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Visual and Performing Artists and Events in the news February 8-14, 2023


This is who and what’s creating news in Southwest Florida’s visual and performing arts community this week:


1     ACTORS


Emilie Baartman in the role of Kia in ‘The Last Schwartz’ at New Phoenix

Emilie Baartman is a Naples, Florida actor, singer, dancer and costume and set designer. She appears in the role of Kia for New Phoenix Theatre in Deborah Laufer’s The Last Schwartz. Emilie’s stage credits include work in the ensemble of Head Over Heels for New Phoenix Theatre, flight attendant Gloria in Boeing Boeing for The Naples Players, Macbeth: The Murder Mystery for the CFABS Players and Pam Lukowski in The Full Monty (New Phoenix Theatre, 2020). The rest of Emilie’s theatrical credits are here.



Seth Balcer is sadistic dentist Orin in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Belle Theatre

Seth Balcer plays the part of sadistic dentist Orin in Little Shop of Horrors at Belle Theatre in Cape Coral, where he previously starred as Dewey Finn, an energetic down-on-his-luck wannabe rock superstar, in School of Rock. When he’s not center stage, you will typically find Seth on drums, which is where the played for Rent at Fort Myers Theater.



Joey Bostic in ‘Sweeney Todd’ ensemble at Lab Theater

Joey Bostic is a Fort Myers based actor and aspiring director. He currently appears in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Bostic’s previous credits include the role of Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Show at both Fort Myers Theater and New Phoenix Theatre, Benny in Rent at Fort Myers Theatre, virgin-turned-vampire Madeleine Astarte in Charles Busch’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom for the Alliance for the Arts and the butler Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles. Go here to see the rest of Bostic’s theatrical credits.



Nalalie Brouwer in ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’

Natalie Bouwer performs professionally as an actor and singer up and down the East Coast, but hopes to make Florida her home base.  She appears currently for Players Circle Theatre in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Brouwer’s Southwest Florida stage credits include Miracle on 34th Street (Beach Street Repertory Theatre), Linda in Night and DayJingle Bell Jubilee, Lady in the Street in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeLaughter on the 23rd Floor and Ho! Ho! Ho! The Christmas Show for Players Circle Theatre. Go here for the rest of Natalie’s theatrical credits.



Ryan Porter Craig is the voice of Audrey II in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Ryan Porter Craig appears as the voice of Audrey II for Belle Theatre in Little Shop of Horrors. Previous credits include the multiple roles for Gulf Coast Symphony in their holiday revue, Snowbird Follies, the dual roles of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical and King Basilius for New Phoenix in Head Over Heels. A former Certified Nurse’s Aide, Ryan studied vocal performance at Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.



Kevin Crumpler makes Florida debut as Professor Bhaer in ‘Little Women’

Kevin Crumpler plays the part of Professor Bhaer for Fort Myers Theatre in Little Women. The role represents Kevin’s Florida debut. His prior credits include Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Beast in Beauty & The Beast, Lancelot in Camelot, Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Sheffield in Meet Me in St. Louis and Sonny Malone in XanaduGo here for the rest of Kevin’s theatrical credits.



Shane Dinan is Man #1 for Players Circle in ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’

Shane Dinan plays multiple parts as Man #1 in Players Circle Theatre’s production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Shane is a musician, actor and occupational therapist from Asheville, North Carolina. Shane previously appeared at Players Circle in Laughter on the 23rd Floor and prior to that in the role of George Bailey in Miracle in Bedford Falls.



Jorja Evans is Amy March in ‘Little Women’

Jorja Evans appears in Little Women, which plays at Fort Myers Theatre February 3-12. She plays the youngest of the March sisters, a vain young woman who fits the stereotype of the spoiled baby of the family but whose character arc exhibits the most dramatic growth over the course of the play.

Jorja’s previous credits include Mrs. McKee in The Great Gatsby, Margot Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank and Ursula in Little Mermaid Jr.



