Showing posts with label Winter Garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winter Garden. Show all posts

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Whale surfaces at the Winter Garden Theater.

On June 22, 2015, I went to the Winter Garden Theater (160 W Plant St, Winter Garden, FL) to sketch auditions for "The Whale." March 18th will be the Central Florida Regional Premiere of this play written by Samuel D. Hunter and staged by Beth Marshal Presents. I love sketching auditions, I get to witness so many talented actors that all bring their own creative take to the characters. This isn't a story about a great white whale, but instead an intimate look at a father daughter relationship. 

On the outskirts of Mormon Country, Idaho, a six-hundred-pound recluse hides away in his apartment eating himself to death. Desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter, he reaches out to her, only to find a viciously sharp-tongued and wildly unhappy teen. In this gripping and big-hearted drama, The Whale tells the story of a man's last chance at redemption, and of finding beauty in the most unexpected places. This play was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. It won a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play and won a Drama Desk Special Award for Significant Contribution to Theatre.

Charlie – Michael Wanzie
Ellie – Rachel Comeau
Liz – Jamie Middleton
Elder Thomas – Anthony Pyatt Jr.
Mary – Beth Marshall

Production Team
Rob Winn Anderson – Director
Anastasia Kurtiak – Stage Manager
David Merchant – Assistant Stage Manager
Tom Mangeri – Set Design
Amy Hadley – Light Design
J.G. Lantiqua – Sound Design
Marcy Singhaus – Costume Design

Dates:  March 18 to April 3, 2016
Thursday 8pm, Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm (April 2) & 8pm, Sunday 2pm
Industry Night: Monday, March 28

Tickets: $21 - $28
Special pricing for opening night, Thursday performances, seniors and students.

This show contains adult language and scenes. Recommended for mature audiences.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Doubt, A Parable leaves the audience questioning the truth long after the curtain dropped.

I went to the final dress rehearsal for "Doubt, A Parable" based on a. book by John Patrick Shanley. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning drama follows a Catholic high school priest’s battle for truth and personal integrity. It is produced by Beth Marshall Presents and directed by Beth Marshall in the historic Winter Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden FL).

When the theater went dark, Father Flynn (Michael Wanzie) began his sermon in the isle at the back of the theater. He spoke about how the country pulled together after John F Kennedy was assassinated.  The moving monologue rallied the audience behind the father. He was clearly a well loved man among his parish. Michael Wanzie seemed perfectly cast for this role. I've seen him in past productions and he always seems to be in roles where he must question the faith he grew up with.

Sister James (Chelsey Panisch) is a young and enthusiastic teacher loves to get the children excited about history. Her superior, Sister Aloysius (Ginger Lee McDermott) is a hard edged disciplinarian. She views every situation with suspicion and doubt and advises Sister James to do the same. Eventually a situation arises in which the one black student in the school is called away for a meeting with Father Flynn. The boy returned from the meeting acting strange and he had the scent of liquor on his breath.

Sister Aloysius assumes the worst and begins a personal vendetta to expose Father Flynn as the monster she imagines he is. Her black and white view of right and wrong is greyed by the Fathers compassion and a simple straight forward explanation. He gives another sermon, this time about gossip. In this parable he has a woman cut open a down pillow on a city building roof top. Feathers fly everywhere in the wind. She is told to repair the damage and recover the feathers. That of course is impossible, the damage is done.

The play haunted me on the entire drive home. Without an admission of guilt, there is always doubt. The father was clearly a gifted orator who cared for the children in his charge. Yet sister Aloysius's steadfast conviction at times swayed my view of the man. He clearly had human weaknesses. The show was just an hour and a half long but the questions still linger.

Mark Your Calendars!
February 6 - 22, 2015 Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm Industry Night: Monday, February 16 at 8pm
Tickets: $25 ($21 seniors/students)
Industry Nite Feb. 16th -$15 (post show cast meet/greet Pilars Martini

Garden Theatre Box Office
160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden
407-877-GRDN (4736)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

33 Variations

On March 28th I went to The Winter Garden Theatre to see 33 Variations written by Moises Kaufman and staged by Beth Marshal Presents. I had been to a dress rehearsal and hopefully that write up generated interest for this incredible production. Though it was the second to last performance, I had to see the set and lighting to feel the shows full impact. Aradhana Tiwari directed this stellar cast in this show about Beethoven's struggle to create late in his career as he went deaf and a modern day researcher obsessed with understanding his motives as her health also fails. The 33 variations were written by Beethoven based on music written by a lesser known composer and music publisher.

