Comedy Productions - Orlando, FL]
Alice Rocks Wonderland [Atlantic Coast Theatre for Youth - Champions Gate, FL]
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson [BTW Productions / Ashley Willsey - Lake Mary, FL]
Escape from Baldwin Park [Carpenter Aunt Productions - Orlando, FL]
Liquid Courage [Tobo Productions - Orlando, FL]
20 Nothing [Last Minute Panic Productions - Winter Springs, FL]

- BLUE -
Papa Squats Store of Sorts [Ain't True and Uncle False's Hood - Indianapolis, IN]
My Brooklyn Hamlet: A Meshugenah True Story [Brenda Adelman - Spring Valley, CA]
Punk Grandpa [Cosmic Jello / Laura Force Scruggs - Chicago, IL]
Sperm Wars [Random Samples Collective - Toronto, ON]
Fire in the Meth Lab [2 Hoots Productions - Melbourne, Australia]
Shakespeare’s Histories: Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace [Timothy Mooney Repertory - Prospect Heights, IL]
Tuesday Mourning [Clandestine ARTS - Altamonte Springs, FL]
The Queer Diaries [Royal Entertainment - Orlando, FL]
TBD [Playwrights Round Table - Orlando, FL]
TBD [Kia Ora Productions - Kissimmee, FL]

- PURPLE -
VGL 5’4″ Top [Lucas Brooks - Brooklyn, NY]
Desperately Seeking the Exit [Peter Michael Marino - New York, NY]
Superhero’s Can’t Fly [botwot productions - Aspen, CO]
Us vs. The World [Improv Off the Grid - Orlando, FL]
The Float Boat [Comedy First CLC - Longwood, FL]
The Four Great Books of China (Condensed) [Emerson Productions - Casselberry, FL]
Battle of the Sexes: Male Surrender [John Chapman - Orlando, FL]
Tim and Spencer’s Yet Unnamed Magic Project [Corrupting the Kids - Orlando, FL]
Paisley the Clown [Paisley Productions - Orlando, FL]
TBD [JAR Productions - Orlando, FL]

- RED -
Mark Twain’s is Shakespeare Dead [Doctor Keir Co. - Montreal, Quebec ]
The Chronic Single’s Handbook [Randy Ross - Somerville, MA]
Tap Me on the Shoulder [Pack of Others - Northampton, MA]
Going On: A Inspiring True Story about Loss and Finding the Love Inside Yourself [White Rabbit - Portland, OR]
An Iliad [John Remke - West New York, NY]
Rendezvous La Petite Morte [Chloe J. Roberts - Tampa, FL]
The All-New Review [Portals Theatre - Orlando, FL]
Reincarnation Soup [Viet Nguyen - Orlando, FL]
Paranormal Stupidity [Brian Flaherty - Maitland, FL]
Helix by Tangent [Spur of the Moment - Winter Park, FL]

- BLACK -
A Brief History of Beer [Wish Experience - London, UK]
Ocean Fox [Castlereigh Theatre Project - Victoria, BC]
babyBlueStar Presents: VarieTEASE [babyBlueStar - Orlando, FL]
Exploring Her Kinkdom [Penguin Productions - Orlando, FL]
Tod Kimbro Does Everything [Tod Kimbro - Orlando, FL]
Seasons [Squeaky Wheel Theatre Project - Orlando, FL]
Home Free by Lanford Wilson [Gagne Productions - Orlando, FL]
TBD [Logan Donahoo - Orlando, FL]
Truth of Dare with Pepe [Pepe Productions - Orlando, FL]
 Afterwards, some performers lamented not being picked. They are on a waiting list and sometimes shows drop out offering an opportunity for that slot to be filled. I recall laughing out loud when "Sharknado the Musical" was picked. Unfortunately I don't see it in the listings so it must have been dropped. Thankfully "Sperm Wars" made the cut. Mark Your Calendar, there are many Fringe happenings leading up to the big event. Check the Fringe website for more details. Hey, if any local producers or directors are reading this, keep me in mind to sketch read throughs, or rehearsals.
  • February 07 – Loon
  • February 08 (2 shows) – Loon
  • February 09 – Loon
  • March 03 – Fringe at the Hard Rock
  • April 14 -Local Preview
  • May 14 – National / International Preview
  • Second half of May - FRINGE!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Phantasmagoria: Hell Hath Risen


Phantasmagoria began with two wayward travelers, the Brothers Grimm, in the woods searching for a band of storytellers. Projections throughout the show offered a macabre sense of place. The Mandell Theater in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center, had it's seating was arranged in the round, with bleachers on three sides. With a flash the cast began to appear. The Phantasmagoria cast had been telling their tales for centuries. The brothers had written down some of the tales but watered them down a bit so as not to terrify children. The brothers were despised for this treachery, for these stories, when told right, spring fully to life as horrifying as that might be. Children in these tales are the murderous ones as seen in Grimm story “How the Children Played at Slaughtering.” The entire crew of well over a dozen players kept the energy high.

