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Actors, artists, filmmakers and events in the news April 8-14, 2020


Grouped under headings that include art openings, film, outdoor art fairs and festivals and theater are advances, announcements and articles about the actors, artists, filmmakers and events making news in Southwest Florida this week:



Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all of Southwest Florida’s museums, galleries and art centers are closed to the public. Notwithstanding, some of these organizations have produced virtual shows and you can also read here about some of the artists who would have been featured but for stay-at-home orders and recommendations issued by the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Governor Ron DeSantis.


Twelve artists juried into Alliance’s Art Lives Here 2.0

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. From the works submitted, the  Art Lives Here committee juried in 12 local artists: Tania Begg, Donna Chase, Stephen Hayford, Bruce Mackechnie, Nance Marsden, Leila Mesdaghi, Eric Riemenschneider, Whit Robbins, Myra Roberts, Carolyn Steele, Alyssa Stoff, and Barbara Weems. Each will have their composition displayed on a billboard somewhere within the borders of Lee County.

“Our vision is to bring artwork outside of the traditional context of museum and gallery walls, while bringing attention to emerging local artists’ work,” says gallery director Ehren Gerhard.

Last year, the Alliance named 9 artists to its inaugural Art Lives Here billboard campaign: Marne Adler, David Acevedo, Vicki Baker, Pat Collins, Cheryl Fausel, Leo Johnson, Charlotte McClatchey, Richard Stanton and Toni Ferrell Sutton.

For more information call 239-939-2787 or visit



Spotlight on Tania Begg’s ‘Where the Heart Is’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Tania Begg’s Where the Heart Is, a 48 x 24 inch acrylic painting. “With music playing in the background, my black ink pen dances across the canvas,” says Tania of the composition, “the movement creating line, and shapes … that interconnect … bright colors define each area and perform a Symphony. And within this Symphony … is my heart.”

Where the Heart Is represents something of a departure for Begg from her normal body of work, which she refers to as Lizzart, beaded wire sculptures that combine her love of three-dimensional art with texture and festive colors that are informed by years of cruising the Caribbean with her family on their 30’ sailboat Brittany. As her art has become increasingly recognized over the past several years, her work has appeared in local galleries ranging from the Hirdie Girdie Art Gallery on Sanibel and Sea Grape Art Gallery in Punta Gorda to Arts For Act in Fort Myers, Harbour View Art Gallery in Cape Coral and Coconut Point Art Gallery in Bonita Springs.

“I am so honored that my painting Where the Heart Is has been chosen for the Art Lives Here campaign by the Alliance for the Arts,” says Tania.

The new Art Lives Here billboard works will be featured on electronic billboards first as the compositions rendered by the 2019 Art Lives Here artists that presently appear on physical billboards located throughout Lee County are phased out in the coming months. Check social media from time to time for locations and updates.



Spotlight on Donna Chase’s ‘Touch’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Donna Chase. Her 16 x 40 inch acrylic painting is called Touch. “A simple touch can calm a tortured soul, convey emotions … even heal,” Donna shares. “Our hands are an extension of our humanity, regardless of color, age, strength or ethnicity.  In our new world of social distancing, we long for a real hug, a kiss or a simple handshake.  Touch is part of the basic human experience.”

And soon it will become part of our Lee County aesthetic landscape, a work that will be featured in the Alliance’s museum without walls.



Spotlight on Stephen Hayford’s painting You Never Know What You’re Going to Get’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Stephen Hayford, whose photographed diorama You Never Know What You’re Going to Get will soon grace a Lee County billboard.

New to the term diorama? It refers to a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures either in miniature or as a large-scale museum exhibit. Tracing its origins to 19th Century mobile theatre, dioramas today are common in museums like the Smithsonian. Locally, IMAG History & Science Center features a diorama of the February 20, 1865 Battle of Fort Myers. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates features a diorama of Thomas Edison’s botanical laboratory that Hayford created several years ago.

Go here for the rest of this review.



Spotlight on Bruce MacKechnie’s ‘Jazz Dreamscape’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Bruce MacKechnie, whose 20 x 16 inch acrylic painting Jazz Dreamscape will appear soon on a billboard near you. “Going to jazz clubs and listening to recordings of various greats like Billy Holiday, Thelonious Monk, and many others, I wanted to create an image that captured the dreamy rhythms, the varied and colorful abstract quality of the musical notes, and the range of feelings the music and the artists inspire. My composition is sort of a dream team of jazz greats who have given me, and millions of others, hours of pleasure and entertainment over the years.”

Jazz exerts a strong presence in Fort Myers. For example, legendary jazz trumpeter Leroy Jones opened last year’s Fort Myers Film Festival and David Black’s monumental sculpture Fire Dance was inspired by a jazz concert in Centennial Park.

Alliance art lovers will remember MacKechnie from two 2019 group shows. He participated last July in Uncontained: Juried Exhibit and was one of 60 artists selected from a field of 664 entries to have work in the 33rd Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition.



Spotlight on Nance Marsden’s ‘Summer Practice’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Nance Marsden, whose Summer Practice will soon appear on a billboard near you. “Some of my fondest memories of when I was young are of playing instruments and singing with my friends,” says Marsden of her oil and pastel painting. “It took practice to make beautiful music together. And now, it still takes a lot of practice to make beautiful music together, whatever kind of music we are making.”



Mesdaghi’s ‘What Color Is Your Sky’ being made into billboard art

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Leila Mesdaghi. Her digital collage, What Color is Your Sky, will be appearing on a billboard somewhere in Lee County in 2020.