Jessie Getlik is Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk in ‘Little Women’

Jessie Getlik is a former Royal Caribbean & Disney Cruise Line performer who has relocated from New Jersey to Fort Myers. After performing for theme parks, golf clubs and cruise ships for the past ten years Jessie can be seen in various Live at Chocs! events at Chocolattes. She made her Fort Myers Theatre debut as one of the dancestors (Flapper/Moon) in The Addams Family Musical and now plays Aunt March/Mrs. Kirk for Fort Myers Theatre in Little Women.



Elijah Grant is Laurie in ‘Little Women’

Elijah Grant is an aspiring Southwest Florida actor. He plays Laurie in Little Women for Fort Myers Theatre. His acting is crisp and seemingly effortless. The only question is which of the March sisters will he win in the end. His stage credits include Pete in Burnt Part Boys, Enjolras in Les Miserables, the title role in Pippin, and roles in Spamalot the Musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Sweeney Todd.



Cindi Heimberg plays Bonnie in ‘The Last Schwartz’ at New Phoenix

Cindi Heimberg is a local actor with numerous performances to her credit. She plays Bonnie Schwartz in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Deborah Laufer’s The Last Schwartz. Heimberg’s credits include the roles of Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein, Ruby in Nancy Stetson’s Rest Stops of America and Artistic Director Zorah Bloch in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Daniel Sullivan’s Inspecting Carol. Go here for the rest of Cindi’s theatrical credits.



Diane Hembling is Marmee March in ‘Little Women’

Diane Hembling makes her Fort Myers Theatre debut in the role of Marmee March in Little Women. She performed professionally as Cinderella’s Stepmother in the Herb Strauss Theater’s production of Into the Woods. Diane’s community theater credits include Peter Pan, Sweeney Todd and Brigadoon, as well as numerous shows at Cultural Park Theatre in Cape Coral, including Mrs. Darling and Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man.



Gabrielle Lansden is Johanna in ‘Sweeney Todd’ at Lab Theater

Gabrielle Lansden is a multitalented creative. In addition to being a gifted actor, she is a self-employed voice actor, Scenic Designer for Laboratory Theater of Florida and promotional model and brand ambassador at Rockstar Harley-Davidson. She currently appears for Lab Theater in the role of Johanna in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Lansden’s acting credits include the part of Lucy in Avenue Q and Janet Weiss in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. Go here for more on Gabrielle’s theatrical credits.



Terry Lavy is Mr. Lawrence in ‘Little Women’

Terry Lavy came to SWFL in 2005 with no acting experience. Challenged by a friend, he auditioned for A Christmas Carol (2021) without knowing it was a musical. He became the Ghost of Christmas Present and sang in public for the first time since childhood.  Terry loved the people and the experience and now he’s hooked. He next appears as Mr. Lawrence in Little Women.



Trace Meier plays corrupt Judge Turpin in ‘Sweeney Todd’ for Lab Theater

Trace Meier portrays corrupt Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It is Judge Turpin who foments Sweeney’s murder spree by sentencing him to a penal colony in Australia on false charges so that he’ll have unimpeded access to Sweeney’s beautiful young wife, Lucy, who commits suicide by poison after being raped and tormented by the judge. Back in London fifteen years later, Sweeney swears to avenge his wife and daughter. Trace’s stage credits include Sir Danvers Carew for New Phoenix Theatre in Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, multiple roles in Quartet and Young Frankenstein, and Dr. Scott in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. 

You will find the rest of Trace’s theatrical credits here.



Lauren Miller is Beggar Woman in ‘Sweeney Todd’ at Lab Theater

Lauren Miller plays the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for Lab Theater. Among Lauren’s prior stage credits are Joanne Jefferson for Fort Myers Theatre in the rock opera Rent, Ann Putnam in Lab Theater’s production of The Crucible, Mazeppa in Gypsy, Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense, Henrietta in All Shook Up and Kit Kat Girl Texas in Brenda Kensler’s blockbuster production of Cabaret in 2015.

Go here to view the rest of Lauren’s theatrical credits.



