Tag Archives: john didonna

Phantasmagoria Orlando: A Mesmeric Revelation

Last night Phantasmagoria Orlando debuted its sixth annual show titled, “The Darkness Returns,” at Mandell Theater inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center or as the cool kids know them, Orlando Shakes, in Winter Park. It was the first in a total of thirteen performances throughout October. The last being on, when else? Halloween!

Earlier this week we were invited to a rehearsal, where we got a sneak peek of what’s to come and what goes into each show, from sound and multimedia to stage combat and… monster blocking? Our lips are sealed, as are those of the cast, crew and last night’s audience. However…

We had the grand opportunity to chat with a few of the key players; Phantasmagoria Orlando Creator (and Central Florida Top 5 theatre contributor!) John DiDonna and co-director/producers Seth Kubersky and Kevin Becker. Check out our interview #throughglass below! (Special thanks to the Phantasmagoria lighting crew for the assist!)

What is Phantasmagoria?

DiDonna explains, “(Phantasmagoria) is a Victorian, horror circus that has Steampunk overtones – that’s for sure. It is a storytelling troupe that has traveled through the ages for 2,000 plus years, telling stories and bringing them to life. So as we tell them, they are actually given life and become real.

Don’t let the words ‘horror circus‘ scare you too much, scaredy cats. The stories performed may be macabre in nature and at times, intense in presentation for some, but think of it in more of a Hitchcockian way, only a bit more visual, louder and older. MUCH older. With fire and aerial acrobatics. (YES!)

We like to think of it as a Halloween treat for people who aren’t into the guts and the gore of the haunted houses but still want something that’s spooky in a kind of classical way,” says Kubersky, who knows a thing or two about the other side of this spectrum.

Phantasmagoria 2

Photo Credit: Barry Kirsch (Murder City Media)

It’s a family affair… kind of.

The cast and crew of Phantasmagoria are a whimsical family on and offstage. Their family of course being extraordinarily talented and fantastically entertaining, but not theirs may not necessarily be a family show. “There’s nothing explicit but it’s probably PG-13 in terms of the tone,” says Kubersky.

Don’t let this deter you at all, horror and steampunk fans! DiDonna fleshes it out a little more, “There are certainly frights in the show. It wouldn’t be a horror show if there weren’t. They’re more Edgar Allen Poe type frights or H.P. Lovecraft type frights, rather than being Jason or Freddy. Which are great, those are amazing frightening things for a different kind of audience.

A sneak peek at @PhantasOrlando’s #TheDarknessReturns @OrlandoShakes!

A video posted by Central Florida Top 5 (@centralfltop5) on

While Phantasmagoria was created and regularly perform right here in Central Florida, they also tour across the country with, as Kevin Becker explained, a few expansion plans on the front burner. A theatrical start-up, if you will.

KB: “Just this summer we went up to Atlanta and had a weeklong workshop with children, ages 10-18 and basically (showed them how) to do Phantasmagoria. Starting with stories that are classic literature; Edgar Allen Poe was one of the stories. We got to run them through how we do what we do and then kids got to do our pre-show. We had a little mini-show before we actually went on. We’re actually building on that tour because we sold out three or four out of five performances–

JD: “Which was incredible! In a town where nobody knows us, so it was amazing!”

KB: “We’re expanding (Phantasmagoria) to Baltimore in the Spring, in March, as well as looking to take it to New York City.

SK: “In addition to touring outside of the state, we also tour around the Florida area. If you don’t come to Shakes, you can see us – we were at the (Orange County) Library just recently, Renningers…”

JD: “Special events, Creative City Project upcoming, Zombie Ball… We’re supposed to be a one month a year show and we’re working twelve months of the year at this point!”

SK: “If you have a bar mitzvah or a bris…”

JD: “We have an AMAZING bris horror story!”

I’m fairly sure if this layered labour of love wasn’t truly that, the Phantasmagoria team would still be a one-month-out-of-the-year troupe.

JD: “It’s weird. In the second year, we did our first special event, someone wanted us to do something and we were like, ‘Oh that’s interesting, let’s try that,’ and we haven’t stopped since. We’ll hang up our boots December 6th, that’s our last event for this year, and then we start January 4th with an event next year! So we get Christmas off… maybe.

For this troupe, that’s a LOT of free time. Anyone in need of a Krampus show?

Phantasmagoria's "Alice" graces the cover of this month's OCLS Books & Beyond!

Phantasmagoria’s “Alice” graces the cover of this month’s OCLS Books & Beyond!

Get thee to a show!

The producers of Phantasmagoria have extended special ticket pricing for you, Central Florida Top 5 readers! Use promo code CentFlTop5 to order tickets online for a performance between now and 5pm on October 12 via www.orlandoatplay.com and receive an EXCLUSIVE Central Florida Top 5 20% DISCOUNT, so act fast!

Fine print: This code is good for any show(s) between October 9th and 31st, Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights and Monday the 19th and 26th, all at 8:00pm start (Box office opens at 7:15 – be there no later than 7:45). Tickets are limited to 4 per order, per event, and service fees will be applied. A limit to 15 CFLT5 discounts per performance night during run. (If tickets are sold out for one show, try another night)
Phantasmagoria 1

Photo Credit: Murder City Media (Barry Kirsch)

ProTip: VIP Tickets include a glass of wine, a treat, a souvenir, a download on Halloween night and a special VIP show with fire and even more surprises for only $10 more!

What may one expect from this year’s show?

You’ll get no spoilers here! Director John DiDonna will only give a few clues. The rest you’ll have to see for yourself…

We have monsters. Lots of monsters. Tales going back to 700 A.D., all the way to the 1800s. Definitely an Edgar Allen Poe, we’re committed to doing a Poe every year that we do the show. You can certainly expect our brand of stage combat. You can expect large scale puppets. Dances! We have about five, six amazing dances in this one. Multimedia… and a few surprises. We’re not going to let the audience know what we’re doing this year. Normally it’s in the program – not this year, folks! We’re going to let you follow the journey with the characters this time.”

More Show information:

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/461837514019494/

Official Websitehttp://www.phantasmagoriaorlando.com

Twitter | Instagram

Ticketing info & purchaseswww.orlandoatplay.com

**20% off Promo code CentFlTop5 good until 5pm on 10/12!**

Performance Dates:
Oct 9 (Fri), Oct 10 (Sat), Oct 11 (Sun)
Oct 16 (Fri), Oct 17 (Sat), Oct 18 (Sun) Oct 19 (Mon)
Oct 23 (Fri), Oct 24 (Sat), Oct 25 (Sun), Oct 26 (Mon)
Oct 30 (Fri), Oct 31 (Sat) (All Performances begin at 8pm, with VIP show immediately following main stage show)

AGE RESTRICTIONS: Due to nature of classic and literary horror such as Poe, the show is not recommended for children under 8. Infants or toddlers will not be allowed in.

Exclusive Behind the Door Tour of Orlando’s Gods and Monsters

Co-founder Todd Fisher took Central Florida Top 5 on an exclusive tour of the first ever Gods & Monsters which opens on June 13th at the growing Artegon Marketplace! This new, revolutionary pop culture retail experience (and soon to be a not-at-all-secret cool geek headquarters) has been generating quite a buzz online with both nerds and n00bs. Unlike a third of our new Top 5 writers, I was unfamiliar with ‘geek culture’ before going in and honestly a little intimidated! Thankfully Todd Fisher, his business partner Anna and Mr. Online Sales Guy were very welcoming, friendly and super excited to show us around the space.

Gods & Monsters Logo

Many may be familiar with the phrase (or even song by Lana Del Rey) ‘Gods and Monsters’ in one way or another, but how did Orlando’s Gods & Monsters come to be? “Anna, my partner, and I have been in the retail genre game for… ever! I helped run ACME Superstore in Longwood for almost fifteen years, and she’s done her part in the local art community running galleries for just as long,” Todd said.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for both. “It was weird, we both got out of our current jobs at the same time an saw the potential for a team up, I was going to apply to the healthcare jobs canada if nothing would have come up. Just like in the comic books, ‘Wondertwin powers activate!’ She saw the potential of what I could bring to the table, and I saw the same. We decided to join forces and try something a little different than what a lot of places are currently bringing to market. A classier version of the current comic book store model.


Side of Artegon Marketplace will look dramatically different on June 13th!

It’s a nearly 20,000 square foot space. It’s an enormous amount of space. We were originally looking at something much, much smaller and, frankly, more manageable… maybe 7,000 square foot. This awesome space kind of fell into our lap at a great deal and we couldn’t pass it up. It was too good to not to take the shot. I really think that the way we’re approaching it – with four separate business models under one roof – I think it can work.

Top 5 things to expect from the Gods & Monsters Grand Opening event on June 13th?

  • Live silk arialists
  • Phantasmagoria (created by our own John DiDonna!) will be performing
  • Tons of local cosplayers and a few secret cosplay celebrities
  • John Cerabino will reveal his new costume build (it’s a surprise)
  • Visiting artists including James Hance of Relentlessly Cheerful Art

Being an infrequent or first time visitor to such a place might make one feel like an outsider. Not so with Gods & Monsters. Everyone is welcome! They hope to be a community hub for all, whether you may be a reader, gamer, collector, fanboy or fangirl. “With a place like us and what we’re about is ALL about community,” Todd says. “Especially in the last several years, we’ve seen a huge upswing in the nerd community being more comfortable with itself. With it being such a staple on tv programming and movies, comic books are cool! When I was in elementary school it was decidedly uncool to be into comics and toys and all that stuff.

What happened? What event over time caused such a Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion nerdaissance? “Something happened in the last twenty years or so that really galvanized the nerd community and brought us together. ‘In our numbers we are stronger,’ “ Todd explains. “They say the geek shall inherit the Earth and… here we are. Obviously we see a potential to bring a community together and, hopefully, that translates to prosperity. It’s symbiotic; I think that we can bring them something and they can keep us afloat to keep giving them things. I’m very hopeful!

The plight of the small business owner is not lost on the team at Gods and Monsters. “It’s been nothing but constant frustration,” Todd says with a laugh.“We were set to open back in November but every kind of possible permitting issue or stumbling block – every possible thing that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. Murphy’s Law… what’s that Nietzsche quote? ‘Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’ I am SO POWERFUL right now!

Tour time! If you can’t bear spoilers, DO NOT READ FURTHER. With 20,000 square feet under their ultility belts, they’ve got a ton of space to fill with nerdy goodness. This is a complete guided tour, so if you have fifteen minutes to spare, watch the video below for the turn-by-turn tour of the entire space front to back!

When you enter the front doors, if you turn around and look up you will see a very large mural by Orlando artist Earl Funk featuring Marvel characters; Rocket Raccoon, Spider-Man, Doc Ock, M.O.D.O.C., Storm and more.

Instagram: @EarlFunk

Orlando artist Earl Funk works on a large mural above the front doors

Turning back around, to the right you will see an Arkham Asylum themed register area. Even the experience in checkout will have really cool interactive components, which we won’t spoil for you. (Ok, it’s REALLY cool and Todd describes it in more detail in the video around the six minute mark.)

GnM Retail

Hard work is being put in by the Gods & Monsters team

In the middle of Gods and Monsters lives a vast retail staging area with lit showcases, toy kiosks and more. “We’ll have your toys, your statues, Hot Toys, Sideshow, Kotobukiya… I’m trying to get the stuff that not every place locally carries, to be that destination for the higher end stuff. And, to showcase that stuff with an eye towards respect that I think that product deserves. A lot of this stuff is art. This will give people an opportunity to see it in good lighting, properly displayed and the bonus is you can take that stuff home with you. That could be IN your home.”

Next is the Gotham themed New Comics and Kids section, both of which will take up a good portion of the right side wall. “We’ll have as wide a selection as I can muster of trade paperbacks on these really awesome (themed) pillar displays.”

Toward the back of the store is The Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E, a concession bar inspired by the Ridley Scott film BladeRunner. “At the beginning of the film he (Harrison Ford as Decker) is getting noodles at the White Dragon Noodle Bar, and we’re trying to theme it as closely to that as we can.” Yes, a noodle bar is also planned!

On the back wall will be a DJ booth/AV section for store atmosphere. Also, in this back section of the store will be themed gaming rooms (three sci-fi, three fantasy), a stage setup with projection and table seating for the concession area. A wall will separate this area from the front of the store and will have mood lighting that can be customized to any tournament, event, concert or gathering.

On the back left hand side of Gods and Monsters will live a fantasy themed gaming retail area that will be fully stocked with cards, dice and other gaming accessories. A large apparel section will neighbor this area; just look for the really cool cosmos, space themed mural. “Not a whole lot of places I find put a lot of money or floor space into an apparel section, and I think… people need clothes, specially a fancy tie from the John Henric UK tie collection. I’m a big fan,” Todd says dryly. A big selection of hats, logo tees, socks and maybe even pajamas will go here.

To the left of the apparel section will be two VIP rooms; one fantasy themed (closer to the gaming area), one sci-fi themed (closer to the side entrance). What’s that you say? A second entrance? Yep! “With the addition of a separate, outside entrance we can do our midnight openings, we can stay open late. Once our concession area opens in January or February, we’ll have beer and wine and can do late night events. We’re very excited about that!” (Oh, and you’ll enter the VIP rooms through a full size TARDIS from Doctor Who!)

The Transmetropolitan Gallery will showcase the work of artists in Central Florida and internationally!

The Transmetropolitan Gallery will showcase the work of artists in Central Florida and internationally!

Heading back to the front entrance is a 1,000 foot ‘high end nerd gallery’ called The Transmetropolitan Gallery, which will showcase original artwork, high value toys, comics and memorabilia. Comic and graphic novel readers will recognize two of the co-owners – Warren Ellis, after whom the gallery is named, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series among many other works.

ProTip: Neil Gaiman’s wife is Amanda Palmer. She gave THIS amazing TED Talk.

Also with this space comes a great opportunity for Central Florida artists to showcase their work. “We will be accepting submissions to put before a jury to vote on which pieces each month go up. Unless it’s a solo show, or celebrity comic artist show, which we’re planning to do several times a year. Not really (any) restrictions on medium types,” says Anna Young, Co-Founder of Gods & Monsters and Curator of the gallery.

Todd rocks

Co-Owner Todd Fisher, “It’s not always about the money… It’s about sharing this.”

We had to leave you with this great thought from Todd. If there’s one unforgettable takeaway from this post, this is definitely it: “Even if you’ve never picked up a comic in your life, we’re going to make sure – if we have to just give it to you – that you’re going to leave with a comic book in your hand. I want every day to be like Free Comic Book Day,” Todd shares. “It’s not always about the money. It’s not always about taking home a paycheck. It’s about sharing this. It’s about opening up (to) people who haven’t been exposed to this or don’t know the joy of opening up a comic book… or just don’t ‘get’ it. I want them to ‘get’ it. Our mission in all of this is to turn people on to comics, toys and to just show off the space and say ‘Look what you’ve been missing! Come! Let me show you this cool thing!‘”

Note to Artists: Submissions may be sent online or through Gods & Monsters’ Facebook page or by emailing anna(at)godmonsters.com with photos and info for the work submitted.


Gods & Monsters is located at 5250 International Drive, Suite E8, Orlando, FL 32819 (inside Artegon Marketplace).

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/godmonsters

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/GodsMonsters_FL

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/godsandmonstersorlando


‘Tis a cool brisk breeze in the air. . . perfect to go see a show!

CFTiP – CENTRAL FLORIDA WEEKEND CHOICES and PICKS for Thursday November 8th  – Wednesday November 15th. From John DiDonna’s Central Florida Theatre in Process!   Events/Productions/Auditions/Education!


PLAY IN A DAY 2012!  Beth Marshall Presents 2012 Play-In-A-Day Season Kick-Off benefit in association with Penguin Point Productions and Lake Howell High School! This year’s event offers more plays than ever before ranging in lengths from one to five minutes, featuring the talents of over 50 of Orlando’s most veteran theatre professionals working alongside emerging top high school talent to offer up 100% original plays all written, rehearsed and fully performed off book within a 24-hour time span! https://www.facebook.com/events/508771989146587/?fref=ts

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Playwrights’ Round Table – Lowndes Shakespeare Center (Orlando)
Please join us as we proudly present our latest assemblage of original one act plays, presented in the beautifully refurbished Santos Dantin Theatre at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (812 E. Rollins Street, Orlando):
WHEN: November 9th, 10th, 16th, and 17th at 7:30pm, with November 11th and 18th Sunday matinees only at 3pm.
TICKETS: $15 general admission, $12 PRT members, students, Seniors 65+, military w/ID. Cash or credit at the door; online pre-order tickets may be purchased at redchairproject.com.
For seating reservations or more information, please call (407) 761-2683.
RATING: Mature themes guidance suggested
Facebook event link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/277284114334/permalink/10151159986234335/#!/events/461022180610243/

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“Best of Broadway: 1985-1989”  – Breakthrough Theatre (Winter Park)


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Steppin’ Out with Irving Berlin – Winter Park Playhouse. Preview performance Thursday 7:30pm (all seats $15), opens Friday 7:30, continues Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30. Musical Revue, suitable for all ages. Industry pricing available at all performances when seats available. Reservations strongly recommended. 407-645-0145winterparkplayhouse.org

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GOAT and BSP present “God of Carnage and Rounding Third” **A commUNITY Orlando Event**   GOAT hosts Bay Street Players at the Mandel at the Shakes, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando. Friday, November 9 at 8pm — Rounding Third, a comedy of mismatched Little League coaches by Richard Dresser. GOAT box office 407-872-8451 or book online at goatgroup.org.