Mesdaghi is known for combining emotional experiences with social responsibilities in both her visual and performance art, which uniquely enables her to connect with viewers in a visceral, evocative manner.

“I asked my friends around the world to look up at the sky, capture it, and send it to me,” says Leila of What Color Is Your Sky.  “There is a Persian proverb that says: wherever you go the sky is the same color! Through these photos I am able to see what they see, and by sharing it in an art form, others can see it too.”

Go here for the rest of this story.



Spotlight on Whit Robbins’ ‘Greening of Florida’ billboard artwork

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Whit Robbins, whose Greening of Florida is a 30 x 40 inch acrylic painting. “When I put my brush to the canvas to paint for this project about Florida, what came to mind was GREEN!  Having grown up in snow-belt areas, that’s what I hungered for during the long winters. Now, here I am in Florida which is a non-stop green paradise. Thank you Florida!”

Robbins’ work has been juried into the Alliance for the Arts’ 34th Annual All Florida Exhibition and the United Arts Council of Collier County’s Art of the Holocene at Rookery Bay (where he exhibited with Linda Fay Braun, Megan Kissinger and Deborah Martin) and he has work in My Florida and Wild Things at Southwest Florida International Airport.



Spotlight on Carolyn Steele’s ‘Bejeweled’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Carolyn Steele, whose work is a 30 x 22 inch acrylic titled Bejeweled.

Carolyn’s body of work is informed by her extensive travels throughout the Caribbean and her experiences snorkeling its magical underwater reefs.

“I started my paintings of the Caribbean in 1992 as a way to extend the afterglow of my visits to the West Indies,” says Carolyn on her website.

“The combination of fascinating detail, texture, and color are what inspired me to paint this iguana portrait. I was especially intrigued by the beauty of the large sub tympanic shield on his lower jowl that reminded me of an Ethiopian opal, my favorite gemstone.”

Steele has a background in graphic design, which aids the sense of composition expressed by her paintings. Her works can be grouped into three main categories or series : Underwater Scenes, Islands Scenes and Tropical Cats.  Carolyn views her paintings as love letters to the tropics, and donates a portion of the profits she realizes from the sale of her artworks to wildlife and reef preservation projects.

“I hope that my artwork will both decorate and promote an appreciation of the amazing variety and fragility of the biosystems I paint,” Carolyn adds. “The majority of species represented here are indigenous to the West Indies, many of them endangered.”



Spotlight on Alyssa Stoff’s Water and Stone

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Alyssa Stoff, whose 72 x 42 inch acrylic on canvas titled Water and Stone will soon appear on a billboard by you. “The inspiration for this painting comes from having artist’s block. At the time, I didn’t like anything I was making and really needed to do something fresh. It actually started out very different and I wasn’t enjoying the process. Once I stopped overthinking it and just focused on my movements and feelings it really came forward on its own. For me, it’s nice to know that even when I get stuck I can still find my way back. I think this painting represents that realization.”

Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1993, Stoff and her family relocated to Florida in 2001, where she was influenced by our beautiful tropical landscape. But it was her grandmother’s love of art that inspired her from a very young age, helping to shape and grow her interest in a multitude of mediums. Alyssa spent many summers at her grandmother’s home in Chicago painting, practicing origami, taking pictures in the garden, and exploring the city.

Stoff has a BA from Florida Gulf Coast University. Since her 2015 graduation, she has been showing her artwork in local galleries and continues to  create paintings and sculptures that reflect the influences of her family and love of nature.



Spotlight on Barbara Weems’ ‘Orient Express’

The Alliance for the Arts has revealed the artists who’ve been chosen to participate in Art Lives Here 2.0. One of the terrific 12 is Barbara Weems. Her mixed media work, Orient Express, will soon be appearing on a billboard near you. “This abstract painting began with mark making and my ubiquitous circles. I noticed what looked like olives and eggs on a plate and then followed tablecloths and the thought of luxurious dining on the Orient Express.”

Weems took painting classes in school and college and one at the Art Institute in Chicago. Barbara has lived in Florida most of her life, and here in Southwest Florida since 1992. She currently she lives on a small horse farm with her husband and many dogs. A master gardener, she had a weekend radio show about gardening for three years on WINK talk radio.

She has exhibited at Coco Gallery in Estero, among others.



FGCU Digital Media Design students creating visual identity for Naples Design District

The newly formed Naples Design District has tasked FGCU’s Digital Media Design students with a design challenge. Select students will create a visual identity for the new district that will be expressed in the form of on-street lamp post banners advertising the area to visitors in Naples. The winning design will be chosen by a selection committee this summer. Once a design is selected, the banners will go up in the district celebrating the diverse range of businesses, galleries and creative communities comprising the Naples Design District.

The students competing in the challenge are Skyanna Billman (junior, DMD), Kaitlin Connor (senior, DMD), Aracelly Peralta (senior, DMD), Alyx Gonzalez (junior, DMD) and Jazmin Gonzalez Vera (junior, DMD). They and their professor, Mike Salmond (Art), met with Chad Jensen, director of Method and Concept gallery, in late February to tour the district and get a sense of what the committee is looking for in making a visual statement for the new district.

The project is similar to last year’s design challenge, in which students created a visual identity for the multi-million dollar centerpiece of the Naples Design District, The Collective building.