Candace Moore is Joe March in ‘Little Women’ at Fort Myers Theatre

Candace Moore plays the lead in Little Women for Fort Myers Theatre. She brings intention, joyfulness and youthful verve to the part, which is perfect blend of motivation and emotion to properly express Jo March’s determination to shun the social norms in feminine manners and fashion of her time in her overarching drive not just for equality, but to be defined on her own merits and not through a husband. Interestingly, Josephine March is based on Louisa May Alcott herself, which made her book semi-autobiographical. Jo’s struggles with writing a publishable book mirrors Alcott’s struggles with becoming an author as a female in her time. The rest of Candace’s credits can be found here.



Aimee Naughton is Chiffon in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Belle Theatre

Aimee Naughton appears in the role of Chiffon in Belle Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Her previous stage credits include Lady Beaconsfield for New Phoenix Theatre in Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, Mickey in Odd Couple: Female Version for Belle Theatre, work in the ensemble of Head Over Heels the Musical for New Phoenix Theatre and Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for Cultural Park Theater.



Samantha Pudlin is Meg in ‘Little Women’

Samantha Pudlin  is Meg in Little Women for Fort Myers Theatre. Pudlin’s recent stage credits include ensemble work in Head Over Heels for New Phoenix Theatre, the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot, Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors, Marcy Park in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, all for Cultural Park Theatre. Her other credits include playing a social worker and mom in Body and Sold at Laboratory Theater, Nurse Kelly in Harvey, Protean in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a dancer and member of the ensemble in Sweet Charity and Boylan Sister and a member of the ensemble in Annie, all for CPT. Samantha also appeared in the ensemble at Florida Repertory Theatre in 13: A New Musical and was a singer in the latest Live @ Choc’s event (Hooray for Hollywood).



Dave Rode plays bucket list role of Sweeney Todd at Lab Theater

Dave Rode plays a bucket list part when he assumes the title role of Sweeney Todd for Lab Theater. “For me this is the culmination of a long journey that started when I first heard Michael Cerveris perform the title part,” divulges Dave, who “finds ways” to connect with his character, a serial killer who helps dice up his victims so that his partner, Mrs. Lovett, can include them as the key ingredient in the meat pies she sells to the good people of London. You will find the rest of Dave’s stage credits here.



Amanda Ross is Woman #2 in ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’

Amanda Ross is a New York City-based actor, director and intimacy specialist, and member of New Circle Theatre Company. She is Woman #2 in Players Circle Theatre’s production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Amanda recently starred in the one-woman show The Azure Sky in Oz by Bill Leavengood at the United Solo Festival in New York City after a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Go here to view the rest of Amanda’s theatrical credits.



Cassie Sampson is Ronnette in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Belle Theatre

A local stage actor, Cassie Sampson has been involved in more than two dozen theater productions in Southwest Florida over the course of her career. She appears currently as Ronnette for Belle Theatre in Little Shop of Horrors. She previously appeared at Belle Theatre in the role of Cinderella’s stepmother in Into the Woods and was a member of the ensemble of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical for New Phoenix Theatre. Go here to see all of Cassie’s theatrical credits.



Cassy Terwilliger plays Crystal in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Belle Theatre

Cassy Terwilliger appears currently in the role of Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors at Belle Theatre in Cape Coral. Terwilliger was last seen in the role of Emma Carew in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, following her New Phoenix debut in Head Over Heels. Go here to see all of Cassy’s theater credits.



Ted Wioncek III plays multiple roles in ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’

Ted Wioncek III is an award-winning artist, actor and performer. The Philly Review has labeled him “a master in storytelling” in recognition of his vibrant work, and his efforts as an arts business builder coupled with the use of immersive mediums to advance technology in aid of experiential storytelling has attracted features in a number of other publications. Ted currently appears in various roles for Players Circle Theatre in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. The rest of Ted’s credits are here.








Spotlight on River Basin muralist Rod Acosta

Local artist Rodney Acosta has painted two panels for the Fort Myers River Basin Mural Project. The first is the actual fort’s guardhouse and a survey map that was drawn to scale by a major who came in 1856 to find out why so much money was being spent to build the fort. The second is a rendering of Fort Myers’ colorful sheriff, Frank Tippins, in a boat on the Caloosahatchee River with three other men.