Poe, Dickens, and other literary masters
Poe, Dickens, and other literary masters
Stories are told at times in unison by members of the cast. The atmosphere was perpetually dark and sinister. My book light died half way through the show. I've seen enough "Ghost Hunters" to know that spirits will drain a battery in order to manipulate objects in the material world. I was left to guess at colors and values. Stories included  “Myth of Pandora”,  Edgar Allen Poe's “The Cask Of Amontillado”  and Charles Dickens “A Mad Man’s Manuscript” which did not star Don Draper. The stories remain true to the originals written at the turn of the century. There were skull lined catacombs and murderous husbands. Dead loved ones returned as skeletal remains. Blades were brandished. The cast lived these stories and once a story was started it had to be finished much like a game of Jumanji.

The silks were used between stories by Dion Smith and Mila Makarova while Gina Makarova worked her ring routine. Skeletons danced in a mysterious blue glow among silks but the final battle against a huge dragon puppet that took three puppeteers to operate was a climactic moment not to be missed. Few survived. John explained that the Halloween day performance would continue the last story resolving the cliff hanger ending. I look forward to seeing this show each year and this is definitely the best production so far. This is an October tradition that will chill your bones for the horrors to come. John DiDonna, the director, debated about weather he should have the cast come out for a bow. The ending is so shocking that it might make sense for the audience to leave in devastated silence. I however hope they allow for the chance to break the spell with thunderous applause.

PHANTASMAGORIA IV: Hell Hath Risen
WHEN:
Oct 11th – 31st 2013
Fri, Sat, Sun @ 8:30pm
Special shows Monday Oct 21st and 28th and Halloween show on the 31st! All shows at 8:30pm
(Halloween show includes a very special epilogue not seen on other nights!)
All evening performances at 8:30pm (Box opens at 7:50pm/Doors at 8:10pm)
WHERE:
Mandell Theatre, John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center
Loch Haven Park, Orlando, FL
TICKETS:
General Admission $20.00 / Student and Senior $15.00
Reserve (for will call cash at door) 407-328-9005
Credit card orders www.redchairproject.com
PARKING:
Parking available in lots directly in Loch Haven, or in Science Center Parking Garage off of Princeton (Next to Mennello Museum of Art)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Phantasmagoria Dressing Room


I went to the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center,(812 E. Rollins St., Orlando, FL), to sketch a dress rehearsal for Phantasmagoria IV: Hell Hath Risen. DiDonna Productions and The Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration), is proud to present the fourth installment of their Macabre Halloween Celebrations. John greeted me when I entered and gave me a quick run down of the evening's timetable. Since it was over an hour till the start of the run through, I asked if I could sketch the actors getting into makeup. With a flourish, John opened the dressing room curtain and introduced me. I already knew dancer Dion Smith, so I felt at home. An actress even told me that the two chairs next to the costume rack were free so I quickly sat and got to work.



Make up can take well over an hour for a show like this since skin is supposed to have a sinister ghostly cast. Eye lashes were exceedingly long and multiple layers of eyeliner accentuated the eyes. Seth Kubersky, one of the co-directors, entered and joked saying, "Three years sketching the Orlando Arts scene has been just a cover so you could sketch in actresses dressing rooms." He has a point, this is as good as it gets in terms of back stage access. This is a subject that can never get old.


A stage manager shouted "Five minutes till fight rehearsal!" Actors shouted back, "Thank you five!" Not every actress was in costume. They quickly got into their Victorian dresses and went out for the fight sequence rehearsal before the run through of the show. When they were done, they quickly returned to the dressing room to finish up. There is a chaos and energy to these final moments that is quite addictive. As the actors rushed to get ready, I rushed to finish the sketch.

John gathered the entire cast and had them hold hands in a circle. "It has been four amazing years. For 2000 years this has been going on. Make the audience think. Live each story to the fullest. See you on the other side!"


