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Actors, artists, filmmakers and events in the news March 15-21, 2019


These are the actors, artists, filmmakers and events who are in the news in Southwest Florida this week:


Final DAAS exhibit at Royal Palm Square features illustrations by Tavo Quiros (03-21-19)

DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts’ final exhibition at its Royal Palm location closes on March 23 with a 6:00 p.m. reception and farewell party. The even twill not only represent attendees last chance to enjoy DAAS’ Royal Palm location, but the collection it has been displaying all month of fine art illustrations by Tavo Quiros.

Quiros’ story is quite remarkable. In 2008, he developed severe psychotic symptoms which were ultimately diagnosed as a combination of Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder. His attendant inability to focus led to a three-year-long hiatus from his career in the arts. But after doctors managed to stabilize his condition in 2011, he began sketching, drawing, and ultimately-painting again. He started exhibiting his work at Gallery 212 in Miami a short time later, marking the beginning of his career in the world of Pop Surrealism and fine art illustration.

Tavo’s art is a reflection of the vivid hallucinations and hyper-spiritual delusions he experienced during his illness and his classical training in the arts prior 2008. Quiros attended OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, with a semester abroad spent in Rotterdam, Netherlands at the Willem de Kooning Academy. Dutch architecture, graphic design, illustration, and street art soon became sources of inspiration. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (focused on Illustration) and took on a variety of jobs as a graphic designer and illustrator until deciding to focus on gallery work.



DAAS CO-OP moving to Butterfly Estates by March’s end (03-21-19)

DAAS CO-OP is moving to the Butterfly Estates at the end of March. The gallery will close its Royal Palm Square location with a farewell party and closing reception on Saturday, March 23.

”We can’t express how grateful we are to the administration of the Royal Palm Square for the years at this location,” comments DAAS founder and president David Acevedo. “It is a bittersweet feeling, but we feel like it’s the right move and we look forward to working with the good people of the Butterfly Estates.”

The move to the Butterfly Estates marks DAAS’ return to the River District after a seven year absence. Acevedo and Xavier Brignoni operated the transformative daas Gallery on Broadway in the River District from 2008 until 2012, when they banded together to form The Union Artist Studio on the campus of the Alliance for the Arts. As he had with Art Walk, Acevedo played an instrumental role in forming the SoCo Art & Cultural District after he and Brignoni opened DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts in the Royal Palm Square.

“Everyone is invited to attend [the farewell party and closing reception] and get information about the new space,” Acevedo adds.

The new location is located at 1815-3 Fowler Street and will open on Tuesday, April 2, to be followed by the gallery’s first official opening reception on Friday, April 5 in conjunction with the Fort Myers Art Walk. More information is available on the gallery’s website at



DAAS CO-OP announces group show for first Butterfly Estates exhibition (03-21-19)

DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts’ first exhibit at its new location at The Butterfly Estates is a group show appropriately entitled “A New Beginning.” It features the art of gallery members, some of whom have been a part of the project since it opened its doors in 2016 at DAAS’ former location. The opening reception is Friday, April 5 from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. The exhibition will be on display from April 2 to 27, 2019.

This event marks the third year of business for this cooperative gallery. In April of 2016, visual artists David Acevedo and Xavier Brignoni founded the DAAS CO-OP in an effort to provide local artists a space where they could work as a team in a cooperative system. Since its inception, the gallery has won two awards and established itself as one of the main artistic venues of southwest Florida.

“We had great years at the [former] location, but we feel like we belong here in now [in the Butterfly Estates],” says Acevedo, who sees the Gardner’s Park location (as the area is called) as an up-and-coming section of town.

“As a cultural venue, we try our best to present our locally-made inventory in the most appealing way possible, thus representing the artistic community of Southwest Florida in the best way possible,” adds Acevedo, who directs and curates all the exhibitions for the space.

DAAS CO-OP original space at Royal Palm Square had 2,400-square-feet of floor space, which allowed for ample ways to showcase the artworks, conduct classes, parties, etc. Even though the gallery’s new location is smaller at slightly over 1,500 squrare feet, the membership of the gallery is thrilled with the move.

“We will adjust and adapt; that is what we’ve always done,” says co-owner and visual artist Xavier Brignoni. “We will have the same quality product and amazing displays, as well as all the exciting exhibitions and events. The space will not be a limitation to what we will accomplish.”

The new DAAS CO-OP is located at 1815 Fowler Street, Unit 3, in Fort Myers, FL (inside the Butterfly Estates campus). New business hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The gallery will open to the public on the first Sunday of every month from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

More information can be found at or by calling 239-590-8645.



Davis Art Center looking for ‘Tesla vs. Edison’ artists (03-21-19)

The Davis has issued a call for artists for its June juried exhibition. AC vs. DC: Tesla vs. Edison asks artists to use these two historic inventors to create original works of art inspired by their era, discoveries, interests, characters, legacies and, of course, their legendary rivalry. Spark an interest in the onlooker with pieces that offer a unique perspective on these powerful and innovative figures and the way their ideas and personas drastically changed the world. Recall the age of invention in the turn-of-the-century style exhibition! Merge technology and art. Submit by May 11th.



‘Surviving Lunch’ shines light on bullying and school violence (03-20-19)

On Saturday, April 13, the 9th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival will screen the feature film Surviving Lunch produced by Source Productions. Based on true stories about real American teenagers ripped from today’s harrowing headlines, this timely and important film shines a light on bullying and school violence.

The film revolves around a Latina girl from New York who moves to Florida with her mother after her father is killed before her eyes in a school shooting. Trying to keep to herself and recover from her grief, Gabriella notices a boy being relentlessly bullied in the lunchroom. With the memory of her father fresh in her heart, Gabriella is determined to find a way to stop the bullies – even if it means standing up to the meanest kid in the school.

“I chose the title Surviving Lunch specifically because, while talking to young people across America about bullying and violence, lunch time at school has always been a particularly complicated time to navigate,” says writer and director KT Curran. “Even something as simple as what table you sit at during lunch can become a painful process of humiliation and rejection. Many kids actually eat their lunch each day in the bathroom in order to avoid bullying.”

“What’s interesting about high school lunch is that everybody is there,” says Parker Padgett, who plays the role of Robert, the bully in the film.

Read the rest of this advance here.



Spotlight on ‘Surviving Lunch’ filmmaker KT Curran (03-20-19)

On Saturday, April 13, the 9th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival will screen the feature film Surviving Lunch.Based on true stories about real American teenagers ripped from today’s harrowing headlines, this timely and important film shines a light on bullying and school violence.

The film was produced by Sarasota-based SOURCE PRODUCTIONS for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, an exciting, educational touring theatre and video production company for young adults (ages 14-30). SOURCE’s Artistic Director KT Curran wrote and directed the film.

Curran is a nationally-published playwright, screenwriter, editor, director and Equity actor. She has worked extensively in theater and film for more than twenty-five years, performing and directing both nationally and internationally. KT has written twenty-five plays, five films, a web series, commercials and several documentaries for young adults. Eleven of KT’s plays are nationally published and performed by groups across the United States.

Her film directing and screenwriting credits include two features, Surviving Lunch and The First Time Club, and three short films, The Holding Cell, When the Party Ends and Boost.

The rest of KT’s profile is here.



Spotlight on ‘Surviving Lunch’ leading lady Avery Arendes (03-20-19)

The SOURCE PRODUCTIONS indie feature Surviving Lunch will be screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

The film revolves around a Latina girl from New York who moves to Florida with her mother after her father is killed before her eyes in a school shooting. Trying to keep to herself and recover from her grief, Gabriella notices a boy being relentlessly bullied in the lunchroom. With the memory of her father fresh in her heart, Gabriella is determined to find a way to stop the bullies – even if it means standing up to the meanest kid in the school.

Avery Arendes stars as Gabriella.

Go here for the rest of Avery’s profile.


Spotlight on ‘Surviving Lunch’ bully Parker Padgett (03-20-19)

The SOURCE PRODUCTIONS indie feature Surviving Lunch will be screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. The film shines a light on bullying and lunchroom violence, and playing the bully is Sarasota native Parker Padgett.

“What’s interesting about high school lunch is that everybody is there,” says Padgett, who plays the role of Robert. “It’s kind of a microcosm of the real world, so to speak, where you are surrounded by hundreds of different people every single day. There’s always going to be that one person who just wants to get at you. Maybe high schools do it on purpose ….”

For more on Parker Padgett, go here.



Spotlight on ‘Surviving Lunch’ supporting actor Kaycie Lee (03-20-19)

Kaycie Lee is a SAG-eligible film actress who lives and goes to school in Sarasota.

Her latest project is a strong supporting role in the SOURCE PRODUCTIONS indie feature film Surviving Lunch, in which she portrays a high school girl named Lacey who is willing to sacrifice her own identity just in order to fit in.

You can access Kaycie’s full profile here.




Spotlight on ‘Surviving Lunch’ supporting actor Mercedes Gutierrez (03-20-19)

The SOURCE PRODUCTIONS indie feature Surviving Lunch will be screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

The film revolves around a Latina girl from New York who moves to Florida with her mother after her father is killed before her eyes in a school shooting. Trying to keep to herself and recover from her grief, Gabriella notices a boy being relentlessly bullied in the lunchroom. With the memory of her father fresh in her heart, Gabriella is determined to find a way to stop the bullies – even if it means standing up to the meanest kid in the school.

Mercedes Nicole Gutierrez plays Maria.

Go here for the rest of Mercedes’ profile.



Fort Myers Film Festival opens April 10 with red carpet gala at Davis Art Center (03-19-19)

The 9th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival descends on sunny, beautiful Southwest Florida April 10-14, 2019. With historic venues, dozens of exceptional independent films and numerous meet-and-greet/photo opportunities, this year’s festival promises to be more exciting, more glitzy and more fun than ever before.

One big departure associated with this year’s FMff is the venue for the April 10 black-tie red-carpet opening night gala. This year, it will be held in the palatial 86-year-old Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center smack dab in the middle of the historic downtown Fort Myers River District.

