Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sarasota's Tanner takes 'Amish Project' Off-Broadway

Tanner in "The Amish Project" 
   Sarasota actor Katherine Michelle Tanner is heading to New York with seven of her favorite roles ever.
   Tanner portrays all the characters in "The Amish Project," Jessica Dickey's startling fact-based drama about the massacre of Amish children in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse. 

   She first performed the show at American Stage in St. Petersburg a few years back, then brought the same production, directed by Todd Olson, to a theater in Oklahoma and a performing arts festival in Maryland, before she landed back home with a lauded and popular staging for Banyan Theater in July.
   On Tuesday, Tanner announced that in early October she'll be performing "The Amish Project" at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, a new performance complex in Greenwich Village.
  Tanner's play will be part of the center's grand-opening festival, which also includes appearances by comedian Jim Gaffigan, the New York premiere of a film that stars David Oyewolo and performances by concert pianist Elaine Kwon, among others
   The Sheen Center is funded by the Catholic Church and named for Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. It was at the center of a controversy earlier this year when it canceled an event that was to benefit the National Coalition Against Censorship. The center canceled the event because one of the four new plays that would have been featured was a Neil LaBute work that had a title that center officials perceived as disrespectful to Islam.
   But aside from that incident, which nobody got overly worked up about, the center's been causing some excitement in the downtown New York performing arts world. It has two theaters and an art gallery and a mission to showcase "the true, the good and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages."

   Tanner will perform "The Amish Project" at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2. Tickets are $10-$35. There's more information at sheencenter.org.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cary Elwes cancels tour, including Tampa appearance

   I hope you weren't getting all excited about seeing Cary Elwes at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, because he has canceled.
Robin Wright, Cary Elwes in "The Princess Bride"
   He was supposed to be there on Oct. 10 for something called "The Princess Bride: An Inconceivable Evening with Cary Elwes" that would have featured a screening of the classic film followed by Elwes telling behind-the scenes stories. (He starred as Westley.)
   The announcement from the people at the Straz Center said he is canceling his whole tour because of "the filming of a new movie in which he will star as well as direct."

   If you bought tickets with a credit card you'll get a refund automatically. If you paid with cash or check you'll receive a check in a week or two.
   If you want to talk to somebody about it, call 813-229-7827. The Straz Center website is strazcenter.org.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Internet star Grumpy Cat appears in Tampa

   You've seen her on Facebook. Now you can see her in person.
   Tardar Sauce, who's better known as Grumpy Cat, will be at Tampa Theatre on to celebrate the premiere of her new BuzzFeed video, "Happiness Finds Grumpy Cat." (Happiness is the name of a dog who recognizes Grumpy Cat in the aisles of a PetSmart store. He tries to meet Grumpy and Grumpy tries to avoid him.)
   If you're unfamiliar with Grumpy Cat, you clearly don't waste enough time scrolling through social media feeds. She's a tiny 3-year-old cat from Arizona who has a pronounced and permanent frown on her face, reportedly a result of the same birth condition that caused her
Tardar Sauce, a.k.a Grumpy Cat
small stature. She became a star on the internet thanks to social media posts that juxtaposed her sour puss with wry captions (e.g. "You're still here. How disappointing"). She's also become a regular guest on TV shows, from "The Today Show" to "American Idol." And she's the "official spokescat" for Friskies, which is co-sponsoring the Tampa Theatre event with PetSmart.
   For the Tampa Theatre event, she'll be joined by five feline mascots -- DJ Kitty of the Tampa Bay Rays, Sir Purr of the Carolina PanthersStanley C. Panther of the Florida PanthersKingston the Lion of Orlando City Soccer Club and Aubie the Tiger of Auburn University.

   The event is free, and it's slated to run from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4. The first 150 people who get there will be rewarded with tickets to "an exclusive meet-and-greet with the cat star-power onstage following the viewing," according to the press release. In other words, you'll get to say howdy to a cat.
   Tampa Theatre is at 711 N. Franklin St., right in the heart of downtown Tampa, Call 813-274-8981 or go ttampatheatre.org.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sarasota Music Archive celebrates 'Vinyl Day'

   It wasn't too many years ago that everyone except music snobs and elitists thought vinyl records were not worth the trouble. They're bulky and inconvenient and they get damaged easily. And you can't play them in your car.
   But vinyl's been coming back in a big way for a number of reasons. "Warmth" is a common adjective used to describe the format's appeal, and it applies to both the sound quality and the packaging. (There are lots of iconic covers from 12-inch albums; not many from CD booklets.)
   On Saturday, Sarasota Music Archive and Barnes & Noble are teaming up for a three-hour celebration of vinyl.
   From 6 to 9 p.m., the Barnes & Noble, 4010 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, will have a lot of exclusive and early releases on vinyl, by everyone from Josh Groban to Public Enemy. You can play music-created trivia games and get some special deals. If you buy

three LPs you'll get a free "Vinyl Day" tote bag. There's also a drawing for a Crosley
turntable and headphones (pictured at right).
   And, if you become a member of the Sarasota Music Archive at the event -- which costs $30 for one person or $40 for two -- you can pick 10 LPs for free from a designated bin.
   The Sarasota Music Archive is part of the Sarasota County Library System and it's connected to the Special Collections Department of the Selby Public Library. It includes  several hundred thousand recordings, tapes, sheet music and books.

   You can call Barnes & Noble at 941-923-9907 if you need more information.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bradenton theater screens Robin Williams' last drama

   Robin Williams died 11 months ago, but several of the films he worked on near the end of his life have yet to be released.
   Bradenton audiences will get a chance to see one of those films on Tuesday when the Carmike Royal Palm 20 screens "Boulevard."
   It was Williams' final dramatic performance on screen. The story is about an aging man (Williams) who has lived an oppressively dull existence until a chance encounter with a troubled stranger leads him to break free.

a man  (Williams) who has worked at the same bank many years, in a life of monotony. A chance meeting with a troubled young man named lead him to break from the confines of his old life.
   It also stars Kathy Baker and Bob Odenkirk.
  The official release date isn't until Friday, July 10, so Bradenton audiences will be among the first to see the film.
   There's only one screening of  "Boulevard" scheduled, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. The Carrmike Royal Palm 20 is at  2507 53rd Ave E., Bradenton. Call 941-752-3796.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Theatre Odyssey's play festival returns to Sarasota

   Ten-minute play festivals have been popping up all across the country in recent years. They're popular with playwrights, theater companies and audiences.
   Playwrights appreciate the chance to be produced and get some money, theater companies like them because they can help develop new work and up-and-coming writers, and audiences like them because they generally make for really edifying and entertaining evenings of theater. And since the plays are short, audiences don't risk the boredom of a full-length show that they don't like. If you don't like one 10-minute play, you'll probably like the next one, and it's right around the corner.
"As Long as the Moon Shines"
Photo by Cliff Roles
 Locally, Theatre Odyssey's annual Ten-Minute Play Festival has become one of the most respected.The 10th annual festival is coming up this weekend. It runs today through Sunday at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in Sarasota.
   This year's plays are "The Coward" by Dylan Jones, "Dancing Lessons" by Connie Schindewolf, "Dream On, Merry Mae" by Bernard Yanelli, "High School Reunion" by Arthur Keyser, "It's Time to Move On" by Ron Pantello, "The Locket" by Mark Leib, "Nimby" by Robert Kinast and "Why" by Marvin Albert.
   The plays get full productions from local theater professionals, and they're judged by a panel of theater experts. There's a cash prize for the winner. (Full disclosure: I am among the judges this year. The others are Summer Wallace, head of the theater department at Riverview High School and an adjunct professor of theater at New College of Florida, and Jim Sorensen, a prominent local actor who recently joined the staff of Florida Studio Theatre. The judges all volunteer their time.)
   The plays this year are about divided between comedies and dramas. There's also a bonus play. Theatre Odyssey hosts a student festival every year, and this year's winner, "As Long as the Moon Shines" by Julien Freij, a junior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton will be staged again this weekend. It won't be judged and it won't be eligible for the prize money, though.
   This year's festival has a couple of new elements. The opening night performance will be interpreted into American Sign Language, and 12-year-old violin prodigy Jenny Armor will perform during the intervals between plays between plays. 

   Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets are $20. Call 941-799-7224, or go to theatreodyssey.org.

Friday, April 24, 2015

2Cellos cancel U.S. tour, including Tampa date

   If you you were planning on spending the evening of May 9 watching two young Croatian cellists rock out, well ... sorry.
Stjepan Hauser (left) in happier times
   2Cellos were supposed to perform at Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa that night, but on Friday the show was canceled. Apparently Stjepan Hauser -- one of the 2Cellos -- has injured his neck. It's not a serious injury, 2Cellos' p.r. people say, but still the duo has canceled its US tour. The people at the Straz say a new date will be announced soon.
   Meanwhile, if you already have tickets, you got some money coming back to you. If you bought them with credit card you'll get an automatic refund. If you paid with cash or a check, you'll get a check in the mail in a week or two.
   For more information, call 813-229-7827 or go to strazcenter.org.