1776: Last Weekend to See Spectacular Production

By Mary Damiano

Gary Cadwallader & Laura Hodos in 1776

Gary Cadwallader and Laura Hodos in 1776

I don’t usually review shows in their closing weekends, but when a production like 1776 comes along, well, to crib a line from Arthur Miller and this show, attention must be paid.

As a history buff, 1776, which details the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  has always been one of my favorites—the film version is a staple of my July 4th celebration.  Palm Beach Dramaworks’ 1776 is both timely and inventive, and shows how little has changed in 240 years.

Director Clive Cholerton has employed a clever concept for this production of the patriotic musical, giving it a prologue and epilogue showing that politics in these Untied States has been a combative, even dirty, business since day one. And, in order to stage a traditional musical with a large cast and still keep within a modern budget, Cholerton double and even triple-cast his ensemble, with an interesting twist: nearly each actor plays a representative on each side of the argument for American independence.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about how that would work.  But all doubt was gone within the first few minutes. The casting idea comes off seamlessly in show.  The production is so energetic that there is always something to draw focus while an actor is slipping out for a quick costume change in order to make an entrance as someone else.  Sometimes the change is even faster—several times Matthew Korinko, who plays delegates James Wilson and George Read, delivers his line, changes his coat onstage and delivers the next line as the other character.  The production is so well done that there is little confusion in these character changes, and the whole thing is fascinating to watch.

Nicholas Richberg in 1776

Nicholas Richberg in 1776

There’s not a weak link in the cast.  Gary Cadwallader delivers a bravura performance as the impassioned, independence-obsessed  John Adams; Allan Baker’s Ben Franklin is affable but with an edge.  Nicholas Richberg is hilariously flamboyant as Richard Henry Lee and sternly villainous as John Dickinson. Laura Hodos is John Hancock, but her gorgeous soaring voice is really showcased as Abigail Adams.  Clay Cartland is at his brash best as Thomas Jefferson.  And Shane Tanner, playing slave-proponent Edward Rutledge, nearly stops the show with his powerful, spine-tingling performance of Molasses to Rum.

There couldn’t be a better time to see 1776.  Because in this tumultuous political climate, in which no one is certain about where the country is going, it makes sense to see how it all began and be reminded of the principles that lead to the founding of the United States of America.

1776 runs through Sunday at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.  For more information and tickets, visit PalmBeachDramaworks.org.

The Wedding Warrior Goes on Tour

By Mary Damiano

Casey Dressler is taking her show on the road.

CaseyThe talented actress and writer will hold three fundraising performances of her hilarious and insightful one-woman show, The Wedding Warrior, at The Florida Keys History Discovery Center in her hometown of Islamorada, Friday, July 29 through Sunday, July 31.

The Wedding Warrior is an autobiographical play detailing Dressler’s days as a wedding planner in the Florida Keys.  In the show, Dressler portrays more than a dozen characters, including a Cuban, weed-smoking cigar roller; a stern, detail-oriented mother-of-the-bride; a maid of honor with food issues; a low-key busboy; and a southernism-spouting hotel clerk.

The fundraiser performances will help Dressler with the expenses involved in getting her play to Fringe NYC in August as well as Chicago Fringe Festival in September.

I  saw The Wedding Warrior last year when it was featured at the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Fest.  The show is a delight, and not only showcases Dressler’s talent for morphing from one character to another, but also her skill for creating the characters and bringing them from page to stage.

For more information on The Wedding Warrior and to purchase tickets to the Islamorada performances, visit TheWeddingWarriorPlay.com

 

Daniel’s Husband: Breathtaking and Heartbreaking

World Premiere Play Illustrates the Importance of Marriage

By Mary Damiano

Alex Alvarez and Antonio Amadeo

Alex Alvarez and Antonio Amadeo

Wear waterproof mascara and bring lots of tissues.