The rest of Rodney’s bio is here.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Lorrie Bennett

Lorrie Bennett is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. Lorrie has painted two River Basin murals – one of Seminole Chief and feared warrior Billy Bowlegs and the other of Uncle Marion Hendry’s Grocery Store at the northeast corner of Hendry and Front Streets. Lorrie describes herself as a self-taught intuitive, contemporary, and expressive mixed media artist and illustrator who, from an early age, had an affinity for drawing and painting. For Lorrie, creating has always been a journey of experimentation and exploration. The rest of Lorrie’s credits can be read here.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Sherry Lynn Diaz

Sherry Lynn Diaz is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. Sherry has contributed two murals to the project, the first being this one of the great Seminole chief and warrior Billy Bowlegs. Sherry has exhibited her art in juried local, state and national shows, earning awards on all three levels. She has enjoyed two well-received one-woman shows. Her art can be found in private and corporate collections in the Dominican Republic as well as many places throughout the United States. Please go here to see Sherry Lynn’s full profile.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Ruben Dimas

On the Hendry Street side of the detention basin next to Luminary Hotel three stanchions south of Edwards Drive is a mural of Henry Ford sitting in a Model T. It’s the car that Ford had the local dealer deliver to his friend and neighbor Thomas Edison on the occasion of the latter’s birthday in 1916. The mural was rendered by Fort Myers Mural Society member Ruben Dimas, an automotive artist born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida. He specializes in automotive illustrations, graphic design, and product design for the auto industry. Go here to see the rest of Ruben’s credits.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Michelle J. McDonald

As you walk around the basin next to Luminary Hotel, you’ll come across a mural depicting the arrival of colorfully attired guests on the pier at Thomas Edison’s home downriver on McGregor Boulevard. It was rendered by Michelle J. McDonald, who currently works primarily in acrylics and pastels. She is also known for her “Beautiful Bookmarks,” which are comprised of scraps of paper that create a collage. Michelle’s story is like that of many other later-in-life Florida artists. Go here to find out how.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Lesley Morrow

Lesley Morrow is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. Lesley painted the portrait of John Alexander Weatherford that appears on one of the stanchions across from Ella Mae’s Diner at the Luminary Hotel. Morrow is locally known for expressive oil, acrylic, airbrush and mixed media paintings that express the feminine experience and mystique. Featuring vibrant brushstrokes and a distinctive palette, Morrow’s paintings are bold, raw and eye-appealing. You can read Lesley’s full biography here.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Eric Riemenschneider

Eric Riemenschneider is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. Eric’s contribution to the project is a portrait of a Miccosukee warrior named Billy Fuel who fought alongside Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs and Miccosukee Chief Sam Jones during the Seminole wars.Eric is a portrait artist who also reimagines commercial spaces to match the theme of the business through murals and collections of paintings.  Go here to read Eric’s full bio.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Roland Ruocco

Muralist Roland Ruocco has contributed four compositions to the Fort Myers River Basin Mural Project, a homage to iconic Fort Myers banker, businessman and real estate developer Harvie Heitman that will be installed on one of the four obelisks on Edwards Drive and panels to be installed on the stanchions surrounding the basin that depict the shuffleboard courts that were located at one time next to the Hall of 50 States, the fire that claimed the Lee County Packing House on Memorial Day in 1953, and drovers unloading cattle from a barge, on which he collaborated with his artist wife, Wendy White. Go here to view Roland’s education, training and more on his body of work.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Samantha Taylor

Samantha Taylor is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. She has painted two of the murals included in the project, the first being the Father of Fort Myers, Captain Francis Asbury Hendry and the second being The King, Elvis Pressley, who performed twice during the 1950s at our City Auditorium.

