Tag Archives: Orlando

Top 5 Interactives I Want at The NBA Experience

It’ll be the end of an era when DisneyQuest closes in 2016 to usher in The NBA Experience. Personally, I will be saddened by the void it will leave in my nostalgic heart. I’ve been attending DisneyQuest since it opened, and visiting nearly once a year since 2009.

Sure, the technology in the place is outdated, but the fun isn’t. But I get it. Until it closes next year, we can enjoy the virtual reality and the fully immersive and interactive activities as much as we want.

That being said, I’m a big NBA fan and excited for what’s to come which, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, will include “high-tech experiences, a restaurant and a store.”

As we await more details, in the true spirit of Disney, I imagined what we could see when The NBA Experience opens in the not-so-distant future.

Virtual Game of 5-on-5

Likelihood of *potentially* happening: 80%

By offering interactive basketball experiences, your first thought would be to actually play some basketball. Since injury liability from a san diego personal injury attorney, among other factors, prevents the facility from holding pickup games, I suggest a virtual alternative. Call Costa Ivone Accident Attorneys when you need advice on what to do when accidents happen.

A DeMayo Law Offices, LLP personal injury attorney generally has extensive knowledge about the comparable cases that have resolved. Furthermore, they can provide important statistical data to the victim to help them make a wise decision on how far they should pursue a claim. The attorney has a liability to his client and should generally put an effort in winning their client’s trust and confidence in that they will look after their welfare and best interests. Therefore, the victim should always relay the details of their accident to their personal injury lawyers, even if it is their fault or mistake. The victim should not hide any points from their attorney because what they see as a simple issue may be an important point for the attorney. Yet, if there is any fault or mistake on the part of the victim, the attorney should handle it carefully and should not reveal any of the client’s secrets under any circumstances. So, the victim of an accident should appoint a good attorney as soon as possible and should be able to depend on him or her for the best possible outcome. If you want to get legal advice, contact to Stephen Phillips lawyer.

Besides, the majority of attorneys do not take any payment until the compensation has been paid to the client. Most of them prefer to handle their cases on the basis of agreement and based on the agreement they take a percentage from the recompense attained by the client. In contrast, if the client is defeated in the case, they do not need to pay the attorney. It is very important for clients to distinguish the distinction between fee and cost of a personal injury attorney. The cost denotes the expense – the amount that the client has to pay while filing a lawsuit.

Bail bonds are usually set during a formal procedure called a bail hearing. This is when the Judge meets with the accused person (Defendant) and hears information about whether or not it is appropriate to set bail. If certain types of bail bonds are being considered, like a secured bond or property bond, the Judge will consider information about the Defendant’s financial resources and the sources of whatever property or funds will be used as collateral for the bail bond. If anyone else will be posting bail for the Defendant, they are considered as a Surety and their financial situation will also be considered. Click here if you want to get more about the Connecticut Bail Bonds Group.

If a Surety is involved in providing bail, he must be present at the bail hearing along with the Defendant, and the Judge will inform both of them about their various obligations and responsibilities. It is very important to note that if the Defendant does not fulfill his responsibilities and appear for subsequent hearings and court dates, or if he violates any conditions of his release, the bail may be revoked and forfeited. So it is very important that the Surety has confidence in the Defendant before posting bail.

To visualize, I point to the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam, a long-time fixture at DisneyQuest. In this game, 11 players take the controls of a pinball in digital form, which is projected before them on a giant screen.

In my version, you’ll take the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller and, well, assume control of an NBA player in the latest game of either 2K Sports’ NBA 2K or EA SPORTS NBA Live series and play it on a giant screen. It’s not likely that you’ve played against nine other competitors in the same room. Call picks, shout “I’m open” and even talk trash a la Michael Jordan and it’s the next best thing to playing at the playground — and as NBA superstars to boot.

VR Pop-a-Shot

Likelihood of *potentially* happening: 25%

We’ve all played the pop-a-shot games at the arcade and they’re always a ton of fun. There’s nothing but you, a ball and a basket as you attempt to knock down as many shots as possible.

But we’re talking about The NBA Experience, a building that will assume the spot of the virtual-reality laden DisneyQuest, so we need some VR up in here!

So imagine donning a HMD (head-mounted display) and some motion capture gloves and doing the same thing but here’s the twist — now you’re trying to shoot over NBA players. Think of it as a reimagining of Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride.

Immersing yourself in a video game environment (like the aforementioned NBA 2K or NBA Live games) and having a LeBron James dare you to score on him could be the closest thing to a one-on-one contest with The King.

Of course, if you win, LeBron gives you props and suggests he might tell NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about you.

Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest

Likelihood of *potentially* happening: 50%

The night before the annual NBA All Star Game features a plethora of activities including the Skills Challenge. How cool would it be to perform the same drills course as the select group of NBA players every year? And what’s more, comparing your times to that of your favorite player, of course.

