3rd Annual Fantastic Ekphrastic in St. Pete

This weekend marks the 3rd Annual Fantastic Ekphrastic by Keep St. Pete Lit on  February 24 and 25, 2017.

If you go, you’ll be treated to live readings of Plays, Poetry and Prose inspired by Visual Art on display in the same space. Basically, 16 local fine artists (mainly photographers, painters and sculptors) created intriguing/pretty/wonderful things, and then local writers were asked to write about them. You get see actors perform those written works! “Ekphrastic” is from a Greek word that means a ‘written commentary on a visual work of art.’ The event will be held at Soft Water Studios with Bob Devin Jones directing. (He used to be my landlord.)

Keep St. Pete Lit’s Maureen McDole, my friend, explains the unique event. “There is nothing like seeing a writer’s work come to life, while also viewing the artwork that inspired it. It’s a totally visceral experience and every performance is different. I had a strong desire to merge the visual and literary arts in a collaborative environment. By adding the performance aspect, we create a dynamic interdisciplinary experience.”

Tickets are $25 and on sale at keepstpetelit.org. All proceeds help Keep St. Pete Lit promote the vibrant local literary arts community, including low-cost writing classes at the Morean Art Center, LitSpace Writers Residency program in April, SunLit Literary Festival, a used bookstore at Morean Art Center, an upcoming kids summer writing camp and much more. Find out more at keepstpetelit.org or see my post from last year’s event.

Each year when you go to Fantastic Ekphrastic, you can discover something new!

When: Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25
Two shows each night, at 5:30pm and 8pm
Doors open at 4:30pm so you can immerse yourself in the art before the performances begin.

Where: Soft Water Studios – 515 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg

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Planning My Day at the Fair

Although I live minutes from Tampa, Florida, I have never been to the Florida State Fair. My kids have gone when invited by different friends over the years, and in fact DD2 went this year already, but I plan to go this Sunday for the first time. I’ve been looking at friends photos and social media posts, as well as the Florida State Fair website, and I’ve begun planning my day.

Photo by Rachel Barrett

What’s funny is I have a blogger friend who shared all there is to share about the food at the fair. Meanwhile my daughter has photos of animals, and my boss had photos of rides. My friend Carter said not to miss Cracker Country. I guess everyone has their reason for going and their favorite part of the day and Fairgrounds. Some moms of littles will probably wait in line for Peppa Pig or meeting the Shopkins! I’m curious to see what my favorite part will be. I think it will be taking photos of rides and lights at night.

Littles can get washable glitter tattoos at the Fair. (Really big kids can too!)

I already know one friend I am going with will totally be food-focused. While another said she can NOT miss the giraffes.

Giraffes??

Yep, every day at the fair you can join Twigs the Giraffe and other amazing exotic animals up close in the Giraffic Park Exotic Menagerie. (Ha!) Feed a giraffe and get a close-up look at a llama. When I think about animals at a fair, my mind goes to Charlotte’s Web – and the cows and pigs – and Templeton singing “A Fair is a Veritable Schmorgasboard-orgasboard-orgasboard.” Don’t worry, you can see those at the Fair too!

Friends of mine making furry friends at the Fair

DD2 tested her bravery at the Fair

You know what sounds cool to me? India Fest. I really enjoy music and dance with Indian influences, and I wonder if a couple of the kids I know from school will be performing. I haven’t heard about that from anyone yet.

The Florida State Fair is packed with rides — it’s the largest Midway in America and includes the famous Mighty Mouse. I guess it really does belong only an hour from Walt Disney World… If you love to spin around while being spun around, I hear the Zipper is the way to go.

Photo by Rachel Barrett

Because I’m a little tardy to the State Fair party, the people have already voted on the best food at the fair. The People’s Choice Award goes to The Best Around for their Fried Cheesy Enchilada Funnel Cake created by Kevin McGrath and team (not pictured here). It’s a corn meal funnel cake batter mixed with enchilada spices, poured through a funnel and deep fried. it’s then topped with queso and ground chorizo. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that. My daughter said the hamburger that has 2 heart-shaped donuts as the bun was tasty (shown). My boss tried – but later regretted – the fried Oreos.

Thanks to Outdoorsy Diva for her Fair tips and sharing some photos. Thanks to Tampa Bay Bloggers for helping me get tickets. I’m looking forward to my day at the Florida State Fair with Tia. I hope to see y’all a the fair!

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Can a Cabaret be a Distraction?

I’m a little bit speechless.

Last night I went to see “Cabaret” at the Straz Theatre in Tampa. I was offered 2 free tickets through Tampa Bay Bloggers. I had never seen the show or the movie, nor had I read the book it was based on. I knew a few of the songs, and I knew there was a Fosse connection and a Liza Minnelli connection. (The 1972 American musical drama film was directed by Bob Fosse and starred Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey.)  