With its entrance sandwiched between dual-drum bronze Jim Sanborn light sculptures and waiting atop a short flight of limestone steps, the doors open at 5:00 p.m. for cocktails and musical entertainment. With photo ops and paparazzi at every turn, the Davis Art Center’s cavernous grand atrium is the perfect place to mix and mingle with the legion of local and international filmmakers who will be on hand for the opening night festivities.

Read the rest of this announcement here.



‘Patrik’ is for all of us who feel like this fast-paced world is passing us by (03-19-19)

One of the short films being screened by this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Patrik, a story about an accomplished elderly actor who suddenly finds himself left behind by our modern fast-paced life. On his way to receiving his final and ultimate lifetime recognition, he gets mercilessly swallowed up by the industry. Patrik is a human story about trying to age gracefully while being pushed aside by the next generation. Ultimately it is a story about how a real human connection is the ultimate reward any of us can hope for in this lifetime.

Although the film was only recently released, it has enjoyed considerable success and acclaim. In addition to being accepted so far into nine film festivals, Partik has won the Gold Award at Spotlight Film Awards, Best Short Film at the GSF Awards in Cannes, Best Short Narrative at L.A.’s Olympus Film Festival and the Silver Award at Latitude Film Festival. It was also Semi-Finalist at the Utah Film Festival.

Read the rest of this advance here.



Spotlight on ‘Patrik’ filmmaker and SAG-AFTRA actor Evgeniya Radilova (03-19-19)

Evgeniya Radilova is an actor, producer, director, model, fire twirler and international woman of mystery.She hails from Bulgaria, where Evgeniya became one of the best known faces on screen and the stage. A descendant of four generations of artists (her mom was an actor, her father a director), she became the youngest actress to play on the professional stage. Shortly after graduating from the National School for Music (where she learned piano), she hosted Masters of the TV, one of the biggest television shows on Bulgarian National TV. She hosted the show for three years.

Find the rest of Evgeniya’s profile here.



Like Rauschenberg, filmmaker Radilova spearheading Chinese exchange (03-19-19)

One of the films being screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Patrik, a short written, directed and produced by Evgeniya Radilova. You may have seen the Bulgarian-born actor/filmmaker on television or in film. She’s played opposite Ellen Burstyn. She’s appeared on five prime time television shows: Limitless, Law and Order SVU, Elementary and Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. She received a Best Actress award for her performance in the indie film Let Them Have Their Way. But what you don’t know about Radilova is that she shares a connection with Captiva’s favorite son, Robert Rauschenberg. Both established cultural exchange programs involving artists in China.

While Bob’s interests certainly included China, the Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange (ROCI) was more expansive, extending to Tibet, Malaysia, Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, East Germany and Russia. On an egalitarian plane, Rauschenberg conceived of ROCI as a means of forging communication with other nations through the language of art by providing carefully-selected venues where artists, sculptors, poets and authors from around the world could meet and exchange creative ideas in the spirit of collaboration.

Read the rest of this story here.



With original music and inspiring story, ‘Bird’s Eye’ lyrical ode to human spirit (03-19-19)

One of the short films being screened this year by the Fort Myers Film Festival is Bird’s Eye. A spellbinding 13-minute drama, Bird’s Eye tells the story of a rigid music professor who loses her sight only to find perfect clarity in an unexpected place – within the walls of an at-risk urban high school. Scott Poiley directs. The film was written and produced by Erin Beute, who stars in the film as music instructor/composer Dr. McAllister as well.

We meet Dr. McAllister as she labors at the piano, fitfully trying to piece together fragmented notes and bars into a magnum opus. Try as she might, the work remains out of reach/ The harder she pushes, the more it evades her.

Please go here for the remainder of this advance.



Spotlight on ‘Bird’s Eye’ writer, actor and filmmaker Erin Beute (03-19-19)

Erin Beute is a filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. Of significance to those planning to attend the Fort Myers Film Festival April 10-14, Erin wrote, stars in and co-produced a 13-minute drama titled Bird’s Eye which has been juried into this year’s FMff.

Erin Beute is a SAG/AFTRA actor known for The Vampire Diaries (2009), Outcast (2016) and Shots Fired (2017). Her film credits include leads in Tooth Fairy 2, If Only, The Five Stages and The Bell and supporting roles in Waves of Grace, Ring of Fire and The Whisper Home. In addition to The Vampire Diaries, her television work includes guest star appearances in Drop Dead Diva, Last Stop (Pilot) and Coma, and co-starring roles in Charlie’s Angels, Magic City, Burn Notice and The Glades.

The rest of Erin’s profile is here.



Spotlight on ‘Bird’s Eye’ director Scott Poiley (03-19-19)

Scott Poiley is an award-winning writer, producer and director of Bird’s Eye, a powerful 13-minute short film titled Bird’s Eye, which is an official selection of this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival.

Poiley didn’t start out to make films. Rather, he was on a trajectory to become a dancer. But like the protagonist in Bird’s Eye, Poiley’s evolving musical theatre career was derailed by physical infirmity. In Scott’s case, he was forced to stop dancing when he discovered he had an enlarged heart.

Find the rest of Scott’s profile here.



‘Roaring Tides’ a twisted love story that seeks deeper understanding (03-19-19)

Among the short films juried into this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Roaring Tides, “a twisted love-story that dives into the deeper understanding of what we all go through as humans and couples in this lifetime. The film explores love, loss, and the heartache of human existence – the confusion and power struggles we go through, while ultimately discovering our truth and purpose.”

The 10-minute short stars and was written and directed by Aly Mang, and represents her directorial debut. In addition to being juried into the 2019 Fort Myers Film Festival, 2018 Chain NYC Film Festival, 2018 Chelsea Film Festival, 2018 Long Beach International Film Festival and 2018 Official Latino Short Film Festival, Roaring Tides earned Aly the Best New Director 2018 award by NYC Chain Film Festival.

The rest of this advance is here.



Meet ‘Roaring Tides’ filmmaker and accomplished actor Aly Mang (03-19-19)

Among the short films juried into this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Roaring Tides, “a twisted love-story that dives into the deeper understanding of what we all go through as humans and couples in this lifetime. The film explores love, loss, and the heartache of human existence – the confusion and power struggles we go through, while ultimately discovering our truth and purpose.”

It stars and was written and directed by Aly Mang, who was named Best New Director 2018 by NYC Chain Film Festival. Roaring Tides is Mang’s directorial debut.

Mang is a SAG-AFTRA actor. Her film credits include the psychological thriller Chronicles of a Serial Killer (Ann), the horror feature Hinsdale House (Gia), the western thriller Deadman Standing (Violet), the thriller Don’t Look There (Amy Jo), the Rock indie Lower East Asides (Terri), Horror Time (Emma/Persaphone), Roaring Tides (Audrey), Grow’n (Rosa), Tilt (Joanie) and featured roles in blockbuster hits John Wick 2 ….

Go here for the rest of Aly’s profile.



‘On the Way to Lovetown’ pits hot ex-teacher against most wanted criminal (03-19-19)

Among the short films juried into this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is On the Way to Lovetown, a 15-minute love story/action film from Magic Hour Productions, an independent production company dedicated to producing character-driven narrative films and documentaries.

In the film, the road to a city named “Lovetown” becomes the site of a roadside fight to the death between a hot ex-teacher named Sunny and most wanted criminal Monroe. Featuring a strong female protagonist, the story unfolds in an unexpected way, with Sunny saving her loved one and avenging her family. The film stars Brandon Stacy, Brian Gross, Theresa Ireland, Jared Degado and JoAnna Luna as Sunny and Mark Ofuji as Monroe.

Find the rest of this advance here.



Spotlight on ‘Lovetown’ filmmaker Mariya Pyter (03-19-19)

Mariya Pyter is a Russian director, screenwriter and producer living and working in the United States, with experience in theater (Open Space Theater, Russia), film and television (Dr. Phil, CBS, TNT, REN TV, NTV).

Mariya’s directing credits are numerous. She has two television series in post-production, the comedy pilot Runners and the YouTube variety show The Hot Take! Among her other credits are:

The rest of Mariya’s profile is here.



‘Baghdad Photographer’ depicts impact of war on Iraqi family through pictures (03-19-19)

One of the short films being screened this year by the Fort Myers Film Festival is Baghdad Photographer.

In this 13-minute film, Hameed tells the story of the hardships suffered by an Iraqi family as a result of the wars and violence that have ravaged the country for decades. He does this through a series of photographs taken by the family matriarch over the course of two generations, beginning with a portrait of a pregnant young mother and her husband attired in regular clothing. The next photograph shows the same woman, her husband and the little boy they had, but this time the husband is dressed in a military uniform. The ensuing portrait depicts the woman dressed in black to mourn her deceased husband. In this shot, she poses with her grown son and his pregnant wife. Now a man, the boy is attired like his father before him in military garb. In the final poignant picture, we see the mother and daughter-in-law both dressed in black because both the husband and son have been killed fighting in the Iraqi army.

Go here for the rest of this review.



Bringing ‘Baghdad Photographer’ filmmaker Mejd Hameed into focus (03-19-19)

Mejd Hameed is an Iraqi filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is a member of the Iraqi Artists Syndicate, Union of Iraqi Dramas and the National Band of Representation. His filmmaking credits include Baghdad Photographer (writer and director), Ahrar (writer and director), and Zero Hour (writer). His acting credits include Date (2017), Smile Again, Goodbye Nineveh, Zero Hour and Mesopotamia. Born in 1981, he has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Baghdad.



Documentary ‘Light in the Darkness’ illuminates PTSD (03-19-19)

One of the films being screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Light in the Darkness, a documentary dedicated to illuminating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by director, editor and producer Daniel Gartzke.

A hidden epidemic, PTSD affects eight percent of the American population, or one in 13 people. For those it grasps, hope can seem like a distant dream.

But what exactly is PTSD? What factors give rise to it? What symptoms do people with PTSD typically display? And how do people suffering from PTSD cope?

Go here for the rest of this advance.