I was touched by the idea that the music researcher felt the need to travel to Vienna to see and touch Beethoven's original sketchbooks. I wrote out every compositional idea, so the sketchbooks were a way to see his every thought. The minimalist set acted as a multi media projection space at times covered in notes and in one scene becoming a bustling subway. At one point a ghostly silhouette of Beethoven was projected walking from stage left to stage right. The sound, lighting and projections became a creative escape into two tortured minds.  Modern day events and historic Viennese events overlapped and intermingled. I was swept away.

Peg O'Keef who played Katherine Brandt, the music researcher, did an astonishing job performing with the advancing stages of sclerosis. After the show, she explained to me that she had found a series of You Tube videos made by a gregarious and vibrant man who recorded himself repeatedly as he succumbed to the muscle debilitating illness.  In one daring scene Peg disrobed for an MRI. In the nude isolation, she and Bethoven were back to back.  The magical moment wag gone in a flash.

After the show, Aradahna hooked her arm in mine and asked me to have a drink with the cast at the bar next door. I only stayed for one drink but the party was just starting. It seems sad that such an amazing show should have such a short run. But, like Beethoven, a creative life can't last forever. The music and inspiration does last forever. There is a link above to all of the 33 Variations. I suggest you listen to it while your surfing the web or social media. They are inspiring in their entirety.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

33 Variations

On February 25th I went to the Winter Garden Theatre ballroom ( 160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden, Florida) for a Designer Run of the show, 33 Variations, a play written by Moises Kaufman. Stage Manager Jay Ferrence was the first person I met when I entered the ballroom. He informed me that the purple tape marked the front of the stage. Actress Becky Eck entered soon afterwards and introduced herself. She had played Jane in "Alice Lost in Wonderland" and she did an amazing job grounding that production. A designer run is a full run through of the show that gives the set designer an idea of where characters will be blocked during the production. Producer Beth Marshall and director Aradhana Tiwari sat behind a folding table to watch the show. Pianist Julian Bond will be performing Beethoven's 33 Variations live on stage in the final production, but for now a recording was used and Julian watched to see how the performers would be moving on the set.

This was a dress rehearsal so some actors were in period outfits from Beethoven's era and the rest of the cast was wearing modern clothing. Photographer Kristen Wheeler was shooting the show this night and she set up two lights to illuminate the actors. Beth warned her not to shoot the feet of some of the period costumed actors since they didn't have the right shoes yet.  During the show, Kristen had total access to the stage and she moved around the actors catching every emotional moment while also switching on and off lights to get the shots. It was an impressive ballet that didn't once phase the actors.

The plot examines the creative process of Beethoven's obsessive variations build from a rather plane and uninspired composition by Diabelli (Brett P. Carson). At the same time, the play follows musicologist Katherine Brandt (played by Peg O'Keef) who yearns to understand Beethoven's obsession. Brandt's relationship with her daughter (Becky Eck) is strained as she succumbs to a disabling Sclerosis and at the same time Beethoven (Chris Gibson) goes deaf. I had watched a number of performers audition for the part of Beethoven and I must say Chris is compelling as the anger driven compulsive composer.

 The musicologist traveled to Vienna to inspect Beethoven's original sketchbooks. By flipping through the pages she could see his every thought as he composed. She wondered if he might be mocking Diabelli's composition with his variations or perhaps he just wanted to one-up Bach who had 32 variations. Beethoven's loss of hearing may have actually helped him break new ground as he reinvented the very process of creation. Though cloaked in anger and bitterness, he found an amazing joy in the process even as the world grew silent. Minor composers like Diabelli could be satisfied and complacent with their insignificant contributions.