You could also do the same with the 3-Point Contest. Run the rack as you race the clock to drill as many treys as possible. Don’t forget the money ball!

Can you make it rain more than this past year’s winner, Steph Curry?

Do You Have the Inside Stuff?

Likelihood of *potentially* happening: 90%

NBA players are among the most elite athletes in the world, but nothing puts that quite into perspective like directly comparing yourself to one.

Test your vertical leap and reflexes as well as measure your height to see how you rank among the globe’s best basketball players.

Protect the Rim

Likehood of *potentially happening: 60%

Much like number two on this list, you’ll virtually go one-on-one with a NBA player except this time you’re on defense. Utilizing technology like that in the Kinect, you’d assume a defensive stance and swat away shots fired by players like Kevin Durant and James Harden.

It’s easy to score, but putting the clamps on your competitor is just as, if not more, satisfying.

I’m no attraction engineer, but I tried to create experiences that could theoretically be achieved by today’s technology. Whether any of these come to bear or not, I’m sure The NBA Experience will have a lot of game.

#TBT: What was Orange County, Florida like before Mr. Disney came to town?

It’s Throwback Thursday and we saved an interesting snapshot of Orange County’s yesteryear just for you, courtesy of news legend Mike Wallace and CBS’s long running news magazine, 60 Minutes!

Central Florida natives (yes, they exist!) will know of an Orange County before Mr. Disney and his magical world of characters and adventure became neighbors. Nowadays, like cassette tapes, pagers and pay phones, this concept is completely alien to most visiting, and yes even living here, but not all.

Courtesy: Life Magazine

Courtesy: Life Magazine

I am not a Florida native (nor was I alive in 1972) but my family has a long standing history in Orange County and they, as residents, have seen a lot of changes firsthand.

In the late 1950s my grandfather, Walter Steib, was recruited by Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin (still located on Sand Lake Road). He worked for American Bridge Company and helped build Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which Walt Disney World’s website still describes as ultra-modern!

[Fun Fact: My grandfather was also one of the first Presidents of the Tangelo Park Civic Association, which was MUCH different in the 1960s but is growing again thanks to the help of another longtime Orlando resident and philanthropist, Mr. Harris Rosen.]

On June 18th, 1972, Mike Wallace filed a report on Orange County, Florida called “Will Mickey Mouse Eat Up Orange County?” The headline may seem a bit foreboding however, the report itself shared how, $400 million dollars later life was drastically changing in Central Florida.

In the report below, you’ll get a glimpse of a fledgling yet mature Orange County – and some really nifty fashion trends of the time.

In 1972, Walt Disney World was a year old and, as Mike Wallace reported, “It will be the most prosperous summer that Orange County Florida has ever known. Hotels are booked solid for months ahead, land prices are soaring there and more new tourist attractions are on the way.

Here, Mr. Wallace describes a pre-Disney era Orange County as a quiet town. “He could sail slowly through the unspoiled wilderness of its inland waters and not have to see a soul all day. It was the kind of place the chamber of commerce used to tout as ‘the perfect retirement community.’ Ranch country, orange groves, cheap living, ideal weather and best of all it hadn’t really caught on the way that beach resorts and retirement towns had.”

He goes on to foreshadow an Central Florida we are all familiar with, forty four years before the fact. “But then in the early sixties, a fella named Walt Disney began to buy up land in this part of Central Florida,” he reported. “It was going to be the biggest Disney enterprise of all, dwarfing the famous Disneyland out in California. Twenty seven thousand acres of Florida Scrub Pine to be transformed into the world’s largest resort complex. It would put Orange County, Florida on the map.

And it DID.

According to a Walt Disney World 2014 fact sheet, “Disney is the largest taxpayer in Central Florida, paying approximately $566 million in state and local taxes each year.

However back in 1972, from residents to politicians, not everyone was excited about this venture. Unending traffic and delays, lack of hotel rooms for visiting families, tax increases for locals were all unfortunate headaches.

Orange County Commissioner Paul Pickett, a customer of H&R Block himself  said, “I have to speak for ‘Mrs. Smith,’ meaning that hypothetical taxpayer who’s been here for fifteen or twenty years minding their own business in a little house she owns, going to work every morning and just paying a lot of taxes.” A valid argument, especially for the time.

Then Orlando Salvation Army head, Major Sydney Lynch, also shared concerns. Despite being only a year old, Major Lynch felt Walt Disney World wasn’t doing enough for the local community.

When Mr. Wallace asked him, “Has the Disney dollar reached you?” Major Lynch replied, “The answer is no. I understand their policy is they’re going to make contributions to local charities such as ourselves.” Major Lynch went on to surmise, “I’m sure this may change as they get into their profit situation a little bit better.” Remember, this was 1972.