A native Floridian, Samantha is known for her portrait paintings, local murals and tattoo artistry. As an avid painter specializing in oils and fluid mediums, Sam is inspired by the human form and surrealism. Go here for the rest of Samantha’s bio.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Erik Schlake

Fort Myers Mural Society muralist Erik Schlake is one of 39 artists participating in the Fort Myers River Basin Mural Project. Not only is he contributing a mural panel for the obelisks that flank either side of Edwards Drive, he is leading the team that is installing the mural panels on the stanchions and obelisks that encircle the detention basin. Schlake has been influenced over the years by traditional decorative art as well as contemporary street art. He combines various styles in his work, infusing classic painting with elements of trompe l’oeil, grisaille, and other traditional decorative art in an effort to engage and interact with the viewer a less formal mode of communication. It’s a style he often refers to as “modern traditionalist.” The rest of this post is here.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Dawn Webb

Dawn Webb is one of 39 artists who have painted murals for the River Basin Mural Project being conducted by the City’s Public Art Committee, Community Redevelopment Agency and Fort Myers Mural Society. Dawn painted a mural of Fort Myers first African-American settlor, Nellis Tillis, who, with his wife, Ellen, were also the town’s first interracial couple.

Dawn is a proud born-and-raised Southwest Florida native. Born in Fort Myers, she has watched the city develop and grow since the 1970s. On the fine arts side, Dawn works in the medium of acrylic painting. But she is also a gifted tattoo artist. Go here for the rest of Dawn’s bio.



Spotlight on River Basin muralist Wendy White

Based on a vintage 1930s-era postcard, this mural depicts the many activities that visitors can enjoy during a fun-filled trip to Fort Myers. Titled Florida Fun, it was rendered Wendy White who is an accomplished artist, curator, director, playwright, screenwriter and teacher. Born in Rockaway Beach, New York, Wendy’s palette and writings are strongly influenced by her early environment of living by the sea. Her father was a painter and while she was growing up, she and her twin brother would frequently model for him as muses. Go here to view Wendy’s impressiver resume.






IMAG celebrates 100th anniversary of discovery of Tut’s tomb with ‘Return of the King’

November 4th marks the 100th anniversary of British archeologist Howard Carter’s discovery the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Because Tut’s successors tried to obliterate his name from the annals of Egyptian history, the pharaoh had been buried in an out-of-the-way place that had prevented robbers from finding and plundering the tomb. So when Carter opened it, the tomb still held the bulk of its treasures. The IMAG History and Science Center in Fort Myes is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery with an exciting exhibition containing reproductions of scores of the artifacts found in Tut’s tomb. Listen on WGCU for the details:…/imag-history-science-center…



‘Envisioning Evil: The Nazi Drawings’ at Baker Museum through February 19, 2023

On exhibit now through February 19, 2023 at the Naples Museum of Art are selected drawings of Mauricio Lasansky from his series entitled Envisioning Evil: The Nazi Drawings. Crafted from graphite and charcoal, asphaltum turpentine, and red and white wash, the series of 33 raw and haunting monumental drawings is making its first comprehensive exhibition since its inaugural tour over 50 years ago.

You can read the full advance for this exhibit here.



SWFL arts organizations conducting survey to quantify economic impact of the arts

The Alliance for the Arts and dozens of local arts organizations are surveying audiences attending their events in an effort to quantify the economic impact of the arts here in Southwest Florida. In fact, it’s part of a nationwide study by Americans for the Arts of the contribution made by arts organizations to their local economies.

This is the sixth such study and involves 387 participating communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In Lee County, the Alliance for the Arts is spearheading the effort to collect the data needed for the study. Go here to hear why you should participate in the study if you are asked to complete a survey.





River basin mural project creates walkable outdoor art and history museum

In collaboration with the CRA, the Fort Myers Mural Society and Public Art Committee have installed 57 murals on the stanchions and obelisks that encircle a 1.8 acre detention basin adjoining the new Luminary Hotel. Each mural features people and scenes from the days when Fort Myers was a port dominated by 7 long pierces jutting into the Caloosahatchee River. Augmented by Otocast, this walkable outdoor art and history museum is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the downtown Fort Myers River District and enhance the visitor experience of both residents and vacationers alike. Listen to some of the artists who worked on the project sound off about their experiences – and what you can expect when you tour the murals.




Audio for Billy Bowlegs murals at Fort Myers River Basin now live

Two portraits of Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs have been installed on the stanchion located on Bay Street next to the entrance to Ella Mae’s Diner at the Luminary Hotel. The audios for those River Basin murals are now live on Otocast.