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PRODUCTIONS CONTINUING (some final weekends!):

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Shoestring theatre in Lake Helen farce “Sex Please were 60” family show despite title. this weekend November 2, 3, 4* and 9,10,11* and 16, 17, 18*
Starting 8pm with Sunday matinees *2:30pm.
Call (386) 228-3777 to reserve your tickets


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Wanzie Presents the Florida Premeire of THE TEMPERAMENTALS, an important, moving, sexual, and illuminating historically acurate drama laced with camp and humor. Saturday nights November 10 & 17, 2012 at 7PM. Monday November26 at 7:30PM. The Footlight Theatre at the Parliament House. Tickets $15 advance. For reservations please dail 407.540.0317 (reservations accepted 24 hours a day, no credit card needed. If making a reservation on the same day as the show you wish to atend you must phone in prior to 4PM on that day). Tickets at the door, if available $18.
RATING: Adult situations but not at all unsuitable for teens. Youngsters between the ages of 13 and 17 years of age are welcome to attend with a parent or guardian but must leave the premises at the conclusion of the show. Ticket price includes Parliament House club and female impersonation show admssion for the remainder of the evening for those 18 and over. 407.540.0317

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Final WEEK! “RACE” – Orlando Shakespeare Theatre – (Orlando) Tickets for all other remaining performances, priced at $16-$40, may be purchased at (407) 447-1700, online at http://orlandoshakes.org, and in person at the Box Office located inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. RATING: Recommended for adult audiences only.

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SAK Comedy Lab is a 200 seat improv comedy theater in downtown Orlando. Conveniently located at the City Arts Factory’s second floor, 29 S. Orange Ave. SAK performs LIVE improv comedy shows that are fun and suitable for ALL AGES, Tuesday through Saturday.

NEW SHOW- Friday’s at 11:30pm. The Brawl for all is back! Check out our website for more information. www.sak.com

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“Love!Valour!Compassion!” – POINTE Performing Arts Center – Terrance McNally’s stunning comedic drama. This piece is beautiful, moving, funny…and you only have two weeks to see it!

RATING: Due to adult language, situations, and nudity this show is restricted to ages 18 and up. https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/134530173321991/?fref=ts

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“GETTING TO KNOW WHO?”— PLAY DE LUNA/ Art’s Sake (Winter Park)
an evening of One-Act Plays produced, directed and performed by Art’s Sake students! Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th at 8:00 pm and Sunday Nov. 11th at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $10, Reservations: 407-436-2359 orplaydeluna@gmail.com

No Rating Provided

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“Kilroy Was Here” – Circle Theatre Company is proud to present the WWII musical comedy, Kilroy Was Here! by Tim Kelly in the Black Box Theatre at The Orlando REP on November 2-4 and 9-11. From the Andrew Sisters style harmonies to the hop and swing of the Jitterbug to the heart-stirring patriotic numbers; the music of Kilroy Was Here! will have you tapping your feet, snapping your fingers, and even leaving a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.. Tickets $12-$14 www.circletheatrecompany.com

No rating provided

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“The Duchess of Malfi” – Auditions. Valencia College (Orlando) Michael Shugg’s adaptation of John Webster’s visceral tale of revenge, deception and corruption.  Directed by John DiDonna. Auditions open to all. Monday, November 12th, 7pm – 10pm. Cold Readings. https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/169664636508335/

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The Murder Mystery Company is hiring in Kissimmee, FL! Be a part of one of the fastest growing, interactive dinner theater companies in the nation!

We are seeking actors (Male/Female) who must have: experience with improv, dinner theater and/or interactive theater, a VERY outgoing personality, reliable transportation and a flexible schedule.

Actors are paid for each show they perform in, and we also reimburse gas for drivers.

Auditions will be held Wednesday October 17th! Please submit your headshot and theatrical resume tomurdermysterydan@gmail.com, with the subject heading “Kissimmee Auditions” to be considered.

Check us out at www.grimprov.com

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 Join us this Saturday and Sunday as we welcome Amy & Diane from Brand Teachers for our 2-Day Personal Branding Workshop! This workshop will show you how you can develop your own strategy to stand out from the crowd and remain true to your personal brand.


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The Character
Dates: Nov. 10 – Dec. 1, 2012 (4 weeks)
Time: Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Tuition: $150
For the adult actor, Orlando Shakespeare Theater offers a series of classes designed to prepare actors to succeed in the profession, focusing on skills that are basic, yet essential, ongoing techniques in the actors’ toolbox. In this class, feast on the many ways that actors create a character! We’ll play with age, time, status, and circumstances to build a character from the inside out. Students will be expected to learn a short two-minute monologue.
To register and for information, call the Education Department at 407-447-1700 ext. 208.    www.orlandoshakes.org

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Stevie Vallance is coming to orlando Dec 8th and 9th to teach an animation V/O class. If you want to break into the world of cartoons then THIS IS THE CLASS YOU NEED! Sign up here!!

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Each week Central Florida Theatre in Process will provide resources and links to a variety of events playing in the Central Florida area, along with news and views!  To get involved, join the conversation at our facebook group by joining our group at