That’s the best advice for anyone going to see Daniel’s Husband, the new play by Michael McKeever, now receiving its world premiere at Island City Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

McKeever introduces us to Daniel a successful architect, and Mitchell a successful writer, who appear to be the perfect couple. The play opens as the couple is entertaining friends at a lively dinner party. Daniel cooks gourmet meals, Mitchell cleans up, they play games and discuss marriage, an institution that Mitchell does not believe in, for gay or straight couples. The subject is a sore point for Daniel, who has wanted to marry Mitchell from their romantic first date. Mitchell is adamant in his refusal to believe a piece of paper can change anything in their relationship.

Antonio Amadeo, Laura Turnbull and Alex Alvarez

Antonio Amadeo, Laura Turnbull and Alex Alvarez

But when the unthinkable happens, Mitchell realizes just how much that piece of paper can change a relationship and how important it really is.

This is an elegant play, with no wasted space, no filler. Each scene presents new information and emotion, and in about eight short scenes over 90 minutes, the audience is taken on an emotional ride from belly laughs to heart-wrenching sobs.

Antonio Amadeo, a terrific actor missing too long from South Florida stages, delivers a brilliant, indelible performance as Mitchell. The emotion bubbling up inside and then pouring out of him is heart-wrenching to watch.

As Daniel, Alex Alvarez, turns in another fine performance full of passion and heartbreak. Alvarez is a big teddy bear of a man who beautifully portrays Daniel’s journey.

Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic

Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic

Laura Turnbull, who plays Daniel’s mother Lydia, embodies a Pride flag-waving society mom with too much time on her hands, a woman whose love can be a liability. Turnbull imbues Lydia enough shades of grey that make her hard to hate, despite her actions.

They are ably supported by Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic as friends who round out this talented cast. Except for Turnbull, this is the same cast that appeared in the staged reading of Daniel’s Husband presented at Lynn University in January.

Director Andy Rogow has assembled the designers that have made such excellent use of Island City Stage’s intimate space. Michael McClain’s scenic design is perfectly tasteful and upscale, Preston Bircher’s lighting is atmospheric and David Hart’s sound punctuates the drama.

Daniel’s Husband is a play everyone should see, not only because it’s fine drama at its best, but also because it has the ability to change minds about marriage and call to action those who have not taken proper steps to ensure their future wishes are respected. Don’t miss this brilliant production.

Daniel’s Husband runs through June 28 at Island City Stage in Fort Lauderdale. Some performances are already sold out. For tickets and more information, visit IslandCityStage.org.

High Tea at High Noon

Oscar’s Tea Room Makes Tea an Event By Mary Damiano

Me and Mom at Oscar's Tea Room and Gift Shop on Mother's Day

Me and Mom at Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop on Mother’s Day

I hate coming up with an idea to make Mother’s Day special for my mom. Restaurants are crowded and she hates crowds, but cooking at home doesn’t feel special enough. This year, though, I had a secret weapon, a place that I knew would be perfect: Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop in Wilton Manors.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Oscar’s, but it is now programmed into my phone so I can make a reservation at a moment’s notice.  I first heard about it last year and took friends there to celebrate my best friend’s birthday in August. It came very highly recommended—friends said the service was great, the owners were a hoot, and the food was delicious. It surpassed all of those expectations.

OscarsSPOscar’s isn’t only for special occasions; Oscar’s is the special occasion. Proprietors Craig and Kevin are from Stoke-on-Trent, England. Kevin greets guests and Craig prepares the food. Guests are greeted warmly with hugs and kisses, and they’ll remember your name if you’ve been there before.  The couple has been together for more than 25 years and named the tea room for their late dog Oscar, who didn’t make it across the pond. The highlight at Oscar’s is High Tea, a variety of sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres, desserts and tea. It’s $25 per person and it’s worth every cent. Reservations should be made well in advance for weekends and holidays especially, because the room fills up fast.