Now, in 2015, Disney is heavily embedded in our Central Florida community, from a philanthropic standpoint and more. According to their website, “approximately 100 Disney Cast Members serve on boards of local nonprofit organizations.” Walt Disney World is also “the largest corporate contributor to the Heart of Florida United Way,” which serves Orange, Osceola and Seminole county residents.

Former Orlando Mayor Carl Langford, seen in the video sitting quite smugly in front of a Mickey Mouse clock, said, “I will tell you, the chambers of commerce in Florida for fifty years have had paid executives who have gone out and said to people up north, ‘Come on down!’ What I’m telling you, they all got here at one time. So, we don’t need to send paid executives to have to tell people to come on down. They’re here in droves and they bring money, and they bring happiness – and they bring jobs – and they bring opportunities for people.

And he was, and is, correct. Forty four years later, visitors to Orlando still ‘come on down.’ Over 62 million of them in fact!

Photo Courtesy: Mayor Jacobs

Photo Courtesy: Mayor Jacobs

In April, Orlando set a new record for tourism in the US, becoming the first destination to surpass 60 million visitors. Current Orange County Mayor, Teresa Jacobs, said, “The impact of tourism on our community is remarkable, and in fact, the travel and tourism industry is the largest generator of jobs and economic impact of our region.

Orlando and Central Florida are historic for many reasons, good and not so, with tourism having lead the way for a long time. Nipping at the heels of tourism is Orlando’s tech scene, which will continue to grow and evolve in huge ways over the next few years!

And, even though my personal history doesn’t go back as far as my grandfather’s, there are things I genuinely miss like, Polar Cup frozen lemonade near Conway! And the smell of eclairs and pumpernickel bread from the bakery at Ronnie’s Restaurant in Colonial Plaza Mall.

ProTip: If you haven’t already been,

Feeling throwbacky Thursday nostalgic too? The Facebook group, “If you grew up in Orlando, FL… then you remember” is WONDERFUL online comfort food for these feels! (Take in a quick history lesson from real Florida native, Bess Auer, in her Top 5 guest post, “Orlando – Please don’t redefine us.“)

I believe longtime Orange County Agricultural advocate Henry “Green Belt” Swanson, who died in 2012 with more than thirty years of service with Orange County, wins cheekiest anecdote. He said, “For years Orlando was known as ‘The City Beautiful.’ It’s changed it’s title to ‘The Action Center.” If you want a piece of the action, this is where to come.

I wonder what Mr. Swanson, Commissioner Pickett and Mayor Lynch would think of Central Florida now…?

A Flock of Seagulls at Hard Rock Velvet Sessions July 30

It’s that time again! Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando’s 2015 Velvet Sessions lobby concert series is back again next week with A Flock of Seagulls. The band performs hits “I Ran,” “Wishing,” “The More You Live, The More You Love” and more on Thursday, July 30 in the Velvet Bar and Lobby Lounge.

Velvet Sessions is Hard Rock Hotel’s special rock ‘n’ roll cocktail party and lobby concert held the last Thursday of the month (January through October). Don’t forget all Velvet Sessions tickets include FREE specialty drinks, finger foods and warm-up tunes from 6:30 pm until show time, cash bars and live band from show time onward, and complimentary valet parking. This is a 21 and older event!

The big question is: do you have the guts to rock your best old-school Flock of Seagulls hairstyle to the show? If you do, tweet us a photo @CentralFLTop5.

Get tickets in advance to save a few dollars: $29 online or $35 at the door (fees apply). Limited VIP tickets are $50 online only and include all the benefits of a regular Velvet Sessions ticket, plus access to a special viewing area with private bar. Purchase tickets in advance online and receive early entry to the show at 6 pm.

Go to velvetsessions.com for tickets and more information or call 407-503-2401.


Five Questions with Peg O’Keef and Beth Marshall

This week, John DiDonna decided to ask 5 questions, not of actresses Peg O’Keef and Beth Marshall, but of their characters Opal and Pearl Locksdale — both, along with Ruby portrayed by Blue Star, are appearing in “Court Ordered Therapy: Ladies of Eola Heights – Continued” at The Abbey in Downtown Orlando through July 27.  The ensuing melee almost caused police to be called. Herein lay the aftermath of these two ladies.

Okay ladies, first off thank you for coming by for a 5 questions with. So… Here we go:


Question One:

JOHN D: It takes so very much to get you in the room with each other. There must be things you love about each other more than anything. What are those things? (Put the shoe down please)

PEARL: At the end of the day, it is my sisters Ruby and Opal that get me to face my own demons and evolve to be a better Pearl. (Even though it is often in a very roundabout way)

OPAL:  I love my sisters more than buttery biscuits… In other words, a lot. Pearl has a powerful sense of righteousness. She is fiery and determined. Ruby is big-hearted—a creature of love. And Jackson/June has always been the nicest of all of us.

