Friday, February 5, 2016

Do This: Your weekend, ready to go.

Fuck the groundhog. Cold or no cold, you deserve some fun.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 10:45 AM

Weekends are like snowflakes. Every one is different, and they taste delicious on your tongue. Of course, fuck snowflakes, because this is Florida and right about now we've worn all our pretty winter clothes and are thinking longingly about sitting on a warm beach with a rum drink.

Unfortunately for us, that fucking groundhog is a selfish bastard and we're looking at another weekend of what the Danes call "lovely summer weather" but you and I call "some cherry-crusted bullshit."

Nevertheless, a weekend is a weekend, and not to be wasted. Here's how to make the most of yours:

You know what? Have a light lunch, then leave work early to make the 5 p.m. crawfish boil at Ricky P.'s, From there, head to Gulfport's Catherine Hickman Theater lobby to see Ducks, Kittens and Puppies: Our Love Affair With Animals, a photo show that includes some of Gulfport's irregular pets, some of CL's staffers' pets, and a few protected animals. The artist reception lasts from 6-8 p.m., leaving you plenty of time to grab a cocktail from the warm and cozy bar down the street. Which one, you ask? Take your pick: Pia's Trattoria or Boca Bay both make great options!

On to Saturday, have a leisurely breakfast – grab a cafe con leche and a muffin at St. Petersburg's Slate Door Brew– and then head to the third annual Localtopia in William's Park. 

Check out everything local – from the beer to the bags – and then head south for Clyde Butcher's spring open house. No one photographs Florida like him; go see his breathtaking black and white landscapes. Yes, Venice can be quite a haul, so pack a windbreaker and take advantage of nearby Venice Beach to grab some great shark's teeth, then have a quick meal on the pier at Sharky's. On your way back, stop by the Citrus Place (if you haven't read Kate Bradshaw's piece about Florida citrus, you should – she interviewed owner Ben Tillett) in Terra Ceia for some fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice.

Now, as for Sunday: Get to the Florida State Fair. Yeah, yeah, deep-fried everything, potential deathtraps disguised as rides, the chance to flirt with career carnies... you want to see the fish tank competition. Seriously. Also, the Hollywood Pig Races. That's thing, people. Check out or non-deep-fried coverage of the fair, get a picture of an outrageous chicken, and tweet it to us (@CL_arts). Make sure you see the Hollywood Pig Races, the Insect Encounter (complete with explanations of how medical examiners can tell how long someone's been dead) and, while you're at it, feed a butterfly or two. 

OK, so for a cold winter weekend, you accomplished a hell of a lot. Well done, you guys! Let's do it again next week – same bat time, same bat channel, but maybe we can wear shorts, eh?

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Straz's Next Generation Ballet awarded highest honor

Your weekly dance blog: Ballet on the rise in Florida

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 5:34 PM


January has come and gone and with the start of this new month, February brings a new assemblage of dance happenings around Tampa. But first, someone has a little bragging to do. The Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), the largest international dance network, gave the Straz Center for the Performing Arts’ Next Generation Ballet (NGB) their highest award, Outstanding School earlier this year. Orlando Ballet School also won this award, which makes it safe to say that Florida is pretty badass when it comes to dance.

NGB is part of the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory, which educates over 70,000 people every year in performing arts. Many NGB dancers received prestigious awards and will go to New York City in April to compete in finals for scholarships and professional job offers.

Paging crazy dance moms
: If you think you or your kid has got what it takes to be the next ballet prodigy, I recommend giving NGB a call.

What’s happening this week?


Bomba Body Dance and Drumming Co. provides weekly classes for your grooving needs. This Saturday, Feb. 6, they are offering their Bomba Body One Dance class at 11 a.m. in New Port Richey, and Dance Fitness at 2 p.m. in Tampa. For more information (and payments) contact email them or call 813-446-5068.

Keep an eye out next week for tons of more events and inside looks at upcoming shows and auditions! Again, stay posted and remember to dance like no one is watching! <End cliché sendoff> See you next week.