Kevin and Craig are gregarious and are a big part of the High Tea experience. They encourage guests to relax and enjoy, and truly experience the restorative benefits of an unhurried tea.  They are experts at pampering their guests.  The shortest time I’ve spent at Oscar’s is two hours, the longest is four hours, a Friday tea when a friend and I had a lot of catching up to do.  Dawdling is encouraged. Each table is beautifully set with crisp linen and china. Kevin and Craig’s moms worked in the factory where the china was produced and hand-gilded this particular pattern. The tables feature crisp linens and a cheeky salt and pepper set of Queen Elizabeth and a beefeater, which is also for sale at the tea room, which doubles as a gift shop. (The gift shop is an Anglophile’s dream. The bathrooms are an Anglophile’s wet dream. Don’t miss experiencing that.) OscarsTeaSandwiches

The first course is a selection of tea sandwiches and nibbles—the selection changes but usually includes some combination of egg and mayonnaise, turkey with cranberry sauce, pate, cucumber, fruit, meat and cheeses, salmon, roast beef, ham and quiche. There is also homemade potato salad and cole slaw. Craig serves the food and explains what each item is and his gorgeous British accent makes the food sound as good as it tastes. It is served with a complementary tea—ours was a traditional English Breakfast Tea that Kevin suggested. (Take his suggestions. His taste is impeccable.)

After enjoying the first course, Kevin served my favorite tea, a yummy raspberry and pomegranate—its fruity flavor goes great with dessert. Craig served the dessert tray: Sunday’s selection included a lemon layer cake; Victoria cake; a confection of Rice Krispies, peanut butter, toffee and chocolate; grapes, blackberries, fresh pineapple; plain, apricot and cinnamon scones warm from the oven with butter, clotted cream and jam; and, special for Mother’s Day, chocolate covered strawberries and a chocolate tart. A personal note about the scones: I never understood scones—I always found them dry and crumbly. Then I went to Oscar’s and was served scones with clotted cream and jam. The world of scones suddenly made sense. oscarsDesserts

Oscar’s feeds both your body and your soul. Every bite was delicious, I always leave surprisingly sated—we weren’t hungry for the rest of the day.  But after our luxurious two hour High Tea, we also left feeling refreshed, relaxed, and stress-free.  It’s the food equivalent of a spa day. Kevin and Craig made every moment of our Mother’s Day celebration special. They even decorated the cheery shop with a Mother’s Day balloon at each table, and slipped each mom the gift of a lottery ticket. If Mom wins, High Tea is on her, because we’re already looking forward to our next trip to Oscar’s.

Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop is located at 1201 NE 26th St. in Wilton Manors. Oscar’s is open Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m, to 7 p.m.; Friday and Staurday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information and to make reservations, call 954-537-6011.

Dames at Sea: Set Sail for a Good Time

1

The Wick Launches a Nearly Flawless Musical Production

By Mary Damiano

DamesSeaA young girl with tap shoes in her suitcase and a prayer in her heart steps off the bus from Utah and onto the Broadway stage when the leading lady can’t go on—sound familiar? It should, to anyone familiar with Hollywood musicals from the early 1930s, like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.

That’s the premise of Dames at Sea, both an irresistible send-up and loving homage to those gloriously sappy backstage musicals of that long-ago era. The clever part about Dames at Sea, now playing at The Wick in Boca Raton, is that the lavish look is pulled off with a cast of six, instead of oodles of chorus boys and girls.

And what a cast it is. The cast works well as an ensemble, but each gets moments and songs to shine.

Laura Hodos is delicious as the leading lady, Mona Kent, who has two speeds: diva and ultra-diva. Hodos portrays her with gusto, sinking her teeth into every one of Mona’s histrionics as well as her penchant for mispronounced words. Her performance of the torchy That Mister Man of Mine, along with some inventive staging involving silhouetted performers behind a skrim, is one of the highlights of the show.

Gabriel Zenone does double duty as both the fast-talking director, Hennesey, and the upper-crust captain of the ship where the show within a show takes place. Zenone creates two distinct characters and is very funny as both.

Alison McCartan plays the wise-cracking chorus girl, Joan, the kind of role actress Joan Blondell usually played, and Blake Spellacy is her sailor boyfriend, Lucky. The two are great dancers and have terrific comic timing.