PEARL: I love how Opal and I can agree on all that is wrong with Ruby and how Ruby and I can agree on all that is wrong with Opal and how Opal and Ruby can agree with all that is wrong with me. WAIT! Disregard that last part of the sentence because I, Pearl Locksdale much like Mary Poppins am “practically perfect in every way!


Question Two:

JOHN D. Now that we have what you love about each other out in the open. .  .we are free to discuss those little things. . .those things about each other that may gnaw at each other, . . annoy each other, nay, even anger one another. What would those things be? (At this point in time, I the interviewer chose to step into another room and simply leave a recorder going to focus on the beautiful Inside Outside timber bed frame. Wanzie has agreed to pay for any furniture damage with drinks coupons, but I want to get my furniture from טבורת רהיטים which is the best store)

OPAL:  As is usually the case with folks, my sisters’ best qualities serve as the cradle for their faults.

PEARL: Unlike my sisters, I am not one to judge.

OPAL: Pearl’s determination sometimes becomes bull-headedness. She WILL get her way, no matter the cost. Ruby’s big heart can sometimes lead her to make poor life choices, which leave her vulnerable.

PEARL: Having said that, I will say this… If Ruby read something more than smutty dime store novels and Opal read something more than The Bible, we ALL would be better off.

OPAL: Biggest problem they share is they need more Jesus!

PEARL: Opal needs to not vote Republican. That would help too.


(NOTE: This was followed by 4 minutes of complete and utter silence)


Question Three

JOHN D: What do you think the audiences of “Ladies of Eola Heights” come to your shows for?

PEARL: Because they have superb taste.

OPAL:  They come to laugh, I reckon. But they leave with more than they bargained for. I hear some folks even shed a tear or two between the laughs.

PEARL: Playwright David Mamet once said, “You don’t go to the theatre to see kings and queens. You go to the theatre to BE kings and queens.”  Clearly, our familiar family dysfunction is welcoming.

OPAL:  I think we Locksdales are really just an amped-up version of every family: full of contradiction and inappropriateness and misery…but all wrapped up in love and (now and then) blow-milk-out-your-nose hysterics.

PEARL: There’s a little bit of us Locksdales in every family.


Question Four:

JOHN D: You were all raised for the most part here in the Orlando Area. What do you love most about Orlando? Hate most about Orlando?

PEARL: Orlando clearly is The City Beautiful. Our landscape is inviting. Obviously, Eola Heights is my favorite neighborhood and I very much enjoy my walks 3 times a week around Eola Park (with the exception of my sister Opal’s antics) but I digress…  The Locksdales believe in supporting local businesses. I for one love me some Mama B’s Giant Subs, Ruby is a big fan of The Parliament House and Opal has supported every Baptist church in the city at one point or another. All the Locksdale sisters agree that the local theatre scene is tops. Ruby really loves that VarieTEASE troupe over at The Venue, Opal is a fan of The HolyLand Experience, June loves that Hamburger Mary’s hostess Miss Sammy and I personally love the thought-provoking work of Beth Marshall Presents. We all can agree that The Orlando Fringe  has something for everyone and The Abbey is clearly THE place to be and  Michael Wanzie is our favorite local playwright and spiritual leader!

OPAL:  I love all the big American flags. My hobby is saying the Pledge of Allegiance every chance I get. Also, Orlando is blessed with so many churches, and I like shopping at Sears. What I don’t like:  The Parliament House—a den of inequity!

PEARL: The only thing I hate about Orlando is the need to develop and “redevelop” iconic and cool local nooks, areas, neighborhoods and make them more yuppie or cookie-cutter or whatever the latest thing is. We have so much kitschy historic charm here, let’s leave that alone.


Question Five

JOHN D: What is it like to come back together to do this show, and what can your audiences expect that is new and exciting?

OPAL: I am tickled pink to be kicking it with my sisters, my brother, and our new colleague Dr. Burroughs—our court-appointed mental health counselor. That said, I strongly doubt he’ll be able to crack the Locksdale nut!

PEARL: Let’s just say that Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil and Intervention have nothing on us!

OPAL: I reckon folks will have to mosey on down to The Abbey to find out if he does!

PEARL: Your summer will always be better off with an hour and ½ therapy session with The Locksdales! Visit >Estes Therapy home pageCONTRIBUTED BY JOHN DiDONNA OF CENTRAL FLORIDA THEATRE IN PROCESS

Review | Escapology: Locked in a room with 60 minutes left to live

Working in a highly secure US government research facility under Dr. Walter Brandt, a high-ranking chemical weapons specialist, to create a highly effective virus capable of eradicating enemy forces with swift pace and deadly accuracy, we discovered that Dr. Brandt went roage.

