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"Shakespeare as it should be. OST is hammering out a new tradition...first rate entertainment."

- Orlando Weekly

Plays and Events

17th Season (2005 - 2006)

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Twelfth Night The Jungle Book
Arms and the Man PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
Miss Nelson is Missing Robinson Crusoe
Every Christmas Story Ever Told Julius Caesar
The Imaginary Invalid

September 14 - October 2, 2005

By William Shakespeare

One of Shakespeare's most popular comedies! A shipwrecked girl finds love and laughter in handsome Duke Orsino's court in the seaside city of Illyria, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Hollywood, California in the studio days of the late 1930's. Classic Shakespearean gender bending, mistaken identities, a beautiful heiress, her priggish manservant, a witty clown and a band of merry drunken revelers inhabit a world of matinee idols and lovely leading ladies!

Hollywood Nights!
Steve Schneider, ORLANDO WEEKLY

As the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's old-Hollywood take on Twelfth Night begins, the clown Feste (Andrew Shulman) seats himself in front of a projection screen and reads an RKO-derived set of opening credits. The names of the play's stars and director Patrick Flick flash by, in a tone-setting show of black-and-white cheek. The action then turns live, if no less melodramatic. Strobe lights simulate a submarine attack, the survivors wash up on shore beneath a hillside bearing the Tinseltown legend "Illyria" ... and the choice is yours to either go with it or not.

Go with it. A rare easy swallow in the increasingly problematic category of Bardian updates, OSF's Twelfth Night makes re-envisioning Shakespeare seem like the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps it's that canny multimedia intro, which fixes the action in a world that's neither the playwright's Illyria nor the actual Hollywood of the 1930s, but some dreamlike hybrid of the two. Maybe it's the original music by Michael Andrew -- a song cycle perfect in its plaintive minstrelsy. Most likely, it's the privilege of seeing a supremely talented cast guided to recreate the best of Shakespeare and DeMille without lapsing into a disrespectful caricature of either source.

Director Flick has superimposed celluloid iconography onto the text so smoothly and successfully that you may be too caught up in the story to keep a full running tally of the references. As the stranded Viola (Christine Whitley) dons seaman's garb to serve as love's messenger (and eventually its sitting duck), she encounters a cast of supporting characters that just happen to be plucked straight from a Depression-era matinee. Feste is a Buster Keaton-type fool in both aspect and attire, while the roguish knight Sir Toby Belch (Michael Daly) owes a tippling debt to W.C. Fields. Anne Hering's conniving chamber gal, Maria, typifies Flick's adaptive approach: She's blond and Brooklyn-brassy but never over the top. Screeching is out of the question.

That's good news when it comes to the casting of Mindy Anders, a gifted actress whose OSF roles have too often required her to emulate an air-raid siren. Mourning becomes her in her role as Olivia, she of the deceased brother and the growing lust for secret drag king Viola. From Anders' first entrance, she strikes a willowy, impossibly tall figure -- one would swear she's wearing stilts beneath her black gown -- yet that quality of nearly alien remove is played for gentle pathos and affectionate humor, rather than cheap laughs... 

Actors Brandon Roberts (as an ostrich-like Sir Andrew Aguecheek) and Michael Gill (the revenge-minded servant Fabian) take part in a stalking scene that has them (briefly) contorting their bodies into nearly horizontal shapes that would give the finest chiropractor pause. Best of all is an unforgettable grace note in which Olivia's sourpuss of a steward, Malvolio (Eric Zivot), is called upon to feign a smile. The simple act of putting on a happy face requires a supreme physical effort that begins in his feet and works its way up his body slowly and with pronounced discomfort. I can't think of an actor working today who is in more obvious control of his every extremity.

Control should be the watchword for this production, which portends good things indeed for OSF's latest season. The show is Shakespeare as it should be: matching its author in its sense of adventuresome play, but not stooping to suggest that the old man needs endless jolts of joy-buzzer histrionics to remain relevant. I believe the word they used to use for it is "boffo."

Make it a Shakespeare 'Night'

ORLANDO - For fresh concept, surprising invention, precise portrayals and sleek style, it doesn't getny better than the Orlando Shakespeare Festival's third production of "Twelfth Night."

Directed by the talented Patrick Flick and designed by scenic designer Bert Scott and lighting designer Dave Upton, Shakespeare's gender-bending romantic comedy blossoms here in the swanky, sleek and glamorous 1930s Hollywood peopled with impressions of its sophisticated movie stars.

In fact, the production takes juicy slices from great black and white movies with the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It also takes a Ronco-matic to the original Shakespeare by tucking the famous opening line, "If music be the food of love, play on," into the production's second scene.

Purists may grumble, but it works. That's thanks in large part to Orlando crooner Michael Andrew (of "Swingerhead"), who composed the production's splendid original music.

A prelude begins with Feste, a Buster Keaton-type character who sits on a lone chair holding a box of popcorn. An old black and white movie flickers on a screen in front of him. The movie shows a scene of an imminent shipwreck, which suddenly bleeds onto the stage, with ship passengers and sailors running for safety.

This brings Flick's folio to its beginning: a shipwreck (one of Shakespeare's favorite devices) in which Viola is separated from her twin brother, Sebastian. Viola is rescued and brought to the shore of Illyria.

And this tiny part is so nice. The town of Illyria is . . . No, we can't tell you. It's part of a basket of fun little surprises that Flick gives us in the beginning of the production. Let's just say we know the setting is Tinseltown.

Not knowing how she will be received in this new town, Viola dons a sailor's uniform, calls herself Cesario and gets hired at Orsino's Palace, an art-deco inspired nightclub where lovers put on the Ritz. Her first job is to convince Olivia that Orsino's love is sincere.

But Olivia, a wealthy woman who wears haute couture mourner's clothes, takes on a bit of Garbo and wants to be left alone, until she sees Cesario and becomes infatuated.

And that is only the beginning. The play turns into a comic kaleidoscope, revealing an array of comic teams, foils, subplots, slapstick and silliness reminiscent of the best old comedy movies with greats like Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers.

Rather than have concept imposed on the play, it grows from it and weaves its seductive appeal like the ivy meandering up the walls and staircase of Olivia's Spanish colonial estate. That harmony is thanks to the exquisite and fun portrayals by a talented cast that milks each moment for all its worth.

Talented Actors

Svelte Mindy Anders slinks into the character of Olivia and does grand work showing off the divine clothing created by costume designer Denise Warner. Christine Whitley is sweet and tender as Viola/Cesario. But in this "Twelfth Night," the romantic leads end up supporting the masterful comic ensemble.

Using a squeaky, Brooklyn accent and physical stereotyping for Maria, Olivia's gentlewoman, Anne Hering seems to come right out of a B movie. Andrew Shulman, Michael Daly and a most-daffy Brandon Roberts as, respectively, Feste (a clown), Sir Toby Belch (Olivia's uncle) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Olivia's would-be suitor), have fun with antics and three-part harmony.

But what a find in Eric Zivot. As Malvolio, Olivia's fussy, super-cilious steward, Zivot is the soul of acting precision. His every movement, every glance and pose gives nuances to his portrayal and he gets the biggest laugh of the first act with a simple "hmph!" after one of his lines. And his attempt to turn his concrete frown into a smile brings in the biggest laugh in the second act. Finally, though, he brings pathos to the character.

True love, identity

Adding depth to the comedy is the undercurrent theme of true love, despite true identity. Orsino finds himself drawn to Cesario/Viola, despite the outwardly male identity. Olivia is drawn to Cesario/Viola despite the truth she is a female. When true identities are finally revealed, Orsino eventually turns from Olivia to Viola, hence the near anagram of Olivia and Viola.

And Malvolio (there's that Olivia, Viola thing again) goes from an insufferable image to one that is pitiable. Indeed, it is this final payoff that gives the production substance and gets it to resonate beyond humor and style.

Oh, What a Night in Hollywood
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

You can tell she's a movie queen by the way the Lady Olivia leads with her elegant shoulders, the way she poses, the way she pouts. As she's played by Mindy Anders in the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's breezy Twelfth Night, Olivia is a movie goddess of the highest order, but she's not the only Hollywood type in this particular kingdom. There's the streetwise maid, the feebleminded fop, the mournful madman with delusions of grandeur. Put those people around the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and all of them would have a movie contract by teatime.

William Shakespeare never set foot in the celluloid capital, but it's hard to fault director Patrick Flick's '30s-glam take on Shakespeare's timeless comedy, which turns the eccentrics of fictional Illyria into recognizable comic types from Hollywood's golden age. Flick may gloss over the melancholic story of love and loss that is at the center of Shakespeare's story. But the foolishness of these empty-headed mortals is on hand for all to enjoy.

The distant hills and the towering palms are still there, but the famous HOLLYWOOD sign has been transformed to read ILLYRIA in the Shakespeare Festival's production, where Bert Scott's Mediterranean-style set is graced by Dave Upton's dappled lighting and a full moon hanging low in the sky. But before you actually catch sight of Illyria, you're whisked off to the movies, complete with melodramatic overture (by swing-king Michael Andrew), popcorn and a grainy old-style film intro, which plops you right in the middle of the shipwreck that serves as preamble to Shakespeare's tale.

It's a terrific entree into a larger-than-life world, where glamour-queen Olivia mourns the loss of her dead brother, a wealthy guy named Orsino moans dramatically about his unrequited love for Olivia, and a young woman named Viola -- saved from the shipwreck but missing her twin brother, Sebastian -- decides to disguise herself as a boy, cast her lot with Orsino and hope for the best.

Wandering in and out of these stories is a comical subplot -- that of Olivia's good-for-nothing relative, Sir Toby Belch; his rich but vacuous sidekick, Sir Andrew Aguecheek; and the trick they play on her steward, the self-important Malvolio, who is convinced that Olivia loves only him.

Flick and his company obviously have had a fine time turning most of those characters into Hollywood archetypes, and... they succeed beautifully, from Anne Hering's dizzy little turn as Maria, Olivia's gangster's-moll of a maid, to Anders as the extravagant Olivia, who can't cross a room without turning her shoulders just so.

It's wonderful to watch this straitlaced lady loosening those laces, and just as wonderful to hang with Michael Daly's genially drunken Sir Toby and Brandon Roberts' doltish but zesty Sir Andrew: Watch him cut a caper, as he calls it, and you'll want to watch him do it again and again.

Best of all are the play's two comical masterpieces, the so-called fool, Feste, and the grandiose Malvolio. Andrew Shulman's keen-eyed Feste, the sharpest guy in the play, does a lovely job of strumming his ukulele, singing (beautifully) and pointing out folly wherever he finds it, which is just about everywhere.

And Eric Zivot, a festival newcomer who is on the Rollins College theater faculty, makes a masterly Malvolio -- first the epitome of a silent-film comedian with his precise movements and flat-footed walk, then downright heartbreaking when he is wronged.... if it's star quality you want, this production has it -- in Denise Warner's swanky movie-star costumes, in Andrew's jazzy reworkings of Feste's songs, in the comical interplay nearly everywhere you turn. Watch Zivot's Malvolio try to smile without a winch to pull up his mouth at the corners, and you could be watching Buster Keaton. It's hard to get any more Hollywood than that

Brilliant Entertainment!
Carl F. Gauze, INK 19

Ambiguity and androgyny are the key words in this modernization of Shakespeare's least confusing comedy. Wealthy Viola (Christine Whitley) is shipwrecked and separated from her nearly identical twin brother Sebastian (Christopher Kale Jones). They both wash up in Illyria, which looks suspiciously like 1920's Hollywood, complete with palm trees and a stunning, smog enhanced sunset. Violas best course is to get a job working for the lovesick nightclub owner Duke Orsino (Andrew Oswald), so she puts on a sailor suit and callers herself Cesario. Orsino courts the distant Olivia (Anders), but is not immune to Cesario's lithe charms. Olivia will have nothing to do with Orsino, but she, too fancies Cesario, and the more I think about this, the more appropriate the Hollywood setting seems. As the courting proceeds, the comic supporting charters Toby Belch (Daly), Andrew Aguecheek (Brandon Roberts) and Fabian (Michael Gill) cook up a plan to trick Olivia's steward Malvolio (Zivot) into believing she loves him.

The story is good, but the casting is great. Each holds both Shakespearian side and a Hollywood side, and they all seem at ease in both worlds. My favorite was Feste (Andrew Schulman), normally a secondary charter. Here Schulman waddles around in a Charlie Chaplin shtick, singing some decent songs by local hipster Michael Andrew, and serving as a framing device by opening each act as a patron in a movie house. Mindy Andrews as Olivia transitioned between Elizabethan frail and a Hollywood vamp as she leaves her extended mourning depression and discovers her latent sexuality. Daly's W.C. Fields inspired Sir Toby finds a wonderful chemistry with gangly fool Andrew Aguecheek (Brandon Roberts). Roberts presents a great physical presence, amplified by the ridiculous plus fours and glasses he sports. Malvolio comes across as an uptight midlevel executive, sandwiched between his status as major domo to a rich woman, and a compulsive need to be CORRECT. You KNOW he's going to be made the fool, it's the heart of the story.

Director Flick assembles a great cast, sets it on a typically brilliant set, and makes brilliant entertainment. This show ought to run 12 weeks.

Shakespeare Goes Hollywood

A solitary chair sits on stage facing a movie screen - a box of popcorn atop the seat. A figure strolls onto the scene -- drawn to the chair. He sits. The screen flickers into life with scenes of Hollywood of long ago. The figure sits enthralled. Suddenly sirens blare, lights flash and we are washed upon the shores of Shakespeare's fictional Illyria. I went into the Orland -UCF Shakespeare Festival's production of Twelfth Night unfamiliar with the storyline and a novice to Shakespeare's plays in general, but I knew from this point on this was not going to be your typical Shakespearean comedy.

From the musical overture to the closing credits, Director Patrick Flick's vision of Twelfth Night goes to the movies - literally. Not only are the Shakespearean characters meshed with Hollywood archetypes, but the fictional Illyria remarkably resembles La La Land -- complete with sign high atop a hill. Twelfth Night's storyline -- froth with mistaken identity and misunderstandings -- is worthy of a Three's Company episode. Spirited Viola is rescued from a shipwreck thinking her twin brother, Sebastian, has met his demise. She finds herself stranded in Illyria. For reasons beyond my understanding, she decides to disguise herself as a man, Cesario. She finds herself in the service of Duke Orsino who is pining away for the beautiful Lady Olivia who is mourning her dead brother. Orsino sends Cesario/Viola to woo Lady Olivia on his behalf, only to have Olivia fall for the young Cesario. To compound the situation, Viola finds herself falling in love with Orsino. A love, of course, she must conceal as Orsino thinks her a man. Then Jack and Janet discover Chrissie...

Around the plot nucleus are orbiting subplots. Olivia's uncle -- Toby Belch (which he does) instigates further shenanigans spending his time carousing with buddies Feste, Olivia's clown; wealthy Sir Andrew Aguecheek -- a Barney Fife-ish doofus; and servant Fabian, and flirting with the bawdy and brassy Maria - Olivia's chamber woman. One of the main subplots is the duping of snobbish Malvolio, Lady Olivia's steward. Malvolio disapproves of all the frivolity pursued by the household and snubs the others' fun. This incenses Toby to plan revenge by way of Maria forging a letter posing as her Mistress Olivia and confessing her love for only Malvolio (especially when he is smiling incessantly and clad in yellow stockings with cross-garters). Olivia, of course, is not in love with Malvolio and hates yellow stockings. She instead thinks him mad and has him committed to a dark room. There is also a thwarted duel, an arrest, a resurrection of a once thought dead brother, an elopement (no make that two) and a little song and dance.

The brightest spots of the production are Eric Zivot's Malvolio and Andrew Shulman's ukulele playing and singing Feste. Not to mention a hilarious scene in which Michael Gill as Fabian does a mean worm dance to retrieve the elusive forged letter from the bottom of Malvolio's shoe.

Zivot -- who stole the show - makes his debut in this production and is also a member of the Rollins College Theater Faculty. His ability to 'sidle up' undetected behind Olivia is sublime (perhaps she should suggest he carry Tic Tacs in his pocket - á la a classic Seinfeld episode). His flat-footed walk and grandiose delivery of his lines are superbly comic. And his heartbreaking commitment to the 'dark room' garnered sympathy from the audience.

Shulman -- also new to the festival -- portrays the fool Feste who astutely assesses any situation and puts it to song. It seems only he can see through the subterfuge. Shulman's crooning is smooth and sweet. His persona is a cross between Chaplin and Harpo Marx - with a bit of Astaire on the side.

Mindy Anders' portrayal of Lady Olivia - a diva by anyone's standards - is pure drama queen (in a good way). She is replete with furrowed brow and finger clutched in teeth. Anders exudes a Katherine Hepburn/Joan Crawford quality accentuated by her elegant wardrobe. Anne Hering's Maria is reminiscent of Judy Holliday in a screwball comedy -- with the voice to match. Christine Whitley's (Viola/Cesario) facial expressions convey more than her words as she finds herself in sticky situations with the opposite and not so opposite sex.

The production was complemented by the fine artistic set designs by Bert Scott which flowed seamlessly from Mediterranean loggia to 40s night club. And by Denise Warner's costumes -- Olivia's gowns mesmerized me with their clingy and flowing fabrics. And Michael Andrew's (Swingerhead) original music composed for the production ranged from ragtime to ballads to swing. The production was executed smoothly in the intimate theater setting. This non-stop comedy was cast superbly with Hollywood-worthy star quality.
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- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Sept. 14 & Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

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Dramatis Personae

- Orsino, Duke of Illyria: Andrew Oswald*
- Sebastian, brother to Viola: Christopher Kale Jones*
- Antonio, a sea man, friend to Sebastian: Brett Mack
- Sea Captain, friend to Viola: Eric Zivot*
- Valentine, gentleman attending on Duke: Chris Lindsay
- Curio, gentleman attending on Duke: Chris Holz
- Sir Toby Belch, uncle to Olivia: Michael Daly*
- Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Brandon Roberts
- Malvolio, steward to Olivia: Eric Zivot*
- Fabian, servant to Olivia: Michael Gill
- Feste, a clown: Andrew Shulman*
- Olivia, a rich countess: Mindy Anders*
- Viola, sister to Sebastian: Christine Whitley*
- Maria, Olivia's gentlewoman: Anne Hering*
- Married Girl: Nicole Reinsel
- Nice Girl: Brittany Morgan
- Married Man: Chris Holz
- Servants, Chorines, Hookers: Brittany Cherie Morgan, Nicole Reinsel
- Sailors, Officers: Chris Holz, Chris Lindsay

- Viola: Brittany Morgan
- Maria: Nicole Reinsel
- Orsino, Feste, Sebastian: Dan Graul
- Andrew Aguecheek: Chris Holz
- Valentine, Curio, Fabian: Adam Segaller
- Antonio: Chris Lindsay
Production Team

- Director: Patrick Flick
- Composer: Michael Andrew
- Scenic Designer: Bert Scott**
- Lighting Designer: Dave Upton
- Costume Designer: Denise Warner
- Asst. to the Costume Designer: Mel Barger
- Sound Designer: Michael Andrew
- Video Designers: Michael Andrew, Brit Sandusky
- Choreographer: Lea O'Connell
- Fight Choreographer: Mike Mayhall
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Managers: Melissa Nathan, Emily Carter Watson
- Scenic Overhire: Bonnie Hall
- Lighting Overhire: Morgan Gaskin, Mike O'Neill, Katy Ross
- Costume Overhire: Jeannie Haskett

*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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Arms and the Man
October 12 - November 20, 2005

By George Bernard Shaw

An uproarious and unexpected comedy. In a war between Bulgaria and Serbia, an enemy Serbian soldier climbs a drainpipe to a young Bulgarian woman's bedroom for shelter and shatters her every romantic notion about love and valor. A jealous lover, a bumbling military father, and a domineering and social-climbing mother round out a perfectly hilarious and charmingly ludicrous look at life in the old world of Eastern Europe.

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Shaw's Comedy Stands the Test of Time
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Chocolate brings Capt. Bluntschli to his knees. Not literally, of course, but look at the slightly addled expression on his face when a pretty young woman offers him a chocolate cream. That dizzy demeanor is the key to the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's take on Arms and the Man, a century-old comedy by George Bernard Shaw that has some dizzy moments of its own.

In the hands of director Thomas Ouellette, Shaw's satirical look at love and war is peopled by such agreeable nitwits that it's remarkable they can get all their horses trotting in the same direction. And Shaw meant it that way. As one of his characters, Catherine Petkoff, describes her family's place in society: "Our position is almost historical: We can go back for nearly 20 years."

The Shakespeare Festival takes a lush approach to Arms and the Man, one of the quartet of comedies (along with Candida and two others) that Shaw published under the title Plays Pleasant. Filled as it is with Denise Warner's luxuriant silk gowns, Bob Phillips' elaborate settings and Joseph P. Oshry's warm lighting, the production has the look of something quite grand. But pleasant is an understatement and grand a misnomer for this pixillated comedy, which skewers its characters in the cheeriest of ways.

Shaw set his comedy in the 1880s in the Balkan kingdom of Bulgaria, where the country is at war with the Serbs. A young Swiss mercenary, fighting for Serbia, flees for his life into the bedroom of Raina Petkoff, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy Bulgarian officer.
When the soldier, Capt. Bluntschli, threatens to make a suicide run back into the arms of his pursuers, Raina offers the starving man some chocolate. And almost before you know it, level-headed Bluntschli has pricked a pin into just about every foolish idea the melodramatic Petkoffs have ever had. Shaw, of course, was the first one not to take the Petkoffs seriously, these characters who boast about their staircase and their library and about the fact that they wash their hands nearly every day. But in Ouellette's production, nobody gets off easily. Raina (Lauren Orkus) may moon about the dashing Bulgarian major she's in love with -- squealing over his name and caressing his photo as if he were a member of a Balkan boy band. But Bluntschli (Timothy Williams) has his silly moments as well: Just watch him try to light a match, or the way he tries to hide when a Bulgarian search party comes to call.

Ouellette has a savvy cast on his hands, and he has used them beautifully, from the head of the household, Maj. Petkoff (Kristian Truelsen), an imposing man who leads with his impressive mustache, to the slippery servant (Don Seay), who never says a word that's not to his own advantage. Truelsen is a stitch as the genial Petkoff, who is happiest when he can sit in a corner and be left alone. And so is Darren Bridgett as Maj. Sergius Saranoff, Raina's beloved, who is so full of sashays and poses that it seems his limbs must be made of spaghetti... almost everything to do with the show is delightful -- the ultraheroic music, the opulent gold braid of the officers' uniforms, the performances in the supporting roles (including Joanna Olsen as Raina's proud mother and Sarah Hankins as her equally proud maid).

Orkus does a lovely job as a Raina who first comes off like a love-struck teenager and turns into a beautifully self-aware young woman. And Williams makes a terrific Bluntschli, from the broad strokes of his comical fumbling to his subtle reactions to the Bulgarians.

A wry smile, an authoritative manner and the alarmed expression in Williams' eyes go a very long way in this little comedy, which breezes along as if written in the 21st century and not the 19th. Hardly anybody thinks of the illustrious Shaw as carefree. But this Arms and the Man will send your cares sailing.

Shaw Classic Gleams at Shakespeare Center in Orlando

Some 50 years ago, my girlfriend at the time invited me to see a play in which she was acting. The high school version of George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man" was my very first exposure to live theater.

Seeing the play last week, performed by the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Professional Theater Company, was an emotional experience. The Shaw classic, for me, had lost none of its charm.

The setting is the Balkans in 1880, when Serbia and Bulgaria are at war. We see the bedroom of Raina (Lauren Orkus), the young daughter og Bulgarian Major Petkoff (Kristian Truelsen). She has just received word that her fiancé, Sergius (Darren Bridgett), has singlehandedly led a cavalry charge that devastated the Serbian army. A Serb officer, Captain Bluntschli (Timothy Williams), bursts through the balcony doors of Raina hides the fugitive soldier while the house is searched.

Bluntschli tells Raina that he is a Swiss mercenary who has seen the futility of war. He describes the Bulgarian cavalry charge as being initiated by a horse which, when frightened by gunfire, ran downhill out of control with its rider frantically screaming in fright. The Serbs easily could have repulsed the attack, but they were issued the wrong ammunition.

Raina offers the hungry Bluntschli some of her chocolates, which he eagerly devours. She dubs him her "Chocolate Cream Soldier" just before he leaves.

The real humor begins when Bluntschli returns to the Petkoff mansion and becomes part of the armistice committee. The comely housemaid Louka (Sarah Hankins) and butler Nicola (Dan Seay) add their part to the comedy.

"Arms and the Man" was an immediate hit in England when it first appeared in 1894. Shaw had a way with words, poking holes in the romantic notion of war and exposing the absurdity of the constant conflicts in central Europe.

He also hacked away at the English view of aristocracy, pomp, and propriety to the great amusement of the average British theater fan.
"Pygmalion" is considered the best of Shaw's 50 plays, and is the basis of the musical "My Fair Lady." His "St. Hoan" won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925.

The cast for "Arms and the Man" is made up mostly of Equity (professional) actors, so movements and timing are superb. Hats off, however, to Bridgett for his energetic, melodramatic interpretation of the hapless Sergius.

Honors for best projection, among other attributes, go to Hankins as Louka. Truelsen played the buffoonish Major Petkoff right on the mark.
"Arms and the Man" is staged in the ultramodern 118 seat Goldman Theater within the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in the Loch Haven Cultural Park of Orlando. The complex is home to two other theaters and is contiguous with Orlando's museum of art and science center.
Shaw's classic runs through Nov. 20 and wins my recommendation for a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Life by Chocolate
The Artsweb.com

Imagine a soldier that instead of carrying bullets carries chocolate. What a wonderful world this would be! According to George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man, a light-hearted view of love, war, and chocolate, this is the reality. I always knew chocolate could save a very bad day. Evidently a theory held by Shaw too. I refer to it as "Life by Chocolate." Shaw's anti-war sentiments are subtly delivered in this Thomas Ouellette production chock-full of superb comedic timing, masterful set changes, luxurious costumes, and entertaining fair.
The play opens in the bedroom of Raina Petkoff (Lauren Orkus), a headstrong and pampered girl who has just learned of her handsome fiancés valiant and successful cavalry charge. With stars in her eyes and her head in the clouds, Raina prepares for bed only to be slammed back to reality with the sound of gunfire in her own backyard.

Captain Bluntschli (Timothy Williams), a desperate Serbian army officer flees for his life taking refuge in the bedchamber of the young and impressionable Raina. Bluntchli recounts the cavalry charge of a brave and handsome soldier, Raina's own betroved - Major Sergius Saranoff (Darren Bridgett) -- who by happenstance only survived the sword vs. machine gun attack by the issuance of the wrong ammunition. Raina is shocked to hear Captain Bluntchli's view of the absurdities of battle, but still takes pity on this starving and exhausted deserter. She hides him from his pursuers and feeds him her last chocolates -- creams (thus dubbing him her "chocolate cream soldier"). Raina pledges her protection, and with the help of her mother, smuggles her "chocolate cream soldier" out of the house in her father's favorite coat.

Mired in wealth and social standing, Raina and her mother proudly boast their perceived importance to anyone who will listen -- a wayward soldier, the servants, and even the man of the house. Raina brags of a library -- with books, spending the "season" in Vienna where she attends the opera, and regular hand washing. Her mother has installed a newfangled bell to ring for the servants - as wealthy people of their status do not yell. And proudly exudes that the Petkoffs are a very historical family and can go back nearly 20 years. Raina manages to mature beyond these musings as her reality of a "perfect love" is shattered by the unexpected real thing. Mrs. Petkoff, well that's another story. She only changes her opinion of Captain Bluntchli on learning of his wealth beyond her imaginings. Only then does she see his suitability for her daughter.

The production is well cast with both newbies and seasoned regulars of the festival. Orkus' debut performance as the spoiled and girlish Raina matures through each act into a self-possessed woman by play's end. I, like Captain Bluntschli, assumed she was a childish teenage girl, not a woman of 23. Williams' high-strung Bluntschli from the bedroom scene is transformed into a composed and in control man of means by Act III.

The supporting members of the cast provide the better part of the comic relief, although Williams delivers a tasty nugget of physical humor as he hides himself under a much too small settee. Catherine Petkoff played by Joanna Olsen has a Carol Burnett 'esque' demeanor. She seems to share a secret not only with her daughter but with the audience as well. From catching blown kisses to pouty-boy faces, the buffoonish swagger of Darren Bridgett's Sergius gives the show its over-the-top silliness. The blustering and boisterous, Major Petkoff (Kirstian Truelsen) seems to be oblivious to the goings on of his household and that's just peachy with him. Sarah Hankins as Louka has the ability to project her voice into the stratosphere. And the self-serving Nicola (Don Seay) seems to be the only one aware of the inner-workings of the minds of all the other characters and plays this to his advantage.

The intimate setting and casual atmosphere of the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival has dispelled any of my trepidations of "the theatre" implied just by the mention of Shakespeare. I feel I have discovered an entertainment gem. Don't be intimidated and miss out on this production.

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Dramatis Personae

- Raina: Lauren Orkus*
- Catherine Petkoff: Joanna Olsen*
- Louka: Sarah Hankins*
- Captain Bluntschli: Timothy Williams*
- Russian Officer: Chris Holz
- Nicola: Don Seay*
- Major Paul Petkoff: Kristian Truelsen*
- Major Sergius Saranoff: Darren Bridgett*


- Bluntschli: Brett Mack
- Sergius: Chris Holz
- Raina: Brittany Morgan
- Louka: Gina Rivera
- Nicola: Dan Graul
- Catherine: Nicole Reinsel
- Petkoff, Soldier: Chris Lindsay

Production Team
- Director: Thomas Ouellette
- Assistant Director: Scottie Campbell
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Joseph P. Oshry**
- Costume Designer: Denise Warner
- Asst. to the Costume Designer: Mel Barger
- Sound Designer: Britt Sandusky
- Stage Manager: Stephanie Spriggs*
- Assistant Stage Managers: Debbie Merrill, Lindsay Jacks
- Scenic Overhire: Tommy Mangieri
- Costume Overhire: Julie Snyder
- Sound Engineer: Ryan Peavey
- Wardrobe: David Ricklick
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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October 22 - November 19, 2005

Adapted by Joan Cushing
Based upon the books Miss Nelson is Missing and Miss Nelson Returns by Harry Allard & James Marshall

The students in Room 207 are misbehaving AGAIN! Nothing will stop them, not even Principal Blandsford's filmstrip about his pet fish. Nothing, until Miss Viola Swamp takes over. Kids will enjoy this modern, witty musical while teachers and parents will love the values of respect and generosity that it teaches.


It's playtime! 'Miss Nelson' is terrific theater for kids
Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's lively show passes all the tests: It earns an A!

Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Before you ever see Miss Viola Swamp, an ominous shadow appears in the doorway of Room 207, and smoke pours in from the hall.

Miss Viola Swamp is bad news for the misbehaving kids of Room 207 -- a substitute teacher with a ruler in her hand. But she's good news for the audience at Miss Nelson Is Missing, the musical version of Harry Allard's popular children's books. Miss Viola Swamp means business, and she's a stitch.

So is Miss Nelson Is Missing, a genial little show that's just silly enough for kids and just sly enough for grown-ups. There's a lot of Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival expertise behind this production, but what comes across is simply fun.

Miss Nelson, of course, is the sweet-tempered teacher in Room 207, who tries her best to get her children to do their schoolwork but fails miserably every time. These kids, you see, are trouble -- happier to throw paper airplanes, strangle each other with a jump-rope or maybe spend an entire class with their heads in their backpacks.

It's only when Miss Swamp shows up as a substitute that Room 207's inhabitants wise up, pay attention and realize what they have taken for granted all along.

Director April-Dawn Gladu and her cohorts seem to have had a fine old time with this production, which starts out with a lively pre-show -- karaoke, guess-the-song contests and plenty of opportunity for pint-sized audience members to let off steam before the play begins. And the show's creative team shows its stuff in fine style, especially in Tom Mangieri's colorful set, complete with playground merry-go-round, and Mel Barger's whimsical costumes.

Some of the humor turns up in Jason Donnelly's startling sound effects (has a wooden ruler hitting a desk ever been so loud?), although the sound is cranked up so high in the first musical number that you can't understand the words. It doesn't help that some of the cast members, even though they're miked, don't have the world's strongest voices.

But none of that matters very much in this good-natured production, which makes the most of the oddballs of life. Take the school's nerdy principal, Mr. Blandsford (Dan Graul), who delights in practicing bird calls and collecting ballpoint pens. Or the police inspector, Detective McSmogg (Graul again) who is brought in to track down the missing teacher but never manages to remember poor Miss Nelson's name.

Heather Beirne is fine as sugary Miss Nelson, as are the four actors -- Mark Catlett, Michael Gill, Rakia JaClar May and Gina Marie Rivera -- who play her miscreant charges. (Catlett and Gill seem to have developed the most memorable tics.)

Still, it falls to Miss Swamp (Beirne again), fabulously costumed as the Wicked Witch of the West's evil stepsister, to get this production cracking. One slap of that ruler, and you'll crack up -- or else.

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Coming Soon
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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November 30 - December 24, 2005

By Michael Carleton, John Alvarez and Jim Fitzgerald

Southern premiere! Every Christmas Story Ever Told -- yes -- all of them - in 90 minutes! Three men and a "reingoat" tell tales of Christmas from around the world for one and all! Starring Eric Hissom, Philip Nolen and Timothy Williams.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told

Full Wassail!
Steve Schneider, ORLANDO WEEKLY

What's a theater company to do when December rolls around? Well, you could always trot out A Christmas Carol again. It sure puts butts in seats, which may be why some troupes opt to run their productions of the Dickens perennial through July -- or so a veteran scene-watcher lies in the hilarious, scorched-earth-and-mistletoe introduction to Every Christmas Story Ever Told, the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's knowing sendup of all things Noel.

While others bet the farm on Fezziwigian familiarity, OSF is hammering out a bolder tradition, that of using its annual PlayFest new-play festival (now the Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays) as the incubator for holiday shows that can shoot some rejuvenating comic voltage through Santa's fat and lazy carcass. Last year's fun The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge charted such a path from staged reading to main-stage hit; to the list we can now add Every Christmas Story..., in which a trio of wonderfully agile actors deconstructs the entire mythology of the season. Theatergoers whose formative image of Kris Kringle had him riding atop a Norelco razor are definitely the show's generational target market, but there's something in here to tweak everybody's mind-set, from a nutty recounting of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer legend (with goats in place of deer, for legal reasons) to a running social-studies lesson in the Christmas customs of other lands. Outside the U.S., we're told, observances have a markedly sinister edge, with celebratory lutefisk meals barely masking the trauma of violent punishments dispensed by disapproving Claus-alikes. Bleed for that Xbox, Torsten!

The play makes use of a small arsenal of costumes, props and gaudy effects, but its success rests on the shoulders of the three co-stars, each of whom maintains a clearly delineated character type while donning and doffing holiday accouterments. Timothy Williams plays the verbose know-it-all, tossing out annoying factoids and using a fruitcake-themed game show as the forum to determine exactly how attractive the audience finds him. Philip Nolen, meanwhile, cuts an overgrown-toddler figure that can convey an absurd innocence, as when he literally crawls into another performer's lap for reassurance at a vulnerable moment. Finally, Eric Hissom is the vain master thespian who wants to junk all this experimental jazz and get on with his long-awaited starring role in -- you guessed it -- A Christmas Carol. In the cosmology of Every Christmas Story..., this makes him the antagonist.

The show was first conceived as a vehicle for out-of-state writer/actors John Alvarez, Jim Fitzgerald and Michael Carleton, the latter of whom joined Hissom and Nolen for a staged reading of it at last January's PlayFest. Since them, some scripted passages have been tightened up and others added. Almost every change is an improvement. Yet it's the addition of Williams that really brings the show to life. To cite but one difference, Carleton was content to act the wounded stooge when his castmates forced him to wear the antlers of the Grinch's dog, Max; Williams nails that mortification and then segues into a momentary but nicely observed bit of cheerful tongue-wagging. At such moments, the play accomplishes the small miracle of making all Christmas myths seem both utterly ridiculous and absolutely essential. Yes, Virginia, you can have your fruitcake and eat it, too.

Holiday Show Offers All the Fruits and Nuts!  Disparate Elements Merge hilariously!
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

At a time of year when there are so many crucial questions -- questions like "What did we do with our inflatable Santa?" and "Will I make it to Wal-Mart before closing?" it's easy to skip over this one:

"What's the deal with fruitcake?"

But that question, maybe not the biggest concern in the book, is nonetheless not too inconsequential to be included in Every Christmas Story Ever Told, the fruitcake of a comedy at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Like that dreaded Christmas confection, Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's new production is full of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And like a fruitcake, Every Christmas Story Ever Told can hit you like a ton of bricks.

Most theatergoers will welcome that punch in the gut because it comes from three Shakespeare Festival stalwarts, and even much-maligned fruitcake becomes fruitier and nuttier in their hands. Every Christmas Story Ever Told may not have the makings of a Christmas classic. But there's no doubt about it: Eric Hissom, Philip Nolen and Timothy Williams will make you laugh.

In a season when most performing-arts groups try to shore up their budgets by trotting out The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and their kin, Every Christmas Story Ever Told seems to have sprung from similar motives. This fractured compilation of Christmas's greatest hits derives shamelessly from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) and other Reduced Shakespeare Company comedies, several of which have been huge hits for Orlando Shakespeare in the past.

Actor-director Michael Carleton, who runs a theater in Cape May, N.J., and sometimes moonlights in Orlando, got together with two other Cape May actors to pull together a similar show with a Christmas theme. When a reading of it hit big at last winter's PlayFest, the Shakespeare Festival figured it had a winner on its hands.

The show is all the better for the treatment it has received from director Jim Helsinger, the three cast members and all the designers and technicians you never see. Somebody has been busy coming up with a plethora of wacky props. And Helsinger and his actors have tightened and polished the script to mostly good effect.

Of course, the premise is the same -- that two of the three actors rebel against performing one more Christmas Carol and, while their castmate is trying to intone Marley's death sentence, they throw in every other Christmas yarn they can dream up.

So this version gives you not only Tiny Tim but also Frosty the Snowman, Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat and a decidedly masculine Cindy Lou Who. For the Grinches in the crowd there are also some not-quite-Christmas characters -- a pirate, an Australian crocodile hunter and a wayward balloon from Macy's Thanksgiving-day parade.

Now, most of this is thrown together as if it had been assembled by Waring blender, and the longish first act, especially, feels haphazard and pretty darn inane. But an awful lot of theater fans ought to be willing to watch inanity from the likes of Hissom, Nolen and Williams, three actors who are quite capable of turning nothing into something more.

Take Hissom, for example, whose dour face makes for a thoroughly unhappy (and unwilling) Grinch, or Williams, who can find utter frustration in a completely shrouded Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Williams puts his dexterous voice to good use (he seems to play just about everybody in the capsule version of A Christmas Carol), and Hissom is a whiz at transforming his Scrooge into Jimmy-Stewart-as-George-Bailey, and back, in the blink of an eye.

For me, though, the prime reason to settle in at the Margeson Theater is to watch Nolen morph back and forth between a Santa-lover from Easter Island -- don't ask -- and the Norelco Santa, who stopped to shave the hairy shins of a shorts-clad theatergoer on opening night. Like his castmates, Nolen is quicker than quick. But there's something about his innocent persona and the way he inhabits his characters that makes them utterly believable -- even if his villainous Mr. Potter sounds stranger than Lionel Barrymore ever did. It's a Wonderful Life will never look quite the same again.

'Every Christmas Story Ever Told' Is A Gaudy Christmas Present
Kelly Monaghan, TheOtherOrlando.com

If you're getting bored with seeing "A Christmas Carol" every December, grab Tiny Tim, shout a lusty "Bah, humbug!", and hie ye to the Orlando Shakespeare Festival, where three talented actors are making mincemeat pie of Christmas traditions with a gaudy confection of a show that will have you laughing harder than spiked egg nog.

"Every Christmas Story Ever Told" expropriates material from sources as diverse as "It's A Beautiful Life" and those old Christmas specials on TV sponsored by Norelco and tosses them into a madcap blender that bubbles over with wry wit and shameless belly laughs. As the play itself says, it's "Xmas Xtreme."

The Orlando Shakespeare Festival has been making something of a cottage industry of producing small-scale riffs on traditional Christmas-time theatrical fare, with each Chirstmas season bringing yet another variation on the theme. Last year it was the superb and superbly funny "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge" and I didn't they'd be able to top it. But top it they did.

The new show plays cleverly on the time-honored tradition, observed by many regional the "A Christmas Carol" year after year. The theaters have their reasons ("We're going broke putting on Shakespeare.") and so do the actors ("I'm only doing it for the insurance."). But enough is enough and tthe three actors in what starts out as a pared-down version of the Dickens classic stage a mutiny and, in an effort to breathe new life into an old tradition, attempt to tell, yes, "hristmas Story Ever Told" in the space of 90 minutes.

The plot, if such it can be called, defies summary, but it casts it's net far and wide, wide enough to pay passing homage to Channukah ("It bears similarities to other Jewish festivals: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat!") and Kwanzaa ("The best part of Kwanzaa is that you'll never see a special called 'A Very Brady Kwanzaa'.") Along the way, we are provided with factoids about Christmas traditions in far off lands, some of which are factual, some of which are fanciful, and all of which are bizarre.

But the major focus is on capsule retellings of famous Christmas tales, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer. Unfortunately, we learn that Rudolph is still protected by copyright, so we are treated to a "non-indictable" tale of Gustav the Green-Nosed Rein-Goat, who teams up with a misfit elf who wants to get out of the toy business and become a dentist. The Grinch is there, too, and the actual Christmas story makes a brief appearance in an unwonted quiet moment that is surprisingly touching.

By the intermission the set is a disaster area and the cast sends us out into the lobby to observe yet another Christmas tradition -- buying stuff.

The second act is somewhat more coherent than the first because the one hold out in the cast has been promised that they will do "A Christmas Carol" after all. But it seems they've overlooked "It's a Beautiful Life," so Marley morphs into Clarence, Angel Third Class, and the show once again spins giddily off the tracks.

I can't pretend this is high art. Some of the humor is downright shameless, but that doesn't make any less funny. The crowd I saw it with leapt to its collective feet to give the show a well-deserved standing ovation.

The show is the brainchild of Michael Carleton, John Alvarez, and Jim Fitzgerald who don't get a bio in the program, an oversight I correct with this link. The three actors, all OSF stalwarts, are Eric Hissom, Philip Nolen, and Timothy Williams, who do get bios, which are a hoot to read. All of them are very, very good, but I must reserve special mention for Nolen who is quite obviously in close touch with his inner child. Jim Helsinger, OSF's artistic director, has directed with aplomb and the Festival's costumers and prop department have outdone themselves.

One word of warning: Don't sit in the first two rows, unless you don't mind being made sport of in front of a packed theater.

Shout for Joy!
OSF's Every Christmas Story Ever Told is pure holiday gold!

Matthew McDermid, Talkin' Broadway.com

The Orlando Shakespeare Festival has done it again folks, with yet another holiday offering that provides just enough "Bah, humbug!" before spreading a tremendous amount of Christmas cheer that is able to grasp even the stingiest of Scrooges and Grinchs. Last season's offering of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge was a grand success, and with Every Christmas Story Ever Told - a piece penned in the same conceit as plays such as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and the other Abridged plays - OSF seems once again destined for holiday gold.

Written by Michael Carleton, John Alvarez, and Jim Fitzgerald, Every Christmas Story Ever Told starts off with the actors attempting to seriously perform the obligatory production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Two members of the troupe are tired of performing the classic and want to try to take Christmas to the extreme, and infect holiday spirit through the presentation of, yep, you guessed it, every Christmas story ever told. And so, we get the Grinch, we get comic bits of history about the way the holiday is celebrated in various countries around the world, we get "Gustav the Green-nosed Reingoat" because copyrights keep our merry players from doing it as "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," and in act two, a hilarious conglomeration of A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life (which somehow they forgot to do in the first act).

However, it is the brilliance of the trio of actors onstage that make what could be a rather lame attempt at holiday humor (one Natalie Wood joke could easily be a groaner, but not in the hands of a master) light, frothy, and never overbearing. Eric Hissom, Timothy Williams, and Philip Nolen have long been regarded as some of Central Florida's best actors, and in this production it is very easy to see why. Hissom is delightful as the stereotypical Scrooge, and later showcases his comic expertise as the Grinch, Hermey (the elf who wants to be a dentist), and especially in his Scrooge/George Bailey combination. Williams is hilarious in his many roles, including a perfect Ed Wynn impersonation as Charlie-in-the-Box, and especially recreating his Ghost of Christmas Future from last season in a tremendously funny (and unexpected) game of charades.

However, Philip Nolen, in a grand departure from his portrayal of Scrooge last season, is perhaps the best part of the evening's festivities, providing a great naivete and gentleness to every character he brings, including Gustav, Linus of Peanuts fame, and nearly all the principal players of It's A Wonderful Life. Nolen's rendition of the famous "True Meaning of Christmas" monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas is plaintive in its delivery and beautiful in its honesty. Mr. Nolen is able to bring a wonderful wide-eyed appeal to the proceedings, and it is he who is most successful at promoting the Christmas spirit.

All three performers are directed with a light and cheesy hand by OSF artistic director Jim Helsinger (who, despite what his own program bio states, is more than capable of directing more serious fare), and they play on a wonderful unit set designed by Bob Philips. Eric Haugen's lighting design never over-complicates matters, and Kristina Tollefson's costume designs are clever and well executed, while Britt Sandusky's sound design is exceptional and humorous.

 So, even if you have missed some of this year's holiday specials when they have been shown on TV this season, chances are you'll be able to catch them - well, at least a glimmer of them, including all of the requisite charm fused with lots of heartfelt humor - at OSF's production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told, playing in the Margeson Theatre at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park through December 24th. For ticket information, visit www.shakespearefest.org, or contact the box office at (407) 447-1700, ext. 1.
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- Eric: Eric Hissom*
- Philip: Philip Nolen*
- Tim: Timothy Williams*

- Tim: Chris Lindsay
- Eric: Dan Graul
- Philip: Brett Mack
Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric Haugen**
- Asst. Lighting Designer: Joy Schaefer
- Costume Designer: Kristina Tollefson**
- Asst. to the Costume Designer: Harmony McChesney
- Sound Designer: Britt Sandusky
- Stage Manager: Angi Weiss-Brandt*
- Asst. Stage Managers: Melissa A. Nathan, Emily Carter Watson
- Sound Engineer: Gina Yolango
- Wardrobe: Brett Mack
- Light Board Operator: Chris Holz
- Costume Overhire: Julie Snyder
- Lighting Overhire: Mike O'Neill, Katy Ross, Joy Schaefer, Terry Siren
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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January 11 - February 5, 2006

By Jean-Baptiste Moliere

Jean Baptiste Moliere's classic satire of the medical profession will have audiences in stitches when an eccentric, wealthy man crippled by severe hypochondria tries to marry his daughter off to a physician just to always have a doctor around. Hilarity ensues as our dramatic hypochondriac spends all of his money to his imaginary ailments, romantic twists evolve, and a cast of characters comparable to that of a dysfunctional family interact.

The Imaginary Invalid

Humor's real in 'Imaginary Invalid!'

The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival has its eye on making you laugh out loud -- and frequently -- in its exquisitely funny production of Jean Baptiste Moliere's "The Imaginary Invalid."

And, if you're in the mood to see the medical profession marinated, skewered and roasted over hot coals, this is the show for you. Deliciously overacted characters, intricately embroidered bits of stage direction and buffoons morphed into vivid cartoonish absurdities rise into a triumph of silliness in the capable hands of the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival.

Where Moliere's "Tartuffe," produced two years ago by the festival, took aim at the self-righteous pious, this play has narcissistic doctors in its cross hairs. Moliere was dying when he wrote "The Imaginary Invalid." Indeed, it was his final comedy and Moliere, as he often did, performed in it. The story is, the playwright died shortly after one of its early performances. Set in an elegant home in 17th century France, "The Imaginary Invalid" concerns a hypochondriac named Argan. Intent on padding their own pocketbooks and their own egos, doctors persuade Argan that he must follow their directions to regain health.

The satire also involves Argan's eldest daughter, Angelique (Melissa Mason), who wants to marry a handsome young man named Cleante (Michael Gill). However, Argan wants Angelique to marry a doctor to have one in the family. In the meantime, Argan's greedy wife, Beline (Kate Ingram), has hired an unethical lawyer, Bonnefoy, to persuade Argan to leave all worldly possessions to her.

Within this brew, the only one with any sense is the lowly maid, Toinette (Jean Tafler). That
fits into Moliere's view of 17th-century society, where upper crust were half wits, besotted by greed and their own superficial needs.

Jim Helsinger's exaggerated direction, Bob Phillips scenic design imparting a delicate French porcelain feel and Lisa Zinni's ornate costume design all work in concert to set the background for a cast that delights in every nuance they can squeeze out of their roles. Using slapstick precision and vaudeville timing, Philip Nolen, one of Orlando's most witty and talented actors, goes over the top in his role of Argan. But, surprise, he finds Timothy Williams already on the next hill.

My oh my, what a treat Williams is in this show. He wrings every delightful drop out of two roles -- the lawyer Bonnefoy and the sadistic doctor, Purgon, both of them sight gags. As the slimy, slinking lawyer, Williams is clad in lace and satin, a long black curly wig, powdered face and a cute little mouth painted into a supercilious red bow. He prances about the stage in self-delighted posturing, armed with a legal paper and insincere smile for every purpose.

As Purgon, Williams, well, we don't want to reveal too much, the surprise is so luscious. Let's just leave it that he is one doctor you'll want to avoid. Add to that heavy breathing Dr. Diaphorus (Carl Wallnau), his bratty doctor son Thomas (Dan Graul) and the masochist'Apothecary (Chris Lindsay), who, dressed in rubber, gloves and goggles and armed with every assortment of horrific medical device imaginable, is a masochist's dream.

Don't' forget Brittany Morgan, who brings in a cascade of laughs and spontaneous applause in her wickedly overwrought Louisson, Argan's squealing youngest daughter. With every new scene, every new character, the audience is delighted, surprised and laughs themselves silly. Although this play is more than three centuries old, it feels fresh and fun thanks to this engaging production.

Theater lovers and theater newbies will enjoy OSF's production of "The Imaginary Invalid." It is so much better than television or most movies. It's also as funny as anything you'll find on stage in any big city. You might even find you'd like to see it again.

All is Well!

Say what you will about French playwright Molière (born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in 1622), but you can't dispute his sense of theatrical timing. During a 1673 performance of his final play, The Imaginary Invalid, Molière -- who was playing the role of the miserly hypochondriac, Argan -- suffered a hemorrhage in the final act, soldiered on gamely till the end and finally expired several hours later.

Impeccable timing also propels the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's latest foray into the author's farcical oeuvre, only this time around, the results are far more salutary. Three years ago, OSF staged Tartuffe, Molière's broadside against religious hypocrisy. In The Imaginary Invalid, the barbs are directed toward the medical profession and those who would take seriously the ministrations of its supercilious, Latin-quoting quacks.

The inimitable Philip Nolen plays Argan with his usual flair for physical comedy and cantankerous self-aggrandizement. Around him flows the usual assortment of commedia types: Kate Ingram as the duplicitous second wife, Beline; Jean Tafler as the sagacious serving girl, Toinette; Melissa Mason and Michael Gill as the put-upon young lovers, Angelique and Cleante; and Carl Wallnau, Dan Graul, Chris Lindsay and Timothy Williams as a gaggle of grotesque medicos.
Director Jim Helsinger keeps the action moving swiftly and makes up for the play's haphazard structure with expansive, stylistic brio. The Imaginary Invalid may not be the best of MoliRe's efforts  it lacks a convincing cohesiveness  but the company manages to supersede its lapses with sparkling inventiveness and split-second comic timing, moving adroitly from one joke or piece of inspired business to the next.
Special kudos to Lisa Zinni, OSF's new costume designer, for some truly creative habiliment, as well as to veteran scenic and lighting designers Bob Phillips and Eric T. Haugen for their usual fine work. The Imaginary Invalid again spotlights the festival's flair for high-class lowdown comedy. It's a soothing tonic for whatever ails you, with nary an unpleasant aftertaste as the medicine goes down.

Farce Shows French Tastes Can Go Beyond the Existential
Michael W. Freeman, LAKELAND LEDGER

It's been said that the great box office champion of French cinema is, well, Hollywood. French filmmakers have a reputation for creating very serious, introspective and slow-paced dramas that are the antithesis of Hollywood blockbusters.

That may be one reason French cinemas are filled with Hollywood hits that have extravagant special effects but not much social significance -- and why many French movies don't get much play in the U.S. heartland. Even the French need some escapist fare, rather than a steady diet of dire existential angst.

On the other hand, assigning the French people a reputation for ultra-seriousness -- because of the taste of their filmmakers -- would be an injustice. It should be noted, long after Jerry Lewis' popularity had declined in the U.S., he remained a big box office draw in France. The French just loved Lewis' zany brand of humor.

All of which leads me to "The Imaginary Invalid" by French playwright Jean-Baptiste Moliere, who wrote, produced and starred in this tale of a hypochondriac and his wacky family. The play was produced in 1673, and anyone who thinks lowbrow humor is a modern day approach to comedy will be surprised at how much bad taste Moliere indulges in -- or how well it works three centuries later. Today's French filmmakers may want to probe the depths of today's social and moral dilemmas in a way that would exhaust Oprah and Dr. Phil, but Moliere is a splendid reminder that not everyone in French culture views life in such a solemn vein.

The play is about Argan, a wealthy but miserly -- and miserable -- hypochondriac who is constantly summoning his doctor to treat his many ills.

Argan's brother Beralde thinks those ills are mostly imaginary, and that the bulk of the medical profession is made up of quacks more skillful at pinching your wallet. But Argan is so worried about his failing health that he decides to force his daughter Anglique to marry a medical student.

Because the student's father is also a physician, Argan figures he can get two doctors in the family and unlimited access to fine medical consultations. There are several problems with this scenario. For one, Anglique is a beautiful young woman and her chosen fiance is hideously unattractive.

Plus, Anglique is already in love with the handsome Cleante, who manages to sneak in visits by posing as her music instructor. So Anglique and the family's servant, Toinette, resolve to foil Argan's plans for the arranged wedding. But how?

As if that wasn't enough, Argan's greedy new wife, Beline, is scheming to send Anglique to a convent to remove her from the line of inheritance. In the classic mode of farce, everyone stays busy desperately trying to deceive as many cast members as possible.

"The Imaginary Invalid" works so well because it's not just a charade of double and triple crossings, but also a poison pen letter on Moliere's part to the medical profession. When Moliere began working on "The Imaginary Invalid" in 1672 he was dying and had spent five years fighting a chronic pulmonary infection and violent cough that kept him awake at night. So Moliere created the role of Argan for himself -- hence the irony of a dying actor playing a healthy hypochondriac.

Moliere died during the production, which sums up his dim view of physicians. I'm not sure today's doctors and nurses should take offense; it would be silly not to recognize the remarkable medical and scientific advances since 17th-century France, when doctors relied on two rather unpleasant methods of medical treatment: bleeding and purging. Yuck. No wonder Moliere throws in so many enema gags and dismisses expensive doctors as charlatans.

Mercifully, the social satire doesn't get in the way of Moliere's ingenious plot twists. It should also be noted that what could have been silly and strained seems clever and hilarious in the capable hands of the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival. No surprise there; under the guidance of director Jim Helsinger, this theater in Orlando's Loch Haven Park has taken some of Shakespeare's plays, like "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and made them seem funnier than anything on TV these days.

The cast here is spectacular, with Philip Nolen taking charge as the bombastic, insufferable Argan. Michael Gill as the desperate Cleante, Kate Ingram as the devious Beline and Timothy Williams as both a underhanded lawyer and a rather scary German doctor are great anchors behind Nolen's lead.

But the real prize here has to go to Dan Graul, who is not only very funny as Thomas, the unappetizing medical student, but does an amazing physical transformation that has to be seen to be appreciated. Despite the play's scolding of doctors, this is basically lightweight fare, very well done, with lots of belly laugh opportunities. Tasteless, at times? Oh, yes. But it's a nice reminder that the French are not always so serious about life.

Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Jan. 11 & Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.

Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed
Harriett Lake

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Argan: Philip Nolen*
- Toinette: Jean Tafler*
- Angelique: Melissa Mason
- Beline: Kate Ingram*
- Bonnefoy: Timothy Williams*
- Cleante: Michael Gill
- Dr. Diaphorus: Carl Wallnau*
- Thomas: Dan Graul
- Louisson: Brittany Morgan
- Apothecary: Chris Lindsay
- Purgon: Timothy Williams*
- Beralde: Carl Wallnau*

- Argan/Bonnefoy/Purgan: Brett Mack
- Toinnette/Beline: Gina Rivera
- Angelique/Louisson: Nicole Reinsel
- Dr. Diaphorus/Beralde/Thomas: Chris Holz
- Apothecary: Michael Plummer
Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips*
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Lisa Zinni
- Sound Designer: Mathew Given
- Music Arrangements: Michael Gill, Dennis Razze
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Asst. Stage Managers: Lindsay Jacks, Deborah Merrill, Melissa A. Nathan
- Sound Engineer: Gina Yolanga
- Wardrobe: Nicole Reinsel
- Light Board Operator: Gina Rivera
- Costume Overhire: Julie Snyder
- Lighting Overhire: Eric Furbish, Mike O'Neill, Britt Sandusky
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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February 4 - April 2, 2006

Book and Lyrics by April-Dawn Gladu
Music and Lyrics by Daniel Levy
Based upon the book by Rudyard Kipling

Torn from his mother's side by a hungry tiger, Mowgli is adopted by a loving wolf pack that teaches him the law of the jungle. This production, adapted from Rudyard Kipling's book by April-Dawn Gladu, immerses itself in the beauty and culture of India. Complete with Indian music, dance, and costume, the curtain rises on an Indian Village celebrating Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. Music and lyrics by Daniel Levy, and choreography by Geeta Raaj.

Interested in producing The Jungle Book? Visit www.tyascripts.com for information about rights and availability.

The Jungle Book

"I do not know who enjoyed it more, the students or the teachers & chaperones!" - Heathrow Elementary

"You have enriched the imaginations of about 155 of some of my favorite people! Thank you again for all that you continue to do to make Orlando a much better place to live and work." - Little River Elementary

This is the third play we have taken the children to see and we are so happy to be able to offer them the experience of a live production. Most of our moms came along. We all feel the admission is so affordable. We can't wait for our next field trip to the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival!" - The Learning Center

Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Sat:2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.

- Sun:
4:30 p.m.

Darden Foundation

Dramatis Personae

- Kaa, Sister Wolf: Brittany Morgan
- Bandar Two/Wolf One: Chris Holz
- Shere Kahn: Chris Lindsey
- Baloo: Dan Graul
- Mother Wolf/Chil the Raptor: Gina Rivera
- Mowgli: Kane Prestenback
- Messua/Bandar One: Melissa Mason
- Bandar King/Wolf Two: Mike Gill
- Bagheera/Wolf Three: Morgan Russell

Production Team
Coming Soon
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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February 8 - 19, 2006

PlayFest is a ten-day festival packed with dynamic and diverse new play programming!  Events include:  readings, workshops and productions of new plays (all followed by lively post show discussions), webcam plays, key note addresses and master classes by award winning playwrights, opera, music, food, drink, and more!

Tickets Sponsors
PlayFest Button: $5
You must have button to get into any PlayFest Event
Workshops: $8
Readings: FREE

Michelob Ultra
Orlando Weekly

Full Productions

Robinson Crusoe
By Jim Helsinger
From the novel by Daniel Defoe

World premiere!! A dynamic new adaptation of the Daniel Defoe novel. Defoe's tale of one man's shipwreck and isolation on a desert island comes to vivid and remarkable life in the Festival's Goldman Theater!

Tickets: $20-$35
February 10 through March 19
Previews February 8 and 9
Goldman Theater

Robinson Crusoe
Keynote Address

"Through the Open Door"
Keynote Address with Robert Schenkken

Puliter Prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan talks about the Art of Playwriting
Margeson Theater
Saturday, February 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Followed by a reading of his new play LEWIS AND CLARK
Admission: Free with button


Master Class with Pulitzer Prize Winner Robert Schenkkan
Admission: $100
Studio C
Saturday, February 11 at Noon

Writing on Your Feet with Deborah Stein
In this workshop, we will generate original material from diverse sources: photographs, research, music and writing. Working as an ensemble, participants will be given assignments - themes, stories, characters, a piece of music - to use as the raw material for performance.
Admission: $50
Studio C
Saturday, February 11 at 4:00 p.m.
Orlando International Fringe Festival "Yapinar"
with Producing Artistic Director, Beth Marshall

Session 1 - Producing for the Fringe
Sunday, February 12 at Noon
Session 2 - Touring Your Fringe Show
Sunday, February 12 at 3:00 p.m.
Patron's Room
Admission: Free with button

Beginning the Story with Laura Schellhardt
Got an idea for a play but don't know how to transfer it to the page? Written a few scenes but unsure what comes next? Always wanted to write a play but never knew how to begin? This seminar aims to help find that beginning and to develop it into something more.
Admission: $5
Studio C
Saturday, February 18 at 1:00 p.m.

Inspiration in Beginnings with John Didonna
Admission: $20
Studio C
Saturday, February 18 at 3:30 p.m.

Interactive Writing Workshop with Arlene Hutton (Author of Last Train to Nibroc)
Admission: $50
Studio C
Saturday, February 11 @ 2:00 p.m.

"Plays into Screen Plays" with Anne Nelson (Author of The Guys)
Admission: $25
Studio C
Sunday, February 12 at 2:00 p.m.

Workshops - $8

By John Minigan

Directed by Kristin Clippard
Starring Festival Artist Sarah Hankins

Last year's hit reading moves to a new level! In this engrossing look at the art of performing Shakespeare, a director and an actress develop a relationship through Shakespeare words.

Studio B
Thursday, February 9 at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, February 11 at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Monday, February 13 at 8:45 p.m.

By Anne Nelson

Directed by Chris Jorie

Amid the turmoil of a bitter counter-insurgency campaign, a Marine officer awaits the verdict from his court-martial for crimes of war -- in the Philippines in 1902 -- finding hard truths and solace along the way.  By nationally known author Anne Nelson (The Guys).

Mandell Theater
Wednesday, February 8 at 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, February 9 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 11 at 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 12 at 3:30 p.m.

By William Missouri Downs

Directed by Thomas Joyner
Starring Festival actors Mindy Anders & Kristian Truelsen

Another hit reading at last year's Playfest, this hilarious production brings a touching contemporary spin on Chekov's plays.

Mandell February
Tuesday, Feb 14 at 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 15 at 9:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 16 at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 8:30 p.m.

By John Didonna

A new docu-drama that explores the naked and real life truth of the lives, dangers, hearts, and souls of the women behind exotic dancing.

Empty Spaces Theatre Company

Mandell Theater
Sunday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 14 at 9:00 p.m.
Friday, February 17 at 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 19 at 2:30 p.m.
By Al Pergande

A Play about Guitars, Pickup Trucks, Coffee, Dogs, and Jail, and why they're better on the Radio.

Arfnotz Productions

Mandell Theater
Friday, February 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Monday, February 13 at 8:00 p.m.
Friday, February 17 at 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Readings - Free
By John Goring

Song lifted her soul to heaven... Harlem pulled her back to earth.

Playwrights Roundtable

Margeson Theater
Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Monday, February 13 at 9:00 p.m.

By Rick Mitchell

Directed by Mark Routhier

The great German playwright Bertolt Brecht tries to make it in Hollywood while avoiding HUAC.  Based on actual events.

Margeson Theater
Thursday, February 16 at 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m.

By Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus

Directed by Jim Helsinger,
Starring Eric Hissom, Dan McCleary, and Lucy Carney

A chilling new adaptation of Dostoevsky's famous novel.

Studio B
Tuesday, February 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 5:30 p.m.
By Deborah Isobel Stein

Directed by Adam Greenfield
A punk-rock riff on Hamlet in which Queen Gertrude, living in a war-torn post-Communist country, attempts to right her wrongs. As the bombs rain down, disgraced Gertrude tells her story with songs and fury.

Studio B
Monday, February 13 at 6:00 p.m.
Friday, February 17 at 6:30 p.m.
By Richard St. George

Directed by Darren Bridget

Hilarious romp through the Old Testament.

Goldman Theater
Monday, February 13 at 6:15 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 3:30 p.m.
By Laura Schellhardt

Directed by Laura Kepley

Rumor has it Charlotte's brother kissed her on the lips before he died.  Rumor has it now everything she kisses also dies.  The K of D chronicles what happens in small town, Ohio, when news of Charlotte's "gift" leaks out.  One person plays all the parts in this fascinating new play.

Studio B
Thursday, February 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m.
By Robert Schenkkan

Directed by Patrick Flick

Fascinating new look at the famous explorers by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan.

Margeson Theater
Saturday, February 11 at 7:30 p.m.
By Elizabeth Margid & Daniel Levy

Directed by Patrick Flick

Dynamic new musical adaptation of Ray Bradbury novel with music by a recent Richard Rogers award winner.

Margeson Theater
Friday, February 17 at 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 19 at 6:00 p.m.
By Ken Clifton and Allen D. Cornell

Directed by Katrina Ploof

The story of one woman's struggle to find hope and faith in a world where the message of Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men! is challenged by the hard reality of the Civil War.  

Katrina Ploof

Margeson Theater
Tuesday, February 14 at 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 1:00 p.m.
Adapted by David A. McElroy

Near the end of his life, Oscar Wilde spent two years in prison where he wrote a deeply moving letter known as "De Profundis." In this staged reading, that work is given a theatrical setting and a fascinating twist.

Southern Winds
Goldman Theater
Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 14 at 6:30 p.m.

By Eric Bogosian

The newest from award winning playwright Eric Bogosian! Culture clash in a hotel room when a screenwriter from LA meets a working class girl from rural Florida and a confrontation with her clan.

Invictus TC  

Mandell Theater
Saturday, February 11 at 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, February16 at 6:45 p.m.

By Sherry MacDonald

Directed by Dan McCleary

Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton work on a film called Film. Based on actual events.

Studio B
Sunday, February 12 at 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 15 at 6:30 p.m.

By Janet Burroway

Alice comes from New York to Missouri to rescue Great Aunt Millie from her sweepstakes addiction, but finds things much more complicated.

Women Playwrights' Initiative

Mandell Theater
Wednesday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18 at 2:30 p.m.

New adaptation of the novel by Charles Dickens
By Will Pomerantz

Directed by Paula Rossman

Margeson Theater
Sunday, February 12 at 7:45 p.m.
Wednesday, February 15 at 6:00 p.m.

By Doreen Heard

Traumatic events in the life of the 17th century Baroque painter Artemisia Gentilischi, on of the first femaile painters to recieve great recognition.

Doreen Heard

Studio B
Friday, February 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 14 at 9:00 p.m.

By Carlos F. Asse

Upside down comedy about a middle sister's decision to celebrate the tenth wedding of her little sister at her household, bringing about mayhem and conflict among family and pets.

Carmar Productions Corporation

Margeson Theater
Saturday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 19 at 12:00 p.m.

Guest Theater Readings

Gulf View Drive
By Arlene Hutton

Presented by the Women Playwrights' Initiative
Orlando, FL
Directed by Chris Jorie

Sunday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The latest in Arlene Hutton's Nibroc Trilogy. Gulf View Drive finds May and Raleigh living on Florida's Gulf Coast. Relatives descend, further testing the couple's love in this romantic glimpse of life in the 1950s.

Special Events - Free

NEW PLAYS PANEL: "Process, Development and Production"
Theatre companies from around the country discuss their visions and take questions from the audience. Particpants include representatives from the National New Play Network, The New Harmony Playwright's Project, , The Atlantic Center for the Arts, and more.
Margeson Theater
Sunday, February 12 at 6:00 p.m.

By Various Playwrights
Short plays that take place entirely through Web camera conversations.
Available at all times throughout Playfest.

Theater from High School Students

Living Newspapers
High school students perform their own original ten minute short plays  based on headlines from the newspapers. Created, rehearsed and played all by the students!

Apopka High School Students

Mandell Theater
Saturday, February 18 at 1:00 p.m.


Short plays written and performed by students.

Relationship Reality
The 411 on Teen Dating and Love...

Our Father???
God... Real? Imagined? You decide.

Ana's Child
Anorexia and Bulimia. The Truth No One Hears...

Adolescence: Exactly What You Always Weren't
Hypocrisy! Sex! What adults think kids don't see!

Trinity Prep High School Students

Mandell Theater
Saturday, February 18 at Noon

Theater for Children Readings - Free

Orchestra events written by and for young audiences.

Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra

Saturday, February 11 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Small Ensemble Pieces
Location OPO rehearsal space

Sunday, February 12 from 3:30 p.m to 5 p.m.
Location OPO rehearsal space

Children's Musical
Music by Richard Peaslee

Libretto by Kenneth Cavander

Temptation - Adventure - Sorcery - and SUSPENSE.

Family Opera Initiative

Mandell Theater
Sunday, February 12 at 1:00 p.m.
Monday, February 13 at 6:00 p.m.

A new musical for children by Sybil St. Claire and Amado Bobadilla

Come spend the evening with Katie and her invisible friends as she learns about compassion, tests her strength, and confronts her greatest fear, the dreaded Bogeyman. The Invisible People is a true story... IF you believe in magic.

UCF Conservatory Theatre

Margeson  Theater
Monday, February 13 at 6:00 p.m.

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February 10 - March 19, 2006

By Jim Helsinger
Adapted from the novel by Daniel Defoe

World premiere! A dynamic new adaptation of the Daniel Defoe novel by Festival Artistic Director, Jim Helsinger. Defoe's tale of one man's shipwreck and isolation on a desert island comes to vivid and remarkable life in the Festival's Goldman Theater.

Robinson Crusoe

A Wild Ride...Terrific...Action Packed...A Heck of a Trip!
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Robinson Crusoe calls it the Island of Despair.

Friday calls it the Island of Death.

But the folks in the audience at Robinson Crusoe, Jim Helsinger's new adaptation of the classic novel, may call it the Island of a Million Possibilities. It seems as if anything can happen to Robinson Crusoe -- and does.

The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival gives Crusoe a wild ride, filled with shipwrecks, cannibals, ferocious animals, religious conversion, faithful friends and a journey into self that leaves Robinson Crusoe a changed man. With so much action packed into a slim couple of hours, chances are you'll barely have time to catch your breath.

You could call Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel an adventure story, but it's a lot more than that -- an exploration of man's desire to master everything he meets, a look at 18th-century European morals and how they're transformed by extremity. In this new adaptation, Defoe's themes are infiltrated by Helsinger's, so that this Crusoe is a Crusoe for the 21st century -- family-friendly, yes, but exhilarating all the while. And with Eric Hissom playing Crusoe, you can be sure of surprises along the way.

This adaptation has been through a journey of its own through the festival's new-plays program, which presented a reading of it as a one-man show last winter at PlayFest and then as a two-man show this past fall. The cast has grown steadily, but Helsinger, the festival's artistic director, has capped it off at three. That's plenty for a story whose terrors are more terrifying when they spring from your mind.

Take Crusoe's shipwreck, which strands him alone on a tropical island. Thanks to the wizardry of the festival's designers, you may think the little Goldman Theater is awash in sea water, even though most of that water is created by sound and lights.
In fact, Britt Sandusky's enveloping sound design is almost another character in Crusoe's story. Add Eric T. Haugen's ominous lighting and Bob Phillips' multilevel set, with its sail-like screening on either side, and it's all the

But he doesn't need any help in the imagination department; he has plenty of his own. Crusoe fears cannibalistic savages, and Spaniards, and mutineers; he's afraid of beasts in the forest, and fever, and the sun. In the hands of Hissom and director Michael Carleton, these fears are both utterly real and often very funny. You feel for Hissom's lonely Crusoe, who is so eager to communicate that even his own journal is his salvation -- but you can't help but laugh at a man who confides in a parrot, a dog and a goat.

Hissom digs deep inside this man to find both the self-important European colonialist of his time and an iconoclast who rails at a God in whom he can't believe. True to form, there's also a wacky side to Hissom's Crusoe: The actor makes you realize, beautifully, that even Crusoe knows he can be ridiculous. It's a tireless performance, yet what's most interesting is some of the quieter moments -- the look in Hissom's eyes, say, when Crusoe looks at his old world in a startlingly new way.

Jamaican actor David Heron makes a terrific Friday, fearsome, fearful and touching in his eagerness to do what's right and true. In fact, the camaraderie between Heron and Hissom is so appealing that you may find yourself sorry that the play has to end. Helsinger has had to cram so many adventures into his two-act framework that the second act can feel a bit rushed. "Just one more scene!" you may think when rescue arrives.

Brett Mack is fine as the rescuer and in one or two other small roles, but the journey is Crusoe's and Friday's, and you're with them all the way. Robinson Crusoe takes you over oceans and up mountains; the Shakespeare Festival's Robinson Crusoe makes it a journey into the heart and the mind. It's a heck of a trip.

Peter P. Rocchio

Who doesn't know about Robinson Crusoe being shipwrecked, stranded on an island and his relationship with his man, Friday? There is however, a visceral difference between knowing the story and feeling the story. Currently on stage at the Shakespeare Theatre in Loch Haven Park is a Jim Helsinger adaptation of the Daniel Defoe 1719 novel which puts the audience in the middle of the action. Central Florida's own Jim Helsinger has written this play which focuses on the very small isolated world of Crusoe spanning some thirty years. As one would imagine, life under these circumstances can only be boring at best but boring is not what we experience. We are put into the middle of a major hurricane off the coast of South America as it ravages and founders a ship headed for Africa to pick up a cargo of slaves. The ship is located to the rear of the audience and we see Crusoe make his way through the turbulent sea and be tossed upon this uninhabited island. Crusoe eventually makes a raft, which he uses to take himself back and forth from the ship to scavenge what stores he might eat to sustain himself, as well as other items to help him survive. This Crusoe is not without a sense of humor, as well as being a man of faith. Eric Hisson as Crusoe delivers a tour d'force performance. We feel his loneliness, his despair, his hope and his determination to make the best of an unfathomable situation.  In his twenty-fourth year after a skirmish with cannibal natives from another island, which results in all but one being killed, Crusoe has a companion, Friday. The process of teaching Friday to speak English, and to understand the theology of a Christian God are amusing as well as genuine. The role of Friday is played consummately, by Jamaican, David Heron. Michael Carleton's brilliant direction brings the audience into an upclose and personal look at the ravages of nature and the strength and nobility of the human spirit. Defoe himself would be proud to see his story brought to the stage with such integrity.  

Showtimes Sponsors

Goldman Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Feb. 8 & Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.

AmSouth Bank
Greenberg Traurig
Shakespeare Festival Guild

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Robinson Crusoe: Eric Hissom*
- Friday: David Herron*
- Captains: Brett Mack

- Captain: Patrick Braillard
Production Team
- Director: Michael Carleton
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Mel Barger
- Sound Designer: Britt Sandusky
- Stage Manager: Stephanie Spriggs*
- Asst. Stage Managers: Deborah Merrill, Emily Carter Watson
- Sound Engineer: Gina Yolanga
- Costume Overhire: Julie Snyder
- Lighting Overhire: Eric Furbish, Mike O'Neill
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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April 12 - May 7, 2006

By William Shakespeare

Examining the delicate balance between liberty and government order, this classic tragedy is perhaps the greatest political play in all of world literature. Brutus and Cassius support Caesar during his rise to power, but fear he may declare himself both god and king, tossing them aside and destroying hundreds of years of democracy. Friendship turns to betrayal, murder and ultimately war!

Julius Caesar

A powerful sword still cuts sharply. The Shakespeare Festival production of 'Julius Caesar' wields its lessons in the fray of a modern world.
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Brutus seems like the last guy who would have done it.

He's a mild-mannered man, a rational man, the kind of man who shrinks from raising his voice. In the hands of actor Dan McCleary, he's a paragon -- and that's why, when he steps in to stab Julius Caesar, you recoil as if you had done the deed yourself.

The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's newest Julius Caesar has that effect. These men may have names such as Casca and Trebonius, but they seem entirely modern, with all the worries, faults and foibles that people have today. This particular play is charged with enough meaning that maybe the modern trappings aren't always necessary. But when a man such as Brutus commits the deeds he does, the effect is like a punch to the gut.

In Julius Caesar, director Dennis Lee Delaney has made the Romans of the first century B.C. altogether familiar, from the high-handed political leader to the stupid, suggestible mob. This tragedy may be one of the easiest of Shakespeare's plays for the uninitiated to understand: In the Shakespeare Festival's version, it also strikes close to home.

The sky runs red over the amphitheater at Lake Eola Park, where the festival is ensconced for its annual outdoor run. Designer Eric T. Haugen's creepy lighting paints a storm-tossed world, and Bob Phillips's abstract set suggests at times an imperial interior, at other times the skyline of a great city.

It's a modern city, clearly: These Romans dress in natty suits, with only draped sashes over their shoulders (Jack Smith did the costumes) to show their importance. The sounds of machine guns and missiles interrupt the night, and a metal detector stands guard to keep knives out of the senate chambers. (Only that last touch is a distraction: It sent the noisy young women behind us into a fit of giggles, which only grew worse when the blood started flowing.)

In that Rome Brutus watches as his friends and colleagues brood over Caesar's raging ambition. And there Brutus, seduced by the single-minded Cassius, tries to reason his way into the murder -- to kill Caesar "boldly, but not wrathfully," to be remembered as "purgers, not murderers."

You're not apt to be able to distinguish every one of Caesar's murderers or every member of the unsavory hordes who switch sides in this drama whenever you blink. But Delaney's large cast, blessed with fine actors in very small roles, makes surprising inroads. Jim Ireland's drunken Casca stands out from the crowd of conspirators, as does Eric Zivot's mournful-faced Decius. Sarah Hankins and Be Boyd are fierce in the roles of Portia, Brutus' wife, and Calphurnia, wife to Caesar -- women who should be heeded and are not.

And Edward Lynn Davis II brings tenderness (and a sweet singing voice) to the devoted Lucius, Brutus's friend and servant, who agrees almost gently to Brutus's final request.

As Caesar, Johnny Lee Davenport projects the power of a man who thinks he has earned every bit of it: He's a lion of a man who no longer has to listen to what anybody else has to say. Steven Patterson makes Cassius a hard-bitten military man, with his keen mind always racing, and David Hardie's Mark Antony is both wily and passionate. When this Antony speaks -- "Cry 'havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war" or the even more famous "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" -- the hairs on the back of your neck are likely to stand on end.

Still, McCleary's Brutus stands apart from all of those -- a quiet man in eyeglasses, sweet-tempered but, as he says, "with himself at war." If the mob in this production is a frightening thing, mindless, violent and quick to anger, this introspective Brutus is its antithesis.

Director Delaney and his cohorts have filled their Julius Caesar with violence and brutality, with ominous spectacle (note the forest of black umbrellas) and fiery skies. But all the horror and all of Antony's handsome speechifying do not take away from what McCleary makes of this production -- a recounting of a story that is indescribably sad.

Orlando Shakespeare's Caesar: intense, passionate, and even a little gory...
Matthew MacDermid, Talkinbroadway.com

Every once in a while it's fun to revisit high school English class. And hopefully, area tenth grade teachers were smart enough to organize bus loads of students to the Orlando Shakespeare Festival's splendid production of Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar, which plays at Lake Eola's amphitheatre through May 7th. This production of the classic is a completely accessible, breathtakingly staged production featuring some mesmerizing acting, sensational scenery, and when it finally gets dark enough, a sublime lighting design. Once again, OSF has taken the basics of Shakespeare's penmanship and enhanced it to a fully realized production that the Bard would surely be proud to see.

And, as can be expected by OSF, we're not seeing Caesar as our Elizabethan ancestors did. This slick, modern presentation, as deftly directed by Dennis Lee Delaney, and designed by Bob Phillips (set), Eric Haugen (lights), Matthew Given and Delaney (Sound), and Jack Smith (costumes), is a Caesar for a modern audience--and the lessons that the play teaches are as relevant today as ever, with a contemporary feel giving the audience complete accessibility to Shakespeare while also being able to connect his tale to our world's own current events. The play drips of politics, greed, betrayal, and murder--and it is certainly better acted than any action movie you could see in theatres on a Saturday night.

The usual uniformity of excellence amongst OSF's cast is fully evident in this production, with a group of distinguished performers claiming supporting roles. Jim Ireland's drunken Casca is the true standout of the supporting conspirators, with Eric Zivot's Decius Brutus a close second. Caesar, as played by Johnny Lee Davenport, is a booming presence, both in voice and stature--however, his presentation of the verse occasionally borders on overpronounced--and in the famous scene between he and his wife, Calphurnia, Davenport seems to be in a fight for attention with the terrific Be Boyd. She wins. Sarah Hankins provides a convincing and passionate Portia, and Nicole Victoria Reinsel is excellent as the creepy Soothsayer. David Hardie is marvelous as Caesar's friend, Mark Antony, providing a delicious portrayal that ends the first act tightly and begins the second confidently. And it should be stated that any production that requires Timothy Williams to play a supporting role must have some true confidence in the ability of its leading players.

In this case, rightfully so. As the principal conspirators, Brutus and Cassius, Dan McCleary and Steven Patterson are incredible. McCleary brings a sense of sorrow and sweet-temperedness to a man who commits a terrible act. His Brutus is truly sympathetic in all cases, and in an emotional second act scene with Patterson's Cassius, brings more depth and nuance to the character than a great number of other actors possibly could have. Patterson gives a tour de force portrayal, a tough-as-nails military man whose mind always seems to be racing with thoughts of war. A riveting pair of actors, providing performances Orlando audiences will remember for years to come.

Bob Phillips' unit set is as visually appealing as it is a wonderful stomping ground for Delaney's actors, and Jack Smith's costumes add a war-time feel that brings forth a terrific sense of the director's concept. But then there's Eric Haugen's lighting, which is beautiful and most of the time--and that's only because a 7 PM curtain and daylight savings robs this designer of the opportunity to showcase his work on the entire production.

Still, this is a Julius Caesar to remember--and thanks to Orlando Shakespeare Festival, it will be remembered for a long time.

Showtimes Sponsors

Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, April 12 & Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m.

AmSouth Bank
Bright House Networks
City of Orlando

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Julius Caesar: Johnny Lee Davenport*
- Mark Antony, triumvir after the death of Julius Caesar: David Hardie*
- Publius, a senator: John Wayne Shafer*
- Brutus, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Dan McCleary*
- Cassius, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Steven Patterson
- Casca, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Jim Ireland*
- Trebonius, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Timothy Williams*
- Caius Ligaruis, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Clement Valentine
- Decius Brutus, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Eric Zivot*
- Metellus Cimber, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Dan Graul
- Cinna, conspirator against Julius Caesar: Brett Mack
- Flavius, a tribune: Donte Bonner
- Soothsayer: Nicole Victoria Reinsel
- Cinna, a poet : Brett Mack
- Lucius, friend to Brutus and Cassius: Edward Lynn Davis II
- Calphurnia, wife to Caesar: Be Boyd*
- Portia, wife to Brutus: Sarah Hankins*
- Carpenter: Clement Valentine
- Cobbler: Christopher Lee Gibson
- Senators: Christopher Lee Gibson, Chris Lindsay
- Plebians: Donte Bonner, Edward Lyn Davis II, Christopher Lee Gibson, Michael Gill, Dan Graul, Chris Lindsay, Brett Mack, Nicole Victoria Reinsel, John Wayne Shafer*, Clement Valentine, and Eric Zivot*
- Soldiers: Michael Gill, Chris Lindsay, Clement Valentine
- Caesar's Servants: Christopher Lee Gibson, Michael Gill, Chris Lindsay
- Antony's Servant: Michael Gill

- Caesar: Chris Lindsay
- Brutus: Brett Mack
- Cassius: Dan Graul
- Antony/Decius Brutus/Metellus/Trebonius/Cinna/Flavius/Artemidorus/Casca: Chris Holz
- Portia/Calphurnia: Gina Rivera
- Soothsayers/Soldiers: Brittany Morgan
- Cobbler/Ligarius/Carpenter: Jason Horne
- Publius: Stephen Lima
- Lucius: Kane Prestenback
Production Team
- Director: Dennis Lee Delaney (SSDC)
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Jack Smith
- Sound Designers: Matthew Given, Dennis Delaney
- Fight Choreographer: Tony Simores
- Text Coach: Sarah Hankins*
- Stage Manager: Angi Weiss-Brandt*
- Asst. Stage Managers: Lindsay Jacks, Deborah Merrill, Melissa A. Nathan, Emily Carter Watson
- Wardrobe: Sarah Denise O'Quinn
- Light Board Operator: Amy Hadley
- F/X Operator: Nicole Peters
- Sound Engineer: Ryan Peavey
- Costume Overhire: Julie Snyder
- Lighting Overhire: Eric Furbish, Morgan Gaskin, Mike O'Neill, and Katy Ross
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists


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