One moment in the rehearsal was absolute magic. I stopped sketching and was drawn in to the moment. Katherine Brandt disrobed as if in a doctors office. I imagined she was preparing for an MRI full body scan. She stood in a spotlight facing the audience with her arms out in a Christ like gesture. Beethoven stood behind her and they leaned back to back. His head leaned back on her shoulder and her head leaned back on his shoulder. She closed her eyes and shuddered with quick breaths of ecstasy. I noticed Becky Eck off stage began to cry, and my eyes welled up as well. There is a certain magic that happens when actors are no longer reciting lines, but they are emotionally invested in every moment.

Mark Your Calendars! The show runs from March 14-30, 2014
Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm,
PLUS Monday, March 24 at 8pm- INDUSTRY NITE

 Tickets: $25 ($21 students/seniors) or

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winter Garden Heritage Museum

On October 28th, I went to Winter Garden to drop off several prints with Beth Marshall. Her production of "Alice Lost in Wonderland" was coming to the end of its run at the Winter Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden, Fl). The final performance was November 3rd. Since I got to Winter Garden early, I started a sketch of the Winter Garden Heritage Museum while I waited to hear from Beth. Beth sent a text letting me know that I should meet her at the back stage door. The sketch wasn't finished but I walked down Plant Street to the theater. I waited outside for a few minutes then realized she might have meant to meet me inside the stage door so I went in. A stage manager guided me through the black curtains on stage and then into the theater. Beth was seated in the front row talking to the cast on stage.

The cast was offered the opportunity to purchase any props from the show at below cost. Costumes needed to be clean and hung, ready for collection by costuming. There was some concern that the green room refrigerator had started to smell, but author and Director, Rob Winn Anderson, pointed out that it wasn't a cast issue. This evening was Industry Night which means reduced ticket prices for people in the industry which means it could be a full house.

The cast began a run through of the fight sequence as Beth walked me back stage. It was rather fun walking through the middle of the brawl as it happened. It is always rewarding to present my work to Beth since she understands the value in what I do. I returned to the Heritage Museum to finish my sketch. Some models were posing for a photographer in front of the caboose as I approached. A husband, wife and their son walked towards downtown holding hands. The ten year old used his parents arms as a swing as they walked. There is a real charm to this downtown street which has history minus the strip mall over development seen in the rest of Central Florida.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Way

Terry and I went to a music street festival in Winter Garden. Three different stages were set up along plant street and there were vendor's tents set up everywhere. We listened to several groups outside, with one of them looking and  sounding like the Soggy Bottom Boys. For lunch we had some soft tacos from a food truck. The tacos were good, but could have used more sour cream and guacamole. As we walked past Pilar's Martini Bar, (146 W. Plant) straight next to the Winter Garden Theatre, we heard piano music inside. The air conditioning felt great after walking in the blazing sun all morning.

Kelly DeWayne Richards was at the piano. We know Kelly well, he even came to our home to play during our 20th anniversary vow renewal ceremony. Terry got up to sing several songs and Kelly asked me to sing, but my hands were busy. The owner of Pilar's knew of my work since I have sketched so often in the Winter Garden Theater. I thought the guy in the green shirt, looking at his smart phone was a costumer, but he was actually a bartender on a break. He left soon after I started sketching him to pour drinks and clean glasses. What I also didn't realize was that he is an amazing singer. He got up to perform the final solo before Kelly packed up to go. He sang a rousing rendition of "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, which had everyone in the bar up on their feet for a standing ovation when he was done.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Garden Theater

The second to last stop on the Orlando World Wide SketchCrawl was the Winter Garden Theater where ME Dance Inc. was performing Deja Vu. I got a ticket for Terry and I did this quick sketch of the theater while I waited for her. I wish I had known about the Citizen Kane screening. I would have liked to see that on the large screen.Dana Boyd was at the first stop on the crawl and he stopped by the theater for the final legs.

Built in 1935 the movie theater was the first in Central Florida to show "talkies". It was a gathering place for locals to see newsreels and films of the day. The theater underwent several renovations until it closed in 1963. lt then became a farm supply and tractor warehouse for Pounds Motor Company. The City of Winter Garden and the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation restored the theater and reopened it in 2008. Now the theater showcases dance, theater productions and concerts along with classic films.