Orlando Escapology's Antidote Game

Dr. Brandt, like the hired guns of the west hiding his weapons at gun safes laguna hills ca which uses the best reloading press for long range shooting, has decided he would offer his virus to the highest bidder. With national security and the whole of humanity at stake we were tasked with discovering an antidote to the deadly virus.

While working in the laboratory one of our team members accidently knocked a vial of the deadly virus onto the floor. The vial crashes into the floor and plumes of green smoke fill the air.

The lab’s security system detected the breach and went into full lockdown. Alert sirens blare “60 minutes until total decontamination”.

A feeling of dread washed over me, I knew full decontamination meant no organic organism would survive.

The team panicked and rushed to create a suitable antidote, as we toiled away we discovered Dr. Brandt has left clues behind. Clues that could lead to an antidote? This is very similar to the escape game dallas, everybody is talking about it, anyways…

We decided we had a better shot at following the clues than trying to create an antidote of our own.

Feverously we worked to solve one clue after the other, while time ticked away and decontamination drew nearer.

When I heard the lab’s security system announce 30 minutes to total decontamination I began to feel hopeless. How close were we to solving all of his clues? When we solved them, would we find the antidote in time to shut the decontamination down?

I did my best not to let the team see my fear as we all worked together to solve the next set of clues.

Time about to expire, we solved Dr. Brandt’s last clue and found the antidote. To my dismay it was not finished, we needed to complete the chemical reaction to cure ourselves and shut down the security system.

This is a concept that was adopted by a local company called Elitist Gaming which added a similar mini game to their website emulating this massive game.

Cutting it down to the wire our mixture worked! We narrowly escaped and now have an antidote to the deadly virus Dr. Brandt is peddling across the world.

The nation and the world would be safe because of us. If I could only shake the feeling that this was not over, perhaps I could sleep at night.

The lobby inside Escapology Orlando

Escapology’s Antidote game is the first escape room game that I have ever attempted. A lot of effort is put into the experience, and I can say I felt the pressure of having to solve the clues before time, and the rest of us, expired.

We’ve only got an hour! Can we make it out of @EscapologyOrl?! #escapeology

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

While some of the riddles were difficult, Escapology provides a game master to watch over your progress and nudge you in the right direction if you happen to find yourselves stuck along the way.

After successfully completing the escape room (with 13 minutes, 26 seconds to spare) we were greeted with some refreshments, no food or drink (or technology!) allowed in the escape rooms. I really felt this was a nice touch, offering us either coffee, soda, or water to quench our thirst.

I can’t give you any more details, if that’s what you are looking for, you are going to have to experience it for yourself.

Welcome to Artegon Marketplace, Gods & Monsters!

Are you a Marvel or a DC? Old School or New School Whovian? White Walkers, Imperial Walkers, or The Walking Dead? Doesn’t matter what your nerd niche is, Gods & Monsters has you covered.

Orlando’s newest (and largest) comics shop opened at Artegon Marketplace on June 13, 2015, and I’ve already gotten that wrong, because calling Gods & Monsters “just” a comics shop does it a massive disservice.  On their website, they call themselves “the evolution of the pop culture retail experience,” and to be quite honest, I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  The massive, 18,898 square-foot space includes the Transmetropolitan Gallery (a spot for local artists to showcase pop-culture themed work) and the Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E. (a great lounge area to relax, eat, and play tabletop games).

The grand opening was a 12-hour mini-comicon, starting with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at 10:00 a.m., and continuing all day with appearances by cosplay models, aerial silk artists, a performance by Phantasmagoria, costume contest, and a silent auction raising funds to benefit Hero Initiative. Face painting! Local artists! Balloon art! It was an event that simply can’t be put into words.

My favorite part of Gods & Monsters so far is simply the attention to detail.  When I said they have everything covered, I meant it.  If there’s something you’re into, be it comics, games, or just about any kind of sci-fi or fantasy property, you’ll find it represented at Gods and Monsters.  I gasped out loud when I saw a collection of Dragonlance novels, only a few feet from a handful of Soujourn trade paperbacks.


My own copies are a little more worn than these are.


Am I the only person who was happy to see Sojourn and Ruse get a brief second life after CrossGen when Marvel bought the properties? Just me? Okay.


Even the warning signs are cheeky.

With its prime location at the Artegon Marketplace, Gods & Monsters is bound to become a popular tourist destination, and fits in wonderfully with the space there.  But locals, don’t let the tourists have all the fun.  Gods & Monsters has great potential as a hangout, especially once the promised noodle bar opens in the Offworld L.O.U.N.G.E.  Ramen and Cards Against Humanity? Count me in!