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Sundance Favorites 2016: Eckerd goes to Park City

Eckerd students and Professor Nate Andersen, went to Sundance and saw (almost) all the things.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Alek Pfeiffer, John Burdette, Alex Watkins, Bayley Cron, and Kevin Smith at the Sundance premiere of Yoga Hosers - ALEK PFEIFFER
  • Alek Pfeiffer
  • Alek Pfeiffer, John Burdette, Alex Watkins, Bayley Cron, and Kevin Smith at the Sundance premiere of Yoga Hosers
While it started out small in 1978 as the Utah/US Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival expanded in 1985 and moved to the mountains of Park City with the support of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. That year saw the debut film of the Coen Brothers, Blood Simple, and Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise, the film that was arguably the inspiration for a whole generation of independent film hits, starting with Stephen Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape in 1989 and Richard Linklater’s Slacker in 1991 and Kevin Smith’s Clerks in 1994. Soderbergh returns this year as the producer of a television series based on his 2009 film The Girlfriend Experience, and it is a mark of the critical and cultural importance of these once-unknown low budget filmmakers that the documentary lineup at Sundance 2016 includes a full-length feature about the prolific “slacker” himself (21 Years: Richard Linklater), whose Boyhood was the biggest hit at 2014’s festival. Kevin Smith was also back this year with the Yoga Hosers, starring his daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp, along with Mr. Depp himself who reprises his role from Tusk as the bumbling Québécois detective, Guy Lapointe.

While critics didn’t love it, and I myself deliberately missed it, several of my students were there at the premiere. Nearly every year I bring a crew of student reporters to Sundance from Eckerd College, who post pictures and video and write about their experiences on our Sundance blog. This year they got a picture with Smith and posted responses to the film that confirmed my initial sense that this was a film for another generation. Eckerd sophomore John Burdette, who said the film was number one on his list of things to see at Sundance this year, wrote: “it is a Kevin Smith film, so I was not expecting to walk in and be blown away by an amazing story and acting. I was simply entertained — something Kevin has mastered. The story was crazy, the characters were crazier and the whole thing perfectly embodies what a great bad film should be.” Bayley Cron, also a sophomore, wrote: “While, yes, it was absolutely terrible, it kept me entertained and laughing throughout the entire film.” Alek Pfeiffer, Eckerd College junior and double major in Marine Science and Film Studies, and a self-proclaimed superfan of Kevin Smith, found the film “outrageously funny” but admits that many viewers are likely to consider it both “juvenile and stupid.” Here’s how he described the plot:

Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie (played by Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp) are high school sophomores whose lives revolve around their cell phones, their punk band "GlamThrax," and partying with cute senior boys.  Unfortunately, they have to work a shift at the local Eh-2-Zed convenient store at the same time as the party... seriously WTF?!?!?  The Colleens close shop early and invite the partiers to the Eh-2-Zed, but things go horribly wrong when tiny Canadian Nazi clones, made of bratwurst, begin killing the cute high school boys by entering them through their butts.  Luckily the girls are trained to destroy any enemy using the art of yoga, leading them to save Canada from an army of "Bratzis."

My students were required to see at least 15 films each, but most saw many more. I ended up seeing about 30. While for some the most exciting moments of the festival were getting pictures with celebrities such as Nick Jonas, John Krasinski, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Paul Rudd and Daniel Radcliffe, several were surprised by how much they loved the low-budget independent films starring actors they’d never heard of. Here are some of the highlights:

Nate Parker, director of Birth of a Nation, tears up as his film is greeted with a standing ovation. - NATHAN ANDERSEN
  • Nathan Andersen
  • Nate Parker, director of Birth of a Nation, tears up as his film is greeted with a standing ovation.
Easily the biggest hit at the festival this year was Birth of a Nation, a film that boldly justifies its appropriation and re-interpretation of the title of the highly influential but racist early film by D.W. Griffiths. This is the first feature film directed by Nate Parker, who overcame enormous challenges in bringing this story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion to the screen.

The film won both the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award for fiction films this year, and sold to Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million from a budget of $10 million, making it the biggest deal at Sundance 2016. It deserved the acclaim, as both a powerful and moving depiction of an important episode in the history of the United States, whose telling couldn’t be more timely in the context of recent events leading to the influential and essential Black Lives Matter movement. I would be very surprised if it isn’t nominated for Best Picture and Best Director and Best Actor for Nate Parker in the starring role at the 2016 Academy Awards, and I wouldn't be surprised if the film swept them all.