Dames1Alex Jorth has appeared in many productions at The Wick, most notably last year’s 42nd Street, a musical based on one of the movies Dames at Sea spoofs. Here he plays sailor and aspiring songwriter Dick, based on the young leads that Dick Powell used to play. Jorth is an excellent dancer and, with his boy-next-door looks, makes an affable leading man.

As young ingénue Ruby, based on the roles actress Ruby Keeler made famous, Lindsay Bethea, is wonderful. She sparkles whenever she’s onstage, whether she’s tapping her heart out on Star Tar or wallowing in her broken heart on Raining in My Heart, and her boop-boop-a-doop voice elicits either laughter or sympathy from the audience.

Michael Ursua’s direction is tight and fluid. He keeps the show bouncing along without a single wasted moment. This is a spare, compact musical, but both Ursua and the design team give it a lavish look. The scenic design, by Thomas Mitchell and Jim Buff, consists of only two sets, the backstage of a theatre and a navy ship, but both are impressive. The projections by Josieu Jean, which mimic the title credits to an old movie, set the mood and are a nice touch.

The Wick’s execution is nearly flawless. From the excellent cast to the design elements, Dames at Sea is a rollicking good time.

Dames at Sea runs through May 31 at The Wick in Boca Raton. For tickets and more information, visit TheWick.org.

Theatre at Arts Garage Gets New Artistic Director

Keith Garsson and Genie Croft Form the New Creative Team at Delray Beach Venue

By Mary Damiano

Alyone Ushe, Keith Garsson and Genie Croft

Alyone Ushe, Keith Garsson and Genie Croft

When news that Louis Tyrrell was leaving his position as artistic director of Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach, many wondered if that was the end of theatre at the popular downtown venue.

Wonder no more. Keith Garsson, artistic director of Primal Forces in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton Theatre Guild, has been named artistic director of Theatre at Arts Garage. Genie Croft, artistic director of the now-defunct Women’s Theatre Project, has been named resident director.

“I am so excited to begin this new partnership with Keith,” said Alyona Ushe, President and CEO of Arts Garage. “Our music programs consistently break new barriers exposing our audiences to diverse forms of artistry, and now I am proud to say our theatre program will explore new realms of emotions and relationships.”

While Primal Forces will be effectively absorbed into Arts Garage, the company may also perform in other venues. Garsson plans to produce shows that explore darker themes, beginning with the new season in October.

“The dark-themed material of Primal Forces is a natural fit for the off-Broadway feel of Arts Garage,” said Garsson. “Boca Raton Theatre Guild and the Willow Theater served us well for many years, but it’s time to move on from our standard fare at the park into a venue more attuned to the material we’ve presented at Primal Forces.”

“The move to the Arts Garage will allow us to unleash new artistic visions as we create imaginative, and thought-provoking plays and musicals” says Croft. “We look forward to new energies and rhythms on the stages of Arts Garage.”

Theatre at Arts Garage 2015-2016 Season

Sex with Strangers by Laura Eston
October 24 through November 15
From one of the writers of House of Cards, Laura Eason, the comedy Sex with Strangers opened in New York in 2014 to great acclaim. When twenty-something star sex blogger and memoir writer Ethan tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure 40s novelist Olivia, he finds they each crave what the other possesses. As the attraction turns to sex, and they inch closer to getting what they want, both must confront the dark side of ambition and the near impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is only a click away.

Reborning by Zayd Dohrn
January 23 through February 14
This 2010 psychological thriller tells the tale of a sculptor with an unusual specialty. She meets a woman desperate to recreate her past leading to some frightening revelations. Art and life become disturbingly interchangeable in this dark comedy that takes an unsettling look at work, latex and the power of creation.

The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith by Angelo Parra and Joe Brancato
February 27 through March 20
A dramatization of the turbulent story of the legendary “Empress of the Blues,” whose life was as large and as outrageous as her talent. The play re-imagines Bessie’s final electrifying evening after she and her band are turned away by a whites-only theatre. It all takes place in 1937 in a Memphis “buffet flat,” where the partying, laughter, and bawdiness all come together to deliver an entertaining, unforgettable, and surprisingly touching evening.