“The Flick” Director Kenny Howard Answers 5 Questions

This week Gen Y Productions brings a 4 week engagement of Annie Baker’s “The Flick” to the stage at the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. This marks the Florida premiere of the play which earned the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  “The Flick” runs June 17 through July 12.

Central Florida Theatre in Process’ John DiDonna asked the show’s director Kenny Howard to answer five questions:

Kenny Howard, director of "The Flick" playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts June 17-July 12

Kenny Howard, director of “The Flick” playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts June 17-July 12

JD: The production team you were part of is both Tony winning and Grammy nominated. Why the return to producing in Central Florida?

KH: For me it was about artistic vision and community. I went up for an AD job off-Broadway and to further my career as a director, yet ended up a managing member of a Tony Award-winning Broadway Producing company and a record label for Original Broadway Cast and Broadway artists’ cabaret albums.   Every moment was an amazing experience, but I needed to regroup and focus on what I actually wanted. That ended up being expression as an artist and a sense of community; both of which were things I had always felt I had here, so I came back for that purpose, as well as I just missed my family here in Central Florida. It was 17 years in the theatre community when I made the move to NYC, and I missed it horribly.  


JD: How does it feel being one of the first long-run shows in the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts? What are the risks? What are the benefits? (Okay, it is three parts but still one question!)

KH: Great question(s)! I had made a play to use the Pugh previously. I wanted in that space.

It is a gorgeous space that reminds me of the Jewel Box at the Signature Theatre in NYC.   Being a resident of Orlando almost 22 years, I was aware of the Pugh as the theater “for all lives,” (or whatever phrase they finally settled on), and I wanted to take them up on that.   I can’t tell you how it really feels until we load in on Sat (Note: June 13)., but I am a huge fan of the space and I’m excited as hell. The risks are many. Although not as expensive as first thought, it is still the most expensive venue of its kind in Central Florida, which requires a certain amount of attendance to be truly successful financially. AND, although not a producer for this production, I cannot help with my years of experience as a producer concern myself with that reality.

We are very fortunate to have a producer who not only rises to the challenge, but chose a play that challenges me, the cast, and crew, as well as the audiences. The benefits are that we are doing another production there in August. It is a musical that is over four times the size in cast and we have the benefit of acclimating ourselves to the space. Also, I believe in the vision of the Pugh that was first presented, and I hope that working with DPC for this project makes them amenable to doing the same for many local theatre companies. We are blessed to have a thriving theatrical community and I would like to see theatre companies follow suit and have more local productions take place there.


JD: Tell us about “The Flick”! What about this show will pull people into a live theatrical experience this summer?

KH: I can honestly say that personally I have never seen a show quite like “The Flick.” The setting of the play is inside an old movie house, that uses an old 35mm projector, and much like the theatre, the lives of the three lead characters are stuck in a rut. It is a story of the human spirit, change, heartache, yet very funny and extremely poignant. The audience is the screen and we watch the lives of 3 everyday people that we would normally pass in the theatre or on the street without a second glance. But in the movie house named “The Flick” we find ourselves immersed in three people doing their job and examining their lives and the need for connection. It is falls into a category of complete realism so these characters are not “performed,” as much as lived in by the fantastic cast.


JD: What is it like collaborating with the team of “The Flick”?

KH: This team is fantastic. Gen Y’s Managing Member Aaron Safer is amazing when it comes to artistic freedom, and he is a champion of the show, and can hustle. Chris Yakubchik as AD is another who provides great insight to the text. The cast collectively is so strong. Anastasia Kurtiak is a dream stage manager who keeps us all on track. Marcellis is a reserved man, but is bringing Avery to life in a beautiful way. Jessie Grossman is the bomb! She is a consummate professional and her Rose is truly lovely to watch. And then Daniel Cooksley is someone I have admired on the stage for years and the audience and we are extremely fortunate to have him breathe life into Sam. Coletyn is young, but he is bright and funny, and we are lucky to have him. Bonnie Sprung is our set designer and has out done herself for this one, and lastly Roy Brown, who I have used for most of my lighting design needs who in each instance has not only succeeded but gone above and beyond expectations. So as far as collaborating with this team…I’m very fortunate. J


JD: What is coming up next for Kenny Howard? Projects? Vacation?

KH: Next up in July is “Wanzie’s Court Ordered Therapy: Ladies of Eola Heights-Continued” at The Abbey which reunites Chris and I with Beth Marshall, Peg O’Keefe, Blue Star, Sam Singhaus and our newest cast member of the Locksdale tribe…Kevin Kelly. Then in August “Heathers: The Musical” we are back in the Pugh Theatre at DPC. In September I have BMP’s Play-in-a-Day, and the reboot of The Abbey’s Monday Night Cabaret Series, then in October “Bat Boy” at The Abbey. I do have another project in both the spring and summer of 2016, but it has not been announced yet. Vacation? What’s that? I will get to NYC whenever I can, and I will get to KY to visit my parents.