Terry was running late, so I worked on this sketch right up until show time. A family with two young and curious boys stopped to watch me work. When I started packing up, one of the boys asked to look through the sketchbook, I said, "Sure" and handed it over. He flipped through the pages with his parents looking over his shoulder. He came to a sketch of a burlesque dancer wearing close to nothing. Doh! I had forgotten about that sketch. Luckily his parents weren't phased.  The dad has worked for Disney Theme Park Entertainment Division perhaps the kids were used to women in tights. The theater was packed but Dana and I found seats in the second row house right. At 8pm the house lights began to fade...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

39 Steps Rehearsal

Back in January at a Florida Creative's happy hour, I first found out that Ryan Price was planning to produce a Fringe play built around "The 39 Steps" a 1915  adventure novel written by John Buchan. It was later adopted by Alfred Hitchcock in a 1935 film. Becky Lane is directing this adaptation in which every show will be improvised based on audience suggestions. In early rehearsals Becky told me that the cast did view point sessions in which the actors walked an imaginary grid and worked as a group becoming a cohesive cast.

This Invisible Frisbee Productions rehearsal was held in a Winter Garden warehouse just two days before Fringe opened. A huge ventilation fan moved the humid air. A tarp was put on the floor because in one scene there is a murder and they didn't want the corpse to have to lie in saw dust or metal filings. In this rehearsal the cast of four went over the introduction and the sequence of events that were needed to get the audience feedback. Since I was essentially an audience of one, Becky had me fill out eight chalkboards with answers to two questions. One question was to write down a job of someone in my party that was suspicious. I've found people to be suspicious of artists so that was my first answer, the others that I recall were a teacher and mailman. The other question involved picking a character trait of someone in your party that they are proud of and then write down the opposite. I recall writing excitable, angry and sloth. Those chalk boards were hung on the front of the boxes and helped defined the backgrounds and personalities the characters.

My other responsibility was to hand out playing cards that each character picked to choose their roll in the comedic drama. Max Hilend, the wild card, was hilarious as a lazy sloth of an artist. He spoke slowly with little to no enthusiasm. He discussed the one painting he does a year, and even the cast was laughing, and peaking at the words that defined his character. Nadia Garzon with a red rose in her hair was funny and entertaining as a high strung excitable art teacher. I decided she had to be the lead character, Hannay, based on her hilarious performance. Megan Borkes was a disgruntled spy and in a scene with Nadia, the two played off each other wonderfully. The villain was the black bearded Christian Cheker in his black shirt and military cargo pants. To me these roles seemed predestined. It is exciting watching the scenes unfold with the even actors not knowing what would come next.

The sets were defined with the boxes rearranged in each scene as chairs as well as a table, ladder and a window on a tripod. Nadia stayed in character as Hannay and had me laughing consistently with her innocent enthusiasm and endless curiosity. I glanced over to see the director, Becky, laughing out loud as well. It was such a delight to know that this performance was unique and as an audience member, I helped mold the performances. As Hannay was entertaining the spy in her home, Max opened the window and blew a dart into the spy's neck. That sudden murder changed Hannay's fate, forcing her to follow through on the spy's mission, now being accused of murder, and on the run from police and the villain who was easily identifiable because of a unique, sometimes rude feature picked by the audience.

The cast took me on an amazing playful ride while asking me to suspend disbelief and fill in what was needed with my imagination. Be sure to check out this show at Fringe, your experience will be new and completely unique. It is theater in its truest form with murder, intrigue and plenty of laughs and unexpected turns.

Where: The Pink Venue

Tickets: $11 along with your Fringe button.

Thursday May 16, 2013 at 6:00PM
Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:45PM
Sunday May 19, 2013 at 11:15AM
Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 11:15PM
Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 9:30PM
Saturday May 25, 2013 at 4:30PM
Sunday May 26, 2013 at 2:45PM

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Biloxi Blues

Walking down Plant Street in Winter Garden, I was surprised to find a Dixieland Band playing in the central gazebo. A few older couples sat in folding chairs watching. I didn't have enough time to do a sketch, so I kept going. At the Garden Theatre, I asked Sherri Cox, the front house manager, a huge favor because I wanted to sketch the stage from the second floor lighting booth. She was wonderful and made the arrangements. I just had to wait till it was closer to curtain time before she guided me up. I watched everyone enter the theater. It was an older crowd. Some of the men might have served in WWII themselves. Upstairs, I was seated on a tall stool next to a huge black metal spot light and some device that looked like it catches sound waves. This was the first time I saw Biloxi Blues and it was a treat.

Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play, Biloxi Blues is the semi-autobiographical comedy-drama by Neil Simon and the second in the trilogy which includes Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound. Biloxi Blues follows the story of Eugene Jerome as a young army recruit going through basic training during World War II and the harsh lessons he must face while stationed at a boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi. Antisemitism among the recruits was a recurring theme throughout the play which is ironic since America was at war with the Germans who were exterminating Jews.

The play is directed by award winning-playwright and acclaimed director Rob Anderson. This is Anderson's directorial debut with both the Garden Theatre and Beth Marshall Presents. The role of Epstein will be played by C.K. Anderson, the son of Rob Anderson. C.K. starred in the lead role of the Beth Marshall Presents production of The Diviners last season at just 14 years of age. I must say that the young actor did an amazing job playing Epstein, who questioned the reasoning behind every training method used by the Drill Sargent Toomey, played by Tyler Cravens.

Towards the end of the second act, I heard torrential rain pounding on theatre's roof. Maybe I noticed it more than the audience below since my ears were so close to the ceiling. It distracted me from the romance blossoming between Eugene, Carl Krickmire, and Daisy, Julie Snyder, on stage and I wondered how I would get back to my car without the sketch getting soaked. The rain stopped long enough for me to get to my car and then it poured on the drive home.

 Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon has one last performance today, Sunday February 24th, at 2PM in the Winter Garden Theater (160 West Plant Street).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Haunted House

After the Halloween wedding, Terry and I went home and got ready for Trick or Treaters. Terry got into her Zorro costume again. We had two large bags of candy to give away. If no children stopped by we would be stuck eating Gobstoppers, Taffy and boxes of Nerds for weeks. Halloween is our pet cockatoo's favorite holiday. Terry brings him to the door where he greets the children with a warm, "Hello!" He often flaps his wings frantically causing the kids to shriek with delight. The cutest trick or treaters were two little girls, maybe five year old twins, dressed as Indian princesses. Terry let them pet Zorro and then she got two of his white feathers which she also gave to the girls for their head dress. Later, a little boy dressed in a diving suit also wanted to pet the bird. When Terry got down on one knee to get to his level, he also got on one knee.

When the horde slowed, and all the candy was gone, Terry and I drove out to Winter Garden to see an amazing haunted house. This is a private home which is only open to the public on Halloween. Cars were parked all along the side of the road. I found the first open spot and we walked towards the house. We used my book light as a flashlight. The center median and many lawn had yellow caution tape out to stop cars from parking. The City of Winter Garden had told the home owner that $350 dollar tickets would be issued this year if cars parked on the median. Guess the City of Winter Garden is looking for some profit from this free event.

There was a huge line of people lined up to go in the front door of the haunted house. The line was moving though so Terry and I lined up. A wolfman kept sneaking up on people in line. He tried to scare Terry, but she just put her arm around him and said, "So what are you doing later?" A faceless hooded ghoul stood silently and his eyed began to glow red. Children were screaming in terror and pleasure. The wolfman walked up to a mother with her toddler in her arms. The little girl held her hand to her face saying, "No, no NO!" Then burst into tears. A teenage boy walked up to Terry and said, "It looks like you dropped something." He knelt down to pick the imaginary object up. "Oh look, it's your self-esteem." She countered with, "You keep that, you need it more than me."

The inside of the home was lavishly decorated. Animatronics and live actors combined to frighten guests. A wedding couple on the porch reminded me of Nick and Brooke. Right at the front door a scream faced ghost stood motionless. As a family walked by it suddenly moved and shouted scaring a family half to death. Not knowing what was real was unnerving. At the entry there was a treasure chest full of full sized candy bars. A glow bracelet was offered to all who entered and when people left through the back door there were free beers for the adults and sodas for the children. I have never seen so much Halloween generosity before. We used to give baby pumpkins to children who were frightened visiting our Tenafly N.J. home on Halloween, but this Central Florida treasure takes the cake.