PHANTASMAGORIA IV–“Hell Hath Risen
WHEN:
Oct 11th – 31st 2013
Fri, Sat, Sun @ 8:30pm
Special shows Monday Oct 21st and 28th and Halloween show on the 31st! All shows at 8:30pm
(Halloween show includes a very special epilogue not seen on other nights!)
All evening performances at 8:30pm (Box opens at 7:50pm/Doors at 8:10pm)
WHERE:
Mandell Theatre, John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center
Loch Haven Park, Orlando, FL
TICKETS:
General Admission $20.00 / Student and Senior $15.00
Reserve (for will call cash at door) 407-328-9005
Credit card orders www.redchairproject.com
PARKING:
Parking available in lots directly in Loch Haven, or in Science Center Parking Garage off of Princeton (Next to Mennello Museum of Art)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Taming of the Shrew


Having sketched the early stages of the set build, I decided to sit in the same Loge seat to sketch "The Taming of the Shrew" on September 25th. Actress Melissa Mason addressed the audience before the play began. This production would be staged in the 1880'swild west because Shakespeare's play has much violence and a headstrong woman would make perfect sense in an early settlement where anything goes. The play was written in 1594.

The production was a comedic romp that employed some of Shakespeare's favorite gags such as switched identities. Melissa played the beautiful Biance in  blonde curls and a pink dress who had many suitors. Lucertio (Chris Ryan), wealthy landowner Germino (Brandon Roberts), and local Hortensio (Chris Metz) are all trying to win her hand. Bianca's father Baptista Minola (John Ahlin) however insisted that Bianca could not marry until her sister Kate (Deanna Gibson) was married. Kate was a bartender who preferred a foul mouthed brawl to any kindness.

At the center of the show is a high stakes battle of the sexes. Rancher Petruchio (Geoffrey Kent) is persuaded to pursue Kate. Bianca's suitors covered all costs and if he succeeded he would profit from Kate's rich dowry. The courtship was close to witnessing a WWF wrestling match. Endless impassioned fights were played for great comedic effect. Eventually the rancher wins Kate's hand. Having married her, he begins to try and break her, just as he would a wild stallion. He denied his new bride food, sleep and fresh clothing while still singing her praises. This resulted in his getting a black eye but over time Kate was coaxed to admit gratitude. I grew more annoyed as Kate softened. I preferred seeing her fiery western independence.

When Lucentio won Bianca's hand, the men at the reception make a wager about who has the most obedient wife. Surprisingly Kate is the only wife who comes when summoned. Petruchio wins the bet, his cowboy hat full of money. But the couple have also won each other, discovering mutual respect on the tale of conflict.

I must admit that there were moments in the play where Shakespeare's words were lost on me. With so many characters changing their identities, I at times lost track of who was who. Kate's final speech however was beautifully worded and inspired. Mark Your Calendar! The Taming of the Shrew is running through October 6th in the Margison Theater in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center (812 E Rollins St  Orlando, FL). Tickets are between $20 and $40.  

Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker, a one man show, will open October 9th and run through November 10, 2013. This should be a perfect play for the Halloween season.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Taming of the Shrew


Jeff Ferree suggested I stop in at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater to sketch the early stages of a set build. Jeff told me the inner structure was like a giant erector set and his description was spot on. A large crew of people had to work as a team to raise the large platform panels into place. It was like a good old fashioned barn raising. Wood planking was ready to be put down on the stage floor. Jeff showed me the blue prints for the set which would become a wild west town. The Scenic Designer is Kat Conley.

The show is a fresh take on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Set in the Wild West and directed by Orlando Shakes Artistic Director Jim Helsinger. "The sweet and amiable Bianca can have her pick of suitors, but only once her sister, the much less charming Kate, is married off. Fortune-seeking Petruchio rises to the challenge, but can he tame this fiery-tongued shrew? Set in the tumultuous Wild West, Shakespeare's unruly comedy gallops onto the Margeson Theater stage in a lively, high-energy battle of the sexes with a couple hell-bent on confusing and outsmarting each other right up to the play's unexpected conclusion."