Smoke by Kim Davies
March 26 through April 17
A thriller, set in New York City, where Julie an entitled college student and John, a jaded wannabe artist – with more in common than they thought – engage in a series of mind games, both erotic and humorous. But who gets the last laugh on whom?

For tickets and more information, visit ArtsGarage.org

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe: A Hidden Gem

My pre-theatre dinner last night, Lomo Saltado at The Chimney House

My pre-theatre dinner last night, Lomo Saltado at The Chimney House

Steps Away From Broward Center Lies Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Hidden Dining Gem

By Mary Damiano

The stretch of SW 2nd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale between Broward Center and the railroad tracks is always teeming with patrons at the many bars and restaurants lining those few blocks. But right behind Broward Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of West Las Olas Boulevard and SW 7th Avenue, is The Chimney House Grill & Cafe, a hidden gem perfect for pre-theatre—or anytime—dining.

The Chimney House is named for the restored 1924 house, which has been transformed into a very cozy dining room. The original stone chimney and fireplace is the focal point of the room. There is also an outdoor seating area, far quieter than the sidewalk seating along SW 2nd.

I’ve been frequenting The Chimney House for a few years now. The menu is a mix of Latin and Spanish flavors, including classics like empanadas ($4) and Churrasco Chimichurri ($17). My favorite is the Lomo Saltado ($15) a stir-fry of tender steak, onions and french fries with chunks of tomato in a light, flavorful soy sauce and served with white rice, although you can substitute the yellow house rice. The Turkey Meatloaf ($14), which employs the owner’s mother’s recipe, is also a great choice. Portions are generous and the menu is thoughtful, not overloaded and bloated, a sure sign of the chef’s expertise.  There is also a selection of beer and wine and a special House Sangria.

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe

Service is pleasant and personable. This is the kind of restaurant where the servers recognize you and are professional yet friendly, and the owner visits the table to make sure his guests are happy.

The Chimney House Grill & Café is located at 701 West Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.  It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and closed Mondays. Take-out is available, and the restaurant features free parking in its own lot.  For more information and reservations, call 954-900-5352, or visit TheChimneyHouse.net.

Paint Party

Painting with a Twist Unleashes Your Inner Child

By Mary Damiano

IsabellaFinalUsually when I want to paint something, I wield a can of white, lime green or orange spray paint and give new life to a picture frame or chair or patio table.

But this is my cat, Isabella. And I painted this portrait of her on canvas. I. Painted. This. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but I was there.

Last night I attended my friend Rick Pena’s birthday party at Painting with a Twist in Miami Beach, which is owned by another friend of mine, David Sexton. David and I go way back. I first met him back in 2002 when I interviewed him for a musical he wrote and starred in, It’s a Fabulous Life, his modern gay redux of the Jimmy Stewart classic. David writes, sings and acts, but for years now he’s been concentrating on his art. He’s worked for Marvel and has created several decks of gorgeous tarot cards.

David owns Painting with a Twist, a studio where adults unleash their inner five-year-old and paint. Rick’s party last night was actually two painting classes, along with a lot of Cuban food and a lot of wine. One class was Paint a Paisley Pet, in which the attendees chose an animal, had it stenciled onto canvas and then let loose with their imaginations.

MeSketchThe other class, the one I took, was Paint Your Pet. This one was more involved. I emailed David a photo of Isabella in advance and he sketched her on canvas. When I got there, her sketched portrait was waiting for me on an easel. Honestly, it looked so good—it was a David Sexton original—that I really thought about leaving just like that so I wouldn’t mess it up.

We chose a background color for our portrait, and the paint was prepared and waiting for us when we assembled at our spots. David put us at ease, encouraging us to unleash that inner five-year-old and paint. He also encouraged us to take photos to document our paintings. He had us fill in the background color first. It was scary when my brush touched the first stroke of pink to the canvas, but once I did it was ultimately freeing, the same feeling I get when I spray paint a piece of furniture, because I love transforming something into something better.