Naples Sheldon Fine Art featuring art of Jean-Pierre Dubord week of April 13

Naples’ Sheldon Fine Art is featuring the art of Jean-Pierre Dubord this week. With his own original approach to painting, Dubord continuously amazes the viewer with his masterful portrayal of light and his utilization of a rich palette. He is hailed throughout the world as one of the most popular and sought after 20th century contemporary impressionists.

Born in 1949 in Rouen, Normandy, Dubord attended the School of the Louvre in Paris, afterwards returning to his native city to portray the surroundings of his youth. While Rouen is a favorite subject of paintings, he often depicts Paris, the Normandy countryside, the beaches of Deauville and Houlgate, the cliffs of Caux and Etretat, and scenes along the Seine. He is known for his ability to capture the subtleties of light and color unique to each season.

His first exhibition in 1970 in Rouen was highly praised by art critics. In addition to an annual show in Rouen, he has exhibited in Birdhouse, La Hare, La Rochelle, Osaka, Quebec, and in major salons of Paris.  He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and was also featured in the 2006 Benezit.

Go here for more on Sheldon Fine Art and Jean-Pierre Dubord.



Arsenault Gallery offers digital show of new work by Amy Moglia Heuerman

Arsenault Gallery had planned a pop up show of Horizons, new work by Amy Moglia Heuerman.

“Amy’s new work gives us hope and reminds us that better days are just beyond the horizon,” states Paul Arsenault. “We hope you enjoy her new paintings, share them with friends, and continue to support the arts.

You may view Amy’s work on the gallery’s website.

Please call the gallery at 239-263-1214 if you are interested in any of Amy’s work.



2       Outdoor Art Fairs and Festivals


During the pendency of the COVID-19 outbreak, all outdoor art fairs and festivals, including Fort Myers Art Walk, have been cancelled.



3.      FILM

No film festivals were scheduled in Southwest Florida for the week of April 1-7, 2020.


Virtual TGIM at 7:00 p.m. on April 13

Join Eric Raddatz tonight as Fort Myers Film Festival celebrates T.G.I.M., albeit a bit more casually, live online at 7:00 p.m. on FMff’s Facebook page here.

“We know you’ve been watching films and streaming and that we all miss each other,” Eric observes. “So tonight tune in on our Facebook page from 7-7:30 p.m. as we discuss films like we do in person at T.G.I.M.”

Pick indie films, what you’ve been watching or select films from host Eric Raddatz’ column at Florida Weekly discussing things fresh and new to streaming. Join T.G.I.M. in your PJs or dressed the way you love to attend T.G.I.M.

Go here for more.



Postponement of Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival

The Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival was scheduled to take place April 21-26, 2020. However, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council has passed emergency orders (1) recommending that everyone remain at home and on their property unless they need to access essential services and then adhere to social distancing and (2) instructing all hotels, motels, timeshares and other public lodging establishments (as defined in section 509.013(4)(a) of the Florida Statutes) to cancel all existing reservations, not extend existing stays and not accept new guests or reservations for the next 90 days (through June 29, 2020). In light of this action and following the recommendations from the Governor’s office and Florida Department of Health, The Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival has announced its postponement until a July or September date, “which will be announced shortly.”



Postponement of Fort Myers Film Festival

Similarly, the Fort Myers Film Festival scheduled for May 6-10 has been postponed. FMff Executive Director Eric Raddatz has announced that the film festival will be rescheduled when it is safe.

Check back for future announcements.



Filmmaker Evgeniya Radilova bringing new award-winning short to FMff

Filmmaker Evgeniya Radilova made her Fort Myers Film Festival debut last year with Patrik, a short film that was accepted into 18 other film festivals, receiving 9 awards along the way including Best Narrative Short at the Olympus Film Festival, Best Comedy at the 2019 Florence Film Awards, Best Original Story and a Best Actor for Patrik Baldauff at the 2019 Cannes Global Short Film Awards (which recognizes excellence in short films under 15 minutes in length written and produced by both amateur and professional filmmakers from around the world) along with an Honorable Mention for Radilova by the Top Shorts Film Festival. She returns for the 10th anniversary of the Fort Myers Film Festival with another award-winning short titled El Cavil.

Go here for the rest of this advance on El Cavil.



Spotlight on ‘El Cavil’ filmmaker Evgeniya Radilova

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.

Go here for the remainder of this profile.



‘Her Place’ garners awards and praise as ‘one of best short films in years’

Last year, Kathryn Parks and Mark Palmer brought 50 Words to Southwest Florida. The 28-minute film was an official selection of the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival and was selected by the Bonita Springs International Film Festival as Best Florida Film in the Adult Category. This year Parks returns with another indie film that’s already garnering all kinds of awards.

Her Place turns the idea of a 1950s instructional video (which taught how to throw the perfect party or cook the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey) on its head and explores the irony in 1950’s nostalgia compared to today’s modern world.

“I wanted to address how far women have come since the 1950s when there were many expectations to be the perfect wife/woman/mother,” explains Parks, who wrote, directed and co-produced the 5:12 short. “Her Place brings a female voice into discussions that are often dominated by men and aims to redefine traditional roles in society and in the home.”

Joining Parks in the project is Elise Rodriguez, who served as co-producer, assistant director and co-star.

Go here for the rest of this  story.