Spotlight on ‘Light in the Darkness’ documentarian Daniel Gartzke (03-19-19)

One of the films being screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Light in the Darkness, a documentary dedicated to illuminating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) filmed by director, editor and producer Daniel Gartzke. Gartzke has previously directed two other documentaries, Fox2-0 (which he also edited) and Retrogreade Motion. He currently filming a documentary titled EcoSPEARS: The Journey to Clean America’s Waterways.



‘The Things We Don’t Say’ posits a dying man’s conversation with his dead wife (03-19-19)

One of the short films being screened at this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Things We Don’t Say by Soleidy Mendez. The film is a short drama about a clinically depressed man named Pierre who, believing his death from Parkinson’s disease in imminent, decides it time to have a long overdue conversation with his deceased wife Rose.

The film not only heightens our awareness of the lonely life which many isolated elderly people lead, but the importance of expressing our thoughts and feelings with those who mean the most to us. Filmmaker Soleidy Mendez drew the inspiration for the film from Geetha Chandra. The Vice-President of Finance for an international company based in New York, Chandra had always dreamed of becoming a writer. In that vein, she penned a letter to her husband listing all the reasons she was thankful for him. Unfortunately for Pierre, that conversation comes after his wife has passed.

You will find the rest of this advance here.



Meet Fort Myers Film Festival short filmmaker Soleidy Mendez (03-19-19)

Soleidy Mendez is an award-winning actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. She hails from the Dominican Republic, but now resides in New York City. Her most recent achievement was winning the USA 2018 Nespresso Talents, which featured her work at the Tribeca and Cannes Film Festivals.

She is a graduate of the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and studied at the New York Film Academy to develop and hone her screenwriting and filmmaking skills.

Read the rest of Soleidy’s profile here.



Meet Fort Myers Film Festival filmmaker Jordan Axelrod (03-19-19)

Jordan Axelrod is a filmmaker known for Seven Ten Split, Carol’s Last Chance and, most recently, Coach.

Axelrod possesses numerous ties to the Fort Myers Film Festival. He cut his filmmaking teeth at FMff as a volunteer while he was still in junior high. After earning a degree in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Fort Myers native’s 20-minute short film, Seven Ten Split was juried into the Sixth Annual Fort Myers Film Festival. The film went on to received honor as best in the Student Film category. Last year, Jordan had another film, Carol’s Last Chance, juried into the Fort Myers Film Festival, and this year his documentary, Coach, is an official FMff selection.

Read the rest of Jordan’s profile here.



‘Iku Manieva’ highlights impact of drug cartel wars in Mexican Sinaloa Sierra (03-19-19)

Among the short films included in this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Iku Manieva.

The 7-minute-30-second black-and-white documentary was filmed in 2017 in the Sinaloa Sierra, a mythical territory in Northwest Mexico now controlled by competing drug cartels. Over time, their violent conflict has resulted in countless deaths and human rights violations among the local inhabitants. With more than 1,800 families being displaced and 3,000 people in exile between 2012 and 2018 alone, the violence has transformed entire communities into ghost towns.

Read here for more.



Alliance screening Eliades Ochoa documentary during FMff in April (03-19-19)

The Alliance for the Arts has partnered with the Fort Myers Film Festival to present Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World on April 11. The evening will begin with a reception featuring light refreshments at 6:30 p.m. followed by the 100min documentary at 7:00 p.m.

He became known the world over in the late 90s as an original member of legendary Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, but Eliades Ochoa’s passion for his country’s musical heritage led him to pursue a life dedicated to music much earlier than that: He began by playing his guitar in the streets of Eastern Cuba, then joined a slew of folk groups, until finally the success of Buena Vista Social Club came along.

Spreading his love for traditional Cuban folk music was always Ochoa’s main goal, and that love shines through in this new documentary, pulling together rare pictures, archive material and new interviews, preserving not only his incredible journey, but the richness of the musical heritage of his country for generations to come.

Director Cynthia Biestek studied Documentary Film and Video at New York University. She traveled to Cuba with a Documentary Workshop group, and fell in love with the vibrant culture, the music and the friendly locals.

The evening is free to attend, but a $10 suggested donation keeps programming affordable and accessible. For more information, call 239-939-2787 or visit



More on ‘Eliades Ochoa From Cuba to the World’ (03-19-19)

Positivation Films will be screening the documentary film Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World at The Fort Myers Film Festival. The film lovingly narrates the story of Eliades Ochoa, one of the founding members of the Buena Vista Social Club, whose music left an indelible imprint on the international community’s perception of Cuba.

Ochoa grew up immersed in Son Cubano, a genre of music originating in east Cuba in the late 1800s that blends the clave rhythms of the Bantu region with Hispanic vocal styles. Both of Ochoa’s parents played Son Cubano, as did his brothers, with his sister providing vocal support, so Ochoa taught himself to play Son on the guitar. Soon, he was playing locally, collaborating with well-known Cuban musicians and touring with a group around the island.

You can read the rest of this advance here.



Spotlight on ‘Eliades Ochoa’ documentarian Cynthia Biestek (03-19-19)

Positivation Films will be screening the documentary film Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World at The Ft. Myers Film Festival. The film tenderly narrates the story of Eliades Ochoa, one of the founding members of the Buena Vista Social Club, whose music left an indelible imprint on the international community’s perception of Cuba. The documentary was produced and directed by Positivation Films founder Cynthia Biestek.

While studying documentary film and video at New York University, Cynthia traveled to Cuba with a documentary workshop group, where she promptly fell in love with the vibrant culture, infectious music and friendly locals. Four documentaries, and counting, have been the product of that ongoing love affair:

See Cynthia’s filmography here.



Combo of emotion and raw realism makes ‘CASHED’ compelling short film (03-19-19)

Among the short films being screened this year by the Fort Myers Film Festival is CASHED, a dark comedy written and produced by and starring Charlotte County native Serena Ryen (Modern Day Jesus and Grave Mysteries (2017)).

CASHED follows a young woman by the name of Jess as she struggles to find peace (and pot) among the unique challenges of life as a Millennial in a super-expensive and mega-stressful urban setting like Brooklyn, New York. After a rare night off from work to celebrate her 25th birthday, Jess wakes up late the next morning suffocating under the burden of debt (in the form of crushing student loans that loom over every ATM withdrawal), regret (not only is job security a joke, but rent in the City is higher than anywhere else on the East Coast), and a desperate quest to take the edge off.

Notwithstanding the film’s title, don’t categorize CASHED as just another stoner-comedy. At it’s heart, the  film explores the deeper question of what drives us to “take the edge off” when we feel mentally and emotionally depleted – whether in the form of a glass (or bottle) of wine as soon as we hit the door at night, binging on chips or Netflix or, in the case of the film’s female anti-hero, cannabis.

“There may be an inclination to find humor in Jess’s desperate effort to scrape enough roaches together to roll a joint, but there is an overriding impulse to empathize with her life’s dilemma,” says Broadway World film critic Herbert Paine. “It’s this balance of emotion combined with raw realism that makes ‘CASHED’ such a fine and compelling film.” [Read the full Broadway World review here.]

And go here for the rest of this advance.



Spotlight on ‘CASHED’ actor, screenwriter and filmmaker Serena Ryen (03-19-19)

Serena Ryen is a stage and film actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. In the latter capacity, she wrote, produced and starred in CASHED and, going forward, is committed to making art that inspires empathy and ignites questions.

Her theater credits include Cleopatra in Cleopatra: Adventure of a Princess (ArtSpot International Tour), Ms. Square/Mama Square in Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical (Playhouse on Park, CT), Ismene in Antigone (The Cincinnati Playhouse, OH), Sleeping Beauty in the world premiere of Disenchanted! A Musical Comedy (NJ Playwrights’ Contest), Martha Dobie in The Children’s Hour (Roundtable Theatre Lab, NYC), Mary/Belle in A Christmas Carol (The Cincinnati Playhouse, OH), Charlotte Corday in The Revolutionists (The Cincinnati Playhouse, OH), Maddie in High School Alien (The Cincinnatie Playhouse, OH), Michelle in the world premiere of K Comma Joseph (UP Theater Co., NYC) and Allison in the world premiere of Broken Wing (WorkShop Theater, NYC).

Here’s the rest of Serena’s profile.



Spotlight on ‘CASHED’ director Ethan Itzkow (03-19-19)

Ethan Itzkow is a stage and film actor who recently ventured into the realm of indie film direction and production, with CASHED (2018) marking his directorial debut. The 9th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival will screen CASHED in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center as part of the “Unforgettable Shorts” block at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

His theater credits include Chiron in Titus Andronicus (New York Shakespeare Exchange), Jacob/various other roles in Freedom Train (TheatreWorks USA national tour), Edmund in Shakespeare Brawl Crawl (Occupy Verona, NY), Robert Tudor in New York Renaissance Faire (Robin Flannagan, NYRF) and Jack in Into the Woods (Lee Strasberg Institute), among others.

Here’s the rest of Ethan’s profile.



Spotlight on FMff poignant short film ‘Ready’ (03-19-19)

Among the short films juried into this year’s Fort Myers Film Festival is Ready, a riveting motion picture about Sylvia and Adam, a mother and son who live together on a sprawling but crumbling estate. Struggling with clinical depression, Sylvia can barely function, and it falls upon Adam to take care of both himself and his mother, including keeping track of her medication and making sure she takes the correct doses at the appropriate times. But through the black fog of her depression, Sylvia is clear about one thing. She must push her boy out of the nest before his chance at childhood is forever lost. We join them in the film as Sylvia creates one final, lasting memory for Adam to take with him. On their last night together before she releases him into the world, they stage a party to celebrate the end of their relationship.

Poignant and painful, the short is the creation of Melissa Farman, an accomplished actor who is best known for playing opposite Claire Danes in HBO’s award-winning Temple Grandin (she was Temple’s blind college roommate, Alice) and portraying Bristol Palin in the HBO telefilm Game Change (which starred Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris).

The film was screened earlier this season during September’s T.G.I.M. (Thank God for Indie Monday), for which WGCU producer/reporter John Davis, 96.9 FM radio personality and actor Jason Drew, Diva Diaries Stephanie Davis and SalusCare founder and director Marc Collins served as celebrity judges.

“I really, really enjoyed that film,” said John Davis. “I thought it was shot beautifully, the actors were amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the symbolism, such as the daisies signifying both innocence and death.”

Davis was struck by the way in which Farman blurred the line between little boy and caretaker (which gave impetus to Sylvia’s decision to finally let Adam go). He also liked how the viewer is led to believe the story is about the little boy leaving when, in actuality, it is as much about Sylvia’s departure from her tormented existence.

“I really liked it,” Davis concluded. “A Plus!”

“There was a beginning, middle and end,” touted Jason Drew. “It made you think. It made you feel. It raised a lot of questions on an emotional-psychological plane, things that made you go, ‘hmmm.’”

Read the rest of this advance here.



Spotlight on ‘Ready’ filmmaker Melissa Farman (03-19-19)

Ready is Melissa Farman’s first film. With Ready, the SAG actor and neophyte filmmaker wanted to portray the women she knew as a child, whose sublimations inspired her own artistic sensibilities. She wrote, directed and produced the film after participating in writers’ rooms on the TV shows on which she appeared and shadowing directors such as Mary Harron, Mick Jackson and Jay Roach (to name a few), who encouraged her to develop her own material and execute her vision as a storyteller.

On the acting side, Melissa is best known for playing opposite Claire Danes in HBO’s award-winning Temple Grandin (she was Temple’s blind college roommate, Alice) and portraying Bristol Palin in the HBO telefilm Game Change (which starred Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris). You may have also seen her in Season 5 of Lost, where she played a young (and pregnant) Danielle Rousseau. Other credits include the television series Timeless (Irene Curie), an episode of NCIS: New Orleans (“If It Bleeds, It Leads,” 2016), thirteen episodes of the Western drama series Strange Empire (where she played Dr. Rebecca Blithely), the 2013 TV movie Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (she was Izzy), an episode of Elementary (“Dirty Laundry,” 2013), the 2012 TV movie The March Sisters at Christmas, Perception (Joan of Arc, 2012), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (“Trends with Benefits,” 2012), The Moth Diaries, NCIS (“Tell-All,” 2011) Law & Order: SVU (“Sugar,” 2009), Cold Case (“Witness Protection,” 2009) and the 2008 short film Love, Lies and the Internet.

For the rest of Melissa impressive resume and credentials, read here.



Short film ‘Peggy’ proves it’s possible for a woman to be too damn perfect (03-19-19)

If you didn’t have the chance to attend the T.G.I.M. screenings on August 6, you missed a handful of really fine films, and kicking off Season 9 was a short film by Justin Miller about a woman named Peggy.

Peggy is hosting a birthday party for her little boy. But we don’t meet Peggy initially. Instead, we meet two guests as they are dressing for the party and wrapping a present for the birthday boy.

The backyard party is something out of Michael Jackson’s Neverland. Although it doesn’t have a narrow gauge railroad, Ferris wheel, carousel or petting zoo, it does have an immense bounce house and other features that none of the other parents have a chance of replicating when it comes time to stage parties for their own children. In fact, from the cake to balloons, the grounds reek of perfection and that earns Peggy the near-unanimous opprobrium of her friends, neighbors and even her husband, who echo a common refrain in their internal dialogue: “Fuck you, Peggy!”

Several guests have converted their contempt into passive-aggressive action by bringing along birthday gifts that Peggy is certain to abhor. One brings a dart gun, and Peggy’s own husband gives his son a brand new puppy which he hopes will drive his wife crazy by doing his business all over Peggy’s perfectly-kept house, much to her vexation and chagrin.

Go here for the rest of this review,



Spotlight on ‘Peggy’ filmmaker Justin O’Neal Miller (03-19-19)

Justin O’Neal Miller is a filmmaker whose production credits include Peggy (short 2018, which he wrote, as well), Pisser (short 2017), The Roach (short 2017/writer), If We Are Apart (short 2016), Restitution (short 2013/writer) and A Lady Can Live Through Anything (short 2010/writer).

Peggy has enjoyed considerable film festival success since its premiere in October of 2018. Because viewers kept repeating “we want to see more of that,” he’s been transforming the short into a half-hour comedy series with the same cast.

The rest of Justin’s profile is here.



Alliance’s 33rd Annual All Florida winners announced at opening (03-18-19)

The Alliance for the Arts’ 33rd Annual All Florida Juried Exhibit opened last Friday with an awards ceremony.

After winnowing more than 660 submissions to 60 works of art by 60 different artists, juror R. Lynn Whitelaw still had work to do. From the works he juried into this year’s show, he chose three winners, two Juror’s Choice winners and an honorable mention.

Whitelaw picked Christina Wyatt’ Two Young Girls as Best in Show. The honor carried a $1,000 cash prize.

Second Place winner Karen Tucker Kuyendall won a $250 Golden Colors Gift Certificate for Shout Hallelujah Come on Get Happy.

Geoffrey Hamel’s Untitled 2 took 3rd place honors and $100 in cash.

Lynn Foskett won Honorable Mention and a Gift Certificate from Frameworks for Succulents (Garden Chair). Glen DePasse and Carve Stone were awarded Juror’s Choice Awards.

“My overlying interest was to showcase exciting examples of contemporary art in Florida that reflect artistic talent and innovative work that respect, or experiment with, materials,” Whitelaw told the large crowd that attended the opening. “My only regret is that there were a large number of wonderful works that fit my criteria, but I had to make hard decisions to cull the show to 60 pieces.”

Lynn Whitelaw was the founding Director and Curator of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, located on the Tarpon Springs Campus of St. Petersburg College (SPC), a position he held for 17 years. Over the years, Mr. Whitelaw’s curatorial efforts have resulted in over 140 exhibitions shown at Hillsborough Community College, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.

Joining Wyatt, Kuykendall, Hamel, Foskett, DePasse and Stone in the show are Jeff Abbott, Jaime Aelavanthara, Brooke Anderson, Joanne Barrett, Penelope Breen, Melissa Carcamo, Hilda Champion, Steven Chayt, Muffy Clark, Sammy Cottrell, Alison Curtis, Vic Delnore, Christine Di Staola, Jessie Dilich, Sharon Eng, Cheryl Fausel, Julie Gauthier, Janet George, Judith Harthorn, John Ippensen, Ameena Khan, Ann Kozeliski, Yvonne Krystman, Jay Lana, JoAnn LaPadula, Pat Leggett, Diane Lublinski, Olivier Lutaud, Bruce MacKechnie, Inna Malostovker, Claire Melli, Robert Moore, Carol Murphy, Melissa Nece, Elizabeth Ogata, Jose Pardo, Katrina Parker, June Powell, Gregory Presley, Christine Reichow, Lynne Renzenberger, Robert Richard, Paula Rucket, Carol Schmidt, Carolyn Steele, Nancy Terrell, Guy Tieman, Rachel Ulrich, Havelyn Villar, Laura Waller, James Woodfield, LouAnn Wukitsch, Patricia Zalisko and MANO.

The exhibit runs through March 30.

The Alliance for the Arts is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard. Its 10-acre campus is southeast of the intersection of McGregor and Colonial Boulevards.

For more information, call 239-939-2787 or visit



Laura Waller’s ’55th St., NYC No. 2,’ part of the Alliance’s All Florida show (03-18-19)

The Alliance for the Arts’ 33rd Annual All Florida Juried Exhibit opened last Friday with an awards ceremony. Although juror R. Lynn Whitelaw could only name three winners, an honorable mention and two juror’s choice awardees, all 60 works he juried into the show are noteworthy and deserving of recognition.

One of those works is Laura Waller’s 55th St., NYC No. 2. But it’s the subtitle of the piece that tells the tale. And that would be “Strung Up and Strung Out, a commentary on our times,” divulged the artist at the opening on March 8.

The painting is part of a new series that will be the subject of a show at Elizabeth Moss Gallery in Falmouth, Maine in September. The series is centered around motifs gleaned from Manhattan at night, particularly in Times Square and the Theatre District. The Falmouth gallery that’s hosting the exhibit is calling it “In the Limelight.”

Waller and her husband visit New York City every December. Laura doesn’t paint en plein air. Instead, she takes a slew (that’s a technical term for hundreds) of photos that serve as both motifs, mnemonic triggers and painterly inspiration. This past December she collected even more material than she normally shoots.

“When you’re walking in the City, there are all these magical sites, especially down Broadway with the neon lights and everyone is looking down on their cellphones [instead of at the building, the lights and the cityscape towering overhead],” Waller laughs ironically. “The ubiquitous cellphone that’s everywhere.”

But that was just one of many anomalies.

Waller also happened upon a model of the Statue of Liberty chained to a suitcase and storefront so she couldn’t be hijacked. Laura found the imagery so full of import and social commentary, that she had to capture it on linen.

But Waller’s interest is in the angles, geometrical shapes and broad swaths of color that spire far above street level. Laura especially delights in the water towers that top virtually every skyscraper and tall building in the city.

“They’re all up there [like gargantuan spiders] with their spindly legs hanging down.”

Another object that insinuates itself into the skyline are the jibs, booms and operator’s cabs of the immense cranes that are reconfiguring the city’s Lego-like architecture on a real-time basis. Waller is sensitized to cranes and big booms. Many are featured in her Port Side series, which presents an up-close and personal view of the cargo ships, freighters and other big boats moored in Port Tampa Bay.

“If you think about that, there are people who spend their days looking down on the city from the vantage of a operator’s cab,” Waller muses expansively. “They’re doing the drone view,” she adds, rather than taking part of the ebb and flow of the workers, shoppers and tourists who clog the streets and sidewalks far, far below.

Waller’s new Limelight series continues the artist’s abstract exploration of large spaces that focuses over the past three seasons primarily on the commercial freighters and cargo ships that sit at anchor in Port Tampa Bay. As is the case with 400 and 500 foot vessels, you cannot take in a 40, 50 or 60 story building all at once. Because of their size and scale, you can only experience a skyscraper or aggregation of such edifices by focusing on some detail or component part, and that’s definitely the case with 55th St. NYC No. 2. You can train your eyes on the American flag or the wires bisecting the vertical and horizontal planes that comprise the surrounding buildings, but it’s impossible to take in all of these various components at the same time..

Just like the paintings in her Port Side series, there’s a very abstract quality to Waller’s Limelight paintings when viewed up close. The emphasis on flat color, geometrical shapes, parallel lines and other forms is vaguely reminiscent of Mondrian’s use of the pure geometric forms underlying all existence to convey absolute reality. But as you retreat from proximity to the canvas, the composition becomes representational. Even then, however, your mind has to finish the image because the actual subject extends hundreds of feet off canvas.

“I like to present subject matter where, if you made a viewfinder with your hands, you can go anywhere within the composition and find something interesting to look at,” Waller said of her Port Side series. “This lets viewers choose which part of the composition to connect with, and that enables them to have a different experience each time they look at the painting…. [T]hey get to choose the relationship they forge with the composition.”

As she did with the Port Side series, Waller feels equally compelled to uncover what lies beneath the surface of massive, imposing structures – buildings and industrial plants which are historic as well as others not yet complete. “It is their dynamic sense of scale that I seek to convey through tight, focused composition of color and form.”

Waller has introduced one subject into her Limelight paintings that viewers won’t find in her ships at port. The new series of urban landscapes will be include people. ” I seem to be including more people in my work, especially of New York, but they are usually not the stars of the canvas,” Laura shares. “They  compete with the manmade structures which, in NY, typically minimize their presence.”

Laura Waller’s 55th St., NYC No. 2 is on view along with the other 59 works included in the Alliance’s 33rd Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition now through March 30. For more information, please visit or telephone 239-939-2787.



Waller’s ships at port combines abstract sensibility with representational view (03-18-19)

[Here’s a look back at Laura Waller’s ships at port series, which were part of a two-artist show titled Along the Coast that the Alliance for the Arts exhibited last May.]

Tampa artist Laura Waller cajoles viewers to join her on an abstract exploration of massive commercial vessels where they alone control the path and destination of the journey.

To appreciate what Waller has accomplished with the paintings in this series, it is helpful to harken back to some lessons taught roughly 150 years ago by the Impressionists. Then, painters such as Manet, Monet and Renoir operated from the premise that in real life, our eyes are only capable of focusing on a single spot at any given point in time. The rest of the picture is supplied not by our optic nerve, but our minds. We know what’s in the background or periphery of a scene, but we don’t actually see it in the depth or detail previously provided by realists and hyper-realists like DaVinci, Rubens and Vermeer.

Waller applies a similar concept to her paintings of massive cargo ships and commercial freighters. Except from a great distance, you simply cannot take in a 400 or 500 foot vessel all at once. Because of their size and scale, you can only experience a ship like this by focusing on some detail or component part.

“By focusing on some detail or portion of the vessel, I’m asking the viewer to join with me in an exploration,” Laura explains. “The vanishing point is well off canvas, so you know it’s a massive ship that goes way back. You know it’s there, but I’m asking you to experience it in a different way.”

But Waller’s compositions provide an even greater degree of immediacy. If you stand close to the linen support, you see a collection of one-dimensional shapes and colored planes. But as you stand back, an image emerges that depicts some part of the vessel that suggests or implies the existence of the entire ship in much the same way as viewing a tusk, trunk or tail connotes the presence of an elephant.

This result obtains because of the way in which Waller creates her compositions. “When I paint, I’m standing at the length of the brush from the support,” explains Laura. “It’s only when I stand back that the form emerges from the brushwork.”

Up close, there’s a very abstract quality to these paintings. The emphasis on flat color, geometrical shapes, parallel lines and other forms is vaguely reminiscent of Mondrian’s use of the pure geometric forms underlying all existence to convey absolute reality. But as you retreat from proximity to the canvas, the composition becomes representational. Even then, however, your mind has to finish the image because the actual subject extends hundreds of feet off canvas.

“I like to subject matter where if you made a viewfinder with your hands, you can go anywhere within the composition and find something interesting to look at,” Waller adds. “This lets viewers choose which part of the composition to connect with, and that enables them to have a different experience each time they look at the painting. If you do a representational painting of the entire ship, you’re telling the viewer what to see. But here, they get to choose the relationship they forge with the composition.”

Laura’s developed an interest in cargo ships, freighters and tugs after a friend suggested she visit the Port Tampa Bay for nontraditional Florida motifs.

“I didn’t really want to do cruise ships because the shapes are not that interesting compared to other ships, so when someone suggested the working port, I became intrigued.”

Of course, you just can’t go wandering about a commercial port handles more than 37 million tons of cargo annually, ranging from liquid and dry bulk to containers and automobiles.

“I got one of the big companies to sponsor me. They gave me a hard hat and an adorable security guard in a golf cart, and we rode around and took pictures, which I took them back to the studio to paint.” Painting on location was not an option because while the port was happy to assign a security guard to show her around, they couldn’t spare someone to sit with her all day as she painted.

Still, her time in the port was as exciting as it was novel. “I’ve always been intrigued by what I call ‘drop-ins’ – where you’re dropped into a new environment, someplace you’ve never been before. It’s a new world. There are very few women in the port. People can’t see the port when they drive by, so they don’t really know what’s in there.”

In addition to the time she spent being squired about the port by security, Laura also accessed the port aboard her son’s power boat, and she did have occasion to cop a ride on a 12,795 ton, 472-foot-long freighter named Clipper Newhaven that sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

“You cannot go in or out of the harbor without a harbor pilot taking over the ship. There are only two female harbor pilots in all of Florida, and I got to go with the one at the Port of Tampa when she took Clipper Newhaven out to sea,” Laura recounts. Although Laura did not identify her by name, that would have been Capt. Carolyn Kurtz. She is one of 23 harbor pilots working for the Tampa Bay Pilots Association. The rest are all males. (The only other female harbor pilot in Florida works in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Out of 1,200 harbor pilots nationally, just 30 are women.)

“When we got out in the Gulf, a pilot boat pulls up alongside the ship and [Capt. Kurtz] tells me we’re going down to get off the ship,” Laura continues, a wry smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Well, I didn’t realize until that very moment that they don’t stop the ship. It’s going along at 12 knots, and [Carolyn] says, ‘Don’t get upset, Laura, and don’t look down, but we’re going to climb down that rope ladder hanging off the side of the ship. I’ll go first, and when it’s your turn, just take one step at a time and when you get to the bottom, reach back, and I’ll pull you onto the pilot boat.’ I didn’t look down, but I was thinking the whole time that if I die, I’m going to have the best obituary – crushed between two ships.”

Obviously, she did just fine and now has a Laura Croft moment to share at art exhibition opening receptions.

Laura found it interesting to not only learn all the different parts of the ships she painted, but their history, as well. When a collector acquires one of these nautical works, they not only get a nuanced, ever-changing painting, they become privy to the history of the vessel. And through a vessel tracker app, they can follow the ship’s whereabouts on their phone. In fact, the tracker even sends out notifications.

Laura has no plans to add to the series. In her mind, it is now complete. Instead, she is now painting commercial and residential buildings under construction, as well as industrial processing site. “After a private hardhat tour of an historic cement plant in Maine, I was inspired to explore similar industrial sites as part of my ongoing investigation into urban landscapes.”

As she did with ships at port, Waller feels equally compelled to uncover what lies beneath the surface of massive, imposing structures – buildings and industrial plants which are historic as well as others not yet complete. “It is their dynamic sense of scale that I seek to convey through tight, focused composition of color and form.”

And as with her ships at port, the new series of urban landscapes will be devoid of either animal or human figures. “I am primarily in what humans have built; the awe-inspiring powerful character and tension of interior or exterior spaces,” Laura explains. In her capable hands, each of these new constructions becomes an intimate personal portrait that reveals complex multi-layers, underpinnings and exoskeletons.

Along the Coast runs through May 26 at the Alliance for the Arts. For more information, please visit or telephone 239-939-2787.



More on Tampa artist Laura Waller (03-18-19)

The Alliance for the Arts’ 33rd All Florida Juried Exhibition contains 60 works of art by 60 different artists. One of those artworks is a painting of the New York cityscape rendered by Tampa artist Laura Waller.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Laura Waller received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Newcomb College and Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Concurrent with studies in sociology, psychology and social work, she developed a passion for art and art history.

After an eleven-year career as a professional therapist, Laura became a certified financial planner and founder of the successful Waller & Wax Advisors firm in Tampa, FL. Throughout her thirty-year career in finance, she continued to paint and study independently with prestigious artists in Arizona, Florida, and Maine. Waller was selected in 2013, 2014, 2015, and again for 2018, for artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center.

As a full-time artist, Waller works out of her studios in Maine and Florida. Her Working Waterfront: Port Tampa Bay paintings were featured in a winter 2015 solo exhibition at the Clayton Galleries in Tampa. Her Working Waterfront: New Work paintings were featured in a summer 2016 solo exhibition at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth, ME. New paintings from her Port Side series were featured in a solo exhibition open from January 27 to March 11, 2017 at Clayton Galleries in Tampa, FL.

Alliance members and area art lovers may remember Laura from the 27 Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition in 2013. At that show, Baker Museum of Art Director and Curator Frank Verpoorten chose Laura’s painting, Owl’s Head, as the exhibition’s Best of Show. Last May, she was featured in a two-artist show titled Along the Coast with fellow Tampa artist Sarah Hull.

Waller was awarded the Arts Council of Hillsborough County Individual Artist Grant in 2016. Laura’s paintings are collected by individuals and corporations nationwide.



Mally Khorasantchi exhibit at FGCU ArtLab closes March 28 (03-17-19)

Mally Khorasantchi Recent Paintings 2019 is on view in the ArtLab Gallery in FGCU’s Library West through March 28. The show includes large-scale paintings that incorporate elements from the artist’s personal history and social commentary. With no horizon lines or perspective to give order or focus, and using both bold and delicately painted abstracted symbols, lines and shapes, Khorasantchi seeks to convey the chaos and order found in nature and of things manmade. She is interested in the juxtapositions of rhythm and remnant, intellect and emotion, beauty and discord, and invites multiple interpretations based on individual experience and memory.

Born soon after the end of World War II in Dusseldorf, Germany, Mally (Breuer) Khorasantchi discovered her lifelong love of drawing and painting as a young child. Khorasantchi studied with several noted professional German artists who nurtured her artistic development and, by the 1990s, she had two solo exhibitions of her work in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Khorasantchi immigrated to United States and became a permanent resident of Florida in 1992 and an American citizen in 2006. A successful, full time professional artist since 2005, her work has been collected by private and corporate clients both in the U.S. and abroad.

The State of Florida’s Capitol building in Tallahassee featured a solo exhibition of her work during the summer of 2014. A solo exhibition of her paintings was shown at the Walter Wickiser Gallery, New York, in the fall of 2014. That same year, the United Arts Council of Collier County conferred its prestigious “Stars in the Arts Award” on Khorasantchi.



21st Annual Student Juried Exhibition opens at FGCU on March 21 (03-17-19)

FGCU’s Wasmer Gallery will present the 21st Annual Student Juried Exhibition March 21 through April 4, 2019. The show will feature up to 70 works of art submitted by students working in sculpture, drawing, digital media, printmaking, painting and ceramics. Individually and collectively, these artworks demonstrate the accomplishments and experiments of the students whose work has been juried into the show. The opening reception is 5:00-7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, with awards being announced at 6:00 p.m.



Guerrilla Girls rattling cages at Rauschenberg Gallery through March 23 (03-17-19)

On view now through March 23 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Florida SouthWestern State College is GUERRILLA GIRLS: Rattling Cages Since 1985. The exhibition is a site-specific survey and newly-commissioned, interactive installation.

The Guerrilla Girls is an internationally-renowned feminist advocacy and art collective which assiduously maintains its anonymity while confronting and addressing systemic problems of gender and racial parity in the art world.

Since their formation in 1985, the Guerrilla Girls have done more than 100 street projects, posters and stickers in cities ranging from New York, Los Angeles and Minneapolis to Mexico City, Istanbul, London, Bilbao, Rotterdam and Shanghai. They have also done outrageous projects and exhibitions at museums, attacking them for their bad behavior and discriminatory practices right on their own walls. Of these, their stealth project on the façade of the Whitney Museum in 2015 stands out as a very public and publicized excoriation of income inequality and the extent to which the super-rich have hijacked art.

You will find the rest of this advance here.



Q&A with Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo (03-17-19)

On view in the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College is GUERRILLA GIRLS: Rattling Cages Since 1985. Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo skyped in on the night of the show’s opening to field questions from the audience. While her identity remains a closely-guarded secret, her pithy remarks and observations reveal the woman beneath the guerrilla mask to be sharp, quick-witted, wry and singularly focused on the role of women in the arts.

You’ll find the questions and answers here.



Naples Art District studio and gallery tour is today (03-16-19)

The 3rd Saturday Naples Art District Studio and Gallery Tours takes place today (Saturday, March 16). This event features more than 60 artists, who will be showcasing their recent works of art and demonstrating their medium. The Naples Art District is located north of Pine Ridge Road and west of Airport Road. Participating galleries and studios are open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.



Naples Festival of the Arts returns to downtown Naples March 23 & 24 (03-16-19)

The 30th Annual Downtown Naples Festival of the Arts takes place on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24. Last year, 230 artists from around the country were selected for their artistry and craftsmanship to exhibit in this show. Together, they brought an extensive variety of artworks ranging from original oils and acrylics on canvas, panel and galvanized aluminum to watercolors on paper, 2D and 3D mixed media collages, limited edition prints, photography, digital art, metal sculpture, wood carvings, ceramics, hand-crafted jewelry and fashion accessories, leather works, fine furniture and home decor items, and numerous great gift ideas. The fair takes place on Fifth Avenue South, which is cordoned off to vehicular traffic during the two-day show. That helps explain why the artists who responded to the surveys sent out by Sunshine Artist Magazine rated this as the #24 art festival in the country last year. For more information, please visit



Bonita Bay Masters takes place at The Promenade March 30 & 31 (03-16-19)

The Bonita Bay Masters Art Festival will be held at The Promenade in Bonita Bay on Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31. This location on SR 41 was at one time the host of The Bonita Springs National Art Festival. A boutique show produced by Boulderbrook Productions, this event is capped at 39 artists. The festival takes place from noon to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.



Alliance’s next CHANGE course scheduled for March 30 & 31 (03-15-19)

The Alliance for the Arts CHANGE Program is offering its next class on March 30 and 31. Titled “Acting Social Workshop – What Is Your Mask?,” the 2-day course explores through a lens of diverse identities how society connects who we are and how we were raised with our economic status and contributions.

Students will utilize the arts and social discourse to explore ways to articulate and express identity. The workshop promises to foster an appreciation of the common and unique experiences that shape our character, our personality, our distinctiveness and the essence of our identity.

As part of the course, facilitators Jarrett Eady, Jonathan Harrison, Derek Lively, Sonya McCarter and Stephen Hooper will have students view a performance introducing the theme. Students will then participate in a group exercise and group discussion exploring race, stereotyping and privilege. With guidance from the facilitators, the participants will thereafter collaborate to create an artistic demonstration of their exploration of identity. Family and friends will be invited to attend the demonstration on the second day of the workshop and participate in the talkback activity. (Talkbacks allow the audience to ask questions and express their thoughts and ideas on issues revealed in a work of art or performance through the form of meaningful discussion.)

The class will be taught at the Alliance for the Arts, 10091 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers, FL 33919. Saturday workshop hours are 1:00-4:00 p.m.. Sunday hours are 1:00-3:30 p.m. with the performance and talk-back beginning at 2:30 p.m. The cost is $20 for Alliance members or $25 for future members. The performance is free to attend.

Registration is required and can be completed online at or by calling 239-939-2787.

The CHANGE Program (Communities Harnessing the Arts to Nurture and Grow Equity) provides performance opportunities and a platform to convene dialogue on social issues that challenge our community through creative, artistic expression. This project is supported in part by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Florida Humanities Council. For more information on this program, visit

Later this year, the CHANGE Program will offer an Acting Intensive and Playwriting class.



Meet the CHANGE ‘What is Your Mask’ workshop facilitators (03-15-19)

The Alliance for the Arts CHANGE Program is offering its next class on March 30 and 31. Titled “Acting Social Workshop – What Is Your Mask?,” the 2-day course explores how society connects who we are and how we were raised with our experiences, economic status and contributions through a lens of diverse identities.

The course will be taught by these five facilitators:

Jarrett Eady: Jarrett is a fourth generation resident of Fort Myers and an alumnus of Fort Myers High School. He attended Florida State University, where he majored in Political Science with minors in History, Urban Regional Planning and Black Studies. He currently serves as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the School District of Lee County and has served as a Professional Development and Leadership Specialist, 9-12 Social Content Lead and District Director of the Advancement via Individual Determination Program with the School District of Lee County’s Department of Curriculum and Staff Development. Jarrett’s community and civic involvement in Southwest Florida includes serving as the President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Southwest Florida, as the Chairman of the Lee County Black History Society and Williams Academy Black History Museum, and as the Parliamentarian of the Xi Omicron Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Jonathan Harrison: Jonathan is an adjunct Professor in Sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University whose PhD was in the field of racism and anti-Semitism. Dr. Jonathan Harrison has devoted his career to studying and teaching on the topics of gender identity, sexual orientation, world religions and sociology of diversity. In 2006, he moved to Florida from the United Kingdom. He teaches sociology in the Liberal Arts program while researching race, gender identity, sexual orientation and world dance. In the summer of 2015, his research paper on African American history in Fort Myers was published in the Florida Historical Quarterly. Harrison has also appeared on WGCU Gulf Coast Live and in the Fort Myers News-Press to discuss his research.

Derek Lively: Derek is professional actor and has appeared in productions ranging from Shakespeare to Eugene O’Neill and has worked in regional theaters and Off-Broadway, including The Public Theater and LaMama E.T.C. His solo show, Welcome To My Soul, which he wrote and performed, led to a first-look development deal with NBC (Universal). He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. Go here for more on Derek’s numerous credits and achievements.

Sonya McCarter: Sonya is the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Alliance for the Arts as well as a director and actress. Her heart’s passion is to help facilitate engaging, compelling and meaningful theatre in Fort Myers that features strong African-American characters and stories. Sonya has appeared in television (Burn Notice), film (The Florida Project) and theatre. Her directing credits include: The Bluest Eye, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Seven Guitars and Raisin in the Sun. She holds two Master’s Degrees in Oral Interpretation of Speech and Theatre Arts.

Stephen E. Hooper: Stephen has been working in theater as an actor, director and producer for nearly 35 years. Favorite stage roles include Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men (Peninsula Players); Juror #2 in Twelve Angry Men (Florida Rep); and Mittler in Dispatches From Hell (Alliance for the Arts). Steve most recently directed Repossessed at the Alliance for the Arts and is a proud member of Theatre Conspiracy Playwrights. Read here for all of Stephen’s credits and achievements.

The CHANGE Program (Communities Harnessing the Arts to Nurture and Grow Equity) provides performance opportunities and a platform to convene dialogue on social issues that challenge our community through creative, artistic expression. This project is supported in part by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Florida Humanities Council. For more information on this program, visit



‘Joe Turner’ cast sublimates personal identities to sing characters’ songs (03-15-19)

Kudos are once again in order for Bill Taylor, Sonya McCarter and the entire theater crew at the Alliance for the Arts, this time for tackling the third of August Wilson’s ambitious Century Cycle series with the psychological drama Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. The language and themes alone are difficult enough, but in this production McCarter fathoms the depths of Wilson’s complex characterizations with a newbie-heavy cast that, to a man and woman, sublimates their identities so that they can clearly sing their characters’ songs.

And boiled down to the play’s pure essence, that is the crux of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. As Cicero McCarter’s character, Bynum, tells anyone who will listen, each man (or woman) must find his own song if he (or she) is to be free.

But discovering the key, tempo and rhythm that defines and governs one’s life was easier said than done for African-Americans struggling a half century following Abraham Lincoln’s promulgation of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 to assimilate themselves into the fabric of white society in the northern cities to which they’d fled.

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place in 1911 in the kitchen and living room of a Pittsburgh boardinghouse owned and operated by Seth and Bertha, played by Nuniez Philor (making his theatrical debut) and Tijuanna Clemons (in only her second stage production). Of all of the characters in Joe Turner, Seth is the most assimilated (read, white). He’s so bent on assuring his financial security and place in America through entrepreneurship that he has little patience for anyone who’s not similarly motivated  … or who threatens to derail his personal pursuit of the American dream of home and business ownership, like the frivolous Jeremy or his scary new resident, Loomis.

Bertha is her husband’s counterbalance. In fact, she exercises a calming influence on everyone who sits and takes sustenance at her long wooden kitchen table. Tijuanna Clemons’ own inner gratitude for life’s gifts shines through her character, infusing Bertha with a homespun humor that justifies her line that laughter is the best way “to know you’re alive.”

Find the rest of this review here.



Cast of ‘Joe Turner’ dominated by newcomers (03-15-19)

On stage in the Foulds Theatre through March 17 is Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance’s production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Anchoring Sonya McCarter’s cast are Cicero McCarter III in the role of Bynum Walker, Jim Yarnes as Rutherford Selig, Katherine Oni as Mattie Campbell and Cantrella Canaday playing the part of Martha Pentecost. But the cast includes a number of theater newcomers and other actors who are making their Theatre Conspiracy debuts.

Here’s the rest of this article.

And follow these links for more on this show:



‘Guys & Dolls’ on Broadway Palm main stage through March 30 (03-15-19)

Guys and Dolls is on the Broadway Palm main stage now through March 30.

The story revolves around Nathan Detroit, the ultimate gambling man and operator of “the world’s largest floating crap game.” He spends his days staying one step ahead of New York’s finest and evading marriage to his chorus girl fiancée of 14 years. Things really heat up when dashing, big time gambler Sky Masterson meets up with a refined Salvation Army girl Miss Sarah Brown. Masterson, who’ll bet on anything, gets talked into what appears to be an unwinnable bet involving the girl, setting up an unpredictable chain of hilarious events.

Guys and Dolls features one of the best musical scores in American theatre history with hits that include “Luck Be A Lady,” “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” “Sue Me,” “A Bushel And A Peck” and more! The musical is the winner of eight Tony Awards, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and a Grammy for Best Cast Album.

Performances are Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinees. Tickets are $45 to $70 with group prices available. Tickets are now on sale and can be reserved by calling (239) 278-4422, visiting or in person at 1380 Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.



‘Mama Won’t Fly’ gives new meaning to road trip comedies (03-15-19)

The Off Broadway Palm Theatre is presenting Mama Won’t Fly playing now through April 28, 2019. Laugh your way across the USA with this ferociously funny comedy by the writers of The Savannah Sipping Society and The Hallelujah Girls.

A race against the clock begins when Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt agrees to get her feisty mother all the way from Alabama to California in time for her brother’s wedding. Savannah’s problem: MAMA WON’T FLY. With only four days to make it to the ceremony, this determined daughter has no choice but to drive cross-country with her equally willful mother, Norleen Sprunt, in Mama’s vintage sedan. As Savannah steels herself for this hastily conceived road trip, another outrageous complication arises: the bubbly, over-eager bride-to-be arrives unannounced. Delighted to finally meet her future in-laws, Hayley Quinn is convinced that travelling together to her wedding is the perfect way to bond. The folly of her decision quickly becomes apparent when the journey begins and comedic chaos ensues.

The rest of this advance is here.




Spotlight on ‘Mama Won’t Fly’ actor Dena Galyean (03-15-19)

The incomparable Dena Galyean is Savannah Sprunt Fairchild Honeycutt in Mama Won’t Fly. This beleaguered character must contend with a cantankerous mom and her maddingly bubbly soon-to-be sister-in-law as they race across the country for Haley’s impending nuptials, overcoming one inconceivable mishap after another. Dena Galyean is one of the hardest working thespians in all of Southwest Florida. And she always seems to land fascinating roles. Among her most recent – and memorable – are Susan B. Anthony in Theatre Conspiracy’s production of The Agitators, Nora Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House (also for Theatre Conspiracy) and Stella Kowalski in The Studio Players’ production of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Golden Gate Community Center.

Read here for the rest of Dena’s profile.



Spotlight on ‘Mama Won’t Fly’ actor Katie Pankow (03-15-19)

Katie Pankow stars in Off Broadway Palm’s production of the hysterical comedy Mama Won’t Fly. She plays bride-to-be Hayley Quinn, who makes the questionable decision to meet her future in-laws by driving across country with her future mother and sister-in-law but anything that can go wrong does go wrong, and more. Katie Pankow is a talented actor who frequently performs locally. Her acting credits include Grounded and Swell Party for Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts, and Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol (December, 2018 at the Hippodrome State Theatre), Poppy Norton-Taylor in Noises Off (January 12-February 17, 2018), Belle (along with Mrs. Fezziwig, Martha Cratchit and many others ) in A Christmas Carol (December 8-29, 2017) ….

Read here for the rest of Katie’s profile.



Spotlight on ‘Mama Won’t Fly’ actor ML Graham (03-15-19)

In the cast of Off-Broadway Palm’s Mama Won’t Fly is ML Graham. ML (Mary-Lisa) Graham is an equity actor and singer. She holds a BS in Creative Arts from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has performed as a classical and choral music soloist in a variety of theater, outdoor drama and cabaret shows, and as a cruise ship performer. (ML performed on the SS Constitution cruise ship while living in Hawaii.) Her local stage credits include …. [Read here for the rest of ML’s credits.]



CFABS holding auditions for STAGE IT! 10-Minute Play Festival (03-15-19)

The Center for Performing Arts Bonita Springs will hold auditions on March 20 and March 23 for its third annual international playwriting competition, the STAGE IT! 10-Minute Play Festival.

The Festival features four performances of the top 10 plays from April 24-26 in the Moe Auditorium and coincides with the release of the CFABS’ published book of winners. There will be a plethora of roles for every age, race and type. Actors may be cast in multiple plays, giving them a chance to stretch into multiple roles and work with different directors.

Rehearsals are coordinated according to actors’ schedules with all plays coming together during the week prior to performances. Auditions will be cold readings from the scripts.

“Truly, it’s the best time you can have rehearsing a play and performing,” notes Film and Theatre Coordinator Frank Blocker. “Most acting classes consist of scene work presented at the end of class in front of your classmates. In this production, it’s the same time and work commitment, except the ‘final’ is four performances in front of live audiences that LOVE the 10-minute play format. We’ve built a great brand at CFABS with the short play format and hope you can come PLAY WITH US!”

The auditions are in the Moe Auditorium and Film Center, Center for Performing Arts Bonita Springs, 10150 Bonita Beach Road on:

  • 6:00-9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20; and
  • 1:00-3:00 p.m on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

All-cast rehearsals will take place on April 24 and 25, with performances on:

  • April 26, 7:00 p.m.
  • April 27, 2:00 p.m.
  • April 27, 7:00 p.m.
  • April 28, 2:00 p.m.

“Get your name in the book and be part of the history of Center for the Performing Arts Bonita Springs.”

For more information, please telephone 239-495-8989 or visit



‘Million Dollar Quartet’ opens March 22 at Florida Rep (03-15-19)

Broadway’s rock ‘n’ roll sensation Million Dollar Quartet opens March 22 at Florida Rep. The musical reprises a jam session that made music history in 1956. It occurred when Memphis record producer Sam Phillips brought four of his newest clients together to make music. That fab four consisted of Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

Million Dollar Quartet took Broadway by storm and provides an electrifying glimpse of the four legends before they became rock ‘n’ roll icons. The musical features over twenty rock ‘n’ roll hits, including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire” and many more!

“This musical is like nothing the Arcade Theatre has ever seen,” maintains Artistic Director Greg Longenhagen. “Not only will the music blow the roof off of the Arcade, but the story is compelling. And looking at these four musicians at the start of their iconic careers is touching, funny, and extremely exciting. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash changed the music industry, and I can’t wait for you to hear their story and their music.”

Florida Rep has assembled an A-list cast for the musical. Several of them are playing their roles for a fifth, sixth, and even the tenth time. Florida Rep ensemble member Brendan Powers (Hay Fever) returns this season as record producer Sam Phillips and is joined by Joe Boover as Elvis (Florida Rep debut), Gregg Hammer as Johnny Cash (Florida Rep debut), Jeremy Sevelovitz as Carl Perkins (Florida Rep debut), and Brady Wease as Jerry Lee Lewis (Shear Madness).

Also joining the cast are Julie Kavanagh as Dyanne (Too Marvelous for Words), Daniel Bailey playing bass (Florida Rep debut) and David Sonneborn on drums (Florida Rep debut).

Associate Artistic Director and ensemble member, Jason Parrish (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) directs, and is joined by Resident Set Designer Jordan Moore (Cabaret), ensemble Costume Designer Stephanie Genda (Cabaret), Lighting Designer Julie Duro (Twelve Angry Men), Sound Designer Katie Lowe (Damascus), Music Director David Sonneborn (Florida Rep debut) and Stage Manager Kathleen Barrett (Florida Rep debut).

Playing to April 21 in the Historic Arcade Theatre, tickets are priced at $59 and $53 for regular performances but go up to $65 and $59 on March 12. Preview tickets are $35 and $29 and are selling out for the March 19-21 performances. A limited number of $25 Two-Day-Deal tickets are available 48-hours in advance of each performance by calling the box office at 239-332-4488.

Box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. New this season, Florida Rep’s parking lot will open 2 hours before each performance and offers guests limited free parking across the street from the Arcade Theatre.

Florida Repertory Theatre performs in the Historic Arcade Theatre and the ArtStage Studio Theatre on Bay St. between Jackson & Hendry with limited free parking in the Fort Myers River District. Visit Florida Rep online at, and by following the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.




Lab’s production of Mitch Albom’s ‘And the Winner Is’ closes March 16 (03-15-19)

The Laboratory Theater of Florida’s production of Mitch Albom’s timely comedy, And the Winner Is, closes March 16. Some reviewers have dismissed the play as a “lightweight comedy … but pleasant way to spend an evening.” While the latter is true (the Lab production is a hoot and a howl), And the Winner Is provides a fascinating contrast of the way in which the fabric of society has changed in the seven decades that have elapsed since the end of World War II.

While opinions vary, any conversation about all-time great Christmas movies has to include Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It’s a story about a good and decent guy facing financial ruin, disgrace and incarceration through no fault of his own. In his despair, he concludes that the world would be better off if he’d never been born. It falls upon Clarence, his guardian angel, to not only prevent George Bailey from committing suicide, but show him just much how good he’d done over the course of his truly wonderful life.

The theme and central character in Winner are the inverse of It’s a Wonderful Life. Tyler Johnes is a self-centered, egomaniacal actor concerned, for the moment, with only two things: winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and nailing his beautiful, well-endowed gal pal, Serenity, who Tyler appreciates solely because “she has a great ass.” But unlike George Bailey, Tyler Johnes doesn’t wish to be dead. He is dead. Dead as a door nail. He dropped dead in bed the night before the Academy Awards and now he’s pleading with his heavenly gatekeeper to return to earth so that he can find out if he won.

After all, it’s all about Tyler Johnes.

Here’s the rest of this review.




Spotlight on ‘And the Winner Is’ actor Danielle Channell (03-15-19)

Danielle Channell is a talented comedic actor living and working in Southwest Florida. She is currently appearing at Lab Theater in the Florida premier of Mitch Albom’s And the Winner Is! Past credits include the role of producer Julia Budder in It’s Only a Play, Broadway producer Elsa Von Grossenkneuten in The Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s and the beautiful, charming and talented Meg McGrath in Beth Henley’s Southern Gothic tragi-comedy, Crimes of the Heart.

Read here for the rest of Danielle’s profile.




Spotlight on “And the Winner Is’ actor Dave Yudowitz (03-15-19)

Dave Youdowitz is a local actor who has appeared in numerous local productions including Mitch Albom’s And the Winner Is, David Yaverbaum’s An Act of God (Dave played the archangel Michael), 55 and Over (where he played Moe, a cantankerous 75-year-old who gets evicted from his apartment because he opts to buy groceries and his expensive heart medication in lieu of paying rent), The Diary of Anne Frank, 2014’s summer stock hit, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays (in which he rendered a riveting and touching eulogy for his recently-deceased gay partner of many years in a vignette titled London Mosquitoes) ….

You’ll find the rest of Dave’s profile here.



Spotlight on ‘And the Winner Is’ actor Madelaine Hayes (03-15-19)

Madelaine “Maddy” Hayes is local actor and director. Her acting credits include Serenity in And the Winner Is, The Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s and Stage Kiss, as well as a number of staged readings at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Maddy has headed the Lab’s winter camp and co-directed the Lab’s summer camp show, Evil Dead. She also had the distinction of directing the Audience Choice winner in Lab Theater’s 2018 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge, Sunny with a Chance of Social Anxiety by Dave Matthew Chesebro.



Spotlight on ‘And the Winner Is’ actor Todd Lyman (03-15-19)

Todd Lyman is an actor who is presently appearing in Lab Theater’s production of Mitch Albom’s And the Winner Is. Previous credits include theater critic Ira Drew in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play (which marked Todd’s Lab Theater debut), Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Enoch Snow in Carousel, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Ivan in Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal.



Amy and Jesse Hughes headline ‘Guys & Dolls’ cast (03-15-19)

Guys & Dolls in on stage through April 7 in Blackburn Hall at The Naples Players Sugden Theatre. Amy Hughes and Jesse Hughes headline the large and talented cast of this masterful and unforgettable musical.

Amy and Jesse Hughes are remembered for notable performances as Marian and Harold Hill in TNP’s Music Man. In Guys & Dolls, the couple (who are married in real life) play Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson respectively.

TNP newcomer David Shaffer plays Nathan Detroit, with Jessica Walck (Sylvia, Chicago) portraying Miss Adelaide.

Reprising the successful and memorable TNP Guys & Dolls production from 15 years ago, Joseph Loiacono returns to perform again as Arvide Abernathy.

Jim Corsica is Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Bev Canell (oft referred to with the upmost admiration as “The General” within the walls of the Sugden Community Theatre) is reprising her unforgettable role as General Cartwright.

Completing the cast is Len Becker as Harry the Horse, Bob Patteri as Big Jule, Paul Lopresti as Lieutenant Brannigan, Jason Eugenides as Benny Southstreet, Evelyn Kasper as Agatha and Jack Weld as Rusty Charlie.

Ensemble members include Gaby Biagi, Mackenzie Black, Julia Cornwall, Sophia Costa, Adam Fasano, Frankie Federico, Jeremy Giovinazzo, Wiefta Jean, Kevin Kenneally, Elizabeth Marcantonio, Harry McCartney, Stephanie Nelson, Jack Norkeliunas, Ella Pflaumer, Thomas Richardson, Ryan Roberge, Logan Szittai, Sharon True, Perry Ventro, Lindsey Walsh and Elyse Yun.



TNP & Garage Doors of Naples offer sensory-friendly ‘Guys & Dolls’ show (03-15-19)

The Naples Players (TNP) and Garage Doors of Naples are partnering on Tuesday, April 2 to present a special sensory-friendly performance of the American musical classic Guys & Dolls in Blackburn Hall. As sensory-friendly screenings become more common in local movie theaters and even on Broadway, The Naples Players is proud to participate in the national shift towards making it possible for individuals with special needs and their families to experience the same quality theater as everyone else.

What are sensory-friendly screenings, and why are they important?

For many people with special needs, sensory stimuli (including loud noises and strobe lights) are overwhelming and sometimes painful. “Some things just feel so intense,” explains Tina J. Richardson, a woman with autism. “I’m not over-reacting. My sensory processing is unique to me.”

In addition, many people with special needs cannot sit still for long periods of time. This also makes it difficult for them to attend traditional performances where moving around or making noise is prohibited and typically draws judgmental stares. However, the slight changes introduced in sensory-friendly performances can transform the theater into a place as welcoming, comfortable and non-threatening as their own home.

During sensory-friendly performances, the house lights remain on during the performance, sound is turned down, movement during the performance is not restricted, and the performance is capped at 50% capacity. In addition, audience members receive a guide to the show that tells them where there might be a sensory trigger, so they can prepare themselves in advance.

Special pricing for The Naples Players sensory-friendly performances helps make great theater affordable for families and is made possible through a grant from Suncoast Credit Union.

Considered one of the greatest musicals of all time, Guys & Dolls is filled with some of the most iconic show tunes that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. You’ll be reminded of just how much fun it is to see a revival of an American musical filled with such classic musical numbers as “Luck Be a Lady”, “A Bushel and a Peck”, “If I Were a Bell”, and “Marry the Man Today.”

Guys & Dolls runs through April 7, 2019 in Blackburn Hall at The Naples Players at Sugden Theatre at 701 5th Avenue South in Naples. Tickets for the special one-night Sensory Friendly Performance on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 are $20 for adults, $10 for students/educators and are available at www.NaplesPlayers.orgor by contacting the Box Office at (239) 263-7990.

The Naples Players (TNP) Sugden Community Theatre is Naples’ oldest and premier theatre group and a vital part of the excitingexperience of Downtown Naples.

[NB: The extraordinary photos accompanying this advance are by Neubek Photography. For more on them, please visit or telephone 617-519-7423.



TNP hosting Ed Asner and his prostate for interactive talk-back on March 16 (03-15-19)

Seven time Emmy winner and television icon Ed Asner is starring in his new comedy stage-play, A Man and His Prostate, at Unity Church of Naples tonight (March 15) and tomorrow (Saturday, March 16). Both performances of this comical and poignant show, which draws attention to men’s health, start at 7:00 p.m.

And at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, The Naples Players (TNP) will present a live audience talk-back with Asner in TNP’s Blackburn Hall.

Asner was last seen on the Broadway stage in Craig Wright’s tragicomedy, Grace, in which he co-starred with Paul Rudd. Asner is one of the most honored actors in television history, with 16 Emmy nominations, five Golden Globe Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. He is best known for his praised role as Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and for voicing Carl Frederickson in the Pixar box-office smash UP (which won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature). He is also widely known for his television roles in Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, The Good Wife, Criminal Minds, Mom, The Crazy Ones, Chasing Life, and Men at Work.

Asner also starred in the blockbuster film Elf as Santa and All of My Heart. For the stage, he toured across the country in his one-man stage-play FDR based on the life and career of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A Man and His Prostate was created and written by award-winning Ed Weinberger, who has been showered with Emmys (9) and Golden Globes (3) and has earned a Peabody Award. Weinberger wrote for Bob Hope, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, Taxi, and the Bill Cosby Show for eight seasons.

A Man and His Prostate is based on Ed Weinberger’s true-life experience while vacationing in Italy and being rushed to a hospital for prostate cancer surgery. Media critics have referred to the stage-play as a “hilarious” evening of entertainment. According to Weinberger, Asner was born to play this role of an old codger who won’t take any of life’s injustices sitting down, as he prepares for surgery.


Tickets for A Man and his Prostate, produced by Fubble Entertainment at Unity Church of Naples are $150 for VIP tickets (reserved seating and a meet-n-greet after the show) and $50 general admission for the 80-minute show. Tickets for the show are available online at

Tickets for The Naples Players’ 2:00 p.m. interactive talk-back and Q & A with Asner on Saturday, March 16th are $20 and available by contacting The Naples Players Box Office (239) 263-7990 or




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