Other films I loved at the festival include Embrace of the Serpent, a Colombian film about early explorers in the Amazon jungle, which had already played at the Cannes Film Festival and will be playing again as the opening night film at the upcoming Eckerd College “Visions of Nature/Voices of Nature” Environmental Film Festival. Love and Friendship is Whit Stillman’s hilarious and highly effective adaptation of Jane Austen’s short epistolary novel Lady Susan. Kelly Reichardt was back at Sundance this year with two films: a restoration of her Miami-based first film River of Grass, that plays like a funnier cross between Godard's Breathless and Malick's Badlands, and that was one of only two films directed by women at Sundance when it debuted there in 1994; and her latest film Certain Women, a subtle and arresting anthology film about four introspective women who find themselves faced with tough decisions in morally ambiguous circumstances.

First Girl I Loved, written and directed by Kerem Sanga, also deals with a (much younger) woman who is caught up in an unsettling situation when she discovers she has fallen in love with the most popular girl at her high school. Faced with both intense longing and confusion about her sexual identity, Sasha confides in her longstanding best friend, but finds him less than supportive, since, as it turns out, he had always had a crush on her. While I, unfortunately, missed it, several of my students agreed that it was among the best films they saw at Sundance this year. Alek Pfeiffer wrote that the film “completely surpassed my expectations” and was “one of the most accurate depictions of high school relationships I have seen.” Vanessa Lieberman wrote that “seeing this movie could help those who are afraid to come out and to not be so concerned what people might think of them."

There were, remarkably, two films at the festival this year about the Sarasota-based reporter Christine Chubbuck, who took her own life in 1974 by shooting herself in the head on live television. One, titled simply Christine, was a fictional dramatization, directed by Antonio Campos, and starring Rebecca Hall in an impeccable and arresting performance as Chubbuck. The other, which I was lucky enough to be able to see after I’d seen Christine, was a fascinating experiment that blurred the lines between documentary and fiction. Kate Plays Christine was directed by Robert Greene, a documentary filmmaker and editor who, in a Q&A after the film claimed to be obsessed by the idea that who we are is always to some degree a performance, and in his last two films has become intrigued by the way that actors in particular manage to navigate the line between their lives and their performances. The film “stars” the actress Kate Lynn Sheil, as she prepares to take on the role of Christine Chubbuck in a (fictional) film about her life, a film that is never actually realized except in the excerpts we see brought to life in the documentary.

Lee and Joe Chandler (Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler) are the troubled brothers at the heart of Manchester by the Sea - CLAIRE FOLGER
  • Claire Folger
  • Lee and Joe Chandler (Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler) are the troubled brothers at the heart of Manchester by the Sea
The best film I saw at Sundance this year, maybe the best film I've seen in the last few years, was Manchester by the Sea, which is appearing 16 years after its director and writer Kenneth Lonergan won the Grand Jury Prize and the screenwriting award at Sundance 2000 with his debut feature You Can Count on Me (starring Laura Linney, Matthew Broderick, and Mark Ruffalo.) In between, he directed only one film, the excellent Margaret, starring Anna Paquin and Matt Damon, completed in 2007 but never fully released until 2014, due to a legal battle that ensued when its producers decided the cut he delivered was too long. His latest film follows a handyman, based in Boston, who returns to his childhood home in Manchester when his older brother passes away. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn why he left in the first place and why the return is so painful. The writing is subtle and rich, the acting is impeccable, and the visuals sometimes astonishing; this is a sometimes emotionally devastating and yet deeply moving film, very obviously the work of a filmmaker who has fully mastered the art. This is why I come to Sundance.

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Hail, Caesar!: Part mirth, part meh.

Like The Hudsucker Proxy without the jokes or black heart.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 1:12 PM

For their first comedy since 2008's Burn After Reading, filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen return to Capitol Pictures, the fictional studio that employed the doomed protagonist of 1991's Barton Fink. Hail, Caesar! offers the tale of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a no-nonsense Capitol exec who must contend with a whole lot of nonsense from pregnant mermaids, extortionist Marxist screenwriters, bickering religious experts, competing twin gossip columnists (played by Tilda Swinton) and a plot to kidnap the star (George Clooney) of the studio's latest Ben Hur-style epic, the film-within-a-film that gives this one its name. It's literally all in a day's work.
Hail, Caesar!