Spotlight on ‘Her Place’ filmmaker Kathryn Parks

Kathryn Parks has established herself as one of Sarasota’s most recognizable leading ladies. A singer, actor and dancer, she is a regular in the region’s musical theater scene. She has starred in productions My Fair Lady, Carousel and The King and I, receiving acclaim for her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle, Julie Jordan, and Anna Leonowens respectively. She has appeared on numerous stages including the Florida Studio Theatre, American Stage, the Players Theatre, Venice Theatre, Manatee Performing Arts Center, Asolo Rep and with the St. Petersburg Opera Company.

Go here for the rest of this profile.



Kathryn Parks making lemonade from COVID-19 lemons

Kathryn Parks prides herself on being indefatigable. She spent the final two months of 2019 filming, editing, producing and submitting Her Place to film festivals around the country.

2020 saw her in another run of When X Meets Y at Florida Studio Theatre Improv, playing the part of Lola in Damn Yankees at Manatee Performing Arts Center, promoting the musical on ABC7’s Suncoast View, and playing an ex-beauty queen and mother in Southwest Florida Films’ Kung Fu Pink (Cynthia Mallick directing).

She was in her second week of rehearsals for a new musical for a premiere West Coast theatre company when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Go here for more.



Elise Rodriguez right at home at ‘Her Place’

When the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival finally takes place, one of the short films it will be screening is filmmaker Kathryn Parks’ Her Place. It’s a film that turns the idea of a 1950s instructional video (the kind that taught “homemakers” how to throw the perfect party or cook the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey) on its head and explores the irony in 1950’s nostalgia compared to today’s modern world.

Cuban-American performer, teaching artist and creative professional Elise Rodriguez not only co-stars in the film with Parks, she served as Assistant Director and Co-Producer.

Go here for the rest of this story.



Elize Rodriguez making the jump to screenwriting during pandemic

When the Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival finally takes place, one of the short films it will be screening is filmmaker Kathryn Parks’ Her Place. It’s a film that turns the idea of a 1950s instructional video (which taught “homemakers” how to throw the perfect party or cook the perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey) on its head and explores the irony in 1950’s nostalgia compared to today’s modern world.

Cuban-American performer, teaching artist and creative professional Elise Rodriguez not only stars in the film with Parks, she served as Assistant Director and Co-Producer. But Rodriguez will be the first to admit that there’s a wide gulf between helping make someone else’s vision a reality and creating that vision herself.

“I have not to this point written a script or created an idea,” says Elise. “I’m more, ‘Bring me your idea and I will bring it to life provided, of course, that it speaks to me.’ If you give me a blank canvas, I’m not as inspired as when you make one tiny mark on that canvas that I can run with.”

Go here for the rest of this story.



4      THEATER


Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all of Southwest Florida’s theaters are closed. But the need to create and perform goes on. Read here about the efforts being made by area theater companies and thespians to reach out and entertain virtually and stay hooked into our local theater community.


Scenes from Simon Fill’s ‘Burning Cities’ charming and endearing

What could be better for a philosophy major from Newark with a Chihuahua named Tootie McGregor than a play about a guy in New York City who owns a philosophy bookstore and a gal who minored in philosophy and had as a kid a Chihuahua named Kierkegaard that ate linguini with clam sauce? I know! How ‘bout watching Brendan Powers and Rachel Burttram charm the pants off each other in their back bedroom closet?

Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s not that kind of theater. Their pants came off in your imagination in Scene 8 of their staged reading of Simon Fill’s Burning Cities, an endearing character study that looks at how the difficult choice to love others challenges, transforms and, in the end, elevates the lives of four different people: a nurse, a bookstore owner, a literary agent and the seventeen-year-old girl they adopt.

It’s apparent that Fill knows of what he writes when it comes to philosophy and philosophers. Consider these two lines from last night’s reading:

Go here for the rest of this post



Burttram & Powers’ Tiny Theatre giving voice to playwrights near and far

Rachel Burttram is a performing artist. When the pandemic struck, she and husband Brendan Powers were all set to spend the next three and a half weeks of their lives performing A Doll’s House Part 2 to 14 rows of live audience. They’d put in an enormous amount of work mastering an impossibly difficult script. Now suddenly finding themselves cut adrift by the COVID-19 outbreak, they decided to create a tiny theater in a back bedroom not only to provide themselves something to do, but give playwrights a voice during this unprecedented time when theaters across the globe are eerily dark.

“I know myself well enough that if I don’t have a project to work on, I get pretty blue,” Rachel explains. “So instead of giving in to a broken heart, I downshifted into a project that gives [Bren and I] a sense of purpose and creates a forum for playwrights to hear their words and others to watch and enjoy.”

Go here for the rest of this story.



Tiny Theatre proving actors, text and and audience are all you need for theater

While the world shelters in place and theaters all over the world wait in suspense to resume programming, Rachel Burttram and Brendan Powers are creating an oasis in the COVID-19 wasteland. It’s called Tiny Theatre – a makeshift hippodrome in a back bedroom pieced together using a string of Christmas lights, an IKEA curtain, duct tape and a paint stirrer.  And from that unlikely venue every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night, they perform readings and monologues generously provided by  A-List playwrights with whom they’ve forged friendships over the years, writers with projects in development and students of all ages.

“You two make my mornings,” effuses theater lover Pat Yates. “I set my alarm and get caught up on each Tiny_Theatre production.”

“It’s just so comforting,” adds Women’s Theatre Festival Executive Director Johannah Maynard Edwards. “I am so excited to connect with y’all.”

Go here for the rest of this post.



Spotlight on Tiny Theatre’s Rachel Burttram

Rachel Burttram is one of Southwest Florida’s best actors. Whether comedic or dramatic, theater, film or television, she has the chops to handle any role that comes her way.