PinkSketchBy the time the pink background was finished, Isabella really came into focus. David gave each of us lots of personal attention. He showed me how to mix the silvery gray, white and black paint on my plate to get the different colors of Isabella’s fur. “Obey the fur,” he said, getting us to not just look at the color photo of our pet but, really observe the coloring and patterns. David showed how to layer the colors to create shadows and texture.

Under his guidance and direction, my fears melted away. And the more I painted, the more I saw my beloved kitty on my canvas. I’m especially proud that I got her little white tiara right, and that she looks in the painting as soft and fluffy as she is.

The hardest part came last. David mixed the perfect shade of green for her eyes and of pale pink for her nose. Thankfully, David painted those parts. Fur is one thing, but I knew I could not capture the beauty of her eyes. And that’s the thing about David and Painting with a Twist—he gives you the confidence to do it yourself, but he’s always there to help.

NoEyesAnd then, there she was, my Isabella looking back at me from that canvas, in all her regal beauty. I gave David a hug and kiss for not only helping me paint her, but for the great time I had doing it. It was one of the most creative evenings I’ve ever spent.

I already have a spot picked out to display my painting. And when I look at that portrait of Isabella, I won’t only see her face, but the faces of friends having fun painting their pets, at Rick’s birthday party. And that kind of memory is priceless.

Painting with a Twist is located at 924 71st Street in Miami Beach. The Paint a Paisley Pet class was $35, and the Paint Your Pet class was $55. For more information, call 786-606-4100, email studio188@paintingwithatwist.com.

Fringe Binge

Fort Lauderdale’s First Fringe Fest is a Success

By Mary Damiano

FringeProgramIt’s about time.

That was the overall sentiment at yesterday’s first ever Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival, the new theatre event that presented 21 plays in 10 hours on the downtown campus of Broward College.

It’s also about time we have so much theatre to choose from in Fort Lauderdale right now. Outre Theatre just opened the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Broward Center’s New River Abdo Room, Island City Stage’s production of The Little Dog Laughed is on stage at Empire Stage, and today is the last day to catch Redwood Curtain produced by Primal Forces at Andrews Living Arts and Vita & Virginia at Thinking Cap Theatre’s beautiful new venue, The Vanguard. All of this theatre is within a 10-minute drive, and while this bounty is unusual in South Florida’s middle county, boy, is it ever welcome.

Back to yesterday’s adventure. My companion and I were in the mood for a theatre marathon, and though it was impossible to see everything at Fringe Fest, we did manage to see seven plays, a full third of the offerings. It certainly helped that every play started on time, and a few even ended a few minutes early. From an audience perspective the Fringe Festival ran with smooth precision.

Not everything we saw, in my opinion, was a gem, but we were treated to some terrific theatre.

My Personal Best of the Fest

RealitySucksReality Sucks: A man and a woman meet for the first time after seeing each other’s profiles online. This one featured funny, talented and gorgeous Carbonell Award nominee Vanessa Elise, also the Fringe Festival artistic manager. The play, by Sonia Cordoves, presents the lies we tell online in a funny way.

Open Hearts: In Miriam Kulick’s one-woman show, the writer/actress portrays seven different characters that 90-year-old Sadie encounters on her 90th birthday, including her Latin maintenance man, her daughter, her daughter’s British lesbian lover, and her rapper nephew.

Senseless: This sensuous piece illustrates the exhilaration, pain, passion and loss of falling in love through words, dance, acoustic guitar and song.   Francesca Toledo, Melissa Ann Hubicsak, Michelle Antelo and Randy Garcia collaborated behind the scenes and on stage, with poignant, intense and compelling results.

Reality Check: Marcela Paguaga portrays Kat Perez, a Kardashian super fan who thinks she’s been invited to an exclusive meet and greet with one of her idols, but discovers that it’s an intervention for her K-dash addiction. Paguaga is a dynamo, and reminded me of a young, unaccented Sofia Vergara. This piece could have been very one-note, but writer/performer Paguaga gave it real heart.