 Mark Your Calendar! The Taming of the Shrew began September 11 and runs through October 6, 2013 at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Tickets, priced at $17-$40, are on sale now at (407) 447-1700. On Thursday September 26 you can stay after the performance for an informal moderated discussion with the cast and members of the artistic team. On Sunday October 6th go to the prologue series which starts 30 minutes before the show. An actor will lead the audience through a discussion of the plot, themes and major characters in the production.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shadow Play

On September third, I went to Movement Arts Studio (1602 Philadelphia Ave, Orlando FL) to watch a rehearsal of a dance piece by Holly Harris. The two performers were Rebekah Lane and Ariel Clarke. Becky has an acting/puppetry background and Ariel is a contemporary dancer and instructor at Focus Performing Arts Center in Lake Mary. Both are representing Canvas Creative Movement Coalition at The Shift Unity in Motion.

Holly explained the premise behind the creative movement and dance piece. "A year ago I read through some silly fables from a book called, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day. A three-line poem in that book stood out to me called The Shadow."


'Once there was a man was was afraid of his shadow.
Then he met it.
Now he glows in the dark.'

"When Larissa asked me to present an experimental movement piece for The Shift, I immediately went to my idea board to find this poem. I thought I could lead an audience on an imaginative journey of sight, sound, and feeling through the art of creative movement. In the beginning of the duet, you see Becky reading and as she yawns she suddenly takes notice of her shadow for the very first time. She is connecting the black mass that is seen on the stage floor with the light coming from the lamp and it confuses and frightens her. One minute into the piece, her shadow is personified by another dancer, who at first alarms her but then reveals that she is simply an abstract continuation of her body and mind as they move in sync together. As the piece continues to develop, the shadow guides Becky into exploring the mysteries of the world that often go by unnoticed like a solitary shadow."

This rehearsal space is inside a huge warehouse with tapestries and gilded mirrors on the walls. Large blue fabric was draped elegantly over the long dancer's mirror. The rehearsal involved Becky and Ariel developing the first three minutes of the piece.One particularly memorable moment involved Becky walking in a wide arc ad Becky as her shadow matched her steps as she rotated on her hips on the floor. Movement was developed in a playful collaboration. Holly watched the dancers shadows to be sure everything worked.

Mark Your Calendar!  The Shift which involved pieces developed by six dance companies will be September 13th and 14th in the Goldman Theater in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center (812 E. Rollins Street Orlando FL) at 8pm. Tickets at the door are $20.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chocolate Thunder White Lightning


Some Fringe shows offer incredible drama, uncovering personal insights, while others are just plain silly. Chocolate Thunder and White Lightning fell under the second classification. It was a blaxploitation written by a white guy, Al Pergande. The play was performed in the Orange venue in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center.

Valensky Sylvain starred as the flashy Chocolate Thunder. He wore a loud yellow feathery hat and a long pink boa. Jackie Pitts played his new partner in crime, White Lightning. She played her part with a British accent and innocent wit. The premise was that Chocolate Thunder was an old school cop whereas White Lightning was tech savvy. Eric Branch played an over the top villain always petting a stuffed penguin. I felt bad that his silly antics got no response from the audience.

The Expositionettes filled in the gaps between scenes with song. There were gaps everywhere. This production reminded me of plays I had seen at "Play in a Day" in which everything had to be thrown together in 24 hours. There were awkward moments where actors forgot their lines and everyone stood still, wondering what they should do next.

Granted the show was a hot mess, but I was still rooting for the local talent to push through and make the show work. If the show was just a touch worse, it could have classified as a campy cult classic, but, no it struggled short of that mark. There were a few loud laughs from the audience, but the long interludes of silence hinted that all too often the humor missed the mark.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup

One of the most colorful characters of the Fringe has to be Miss Hiccup who I've seen many times on the Lockhaven park green lawn of fabulousness always in character. The program described her show as,  "Fringe favorites Paul Strickland and Chase Padgett combine their talents..." wait a minute, they have nothing to do with this show! Major typo!  Let me look online, ... "The mysterious Miss Hiccup lives alone, but is definitely not lonely. She is forever accompanied by a raucous cast of sounds and music that make her life an absurd adventure. A hilarious and beautiful physical comedy by award-winning Japanese performer Shoshinz from Tokyo."

Miss Hiccup performs in the Blue venue which is the Shakes black box theater. The performance was absurd and endearing.  When she unrolled a whole roll of toilet paper with childish delight, she decided to ensure I was paying attention by kicking the pile of paper onto my sketch pad. She does indeed hiccup her way throughout the show. She came onstage in a crouched crab like position, I'm not sure why. In one cute bit she held a tiny umbrella, maybe twice the size of a drink umbrella over her head. The sound of water leaking would be different if it hit the umbrella. She ran about trying to have every water drop hit her umbrella. While much of the performance was mime along with physical comedy, Hiccup does also sing.