My daughter was in “Chicago The Musical” a few years ago – also Fosse – and I expected something similar. Now, Chicago also has women running around scantly clad. Chicago also has great song and dance moments. Chicago also deals with relationships and human flaws. And DEEP DOWN Chicago is about press, media and our f’-ed up legal system, but with a lot of fishnets and razzle dazzle to keep you engaged while telling its morals.

“Cabaret” started similarly for me. Fun songs, girls in a nightclub being naughty, skeletons coming out of the closet. And I knew in advance that the setting was pre-Holocaust Germany. Here’s this handful of normal people learning to handle their lives in the best ways they know… should there be booze and drugs? Should they be married or free to try anything in any bedroom?

“Then bang! Crash! A lightning flash!” (That’s from “Into the Woods.”) And you’re forced to choose sides. You’re forced to decide what’s good and what’s bad. Suddenly a night at the club won’t erase the craziness going on around you. 

Sound familiar???

I was hoping to escape reality for a couple hours. The show even welcomes you that way! You’re invited to sit in the Cabaret and forget what’s happening outside the door. “Leave your troubles outside! So, life is disappointing? Forget it! In here life is beautiful,” (That’s how yoga class starts, but the way.) What a tease. Suddenly – swastikas, nazis and concentration camps!

Now, I thought perhaps the show might tie in Nazi Germany in a creepy, “Sound of Music” kind of way. Umm, nope. It’s more of an in your face, make your stomach turn kind of way. And in today’s political unrest, it’s awfully hard not to use that as a way to shine a light on what’s happening in the USA in early 2017.

The set is sparse and perfect. The on-stage orchestra above the show is nothing less than I’d expect from Roundabout Theatre Company. Playbill shares great photos here. And that voiceAndrea Goss, who holds back and reels you in, and then fills the theatre with her grand and gorgeous voice from such a tiny package… it’s amazing! (She understudied Michelle Williams, Emma Stone and Sienna Miller in this role of Sally Bowles. Her Broadway credits include “Once” and “Rent.”) Have a listen here.

Todd Haimes, the artistic director of the Roundabout Theatre Company, said, “I think it’s something that should be seen by every generation.”

 

It probably should be, lest we forget.

 

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Womens March St. Petersburg, Florida

16196074_10154722654160923_3727642219742996088_nOn Saturday, January 21, I marched with over 20,000 people through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, to show my love and support for the people I share this globe with. I did not march because of a whiny person on Twitter. I marched to feel better about the dialogue happening around me and online – to feel unity and camaraderie at a time when many are polarizing. I wanted to feel community and warm fuzzies, and I found those things. (If I wanted to dwell on anger and hate, I could have found that elsewhere, by why seek that negativity out?)

Here are some reactions I captured from Facebook after the event:

DD2 with me

DD2 with me

“It’s not just about making memories, it’s about also making history.” (My daughter wrote that one.)

“Love – not hate – makes America great.”

“How Ironic, so much division has created so much unity!”

“What an incredible historic experience.”

“I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

“Make rapists afraid again.”

“1 in every 2,333 persons in the world were out marching today. Let that sink in.”

16265275_10154722652810923_7095660124806334957_n“Standing up for rights with 17,000+ friends.”

“Inspiring morning of love and unity! Proud to be a part of this amazing community and country!”

“A woman’s place is in the House… and the Senate.”

“Love wins.”

“Choose Love”

“Stronger together!!!!!!”

“Demens Landing is packed for #WomensMarchStPete! I love our city!”

“Together, we’ve got this!”

16114115_10154724806490923_5889764783423754309_n“I am so proud of those who stood for LOVE today in St. Pete! Estimated attendance was 20,000+ people. Women, men, and children of all different ages, races, and sexual orientations. One Love.”

“Unforgettable experience to be among 20 thousand amazing and hopeful women and men.”

“Diversity is beautiful! Kindness is powerful! Equality is everything!”

“Just saw an older woman in a suffragette outfit. I complimented it. Her response: ‘Different era, same shit.'”

“Public displays of love and respect.”

20,000+ people marched in St. Pete.

20,000+ people marched in St. Pete.

“Today I marched next to thousands of women that stood up and spoke up about what we believe in. I was so proud to have been in the company of such welcoming and loving people. The city of St. Pete was more than gracious and kept us safe as we marched. We chanted, we yelled, we cried but mostly, we laughed, we smiled and we stood together. For those of you around the world marching with us today, thank you. We will be stronger and louder than ever before.”

“Thank you to all the marchers and supporters today. The mood was wonderfully upbeat, the commitment palpable and I really loved the signs. I look forward to joining with everyone to continue the fight.”

“Thank you, because in a very big way, this single Mom/Student feels better. I feel hope where only despair lived. Thank you all that marched (Peacefully!) so I did not fear my children being hurt.”

“Is this happening once a month? Cause I’m down…”


Love, not hate, makes America Great! (aka my daughter in a banyan tree.)

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Fiasco’s Into the Woods at the Straz Center, Tampa

into-the-woodsbroadwayIn 1989, the full original Broadway cast of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods” (with the exception of Cindy Robinson as Snow White instead of Jean Kelly) reunited for 3 performances for the taping of the musical in its entirety for the Season 10 premiere episode of PBS’s “American Playhouse”. When it aired on March 15, 1991, I popped a worn tape in the VCR and made a horrible copy. This is the version of “Into the Woods” my daughters grew up with. The professional video has since been released, remastered and re-released. It is considered to be the original Into The Woods. (You can watch it here.)

In 2014, a film version was released, which I’m guessing most of you saw. I mean – Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman and a Christmas Day release date could be the perfect fairy tale. I actually much preferred the original version, but by now my tape is pretty hard to watch. Luckily someone gave me a DVD version of the PBS special!

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Shorecrest dress rehearsal photo by Leslie Ellen Photography

Then, this fall, the school I work at, known for lavish musical productions, performed “Into the Woods” much like the original version. The sets were gorgeous, the costumes were perfect, the teens gave it their all! This was no school auditorium make-shift production. This was a professional theatre production that happened to have high-school-aged actors.

Now Fiasco Theater has reimagined “Into the Woods.” If you’ve seen the show before, like me, you’ve most likely not seen anything similar to this! It’s completely stripped down. It’s only a 10-person cast, and there is no orchestra. The instruments are strewn around the edges of the stage and the actors occasionally pick them up and play them. The set is also stripped down, using a few tables and boxes and a ladder to get the point across. It’s low-tech and very accessible, and made me think back to making up skits in my grandmother’s basement with my cousins.

It’s hard to not get caught up in the differences every time you see a beloved show reimagined by a new Director, costume artist, stage manager, etc. (No narrator, a cow’s death sequence, actors as musicians?) And this is truly a whole new production – with a focus on pantomime and reacting. But what remains the same are the clever, tongue-twisting, fast-talking lyrics and the highly personal themes.

My favorite of these comes from the simple lyric, “Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.”

So much thought caught up in a seemingly unassuming sentence! What makes it all worth it? What makes you get up every day? What makes you face fear and uncertainty? What makes you put yourself out there around new people and experiences?

And this is the genius of Sondheim, wrapping itself around your brain. You can grab at the surface alone and enjoy the fairy tale, or you can realize that every song is giving you a lesson or a warning.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-8-21-33-amThink I’m nuts? That I’m reading too much into it? Consider for a moment that Little Red Riding Hood is not meeting a wolf, but a first teenage romance, and then listen to the lyrics:

“He made me feel excited, well, excited and scared. Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.

Isn’t it nice to know a lot? …and a little bit not.”

If you haven’t seen the show, you may have gathered from the names I’ve mentioned that the show follows fairy tale characters, both familiar and new, as their stories intersect in pursuit of their dreams in the mysterious woods surrounding their kingdom. The show is a fascinating musical tapestry about hopes and dreams, triumphs and failures, as it explores the question, “Is there really a happily ever after?”

itwbloggersAs I walked into the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall for their production running through Dec 4, with 2 complementary tickets courtesy of Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was warned that the first act is 90 minutes long. (In other words, visit the ladies’ room and unwrap your candy now.) And Act 1 is almost like 2 acts blended together. Just as the cast sits comfortably and you think the lights will come up, Jack (of giant and beanstalk fame) suddenly proclaims “There are giants in the sky!” and a new storyline unfolds.

When we marketed the performance at work, a school including ages 3-18, we gave parents a warning. “The production is split into two acts, the first of which highlights popular fairy tale personalities like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Prince Charming portrayed as normal, flawed people. There’s a witch, a wolf and a giant, but the scares are mild for young viewers. Intermission may be a good time to leave with little ones, however. As the play progresses into Act 2, plot twists become more mature and at times dark, reminding the audience, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Characters tackle moral dilemmas in ways that will resonate with viewers aged 15 and up.” So that’s my note for you if you are taking little-littles to the show. You can almost get away with ducking out at intermission if they are sleepy enough. The songs even come back around to the popular “Into the Woods” refrain where everything started.

The themes of family relationships, facing your fears, helicopter parenting and creating unity are also very prevalent. The Baker and his Wife may even make you ponder the American Dream. The show is truly timely and relatable for all ages. And we’re lucky that this new production is hitting Tampa very early in it’s US Tour! Grab your tickets here ASAP!

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