CaseyThe Wedding Warrior: This was easily my best of the fest. Casey Dressler’s solo show based on her experiences as a single, love-shy wedding coordinator in the Keys, is a gem. Dressler portrays more than a dozen characters, including a Cuban, weed-smoking cigar roller; a stern, detail-oriented mother-of-the-bride; a maid of honor with food issues; a low-key busboy; and a southernism-spouting hotel clerk. Using a wedding to reexamine her beliefs about love, life and relationships, Dressler’s play has heart, soul and lots and lots of laughs. If you ever get a chance to see it, go.

Tips for Next Year

Amp Up the Street Festival  More food trucks, more arts and crafts for sale, and more vendors in general. Every theatre in South Florida should have a booth at the street festival. This is a festival for theatregoers, so this is the place to give information about your upcoming season and get new butts in your sets. The Fringe Festival is a complement, not competition.

Set Limits  Some of the plays we saw were an hour long, and that was too much. A time limit of 40 minutes would keep things moving along and allow attendees to see more plays.

Stage Placement  There were three stages in two buildings, two in one building on the seventh and eleventh floor respectively, and one on the first floor in the other building. The first floor venue proved problematic because too much of the street fair noise filtered in. It was too obtrusive during a comedy like Reality Sucks, a comedy that generated lots of laughter, but it was a distraction during Senseless, a beautiful movement piece with its own acoustic guitar/singer accompaniment. Stages should all be on higher floors to eliminate noise.

Put More Info Online  A printable grid of the stages, plays and times available online would be a great tool in planning the day. More info about the festival in general would also be a great help.

From what I saw, the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival was a terrific success. Having it at a Broward College lends it instant credibility and accessibility. No matter what was going on behind the scenes, from an audience perspective, everything ran smoothly. There were plenty of volunteers to answer questions. The whole festival had an easy-going vibe that made for a very relaxing, fun day.

I’m already looking forward to writing the words Second Annual Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival.

Events at Stonewall Gallery Spotlight LGBT Characters on Stage and on TV

By Mary Damiano

Bruno Vida as Angel in Slow Burn Theatre Company's production of Rent

Bruno Vida as Angel in Slow Burn Theatre Company’s production of Rent

Two entertainment events that explore the evolution of LGBT characters and how they are presented are on the calendar this week at Stonewall Gallery in Wilton Manors.

Slow Burn Theatre Company opened their production of Rent this past weekend, and tonight, you can get a sneak peak of that show when the company presents “Songs from Rent” at the Stonewall Gallery. Meet the actors, hear the songs and learn how Rent changed the way LGBT lives are portrayed on stage.

The event will take place tonight, April 14, 7-9:30 p.m. Complimentary refreshments will be provided.  Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to Rent and Little Shop of Horrors, Slow Burn’s last show in West Boca. In October, the company moves to Broward Center’s Amaturo Theatre, where their season opener will be Big Fish.

For more information, visit SlowBurnTheatre.org.

Tomorrow night, the Lavender Salon presents “Change the Channel: Television and the Emergence of LGBTQ Media” a panel discussion about the evolution of gay characters in the first three decades of TV.

Archie Bunker finds out his macho buddy is gay on an episode All in the Family

Archie Bunker finds out his macho buddy is gay on an episode All in the Family

The event is in conjunction with the gallery’s exhibition, As Seen On TV: An Exploration of LGBT Characters: 1954-1979, now on display through April 26.

Presented by Stonewall National Museum & Archives and Florida Atlantic University, the Lavender Salon is an ongoing series of panel discussions dedicated to LGBTQ issues, topics, thought leaders and scholarship. The panelists are Matt Kane, Programs Editor in Entertainment Media from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); Wanhsiu Sunny Tsai, Ph.D., Strategic Communication, University of Miami; and Charles L. Ross, curator of the exhibit. The discussion will be moderated by Fred Fejes, a professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University.

The panel will take place tomorrow night, April 15, 7-8:30 p.m. For more information, visit Stonewall-Museum.org.

Both events take place at the Stonewall Gallery, 2157 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors.