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Actors, artists, filmmakers and events in the news March 8-14, 2019


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


Alliance screening Eliades Ochoa documentary during FMff in April (03-14-19)

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’ (03-14-19)

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 (03-14-19)

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 (03-14-19)

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 (03-14-19)

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 (03-14-19)

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’ (03-13-19)

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 (03-14-19)

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.



Fort Myers High 2019 Senior Visual Arts Exhibition closes tomorrow (03-13-19)

The Fort Myers High School 2019 Senior Visual Arts Exhibition showcases artworks created by 43 Green Wave students in fulfillment of their 2019 International Baccalaureate Visual Arts Program. The work explores in the aggregate a wide range of visual media including traditional and digital photography, acrylic and oil painting, printmaking, fiber arts, sculpture, ceramics and more. It is on display in the Capitol Gallery at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, but you only have one more day to see the show. It closes March 14.

Fort Myers High School believes each student is capable of reaching his/her academic potential and has an inherent right to receive the finest education possible for the attainment of educational goals. Therefore, it is the mission of Fort Myers High School to create and maintain an orderly, business-like environment with an equitably enforced, uniform standard discipline policy in which each student may discover his/her respective potentials and bring them to fruition. To learn more about Fort Myers Senior High School, please visit

The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is located at 2301 First St. in the historic downtown Fort Myers River District. For more information about the show, please call 239-333-1933 or visit


  • Matthew Spychalski
  • Katrina Lee
  • Elena Dent
  • Abby Gleason



Mally Khorasantchi exhibit at FGCU ArtLab closes March 28 (03-13-19)

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 (03-13-19)

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 (03-13-19)

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 (03-13-19)

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.



Alliance’s 33rd Annual All Florida winners announced at opening (03-12-19)

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 (03-12-19)

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 (03-12-19)

[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 (03-12-19)

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.



Time running out to submit for Alliance’s ‘Art Lives Here’ billboard campaign (03-12-19)

The Alliance for the Arts has issued a call to Alliance member artists in Lee County to submit their work for the Art Lives Here campaign to transform billboard space into public art. Selected artwork will be displayed on billboards throughout Lee County. All Alliance member artists residing in Lee County are encouraged to submit.

“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 exhibition coordinator Krista Johnson.

An entry may consist of 1 to 3 artworks. There is a non-refundable entry fee of $20 for one entry and $35 for 2 or 3 entries. You may become a member to submit. Alliance for the Arts memberships are $55 and are good for one year.

All entries must be submitted online no later than March 15, 2019. Artists can download the prospectus and submit their work online at Not all submissions receive a billboard.

Art Lives Here is made possible by Alliance season sponsor Carter Outdoor.

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



Alliance, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers appraising objets d’art etc. on March 16 (03-13-19)

In partnership with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the Alliance for the Arts will present a Community Appraisal Day on March 16 from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at 10091 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers. Meet with auction house experts from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and find out the value of your fine jewelry, artwork, decorative objects, furniture, Asian works of art, books, maps, silver and beyond. A 20 minute appraisal session is $10 for Alliance members or $20 for non-members. Pre-registration is required. For more information, please call 239-939-2787, visit 10091 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers, FL or go online at



Final DAAS exhibit at Royal Palm Square features illustrations by Tavo Quiros (03-11-19)

DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts is moving at the end of March, but is featuring a collection of fine art illustrations by Tavo Quiros in its last exhibition at the Royal Palm Square gallery.

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.

The exhibition will close March 23 with a farewell party and closing reception that begins at 6:00 p.m. More information is available on the gallery’s website at



DAAS CO-OP moving to Butterfly Estates by March’s end (03-11-19)

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 (03-11-19)

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 (03-11-19)

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.



‘Five Painters & a Potter’ happening at The Clay Place on March 17 (03-11-19)

The 16th Annual “Five Painters & A Potter” is happening from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday March 17 at The Clay Place, 1555 Shadowlawn Dr., Naples, north of Davis Blvd. This unique outdoor show features some of Naples most established and popular artists: Jim Rice, Phil Fisher, Paul Arsenault, Natalie Guess, Tara O’Neill and Rick Wobbe. It’s an opportunity to meet the artists and purchase directly from them while enjoying live music by “Captain Joe & The Bottomfeeders.” It’s a comfortable outdoor show … the way we used to do them years ago. It’s a must do! For more information, please visit



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

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.





Meet Fort Myers Film Festival short filmmaker Soleidy Mendez (03-10-19)

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 (03-10-19)

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.



A look back at the Bonita Springs International Film Festival (03-10-19)

The 4th Annual Bonita Springs International Film Festival wrapped up with an awards ceremony and live concert by the Screaming Orphans on February 24. Here are the stories posted on Art Southwest Florida about the films, filmmakers and happenings featured by this year’s BIFF:



Naples Artcrafters show in Cambier Park today (03-09-19)

The Naples Artcrafters Fine Art & Craft Show returns to Cambier Park along 8th Street South, within view of the Band Shell and Cambier’s Quilt, the first public art project at a municipal building under the City of Naples’ public art ordinance. Sponsored by the Public Art Advisory Committee and city council, the installation by Florida artist Mark Fuller consists of two structures that are nearly 12 feet tall and weigh 1,300 pounds. Each has 108 dicroic coated panels that pivot with the wind, changing color and reflecting the surroundings as they move. Naples Artcrafters is committed to promoting excellence in arts and crafts and to supporting established artists, craftspersons and students by providing a venue for the display and sale of their work in a beautiful setting. The fair and parking are free. For more information, please visit



Art After Dark takes place tonight in Crayton Cove (03-09-19)

A short drive away on in Crayton Cove, Art After Dark takes place from 6-9 p.m. tonight. This Art-Walk-type evening gives art enthusiasts and collectors an exceptional opportunity to combine fine art with fine dining alongside picturesque Naples Bay. Participating galleries include Phil Fisher Gallery, Random Acts of Art, Naples Ships Store, Pure Design and Guess-Fisher Gallery. These galleries band together to present an evening of art receptions, refreshments and live music by Jeff Fessenden & Alchemy, which aggregately serve as companionable backdrop for viewing the newest works in the Crayton Cove galleries. Many art lovers complete their evening of art viewing with drinks and a sumptuous meal in one of Crayton Cove’s outstanding eateries, Bleu Provence, Chez Boez, or The Dock and Boathouse Restaurant.



Naples Art District studio and gallery tour is March 16 (03-09-19)

The 3rd Saturday Naples Art District Studio and Gallery Tours takes place on 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 (03-09-19)

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 (03-09-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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’s Come and Gone’ on stage at Alliance through March 17 (03-08-19)

Next up at the Alliance for the Arts is August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. It is reputed to be the most spellbinding and emotionally rich of Wilson’s Cycle Series. It’s also the third Cycle play to be produced by Theatre Conspiracy, following Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and last season’s Seven Guitars. Follow these links for more on this show:



Cast of ‘Joe Turner’ dominated by newcomers (03-06-19)

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.



‘Guys & Dolls’ on Broadway Palm main stage through March 30 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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.]



Center for Performing Arts presents Funny Shorts Live tonight (03-08-19)

The Center for Performing Arts Bonita Springs presents Funny Shorts Live! tonight. The Funny Shorts Live series consists of six comedic 10-Minute Plays that are performed throughout the year, and each of these performances includes one local playwright.

Tonight’s shorts are comprised of:

  • BUNNIES AND WOLVES by Elspeth Tilley, Wellington, New Zealand directed by Leslie Sanderson;
  • INFREQUENT FLIERS by Leslie Sanderson, Bonita Springs, Florida directed by Frank Blocker;
  • FOOD DUDE TALKING FOOD by Don Lampton, Palm Coast, Florida directed by Luis Pages;
  • PRAYERS IN THE PINES by Lindsay Partain, Milwaukee, Oregon directed by Frank Blocker;
  • TAKE CARE by Andrew Thierfelder, Redford, Michigan directed by Carole Fenstermacher, assistant director Marilyn Hilbert; and
  • REST ASSURED by George Johnson, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada directed by Gary Obeldobel.

Admission is just $20 (or $18 for CFABS members).



Final weekend of Cultural Park Theatre’s production of ‘Chicago’ (03-08-19)

With still-timely songs and libretto, groundbreaking choreography that pays homage to the great Bob Fosse, and a couple of powerful female leads who can both sing and dance, Cultural Park’s production of Chicago has it all. It’s no wonder that the six-time Emmy winner is the longest running American musical in Broadway history. (In fact, only Phantom of the Opera has had a longer run.)

Three-time Marquee Award Best Director (Sister Act, Boeing Boeing, Peter Pan) Gerrie Benzing directs.

The musical is based on true, headline-grabbing murders and their corresponding trials that took place in Chicago in the 1920s. One murderous thread follows an aspiring vaudevillian by the name of Roxie Hart (played by Lisa Kuchinski), who is arrested for murdering her extramarital lover. The other focuses on Velma Kelly (starring Angela Pierre), a night club entertainer and double-murderess that Roxie meets in jail. Unaccustomed to sharing the spotlight with anyone, Velma does not take well to being upstaged by the spoiled, self-absorbed newcomer. Simmering emotion boils over when the feisty vixens fight for the spotlight after hiring the same headline-grabbing opportunist criminal defense attorney, Billy Flynn (portrayed by A.J. Ford).