The audience at 5:15PM Friday May 17th was rather small, perhaps 10 people, but everyone could have a front row seat. I'm sure the folks expecting Chase and Paul were confused. The show is light hearted fun and quite kid friendly. As a matter of fact you need to be ready to channel your inner child to fully appreciate the show.

Remaining shows:
Wednesday May 22 at 8PM
Friday May 24 at 6:45PM
Saturday May 25 at 2:15PM
Sunday May 26 at 2:00PM
Where:
Blue Venue at the  John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center.
Tickets:
$11 plus a Fringe Button

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dance For Grandma


My wife Terry has joined the board of the Orlando Fringe. On the evening of the opening gala, I got her to join me to see her first show this season. We went into the Purple venue which is the round patron's room at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. The tiny stage was set up like an attic. Scott Whittemore came out from behind the black curtains with a flash light. I had to stop sketching since the house had gone black. He used his flashlight as a spot light angling it up at a stool. He began to play his ukulele.

Original music, monologues, physical storytelling, dance, ukuleles, and Christmas sweaters help tell the story of a young man seeking to reconnect with his recently departed Grandmother. The theater grew quiet as he used a Quji board to reconnect. Props found in the attic set offered entertaining sidelines into yo-yo tricks and rope lasso dancing. With nostalgia and heart Scott shared the love and respect he had for his grandmother.

The patron's room isn't a great venue because you can hear everyone in the Shakespeare hallways as they laugh and shout. The men's bathroom is also right next to the patrons room and you can imagine how that might be distracting. The intimacy of the production however separated us from the distractions. It was like being alone in the attic while downstairs a party raged. This simple heart felt production was a perfect appetizer, a sweet taste of what this year's Fringe had to offer. I highly recommend the show.

When:
Tuesday May 21 at 5:45PM
Thursday May 23 at 6:45PM
Saturday May 25 at 1:30PM
Sunday May 26 at 9:15PM
Where:
Purple Venue (Patron's Room) at the Shakes
Tickets:
$11 plus a Fringe button

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fringe National / International Preview


On Wednesday May 15th the Fringe National / International Preview was held in the Orange Venue at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. 44 shows from out of town performers had two minutes to get patrons interested in their show. If and performer went beyond two minutes, Bikini Katie would get up and escort the performer off stage. Michael Marinaccio, Fringe's producer, and Chase Padgett hosted the event.

The first performer up was Miss Hiccup, Shoshinz from Tokyo Japan, and I placed her in the sketch.  Her show is called "A Day in the Life of  Miss Hiccup". Her loud flower covered costume was hard to resist. Her physical comedy looks like it could be a fun show. Alexa Fitzpatrick from Aspen Colorado told us about her show called "Serving Bait to Rich People." Alexa works as a bartender at a Colorado dive in a mountain town where men outnumber women two to one. She got serious for a moment, "I'm in the middle of a break up." She paused to let that sink in. "But I'll  be OK, the couple was already having trouble." I laughed out loud.

That reminds me, there was a guy seated in the front row who had the loudest guffaw of a laugh, I've ever heard. One performer commented, "I love your laugh, It's like you're hurling acceptance at me." Oddly a woman in the audience chimed in saying she hoped it would stop. Chase was very diplomatic and stressed that different people have different laughs, and at the Fringe , laughs from all walks of life are accepted. Sadly the guy seemed to have become self conscious and didn't laugh as loud or as often. Then again, seeing 44 previews in a row can wear an audience member down.

I was impressed by the performance of Qurrat Ann Kadwani from NYC. First off she lamented that her parents gave her a name that no one could pronounce. I can identify with that. She switched characters often as she talked about what it was like growing up Indian in the Bronx. I circled "They Call me Q" in my program. Jason Nettle educated us about Fetishes. He said Bronnies and Clappers are individuals who get off on "My Little Pony." He said he could explain why Michael keeps asking George for a Blimpkin. I obviously have much to learn, so I circled "Fetish" in my program. 

Patrick Combs got one of those fake checks from publishers Clearing House for $95,000 dollars. He thought it would be funny to deposit it at his bank signed with a smiley face. He forgot about it and later discovered that his Bank (Bank of America) had cashed the check and he was $100,000 richer. When he went to the bank to straighten things out he was greeted by armed gun men in black suits. His two minutes were up at the mic, and the audience all went awww. Because we all wanted to know what happened next. Bikini Katie walked him off stage with "Man 1, Bank O" written on her thighs.

Chase Padgett and Paul Strickland teamed up to do a guitar duo.  They made up lyrics on the fly and Chase came up with lyrics about laughter that tied into the evenings ongoing theme. I circled, "Chase and Paul: Solo Shows are Hard". Gemma Wilcox from London took us for a ride in her "Magical Mystery Detour". She played a dog, a driver and a motorcycle side car, switching between characters in an instant. I suspect this show is a must see, although she moves so fast and so often, she might be hard to sketch.. "Little Pussy" by John Grady isn't about Sex, but about a little kitten named faith that he rescued from sprawling LA traffic. Martin Dockery is a master storyteller. I saw him last year and recognized his frenetic energy. I definitely want to see "The Dark Fantastic".

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I went to an open rehearsal for William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center on April 26th. The only performance would be the next day and it was completely sold out. I was surprised at how crowded it was getting into the theater. It turned out $10 tickets were sold to see the rehearsal. I usually sit right up front but the front rows were blocked with yellow caution tape.

I did this sketch with a fountain pen Larry Lauria had lent me. It wasn't until I started adding watercolor washes, that I realized that the ink wasn't waterproof. Every wash that touched a line would explode black as the ink spread. I wanted to abandon the sketch and start another, but there wasn't enough time. I pushed forward hoping the whole page wouldn't turn black by the end of the show.

The orchestra performed music by Felix Mendelsohn which perfectly complimented the play. There were love potions that caused mortals to fall helplessly in love with the wrong person. All the lovers were bewildered and lost. The wost case was when Titania fell in love with an actor who had been transformed into an ass. My favorite moment was the play staged within the play. Brandon Roberts as a carpenter announced the play while standing on a column. The actors staged a farcical tragedy of Pyramus and Thisby. The female Thisby  was played by a man and there must have been basketballs on his chest swinging under the Greek toga. Philip Nolan as Pyramus had a hilarious death scene in which he kept poking his sword at his impenetrable chest plate. He apologized to the assembled audience on stage and said "Well, this is actually more of a dress rehearsal." He finally shoved the sword inside the armor and had a long winded agonizing death scene that he milked at least three times. Even members of the orchestra couldn't stop laughing.

It was a delightful evening and I hope the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center continue to collaborate.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bella: The Beauty of ME Dance


ME Dance, Inc. is the Newest Professional Dance Organization located in the heart of Central Florida. I went to one of the final dress rehearsals for Bella by the Marshall Ellis Dance Company.  Bella is the second series of performances by this dance company. When I arrived, dancers were stretching and Marshall was sweeping the stage and applying what I'm guessing was a liquid wax to the flooring.  One dancer was wearing a white tutu and of course I felt compelled to sketch her. She was the first dancer to perform a solo. A large screen was set up onto which a video of this dancer was projected. She walked through a park and then began writing in her note book about life's challenges and emotions. Each dance was preceded by one of these video segments in which she wrote about various aspects of life as she grew and matured. The human experience of love is designed for the sole purpose of showing you who you truly are and it is expressed vibrantly through dance.

After a full run through, Marshall Ellis asked the dancers if they could recite the dance company's mission statement. It is, "To introduce innovative ideas through dance to create growth in the arts community. Our goal is to enrich the arts community by providing an outlet to feature talent in art through entertainment."  He felt the first run was technically amazing but he wanted to feel that undefinable spark, the magic and joy of fully expressed emotion through entertainment. It wasn't just about a smile, but about absolute commitment to artistic expression. With another hour to rehearse, the dancers performed a second time. This time they performed "all out". A high energy 80's dance number had all the dancers trying to catch their breath. Marshall has invested so much of himself to make ME Dance, the premiere dance company in Central Florida. That takes plenty of blood sweat and tears. As I left around 11PM, the dancers were still hard at work. Art isn't easy.

Show Times:
November 23, 2012 - 8pm
November 24, 2012 - 8pm
November 25, 2012 - 7:30pm
Ticket Prices: $20 General Admission 
Venue: John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center, The Mandell Theatre Orlando Shakespeare Theater 812 E. Rollins St. Orlando, FL 32803