But mostly….”I can’t – I’m in rehearsal.”


Tickets range from $35 to $60 for the hilarious and heartrending “The Flick,” and are on sale now at DrPhillipsCenter.org.


– Interview and post courtesy of guest blogger John DiDonna of Central Florida Theatre in Process

Central Florida Theater Picks June 12-18

Enjoy these weekly picks by guest contributor John DiDonna of Central Florida Theatre in Process (CFTIP).

Here’s a round-up of theatrical events and productions you should know about for the week of June 12-18, 2015. For more theater news and discussion visit Central Florida Theatre in Process: www.facebook.com/groups/277284114334/

(PHOTO: Coletyn Hentz, Marcellis Cutler, Daniel Cooksley and Jessica Hope Grossman in “The Flick” playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts June 17-July 12.)


THE FLICK, written by Annie Baker and starring Daniel Cooksley, Jessie Grossman, Marcellis Cutler, and Coletyn Hentz, opens June 19th in the Dr Phillips Center Pugh Theater, tickets on sale now!  Industry Night: June 29th, Tickets only $25.

THE REPUBLIC – Pseudonym Productions (Near downtown Orlando)
Immersive theater brings video gaming to real life in an innovative, interactive performance experience.
June 11th (8pm), 12th (7:30pm & 10pm), and 13th (7:30pm)
Exclusive offer for this group: Use discount code CFLTHEATRE to save $5 off tickets!
Rated M for Mature. Advance ticket purchase required.

PRODUCTIONS CONTINUING (some final weekends!):

BULLSHOT CRUMMOND – SIZZLING SUMMER BOGO DEAL , a campy British comedy, continuing at Valencia’s East Campus Black Box Theater June 12, & 13 at 7:30pm and June 14 at 2:00pm. There are a limited number of BOGO tickets available per each remaining performance. Buy one General Admission ticket and get the second General Admission ticket for free!  This offer is good either with the box office (407) 582-2900 or online at www.valenciacollege.edu/arts with the Promo Code ‘carrierpigeon’ (yes, all one word). NOTE: For online purchase, you must enter that you want 2 General tickets. After you enter the Promo Code, the system will adjust the pricing. Cannot be combined with other discounts. Not valid for previously purchased tickets. We invite you to ‘Like’ our ‘Valencia Arts & Entertainment’ Facebook page.


DRIP industrial bar and show. Dress down, drink up and rock out while dancers tell a love story while dancing in paint, flying water and sand, backed by a LIVE rock band. You will get messy!
Thursdays (followed by a local art night), Fridays, Saturdays
Doors opens at 8pm, show starts a little after 9pm.
Tickets: www.ILoveDRIP.com
$35 DRIP 8747 International Dr. Ste 102 Orlando, Fl 32819

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.www.sak.com


MY PAL BETTE – Presented by interACTionZ and playing at UCF’s Performing Arts Center in Studio 1 Little Tommy Klein needs some divine intervention: between the kids at school, his feuding parents, and his own inner demons, he needs the right DIVA to teach him to be FIERCE! Enter Bette Davis, a diva with balls the size of Massachusetts and a heart to match! June 20th and 21st at 7:30pm and June 20th at 4pm. Free admission with a suggested donation to interactions. Rated PG-13. https://www.facebook.com/events/634287566716129/

DAMES AT SEA – Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Avenue (Winter Park). July 24 – Aug 22 (Preview July 23). Parody of the large, flashy 1930’s Busby Berkeley-style movie musicals in which a sweet “hometown” girl steps into a role on Broadway and becomes a star. Tickets $40-$15 and $10 student rush tickets – check with box office for availability. NOTE: Reservations are STRONGLY recommended as performances routinely sell out. 407-645-0145 (Rated PG) http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

SPOTLIGHT CABARET SERIES featuring David Almeida – Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Avenue, (Winter Park). Wed & Thu, June 24 & 25 ONLY! Mr. Almeida will perform popular songs made famous by Broadway divas, television shows and comedies like the popular British comedy Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Tickets are $18 + one drink minimum. Standing room tickets are available for $10 (with no drink minimum) when seating has sold out. 407-645-0145 (Rated PG) http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org


DANCE/FITNESS: Now offering a Student/Theater/Dancer discount for Dion Leonhard’s Dance Barre classes at Barre Bellas! Drop-in rate for any classes Monday or Wednesday 10:30am and 11:30am is $15 (your very first class is free). Package of 5 classes for $50; (package good for a year). A unique combination of classic Pilates Technique blended with ballet exercises, dance stretches and cardio. http://barrebellas.com