Read here for the rest of this advance.



For Angela Pierre and her alter ego Velma Kelly, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T (03-08-19)

On stage for just one more weekend – that’s just 5 more performances – is Chicago, the story of rival vaudevillian murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Lisa Kuchinski sizzles as Roxie. Angela Pierre fumes in the role of Velma.

Whereas the character of Roxie Hart becomes more entrenched in her diabolically manipulative ways, Velma Kelly traverses a sharply circumscribed character arc over the course of the play. When we first meet the performer, she’s a supremely confident and self-sufficient diva who exudes attitude with a capital A. We quickly learn during the provocative Cell Block Tango that Velma used to perform a dance routine with her sister until she caught Sis practicing Move No. 17 (The Spread Eagle) with her husband and killed them both. Pop, six, squish, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz.

Go here for the rest of this review.



Spotlight on ‘Chicago’ actor Angela Denise Pierre (03-08-19)

Angela Denise Pierre is an actor, singer and dancer.

Her Southwest Florida stage credits include Velma in Chicago for Cultural Park Theatre, Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye for Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts and roles in Raisin in the Sun, Sister Act, All Shook Up and Sweet Charity. She is looking forward to taking the Barbara B. Mann stage in Gulf Coast Symphony’s production of Showboat in collaboration with Broadway Palm.

The rest of Angela’s profile is here.



Cultural Park’s version of hartless Roxie chillingly believable (03-08-19)

A new force in musical theater has emerged in Southwest Florida. Her name is Lisa Kuchinski, and she’s appearing as Roxie Hart in Cultural Park Theatre’s production of the iconic musical Chicago through March 10.

The role of Roxie requires an actor who can sing, move and act. Kuchinski scores “10s” in all three categories.

If you’ve seen her recently in Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood or Repossessed, you’ll wonder why she’s been keeping her clear and powerful vocals a secret. In truth, she hasn’t. She won a Cultural Park Marquee Award for Outstanding Featured Actress last season for her portrayal of Sister Mary Teresa in Sister Act. Musical theater is actually her preferred genre, but opportunities for parts aren’t exactly abundant in this part of the country. Still, she just appeared as Rhonda the Oxidol Girl in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (for The Naples Players) and has also been Harriet in A Wonderful Life (at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre), Gilmer in Godspell (for Herb Strauss Theatre), Sandra in Godspell (for Theatre Zone/FGCU), Liat in South Pacific and Helene in Sweet Charity (both at Cultural Park). Although she never took the stage, she also understudied for Melissa Whitworth in Another Night Before Christmas, but if she had, there wouldn’t have been any drop off in talent as a matter of vocals.

You will find the rest of this review here.



Spotlight on ‘Chicago’ star Lisa Kuchinski (03-08-19)

Lisa Kuchinski’s star is ascendant. In just the last five months, she’s risen from serving drinks to Rachel Burttram and Brendan Powers in Repossessed and the kiss-my-foot Oxidol girl in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas to next-in-command in Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood. But her best is yet to come when Lisa reprises the role of foxy Roxie Hart in Cultural Park’s production of Chicago.

Read here to see all of Lisa’s acting credits and achievements.



Three time Marquee Award Best Director Gerrie Benzing directing ‘Chicago’ (03-08-19)

It only makes sense for a three time Marquee Award Best Director to direct a six time Emmy winner in the guise of Chicago. Gerri has directed five mainstage productions at Cultural Park Theater, including Sister Act in 2018 (for which she won a Cultural Park Theatre Best Director Marquee Award), Boeing, Boeing in 2016 (for which she won as Cultural Park Theatre Best Director Marquee Award) and Peter Pan (for which she garnered a Cultural Park Best Director of a Musical Marquee Award in 2014).

For the skinny on all of Gerrie’s acting, directing and other accomplishments, see here.



‘Million Dollar Quartet’ opens March 22 at Florida Rep (03-08-19)

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 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’ on stage thru March 16 (03-08-19)

On stage now through March 16 at Lab Theater is Mitch Albom’s timely comedy, And the Winner Is. 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 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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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 (03-08-19)

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.



Lab’s new season announcement party and fundraiser is March 11 (03-08-19)

Fresh on the heels of another record-breaking season, The Laboratory Theater of Florida will be announcing the 2019-2020 shows for its 11th season on March 11. Free and open to the public, the event features entertainment, drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and an advance opportunity to sponsor special show needs, underwrite the new Actor’s Fund, or sponsor one of the regular season activities of your choice.