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum. 
Opens Feb. 5.

The real-life Eddie Mannix was, like Brolin's character, a notorious "fixer" at MGM during the heyday and twilight of that studio's golden age, whose possible role in the death of George Reeves was dramatized in 2006's Hollywoodland. In the Coens' universe, the fictionalized Mannix is gripped by a crisis of faith. A devout Catholic and loyal company man to his core, he finds himself, not unlike the Roman legions whose story he's bringing to the screen, a foot soldier for an empire whose façade is beginning to crumble.

On the one hand, he's tempted away from his demanding job doing the often-misguided bidding of studio boss Nick Skank (a constant presence, despite never appearing on screen) by the offer of a much cushier position with a maker of apocalyptic war machines. On the other, he must contend with a shadowy cabal that literally dub themselves "The Future." Whether he will stand firm as a defender of the American way of life (that Capitol is but a few letters different from capitalism is no accident) marks the film's central dramatic tension.

The joy of this setup is how it allows the Coens and cinematographer Roger Deakins to luxuriate both in period details and in classic Hollywood tropes: singing cowboys, bathing beauties, even a not-so-subtly homoerotic song-and-dance number featuring Channing Tatum (doing his best impression of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra from On the Town).

But given such a broad palate from which to work, the film should feel a lot more fun than it does. It is, in the parlance of our times, "low energy." Many of the jokes don't land. In the effort to give us the full studio tour of Capitol Pictures, Hail, Caesar! detours into too many ill-conceived subplots and thinly realized characters. The screen is dense with stars, but some make only the briefest of cameos, while others – including Scarlett Johansson, Swinton and even Clooney himself – make do with broad caricatures that play as rehashed versions of work they've done better elsewhere.

The film's closest cousin in the Coens' oeuvre likely is The Hudsucker Proxy, with which it shares a time period, a knack for Old Hollywood pastiche and a generally sardonic take on American institutions. But it ultimately lacks either that film's frenetic joke density or its black heart. Not unlike the pictures it satirizes, Hail, Caesar! is a frequently entertaining visual feast that ultimately falls short of the work of art it might have been. 

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love Af-FAIR

Get off the midway and find your Florida at the fair.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 2:06 PM

If you had told 23-year-old Cathy that 43-year-old Cathy would ever write an homage to the Florida State Fair, 23-year-old Cathy would have thrown her coffee (23-year-old Cathy always had coffee) in your face, stomped out her Virginia SuperSlims menthol cigarette with her Nine West “Kimmy” stacked-heel penny loafer, sneered a little and walked away.

Twenty-three-year-old Cathy was kind of a bitch about the Florida State Fair.
Florida State Fair
$9, plus rides (armbands, $20-$30). Feb. 4-16. Florida State Fairgrounds – 4800 US Hwy. 301 North, Tampa. 1-800-345-FAIR.
  It wasn’t her fault, not entirely. The country music station WQYK had a lot to do with it, although, really, it comes down to Cathy being way too immature to appreciate the finer things.

Finer things? At the Florida State Fair, where if you can eat it, you can deep fry it?

To explain, let’s go back to WQYK and the 23-year-old me. Fresh out of college, I’d landed myself a job producing the 7 p.m.-midnight show on the station. This involved answering phones, pulling music and commercials, and trying not to piss off the talent. From time to time, it also involved attending certain events, such as the fair, where, for $6 an hour, I would sit in a stagecoach underneath the WQYK banner. I would give people pens and listen to them tell me how much they loved my boss, Tom Rivers, and the station.

I love WQYK, I do, but 20 years ago some of its listeners had some, ahem, rough edges. Which I witnessed. Trapped in a stagecoach. On cold, windy February days for over 12 hours at a time. For about $84 a day. It makes one rethink one’s life choices. I quit a few months later and swore, à la Vivien Leigh, that with god as my witness, I’d never attend that hillbilly hell again.

Fast forward to me, mid-30s, freelance writer. I get assigned a “let’s go to the fair” piece. I go, expecting toothless rednecks with never-seen-a-cow cowboy boots and “don’t get dirt in my” pickup trucks. I learn, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, how fucking wrong it is to judge Florida based on a few Florida Man news pieces and a singular stagecoach-laden experience.

So, how did I fall in love with the fair? It wasn’t hard, really. It was more a matter of pentetrating the fair’s own PR, which encourages you to eat all the things and ride all the rides. Here’s a tip: Stay off the damn midway. It’s a Faces of Death movie waiting to happen. The food? Meh. Sure, try a deep-fried pinot noir if you’d like (if they don’t have one, they should), but the real treasures of the fair? They date back to the reason we have this under-appreciated, over-celebrated festival of Florida.

You heard me. It’s a festival of Florida. If you live in Florida for any other reason than you can’t afford the gas to move north (and if that’s the case, come see me and I’ll Kickstart you the money), you need to go the fair to understand your state. Not the memes and the Florida Man bullshit and the kooky way the media thinks we’re a bunch of alligator-tossing flakka-taking hillbillies, but the Florida waiting for you underneath all that. The Florida State Fair celebrates all the tremendous things about this glorious, swampy, sand-soaked state, and if you don’t stray from the midway, you’ll never see it. It’s like driving across the state on the Interstate instead of taking the back roads: You’ve visited the state, but you haven’t experienced it.

Part of the fair’s delight comes in the form of exploration and discovery, from walking into the Charlie Lykes Arena, the goat tent and the Florida Living Center. It comes from walking into the Florida Fish and Wildlife building and asking the rangers what they think about last year’s black bear hunt. While we want to encourage you to do a bit of that, if you’re as skeptical as some of my coworkers about why the fair rocks, you may need a guide to get you started.

Bearing that in mind, here’s the shortlist of why you need to visit the Florida State Fair, and what you need to do once you’re there.

Muppet chickens. If you think all chickens look the same, run, don’t walk, to the poultry exhibit, where you’ll find a cornucopia of chickens that look like something from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Look for the “Fancy” poultry, because that’s what they’re called and also, these chickens are fancy. Seriously, better coifs than Jennifer Aniston in the mid-’90s. Bonus: The incubator at the entrance lets you watch eggs hatch. Adorbs. Daily.

Citrus. Florida does citrus and berries better than any other state. That’s right, California, we’re talking to you. On Feb. 8, the fair celebrates citrus. Read Kate Bradshaw’s article on why the Florida orange industry could be gasping its last and then head over to the citrus display. Bonus: On Feb. 7., the Rare Fruits Council will offer a Tropical Fruit Tasting (Florida Living Center), and if you duck into the Agriculture Hall of Fame you can taste fresh Florida strawberries and citrus throughout the fair.

Dead people. OK, so they won’t have dead people — at least, not intentionally — but do you watch Bones? Turns out all the stuff Hodgins says about bugs? It’s true, and you can see for yourself at the Fresh From Florida Insect Encounter in the Ag Hall of Fame. Daily.

Dogs. Check out the Jack Russell Terrier races (Sat., Feb. 6) and dog agility shows throughout the fair, then go home and tell your dog she isn’t pulling her weight.

Fish tanks. Fish or art? Um, both. Go to the Florida Center and look for something called “The Aquaculture Competition.” What you’ll find are fish tanks pimped beyond belief. Entrees from years past have included a tank emulating the dystopia of the German expressionist film Metropolis, a South Pacific-themed tank (complete with an erupting volcano) and, of course, tanks recreating coral reefs, rainforests and sunken temples.

Robots. They’re not self-aware... yet. The fair’s hosting this year’s state championship. Teams of students (elementary through high school) design and build robots in a game-based environment. On the last day of the competition, get a hands-on demonstration of upper-level robots. Feb. 13, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Feb. 14, 12-6:30 p.m.; and Feb. 15, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Hollywood Racing Pigs. Look, this is plain old fun to watch. Think of it as a living bacon exhibit, and may the fastest sausage win. Daily at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.; near the South Dome.

Cavies and bunnies. Science classifies cavies as rodents. In polite society, we call them guinea pigs, thank you very much. Come see the best bunnies and guinea pigs in Florida at the cavy judging contest (9 a.m.), then stick around for the bunny judging — trust me, these are not your garden-variety bunnies — at 1 p.m. February 13, Charlie Lykes Arena.

Llama Obstacle Course. In between the guinea pigs and bunny judging, watch llamas (trained by Florida teens) run — or whatever it is llamas do — obstacle courses and compete in performance tests. Feb. 13, noon.

Cows. Do you call yourself an environmentalist? Then get to the livestock shows and learn how Florida livestock can help you reduce your carbon footprint. Florida is the ninth largest cattle-producing state in the country, and the fair showcases the best of Florida cattle, including Angus, Brahmin, zebu, and Santa Gerturdis. Go see these creatures up close, along with goats, pigs, and other Florida livestock. Daily.

Organic cooking. If you eat organic fruits and veggies, you can learn more about how to prepare them at the fair. On Feb. 6, the Florida Learning Center will have an organic cooking demonstration from 1-3 p.m.

Butterflies. Feed butterflies, including monarchs, swallowtail and painted ladies. 10 am.-6 p.m., daily.

Pretty politics. Forget Iowa and Trump and email scandals — just for a few minutes — and head to Florida Center West. Instead of caucuses you’ll find dresses worn by first ladies, and china used in the White House. Walk among replicas of some of the best-known White House iconry, like the Oval Office or the podium used by President Obama during press conferences. Go ahead, take that selfie of yourself addressing the media or dining at a State Dinner. Daily.

That’s just scratching the surface of the off-the-midway, not-even-a-little-deep-fried Florida State Fair experience. Will there be pickup trucks? Of course there will be. You cannot pull a trailer full of cows in a Honda Element, people. Will there be rednecks? Most definitely. But before you sneer and make a joke, think long and hard about how serious you are about eating local, because odds are, there’s a “redneck” making it happen.

As for the drunk guys with three teeth just itching to be the next Florida Man Tweet? You’ll find him on the midway, eating an ice cream hamburger, and you want to know a little secret?

He’s not from here. He’s from Ohio.

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The Laugh Tract — Who's Bringing the Funny

Send in the clowns!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 1:34 PM

William Shatner is at The Mahaffey Wednesday night.
  • William Shatner is at The Mahaffey Wednesday night.
There's a lot of comedy on tap this weekend, but nothing on Sunday. That's because of the big game, of course. Hours of coverage, plenty of action, and a few paws in the water bowl.

We're talking about the Puppy Bowl, of course. It's on Animal Planet every year before the Super Bowl. That should be a good game, too, by the way.

Anyway, no comedy on Sunday. But there are plenty of options during the week to make up for it.

Here's the lineup:

Theaters and Special Events

William Shatner. This might not technically qualify as stand-up, but how could we leave him off the list? The Star Fleet Captain and pop culture icon brings his one-man show to St. Petersburg. Expect plenty of self-aware references and spoken-word performances performed with a wink and a nod to his enduring celebrity.
The Mahaffey Theater (400 1st St. S., St. Petersburg) Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. 727-893-7832 or $59.50-$69.50.

Catch Jackie Mason at The Capitol Theatre Thursday night.
  • Catch Jackie Mason at The Capitol Theatre Thursday night.
Jackie Mason. When you talk about "old school" comedy, you could sum it up with a photo of Mason. Now in his 80s with six decades of comedy under his belt, he's still entertaining audiences with his trademark cadence (nobody sounds quite like him), conversational style and quick wit.
The Capitol Theatre (405 Cleveland St., Clearwater) Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 727-791-7400 or $25-$50.

Girls Night Out. This annual show returns with a new trio of talent. Comedians Aniria, Juanita Lolita and Trish Keating showcase different styles, from clean to snarky to a little racy. But they all have local roots, plenty of experience and a knack for keeping crowds laughing.
Largo Cultural Center (105 Central Park Drive, Largo) Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 727-587-6793 or $24.50-$39.50.

Katt Williams. For a while there, Williams was making news more for his off-stage antics than stand-up comedy. But now he's back on tour, delivering his trademark adult conversations about contreoversial topics. The fact that it's called the Conspiracy Theory tour should reassure fans that Williams is back to shocking people on stage.
USF Sun Dome (4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa) Saturday at 8 p.m. 813-974-3111 or $50.75-$102.75.

Rita Rudner is at The Capitol Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
  • Rita Rudner is at The Capitol Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Rita Rudner. When you see a current success story in the entertainment field, there's usually an earlier talent who paved the way for them. Most female comedians owe a nod to Rudner, who was one of the stars of the comedy explosion back in the '80s. While many of those comedians (of both genders) are long gone, Rudner's still thriving, delivering her calm wordplay and punch line twists after more than three decades on stage. The Capitol Theatre (405 Cleveland St., Clearwater) Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. 727-791-7400 or $29-$49.

Comedy Clubs

Harland Williams. Williams has played some weird characters in movies, and his on-stage persona is also unusual. He has a down-home likeability, but his comedy is anything but simple. Expect plenty of material that might be considered absurd, layered, thought-provoking or all of the above. Tampa Improv (1600 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa) Wednesday at 8 p.m.; Thursday at 8 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. 813-864-4000 or $5-$22.

Johnny Beehner. Beehner's casual, conversational style is a strong format for his well-timed punchlines. He'll be delivering laughs all weekend, but the early Saturday show is a special event. Beehner and longtime funnyman Spanky Brown will put on a show benefiting the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. Side Splitters (12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa) Thursday at 8:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.; Saturday at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. 813-960-1197 or $10-$16.50.

Julie Scoggins. You probably wouldn't expect a 6'2" ex-trucker to be performing stand-up comedy. And even if you did, you wouldn't expect them to be female. And if you somehow got that far, would you expect them to be funny? Scoggins is all of the above, offering blue-collar wit and crowd-pleasing material on stages around the country.
Snappers Grill & Comedy Club (36657 U.S. Highway 19 N., Palm Harbor) Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 727-938-2027 or $12.

Bull. Don't judge a book (or a comedian) by the cover. On the outside, Bull has a somewhat intimidating look. But the family man is full of jokes on the inside, with plenty of self-deprecating humor that wrings laughs out of everyday situations. Coconuts (5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach) Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30 p.m. 727-360-5653 or $18-20.

Mike Rivera. ABC’s The View named him “America’s Most Hilarious Teacher” in their national contest. Now Rivera will perform at Coconuts with a fast-paced set full of adult-oriented teachable moments. Coconuts (5501 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach) Friday and Saturday at 9:30 p.m. 727-360-5653 or $20-25.

Devin Siebold. Siebold is 6'6" and a teacher, so there's no shortage of original material in his set. He makes the most of it with clever story-telling and a knack for sharp punch lines.  2 Palms (2950 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater) Saturday at 8:30 p.m. 727-400-6920 or $10.

One-Nighters and Independent Shows

Kava Komedy. This regular show features local up-and-comers to warm up the crowd, and a more established closer to cap things off. This week it's Todd StimmellBula Kafe (2500 5th Ave N., St. Petersburg) Thursday at 9 p.m. or 727-498-8913. Free.

G. David Howard. Howard's weekly residence at Sporty's features the longtime comedian drawing from his decades of stage experience. He mixes his regular material with plenty of crowd work to provide the type of set only a true stand-up veteran can provide. Sporty's On The Beach (17093 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach) Friday and Saturday at 9:35 p.m. 727-596-6725 or $20. (Look for a $5 coupon under "Special Offers."

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Joy ride: Fascinating characterizations drive August Wilson's Jitney

Fascinating characterizations drive the eighth play in August Wilson’s Century Cycle.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 4:29 PM

CALL CENTER: ranney plays Doub, a Korean War vet and gypsy cab driver. Chad Jacobs/American Stage - CHAD JACOBS
  • Chad Jacobs
  • CALL CENTER: ranney plays Doub, a Korean War vet and gypsy cab driver. Chad Jacobs/American Stage
Sometimes the theater puts you in the presence of characters so captivating, you don’t want the experience to end. So it is with Jitney, August Wilson’s hugely likable play now on the boards at American Stage. The more we get acquainted with the eight men and one woman who show up from time to time at a Pittsburgh Hill District gypsy cab company, the centerpiece of this delectable drama, the more pleasure we take in their language, their humor, their idiosyncrasies and even their anger.
American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg , through Feb. 28. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 3 p.m. $39-$49. 727-823-PLAY.