Rachel has been working in regional theater for more than 20 years. She has shared the boards with the legendary Carol Lawrence and Tony-nominated Daniel Sunjata. Her stage work has been seen across the country – in venues ranging from the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky, Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor, Maine (where she received rave reviews for her fierce, feisty, angry and determined portrayal of a shattered Afghan war vet in Ugly Lies the Bone), Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, New York (where she appeared in Mark St. Germaine’s romantic comedy Dancing Lessons), The Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, Florida, Gloucester Stage in Massachusetts, Barnstormers’ Theatre in New Hampshire, City Equity in Alabama, Geva Theatre, and various stages in New York City, including the prestigious Actors’ Studio.

You will find the rest of Rachel’s profile here.



Lab announces virtual auditions for ‘Realish Housewives’

Lab Theater is accepting video auditions for roles in Season 12’s show, The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers. The show will play for four weekends from October 23 through November 15.

The show is by Tim Sniffen and Kate James.

If you wish to be considered for a role in the play, please send a 60 to 90-second comedic monologue by video to

The show will be directed by Cantrella Canady. She has previously directed Devil Ain’t Got No Tail in Grandma’s House at Mt. Hermon Ministries, and has assisted in directing Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery with Rachael Endrizzi and Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts. Cantrella will also be assistant directing with Brett Marston in this summer’s Take Five at The Lab.  For more on Cantrella’s theatrical credits, go hereYou can also read her 2018 interview with ARTSWFL here.

Go here for a delineation of the characters being cast and more details.



Lab launches SoDis Theater with virtual reading of ‘Realish Housewives of Fort Myers’

Last night, the Laboratory Theater of Florida launched is SoDis (socially distant) Theater Project with the broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live of a virtual staged reading of Tim Sniffen and Kate James’ parody The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers. James and Sniffen are Chicago Second City alumni, and earlier this season, Lab Theater produced Sniffen’s earlier parody, Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, which starred Sue Schaffel as Blanche Dubois.

Last night, Schaffel returned in the role of Ravonka, one of Fort Myers’ catty housewives. Joining the Baron-ass in the show were Danielle Channell as neck model Desiree, Stephanie Davis as navel-piercing, every-Venus-deserves-a-penis CL (ClaudiaLouise), Heather Johnson as cut-a-bitch (allegedly) ex-con Gwen and Rebecca Cintron Justice as the butt-writing newcomer Brooke. Joining the cast were Randall Kenneth Jones in the role of the housewives’ interviewer, Madelaine Weymouth as Ravonka’s exiled daughter and bad boy T.J. Albertson as CL’s philandering husband. And as routinely occurs in the franchises they spoof, at least one of Fort Myers’ illustrious housewives can be found feuding with the others of spoiling some charity event, vacation or other getaway (like an interventionist sabbatical on the fourth floor of the Burroughs Home).

Next up for SoDis Theater will be a virtual reading of Macbeth by a multi-national cast at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14 followed by a virtual staged reading of Philip Dawkins’ Charm at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21 featuring a cast from around the country.

Each virtual reading will be available on Facebook Live and YouTube. The performances are free, but the theater is gratefully accepting donations on its website: or via PayPal.



Sue Schaffel was ‘Realish’ Fort Myers housewife Ravonka the baron-ass

Sue Schaffel is a Tim Sniffen vet. She played (brilliantly, I might add) Blanche Dubois in Lab Theater’s production of Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf. Last night, she portrayed Fort Myers housewife Ravonka the Pinot Grigio-loving Baron-ass who treats the housewives to a spa (of sorts) on the 4th floor of the Burroughs Home ( which is “so exclusive you don’t know it exists until you’re there.”) This Price is Right contestant was in Hush Up Sweet Charlotte with Randall Kenneth Jones. Go here to see Sue’s entire resume.



Madelaine Weymouth was ‘Realish’ Fort Myers housewife Ravonka’s exiled daughter

Madelaine Weymouth knows how to make an entrance. She landed butt-to-audience on stage toward the end of the first act before walking the red carpet on the arm of Tyler Johnes in And the Winner Is …. She blew in on the wings of a reverberating thunderbuster in Venus in Fur. And she showed up at 221B Baker Street in a dapper 3-piece brown pinstripe suit with matching bowler as Dr. Watson in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. But last night, she kept The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers virtual audience waiting before making her appearance as housewife Ravonka’s taciturn daughter. Not that it was her fault. The poor girl’s been sequestered at a boarding home for eight years. You know, while the child’s away there’s more time to play, to turn a phrase. Madelaine was a busy young thespian prior to the pandemic, and is sure to make an entrance when the present stay-at-home orders are lifted. To access Maddy’s full resume, go here.



Danielle Channell was neck-model Desiree in ‘Realish Housewives’

Danielle Channell had the challenging task of portraying neck model Desiree in Tim Sniffen and Kate James hilarious parody The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers. The preparation for this part was brutal! C serum in the morning. Retinol at night. Jelly neck masks. Ultherapy. Radio frequency laser resurfacing treatments. The endless stream of giraffe videos and documentaries on Animal Planet and National Geographic. Hours upon hours of tilting her head toward the ceiling while puckering and trying to touch her chin with her tongue. But if you’ve seen Danielle’s work, then you know that this Queen of Farce is willing to go the extra mile to bring her character to life. Go here to see what Danielle has really been up to and how she went about revealing the seriously devious side of Mae Flynn in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.



Stephanie Davis was Fort Myers housewife ClaudiaLouise in last night’s virtual reading

The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers had their own Southern Belle, and for last night’s virtual reading of the Tim Sniffen and Kate James comedy it was Diva Diaries’ Stephanie Davis. She played CL (ClaudiaLouise), a quiche-eating, navel-piercing, every-Venus-deserves-a-penis member of the Fort Myers sippin’ society. Though versatile (providing memorable performances, for example, in Veronica’s Room and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, comedy is her forte and she was on fire last night sparring with her Housewives cast members. In addition to her prodigious stage credits, she’s directed, writes and is a radio personality. Go here to read her full profile.



Heather Johnson exposes ‘Realish Housewives’ Gwen as charity scammer

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone nicer than Heather McLemore Johnson, but her Realish Housewives of Fort Myers alter ego, Gwen, is a cold-hearted I’ll-cut-a-bitch (allegedly) charity scammer on the order of CharityWatch Hall of Shamers Lorraine Hale (who used more than $1 million of her foundation’s money to install a Jacuzzi and fund one of her husband’s theatrical productions), Somaly Mann (who lied about being a victim of sex trafficking in order to elicit millions in donations to her foundation and get close to Angelina Jolie and Susan Sarandon, among others) and Lola Jean Amorin (who forged some 628 checks over 19 years to steal nearly $7 million from her nonprofit employer). For her part, Gwen recommends incarceration to “buff up inner strength.” But say what you want, she knows how to throw a Gwen-tastic party!

Go here to access Heather’s theatrical resume.



Randall Kenneth Jones host with the most in ‘Realish Housewives’

Okay, let’s be real. If you’re casting about for an Andy Cohen-type to play host to the Real-ish Housewives of Fort Myers, who better could you find than Randall Kenneth Jones? Besides being a higly-regarded stage actor, Randy hosts the popular podcast JONES.SHOW, which has featured the Beekman Boys, Laura Benanti, Erin Brockovich, Sam Champion, Val Chmerkovskiy, Donald Duck, Judge Patricia DiMango, Sara Evans, Lisa Guerrero, Bob Orr, Dr. David Perlmutter, Faith Prince, Patricia Racette and Ginger Zee and Vanna White. Although his character is coincidentally named Randy, Randy doesn’t play himself in Realish Housewives. Whereas the goal of JONES.SHOW is to look for the BEST in people, Realish Housewives seeks to foment controversy, backstabbing and the outrageous wine-tossing, table-turning antics we all wish we could do and get away with. For more on the real Randall Kenneth Jones, go here.



Finally, Rebecca Cintron Justice makes Lab debut – virtually

It was supposed to happen In the Heights. But that show, like so many others, was postponed (?) by the COVID-19 outbreak. So instead, Rebecca Cintron Justice had to settle for a virtual debut not at Lab Theater, but in Lab’s SoDis reading of The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers. Rebecca played pumpkin spiced newcomer Brooke, who has built a financial empire fabricating and distributing shorts, leggings and jeans that have slogans like “Juicy” and “Pink” spread across their butts. As you can imagine, that made her the brunt (or butt) of jokes and opprobrium emanating from Fort Myers’ other housewives. But it all worked out in the end. And hopefully, Rebecca will still be able to make her on stage Lab debut one day soon.



Unrepentant, smug TJ Albertson continues bad boy ways in ‘Realish Housewives’

TJ Albertson has nothing to apologize for. He’s bad, bad to the bone, and he makes no excuses. Just ask Shelley Sander about Timmy in Hand to God. Or Steven Coe about TJ’s character in Andorra. So if you were expecting him to repent and turn a new leaf in The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers, well, silly rabbit. And to make matters worse, TJ’s character is named Thomas. Or maybe that’s better. In times of quarantine, we must all live a bit vicariously, don’t you agree? For more on TJ, go here. And read here if you’re wondering how he’s getting through the quarantine now that his virtual Realish Housewives performance is in the rear view mirror.



SoDis Theater conducting virtual performance of Macbeth on April 14 with int’l cast

The Laboratory Theater of Florida will present a SoDis (socially-distant) virtual staged reading of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14 that features a cast of Shakespearean-trained actors from Australia, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United Kingdom, plus U.S. actors from New York, Maryland, Michigan, Puerto Rico and Florida. Many of the actors participating in the broadcast have performed on television, in film, on Broadway and the West End (London) and more.

With theaters around the world dark (except for their ghost light) to help curb the spread of the global pandemic, artists are anxious to get back to performing. While the loss of at least three months of income is daunting, the loss of availability to their craft is devastating. To fill this need, the SoDis (socially-distant) Theater Project was born. And the April 14 performance of Macbeth will be bigger, bolder, and more ambitious than ever.

As you can imagine, the logistics of scheduling a reading like this were fairly herculean – dealing with international time-zones, balky internet bandwidth and unfamiliar technology. But the actors participating in the reading have embraced this project with enthusiasm.

You can view this SoDis performance on the Laboratory Theater of Florida’s YouTube and Facebook pages at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14. The performance is free, but the theater is gratefully accepting donations on

[Pictured are Christopher Sutton who plays Macbeth and Andrew Cullimore who is Malcolm.]



More on international SoDis Theater cast for Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The international cast For SoDis Theater’s upcoming virtual reading of Macbeth includes:

Socially Distant Macbeth – The Laboratory Theater of Florida

Producing Artistic Director


Annette Trossbach



John McKerrow

Production Manager


Margaret Cooley




Duncan/Lord 3.6


Patrick Ashton



Andrew Cullimore

Donalbain/Young Siward/Soldier 5.4


Brandon Somers



Christopher Sutton

Lady Macbeth


Tamara Flanagan

Seyton/Messenger 1.5/Servant 3.1 and 2


Kylie Campbell

Angus/Murderer 1


Lauren Redeker Miller

Murderer 3/Armed Head

Puerto Rico

Dan Hernandez

Murderer 2/bloody captain/English doctor


Chris Cooper

Scotch Doctor/Messenger 4.2


Adam T. Perkins

Gentlewoman/Crowned Child

South Korea

Neece McCoy

Porter/Servant 5.3


Nykkie Rizley

Banquo/Old Siward


Adam Desforges



Jon Curry

Lady Macduff


Mary Anne McKerrow

Young Macduff


Maximus Bogert

Lennox/Lords 3.4


Derek Lively



Syd Brisbane

Witch 1


Polly Sands

Witch 2


Madeleine Curry

Witch 3


Eren Sisk

An Old Woman/Hecate


Louise Wigglesworth

Messenger 5.5/ Menteith/Caithness


Seth Hart

Bloody Child/Fleance


Olivia Curry



The king, Derek Lively, performing virtually in SoDis Theater’s ‘Macbeth’

Derek Lively needs a break. After playing the King in Katori Hall’s Mountaintop and a much different king in August Wilson’s King Hedley II … not to mention Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Frederick Douglass in The Agitators, Derek feels the need to do a little Shakespeare. You can catch him next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in SoDis Theatre’s virtual reading of Macbeth. And for more on Derek, go here … and you can access a terrific interview that Derek provided in May of 2018 here.



‘Bout damn time, Rizley performing as Porter/Servant 5.3 in virtual Macbeth

It’s been 8 long years since Nykkie Rizley performed in a role, but that ends on Tuesday, April 14 when she joins a multi-national cast in SoDis Theater’s virtual reading of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. A founding member of Lab Theater, Rizley has confined herself to directing. She’s been at the helm in Hand to God, Veronica’s Room The House of Yes, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and – wait for it – Lab’s cumfuddled Shakespearean classic Twelfth Night. Go here for more on the ineffable Ms. Rizley.



Spotlight on ‘Macbeth’ fair-is-foul witch Eren Sisk

Laughin’ and jokin’ and feelin’ alright, goin’ downtown in the middle of the night, ZZ Top is bad and they nationwide, but they have nothing on Eren Sisk, who’s going intercontinental in SoDis Theater’s virtual presentation of Macbeth next Tuesday (April 14). She’ll be Witch 3. “Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble,” her fair-is-foul-and-foul-is-fair sisters are London-based Polly Sands and L.A.-based Madeleine Curry, and what they don’t know is that Sisk has some training that suits her for wicked Wiccan witchuals – after all, she was a galactically cool phantom in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show (along with Lisa Kuchinski and Sage Meyers). Eren stays busy – go here to see what else she’s been up to.



Spotlight on ‘Macbeth’ actor Lauren Redeker Miller

Lauren Redeker Miller is part of the cast for SoDis Theater’s upcoming virtual reading of Macbeth. Lab Theater audiences will remember Lauren as Kit Kat Girl Texas in Brenda Kensler’s blockbuster production of Cabaret in 2015. She is a seasoned stage performer, with appearances as Ann Putnam in The Crucible, Mazeppa in Gypsy, Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense, and Henrietta in All Shook Up. She also performed with The Naples Players in Chicago (Matron Mama Morton), Les Miserables, Little Shop of Horrors, Smokey Joe’s Café and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. A Lehigh University grad, Lauren was also a member of the University Choir and the a capella group, The Overtones, with whom she toured Russia, Germany, Thailand and China.

Go here for the rest of Lauren’s theatrical resume.



Louise Wigglesworth in intercontinental cast of SoDis Theater’s ‘Macbeth’

Louise Wigglesworth will be playing Hecate and an old woman in SoDis Theater’s virtual reading of Macbeth on Tuesday, April 14. While she’s graced the boards at Lab Theater, she’s best known as a playwright. In fact, she’s been writing plays since she was a child and teaching playwriting for three decades. Some of her productions include Real Art as part of Miami City Theatre Summer Shorts and Island Shorts, Real Art and Anywhere from Here by Manhattan Theatre of Light, Coercion by Playwrights Round Table, Seasonal Migrations at Foundation Theater. Her stage adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Plague premiered at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. No Bad Dance, In The Shade Of Old Trees, After Life, and The Migrant House had readings at Theatre Conspiracy and The Laboratory Theater of Florida. One acts Second Movement, Anywhere From Here and Penumbra, along with Real Art and Lemon Twist, were winners in the Naples Players annual competitions. Louise’s youth plays Seeing Red and In My Brother’s Name have had productions in schools and children’s theater groups. Louise is a member of The Dramatists Guild, Theatre Conspiracy Playwrights and Playwrights Round Table.

Louise was last seen in Play On! Her other acting credits include Arthur Kopit’s Wings, Alexandra in Eric Coble’s Velocity of Autumn, Bernarda in The House of Bernarda Alba, Mary Winrod in The Rimers of Eldridge, Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond, Mother in Women Beware of Women, Leda Largo in her own play, Final Stage, Mrs. Trotsky in Variations on The Death of Trotsky, Mrs. Gottleib in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Lucille in The Oldest Profession and Abby Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace.



Thinking about that next role is helping TJ Albertson get through COVID-19 hiatus

TJ Albertson is one of Southwest Florida’s rising community theater stars. In the past two seasons, he has turned in outstanding performances as the priest in The Crucible, Anorexia Nervosa in The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Soldier in Andorra, Tyler Johnes in And the Winner Is … and bad boy Timmy in Hand to God.

But with all of the nation’s theaters shuttered indefinitely, Albertson no longer has an outlet for his creative impulses.

“On the days I didn’t have rehearsal, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” TJ concedes. “Now that [theater] has been taken away, it’s an even greater loss.”

Feeling adrift between roles may be disquieting, but it pales in comparison to the existential threat to the viability of local theater posed by COVID-19.

Go here for the rest of this interview.



For gregarious Gerri Benzing, life post-COVID-19 is a world of solitude

Slipping her key into the stage door, Gerri Benzing gives a short, silent sigh before slipping inside. The back of the theater is as quiet as a tomb. She scurries across the stage and begins the lonely walk up the stage right aisle, her only companion being the ghost light keeping vigil center stage.

It’s not that Florida Rep is haunted. But theatrical superstition holds that every theater has a ghost. Locally, Lab Theater is reputed to have at least one. Just ask ghost hunter Lee Ehrlich, who found a lot of paranormal activity in certain spots of the nearly 100-year-old theater during a visit last May. On Broadway, the Palace Theatre supposedly houses more than 100 ghosts, including a white-gowned cellist, an ill-fated acrobat and even Judy Garland. And the New Amsterdam is said to be inhabited by former Ziegfeld showgirl Olive Thomas.

So over time, theaters around the world have evolved traditions to appease and please their supernatural residents. For example, London’s Palace Theatre keeps two seats bolted open in the balcony to provide seating for the theater’s ghosts. New Amsterdam posts pictures of Olive Thomas at every entrance and exit.

You’ll find the rest of Gerri’s interview here.



Post ‘Full Monty,’ actor Kristen Wilson finds new purpose sewing COVID-19 face masks

Kristen Wilson was performing in Terrence McNally’s The Full Monty when the pandemic forced the early closure of the New Phoenix show.

“We literally found out that our show was closing early about an hour before the start of our 3:00 p.m. matinee.”

That was on Sunday, March 14.

“We all gathered on stage and kind of cried it out. We called and let our family and friends know Full Monty was closing so that they could come. It was a special show.”

To a person, the cast knew it was the right call. It would have been irresponsible, even unconscionable, to expose themselves and audiences to exposure – and all the people they would have gone on to unknowingly infect.

But that knowledge didn’t blunt the heartbreak associated with being deprived of the opportunity to share McNally’s uplifting story with four more enthusiastic, fun-loving audiences, to speak his words, sing David Yazbek’s score, perform Brenda Kensler’s carefully-wrought choreography.

You will find the rest of this interview here.



Reacting to the loss of cherished American playwright Terrence McNally

The Coronavirus has dealt a double blow to the cast of New Phoenix Theatre’s production of The Full Monty. First, the theatre was constrained by the pandemic to cut the production short, eliminating the show’s final four performances. Then COVID-19 claimed the life of 81-year-old Full Monty playwright Terrence McNally. A lung cancer survivor living with chronic COPD, the cherished American playwright died on Tuesday, March 24, at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Go here for the remainder of this story.



Release of ‘In the Heights’ postponed indefinitely

The film adaptation of In the Heights was scheduled to be released on June 26. But Warner Bros. has decided to postpone the release indefinitely.

The film was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes. Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) directed the movie-musical. Anthony Bregman, Mara Jacobs and Scott Sanders produced. The film stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, Melissa Barrera as Vanessa, Corey Hawkins as Benny, Leslie Grace as Nina, Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, Jimmy Smits as Kevin Rosario, Stephanie Beatriz as Carla, Dascha Polanco as Cuca, Marc Anthony as Sonny’s Father, Noah Catala as Graffiti Pete, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Piraguero.

With music & lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, the stage show on which the film is based opened on Broadway in March of 2008 and was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four: Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations. It won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and was also nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The musical was due to open at Lab Theater on March 27. Under the superb direction of Carmen Crussard and with choreography by the incomparable Lauren Perry, the cast featured Miguel Cintron as the Piragua Guy, Adrien Bermudez as Graffiti Pete, Gian Hernandez as Sonny, Chris Lewis as Usnavi, Ruthgena Augustin as Vanessa, Sam Bostic as Benny, Nydia Brown as Carla, Sharon Isern as Camila Rosario, Rebecca Cintron Justice as Abuella Claudia, Gil Perez as Kevin Rosario, Nilda Tojanci as Daniela, and an ensemble that includes Kathryn Book Emory Ambrosia, Brittani Chandler, William Nelson and Samantha Pudlin.

It remains to be seen whether Lab can negotiate the rights to produce the show at a later date, how many or the original cast will be able to participate in the rescheduled show, if any, or whether the local live musical can be brought to the stage before Warner Bros. releases the movie.

“We had the best summer of our lives filming #InTheHeightsMovie last year,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter following the announcement. “We couldn’t wait to share it with you. But we’re going to have to wait a little longer. With the uncertainty in our world right now, the release of In The Heights is being postponed.”

Each of the members of Carmen Crussard’s cast share this sentiment.

Check back for further developments.

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