In addition to revealing the shows it will be producing next season, The Lab’s announcement part functions as a fundraiser, with attendees enjoying the chance to win extraordinary raffle prizes and bid on silent auction items. Funds raised during this event will go towards property improvements and renovations, most notably the continuing cleanup and rehab of the new education building, functional air conditioning for the props and costumes building, restoration of the original hardwood floors and creation of an outdoor performance space.

A favorite event each year for Laboratory Theater patrons, the event also affords the opportunity to purchase discounted season or snowbird passes.

The event begins at 7:00 p.m.



TNP hosting Ed Asner and his prostate for interactive talk-back on March 16 (03-08-19)

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 on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16, 2019. 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



Regional ESU winner Kylie Campbell off to Lincoln Center for nationals (03-08-19)

Fifteen year old KidzAct actor Kylie Campbell won first place on February 16 in the regional English-Speaking Shakespeare (ESU) Competition. As the first-place finisher, Campbell receives $500, an ESU First Place trophy, The Riverside Shakespeare Complete Works, an all-expense paid trip to New York City to compete in the 36th Annual National Shakespeare Competition finals at Lincoln Center and free coaching.

Kylie attributes her success to the training she’s received in The Naples Players KidzAct youth theatre program.

“Theater has always been the most important thing in my life,” says Kylie.

“I grew up at The Naples Players and have learned so much in my eleven years there. If it wasn’t for all the support I’ve received from everyone at that theater, I don’t think I would be the actress I am today.”

Kylie started out doing musicals, then transitioned to plays, before deciding to try Shakespeare. Currently a Barron G. Collier High School student, she has been studying and performing at The Naples Players since preschool. Acting since she was four years old, Campbell has been seen in Coney Island Christmas as Young Shirley, Les Misérables as Young Cosette, Sister Act as Sister Mary Theresa and CATS as Demeter.

She is presently performing as Puck in The Naples Players Shakespeare-on-the-Plaza adult production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is being performed on The Baker Stage every weekend through March 10, 2019.

“Shakespeare had the ability to take a concept and write it in the most eloquent way. I think it’s important for someone of my generation to understand Shakespeare, and I have just the most fun performing these special works of art,” continues Campbell.

“She really loves the craft, learning the techniques of acting,” observes Associate Artistic Director Jessica Walck, who has been instrumental in her arts development over the years. “[She’s been very hungry to learn by taking every class and becoming involved in all the different scopes of work and productions offered at The Naples Players.

Campbell’s mother has also been impressed with her daughter’s theater interest since such a young age.

“She’s had a passion for performing ever since she was very little, and she’s just always known that she’s wanted to be an actress,” points out Debbie Campbell. “It’s amazing to see her find new aspects of theater that she loves. Her father and I are so very proud of her.”

Naples Players Director John McKerrow, who has been an ESU Naples-based competition judge for about 8 years, also weighed in.

“The students seem to get better and better. That is a testament to Kylie’s great win and to our local teachers and school system. This is a wonderful opportunity for Kylie and I am so proud of her.”

At the ESU National Competition, she will be sequestered with approximately 65 students who have won their local ESU branch competitions from around the country. They will attend a show together, participate in educational activities, and then perform on The Lincoln Center stage.

“It is truly an experience she will never forget.” McKerrow adds.

The Naples Players offers specialized Shakespearean training for children, which culminates in an annual children’s production, which follows the adult Shakespeare-on-the-Plaza production.

“One of the greatest assets that our Shakespeare program gives our young students is the opportunity to work with the area’s foremost Shakespeare experts.” shares Craig Price, The Naples Players Director of Education. “Bryce Alexander directed the children’s production of The Taming of the Shrew last year, in which Kylie performed as Petruchio and this year she is involved in the adult Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The KidzAct Shakespeare-on-the-Plaza free production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs Saturday, April 13th at 11:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 14th at 6:00 p.m. outside on The Baker Stage in Sugden Plaza. All performances are free, and no tickets are required.

Each year, more than 20,000 high school students participate in the English in Action National Shakespeare Competition at the school, regional and national levels through the help of more than 2,500 teachers and 55 ESU branches nationwide. As part of the competition, students perform a monologue and recite a sonnet from Shakespeare and are judged on their understanding of their selected texts and on their ability to communicate their interpretation to the audience. Through this school-based program, students in grades 9 – 12 develop critical thinking and speaking skills and increase their self-confidence through performance of Shakespeare’s work.

Since 1983, the English-Speaking Union has given more than 300,000 students of all backgrounds the opportunity to bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and to learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity. The competition has been recognized by the Globe Center, the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America and the American Academy of Achievement.



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