Deftly directed by L. Peter Callender, these nine figures are funny, admirable, dangerous, misunderstood, wounded, dreamstruck, decent and implacable. What drives them is what drives us all: the desire for love, work, dignity, peace. Some of them seem headed for a thinkably happy ending; others remain stalled in a tragedy with no solution. Some are just beginning to make a life for themselves; others are near the end of their journey. When it’s all over — when the last line is spoken and we’re compelled to leave the theater — we feel torn, bereft. Couldn’t everyone stay just a little while longer?

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PostSecret Tampa

PostSecret creator Frank Warren talks to his about his show at the Straz and a few secrets of his own.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 4:24 PM

  • Frank Warren
We know you have a secret.

Do you still sleep with a teddy bear? Did you have sex with your high school math teacher? Do you wish your brother would die?

Whatever your secret — big or small —  PostSecret: The Show will give you a chance to share it on February 13. We chatted with the master secret sharer himself, PostSecret founder Frank Warren, about the PostSecret movement.
$25-$45. Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m. Ferguson Hall at Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. W.C. McInnes Place, Tampa. 813-229-STAR.
Why did you start PostSecret?
"I can find a number of origin stories and starting points. I've always been fascinated by postcards. In my own family we always kept secrets, and there were secrets kept from me. Maybe the deepest reason for starting the project was that I came to understand maybe I had a secret I was hiding from myself. It was through this community art project ... that I could unbury parts of my past."

Warren said he received a postcard once with a photo of a bedroom door with holes in it. The sender revealed the holes came from when his mother tried to break down the door to keep beating him.

"I was reminded through all these strangers that when I was growing up, I had actually two of those doors," Warren said. "And for the first time I really understood there're two kinds of secrets; the ones we hide from others and the ones we keep from ourselves."

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Your New Guide to Tampa’s Dance Scene

What you need and want to know about dance in the area.

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 12:34 PM

Dance scene? What dance scene? Until now, unless you are a BFA Dance major or a prima ballerina in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, you are probably clueless about events going on around here in the dance community. Maybe you couldn’t care less, or maybe you’re somewhat like me. I lived and breathed dance until I graduated high school, then moved to a new city in a new state, sure to find a perfect fit for my dance needs as a post high school grad. Turns out, making that dream come true is a lot harder in the real world than I had pictured it. Let’s face it. Being part of the dance world today can be like looking for Atlantis. Until now. I want a place that simply gives me the week by week 4-1-1 on dance events, news and stories so I can get involved, inspired and hopefully do the same for you. So here we are.

Need you look no further.


So what’s going on this week?

This Saturday (Jan. 30), Ruth Eckerd Hall presents Dancing with the Stars: Dance All Night Tour at both 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets range from $38.75-$135 for the full theatre experience and can be bought online at

If you’re looking for something a little more hands on, try one of Bomba Body Dance and Drumming Co.’s weekly classes! This Saturday (Jan. 30), they are offering their Bomba Body One Dance class at 11 a.m. in New Port Richey, and Dance Fitness at 2 p.m. in Tampa. If you’re a performer, Bomba is also hosting auditions on Saturday at 3 p.m. at their Tampa location for CuKiAra, the Folkloric performing group. For more information and payments contact or call 813-446-5068. You will definitely find me at some of these classes.

Check back next week for even more events and info about everything you need to know about dance in the Tampa area. Until then, keep dancing around your bedroom in your underwear.

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Reasons to binge watch: Muppets, succubus and pigeons in bikinis

A healthy serving of weekly TV bingeing guaranteed to meet your dietary needs.

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 12:08 PM

  • Michael Becker/FX Networks
Gone are the days of your good ol' weekly print publication, TV Guide. This is the golden age of television, where a chaotic array of TV shows lies scattered amongst us in a heap of broadcast, cable and internet streaming networks. In this day and age, finding a TV show is about as easy as swimming through a murky sea muddled with strange creatures, odd characters and potentially hazardous plot development. Cast the decision-making anxiety aside, readers. I’ve separated the sheep from the goats, and selected the best shows you don’t want to miss this week. Get ready to sink into television oblivion like a feather floating down an empty canyon.

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