The first portrait was painted by Sherry Lynn Diaz, a local artist who, operating under the motto ‘have brush, will travel,’ paints in Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, Sanibel, Captiva Islands and homes and businesses throughout in Lee, Collier and Charlotte Counties. The second mural was rendered by Fort Myers artist Lorrie Bennett …  Go here for the rest of this announcement.



Audio of Eric Riemenschneider’s ‘Billy Fuel’ mural now live on Otocast

Across from the entrance to Ella Mae’s Diner at the Luminary Hotel is a portrait of a Miccosukee by the name of Billy Fuel rendered by popular local artist and art instructor Eric Riemenschneider. Why has Billy Fuel been included in the Fort Myers River Basin Mural Project? What’s his story? Well, it’s live on Otocast. Give it a listen right now.

Go here for the rest of this post.



Audio for Tarek Patton’s mural of Evalina Gonzalez now live on Otocast

Evalina Gonzalez hold the distinction of being Fort Myers first schoolteacher. She not only home schooled her own children, but those of her neighbors in the years following their settlement of the town following the end of the Civil War. But as importantly, she also had a hand in the decision to settle here in the months following the end of the Civil War. Fort Myers Mural Society member Tarek Patton painted her likeness based on an historic photograph and Bill Taylor, the voice of public art here in Fort Myers, has recorded an audio that explains the important role Evalina played in the town’s establishment and how she remained loyal to the city she helped pioneer until her death in 1933. Go here for more.



Audio for Brian Weaver’s ‘Gator Hunt’ mural now live on Otocast

Pictured here is Brian Weaver’s mural of a postcard depicting an alligator hunt in 1918. Alligator postcards like the one that artist Brian Weaver referenced for this mural fueled the mystique surrounding these lethal reptiles, which date back in Florida some 8 million years. But it was New York department store magnate Hugh O’Neill who turned alligator hunting into a calling card for his new Fort Myers hotel, The Royal Palm, at the turn of the 20th Century. Now you can hear that story, and more, on Otocast.

You will find the rest of this announcement here.



Identifying river basin murals and muralists

Work is underway at the river basin adjoining Luminary Hotel on an ambitious new outdoor art and history museum. When it is completed, the walkable gallery will feature 57 murals – four on the obelisks on Edwards Drive and 53 on the concrete stanchions which anchor the decorative fence that circumscribes the basin.

The project is a collaboration between the City of Fort Myers Public Art Committee and Community Redevelopment Agency and the Fort Myers Mural Society. The Mural Society has engaged 38 local artists to render the murals which, in turn, tell stories about Fort Myers’ early existence as a port town on the river that many once called the most picturesque waterway in all of Florida.

The artists are painting the murals on special, high-grade cloth that is being glued to the concrete in a way that converts them into scratch-resistant tiles that prevent fading and resist damage from moisture and other elements. So far, Fort Myers Mural Society artists Erik Schlake and Roland Ruocco have installed about 14 of the mural panels, and their efforts are attracting crowds.  Their recurring question:  What will the other murals depict? Here’s the answer.





Belle Theatre brings ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to the stage through February 12

Belle Theatre brings the beloved comedic musical Little Shop of Horrors to the stage through February 12. The show contains all of the delectable elements audiences relish in a musical – delicious song and dance numbers, good acting and marvelous costumes and sets.

The music is by Alan Menken, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, a duo that went on to collaborate on shows such as Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

But there’s more to Little Shop of Horrors. For as entertaining as Little Shop is, the show is actually a pretty damn good allegory. On a psychological plane, the musical can be viewed as a warning that when we give in to our baser instincts, dire consequences are likely to follow. Small or modest compromises of ethics and honesty lead invariably to larger, even wholesale ethical sacrifices until no moral code remains and life becomes totally transactional.

That said, Little Shop may be better understood in the rich tradition of science fiction as an examination of the threat posed to mankind’s survival by scientific discovery gone awry – as Seymour represents no less of an historic figure than the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, a personage who is sure to be on the tips of everyone’s tongue when Oppenheimer (starring Christopher Nolan, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Matt Damon) explodes onto cinematic screens in July.

In case you’ve forgotten, Oppenheimer said as the first atomic bomb was detonated, ” Now I become Death, destroyer of worlds.” Or, as Audrey II puts it, “If you wanna be profound/if you really gotta justify, take a breath and look around/ A lotta folks deserve to die!” And just as Audrey II devours Seymour and all he loved in the end, nuclear fission has the power to annihilate the world and every living thing in it. And that makes the “Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plant)” all the more poignant and meaningful.

The point is that there’s nothing little in the message underlying all the fun, singing and dancing and lighthearted caricatures that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman have built into the storyline, characters , dialogue and lyrics of their timeless little musical.

So bravo to everyone involved in this devious Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical which has devoured the hearts of theater-goers for more than three decades.



Center for the Performing Arts brings ‘Portraits of Love’ to Moe Auditorium in Bonita

The Center for the Performing Arts Bonita Springs has something special in store for Southwest Florida on Valentine’s Day. They’re hosting The Biasi and King Music Experience (BKME), featuring local vocalist Jesse King, pianist Angelo Biasi, and their full band, along with Southwest Florida artist Marcus Zotter. In an event touted as Portraits of Love, the band will perform a lineup of romantic favorites along with debut original songs (King’s “Dancing with You” and Biasi’s “Love Me Forever”) while Marcus Zotter paints a charcoal portrait live on stage.

This unique live music and art experience featuring local artists is the first of its kind.

“We love writing and performing love songs and wanted to bring something special to this area,” pianist Angelo Biasi explains. “What better way to celebrate the love among us than through music and the arts – and on Valentine’s Day with the Moe Auditorium as the perfect backdrop!”

“We look forward to a wonderful, heartfelt performance that highlights the Centers’ motto of sharing Arts for All,” adds Theatre Director, Frank Blocker.

Portraits of Love will be performed at 7:00 on February 14 in the Moe Auditorium and Film Center at 10150 Bonita Beach Road.

Tickets are $30 per person and are on sale now at Limited seating is available.

Founded in 1959, the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs (CFABS) is committed to enriching the lives of the community by providing opportunities for artistic expression, education, and appreciation. CFABS has two campus locations—each dedicated to the visual or performing arts. The Performing Arts Center is a 4-acre, two-building campus, which is home to the 400-seat Hinman Auditorium and Gallery in the Round; the 200-seat Moe Auditorium & Film Center/Dance Studio; fully equipped art studios; and edible garden/teaching kitchen. At this diverse center, patrons can enjoy an ongoing array of live concerts, theatre, comedy, film, lectures, youth and adult dance classes, music lessons, and art classes, as well as multicultural events featuring visual and performing arts from around the world.



Cultural Park performs Pippin February 16-26

Cultural Park Theater in Cape Coral will perform Pippin February 16-26. Directed by Mark Fleming, book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, an ensemble cast tells the story of a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life. To prove his loyalty to his distracted father, King Charles, Pippin goes to war. But when The Leading Player convinces the prince to fight tyranny, Pippin kills Charles and takes over the throne. Realizing his mistake, Pippin begs The Leading Player to bring his father back to life, and she obliges. The prince falls in love with Catherine, a widow with a young son, and (much to The Leading Player’s chagrin), Pippin struggles to decide whether he should settle down and pursue a peaceful life or continue to make magic with the dazzling troupe of performers.

Pippin plays on eight dates between February 16 and the 26th. Evening performances are at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Sunday matinees are at 3:00 p.m.



‘Little Women’ musical brings adventures of March sisters lyrically to life

Little Women comes to Fort Myers Theatre February 3-12. The musical brings Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story of the adventures of the four March sisters to vivid, lyrical life. The full advance is here.

And go here for play dates, times and ticket information.



Lab Theater produces cult classic Sondheim musical ‘Sweeney Todd’

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is perhaps Stephen Sondheim’s greatest work.  Which is saying a lot, given that the late lyricist’s catalogue includes West Side Story, Gypsy, Company and Into the Woods. But it is not produced as frequently as the others. It’s grisly and gothic. It’s dark and depraved. The music is challenging. And its running time approaches three hours. Undaunted, the Laboratory Theater of Florida and Director Paul Graffy bring Sweeney Todd to the stage for five weekends, beginning with the Friday night opening on February 10th. The rest of this advance is here.

And go here for play dates, times, tickets and a full cast list.



Listen to a preview of ‘Sweeney Todd’ on WGCU

With a challenging score, lyrics second only to Shakespeare, and a grisly tale of vengeful murder, mayhem, and cannibalism, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” requires a very special cast and crew. In this week’s WGCU’s Spotlight on the Arts, find out what makes this show so difficult but rewarding to produce, perform, and see.



Naples Performing Arts taking Narnia to area elementary and middle schools

Danica Murray and Cameron Rogers are two of Southwest Florida’s most promising young stage actors. You may have seen Murray as Caitlin O’Hare in Over the River and Through the Woods at Off Broadway Palm or Cloe in Bulletproof Backpack at Florida Repertory Theatre. Rogers burst onto the local theater scene in the role of Brad in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at New Phoenix Theatre and dazzled Laboratory Theater of Florida audiences with his deft and daring swordplay in Dangerous Liaisons.

Interestingly, Murray’s first exposure to theater was at a touring show about Thomas Edison that visited her elementary school. Rogers’s mom took him to a Broadway Palm Children’s Theatre production of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a short time after they’d seen the movie. Now Murray and Rogers are returning the favor by performing multiple roles in the Naples Performing Arts Center’s (NPAC) Theatre for Young Audiences production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Naples Performing Art Center Associate Artistic Director Kody Jones said that while Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) has been around for about four decades, it is new to many people, even avid theater-goers. But TYA has an important role in introducing elementary and middle school students to the performing arts.

Go here for the full story on WGCU.



More on Naples Performing Arts Center’s TYA production of ‘Lion, Witch and Wardrobe’

Naples Performing Arts Center has officially announced its first Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) touring production, C.S. Lewis’ iconic The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  This new and innovative program delivers a fully-realized professional touring production to area schools.  Each production will be tailored to not only provide engaging and educational entertainment, but tie in with the host school’s curriculum and Florida’s Education Benchmarks and Standards. The highly-imaginative production runs 50 minutes and comes with an optional fifteen-minute Q and A with the actors following the performance.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a tour de force adventure that enables the audience to join our journey as we utilize imaginations and creativity to depict the stories of Narnia,” notes NPAC in its press release announcing the production, which stars Danica Murray and Cameron Rogers, who play storytellers as well as a dozen other characters within Narnia that careen in and out of the story with a simple costume change and complete physical and vocal transformation.

The production is directed by veteran TYA Director, Kody C Jones with support by NPAC Production Manager, Jenn Murray.

“There is nothing more special than TYA Theatre for Young Audiences,” says Jones. “It’s a program with the sole purpose of introducing the performing arts to as many kids as possible while introducing life skills and inspiring creativity and imagination.”

Recommended for 1st through 6th grades, the show is designed and directed to be performed any space, large or small whether it be a classroom or large theatre or gym.

For pricing questions or to book your tour today, please email Associate Artistic Kody C Jones at

And to listen to more on TYA and the production on WGCU, please click here.



New Phoenix performs incendiary ‘Last Schwartz’ dark comedy

New Phoenix Theatre brings Deborah Laufer’s The Last Schwartz to the stage February 16-26. Striking a tenuous balance between humor and pathos, this incendiary dark comedy poignantly demonstrates that the ties that bind can also strangle. The rest of this advance is here.

Go here for play dates, times and ticket information.



Players Circle brings ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect’ just in time for Valentine’s Day

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Players Circle brings to the stage a musical that promises everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit much less say out loud. It’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the Outer Critics Circle Award nominee and the second longest running musical in Off Broadway history (with more than 5,000 performances in New York City) that’s so popular it has been translated into 17 languages.

With book and lyrics by two-time Tony winner Joe DePietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change presents a series of musical vignettes revolving around the themes of love and relationships. The rest of this advance is here.

Go here for play dates, times and tickets.

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