EMOTIONAL FREEDOM WORKOUT! – w/ Jen Jarackas @ Art’s Sake Studios – It’s a gym for your feelings! Designed to GROUND your body and mind, RELEASE emotional blocks, and EXPLORE the truth of your truth. Saturday, June 20th, 2015. RSVP jen@jenniferjarackas.com /321-234-6968 by JUNE 15TH. $5 discount for VCC students & alumni. https://www.facebook.com/events/830492266998259/

DRAMATIC EDUCATION – Are you looking for a Summer Drama Program that will boost your child’s academics and social skills while teaching them theatre basics and working together as team while putting together a theatre production? Well look no further! Dramatic Education’s Summer Drama, Art & Entrepreneurship Program is a 3 week program in July for incoming 6th-9th graders. You can choose 2 of the following 4 classes: Drama, Art, Stagecraft, and Marketing/Management. This year’s production is Disney’s Lion King Jr. For more info please contact 407-494-1744/www.dramaticeducation.com


BETH MARSHALL PRESENTS 2015-16 Theatrical SEASON AUDITIONS! June 21st & 22nd Garden Theatre by scheduled appointment only. AEA and Non Union Professionals. Full breakdowns of all shows and characters are in the invite and at BethMarshallPresents.com. Email Mike@BethMarshallPresents.com to schedule your appointment. (NEEDED Actors ages 11-70’s). Job ops for Stage Managers, Interns, Costume Designers as well. https://www.facebook.com/events/1631015253810277/

Directed and choreographed by: SCOTT A. COOK
For complete audition information please visit our website at: www.theatreworksfl.org
CASTING: (3) LEAD male & (3) LEAD female singer/dancer/actors. All roles open. Please download a character list here:http://www.theatreworksfl.org/…/srl_synopsis_characters.pdf…
TO AUDITION: By appointment only. Please use our Appointment Calendar. Visit the TWF website to schedule or use direct link:http://www.appointmentquest.com/scheduler/2160087538
AUDITION DATE AND TIME: SUN, JULY 19, 2015 starting at 2:00PM | MON, JULY 20 2015 starting at 6:00PM / CALLBACKS: TUES JULY 21, 2015 from 6:00PM10:00PM NOTE: If you are called back, please plan to attend the entire time frame.
AUDITION LOCATION: Davenport Community Campus, 8 West Palmetto St., Davenport, FL 33837. Please enter the dance studio from the Maple Street side of the campus. Signs will be posted.
MORE AUDITION INFORMATION: Please email Abel Gonzales: auditions@theatreworksfl.org
Produced by: TheatreWorks Florida / Presented by: TheatreCares

AUDITION NOTICE: Orlando Repertory Theatre is seeking Equity and Non-Equity actors for six exciting shows the upcoming 2015-2016 season. Please visit http://www.orlandorep.com/auditions/ for the Audition Schedule, Audition Guidelines, and Character Breakdown. We strongly encourage all ethnicities to audition for all productions!
There are a total of three general calls, each of which requires an appointment.
General Audition #1 – Friday, June 5th (9:00am-5:00pm)
General Audition #2 – Wednesday, June 10th (2:30pm-9:30pm)
General Audition #3 – Wednesday, June 24th (2:30pm-9:30pm)

AUDITIONS for Neil Simon “God’s Favorite” this Sunday and Monday Show will be at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna, July 17th and 18th. call 909-560-7454 auditions will be at 203 Washington, in NSB 32168 https://www.facebook.com/events/1619102021680913/

IMMEDIATE HIRE: TheatreWorks Florida is now accepting submissions for COSTUME DESIGNER for SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE!. 3+ years of musical theatre experience required. Salary: Independent Contractor Salary. To apply, please send a cover letter of interest highlighting your experience and a resume to Abel Gonzales, TWF Company Manager, at: theatrecares@theatreworksfl.org

AUDITIONS for Clandestine Arts production of “Carrie The Musical” are quickly approaching, and slots are filling up. Be sure to schedule an appointment so you don’t miss out on this rarely produced show!  https://www.facebook.com/events/955259921162696/

Central Florida Theatre in Process Picks June 5-11


Openings, continuing shows, upcoming events and auditions/education!
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Element Earth – presented by Emotions Dance. Friday June 5 and Saturday June 6 at 8pm at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center’s Mandell Theatre.

Tickets are $20 GA and $15 for students and seniors (65+). https://www.facebook.com/events/1637882156432283/
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BULLSHOT CRUMMOND – Valencia College Theater (Orlando) Check out the campy British comedy at Valencia’s East Campus Black Box Theater!

June 5, 6 ,8, 11, 12, & 13 at 7:30pmJune 7 & 14 at 2:00pm. SAVE $2 per ticket when you purchase online at www.valenciacollege.edu/arts and use the Promo Code ‘VALENCIAWEB.’
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CALAMITY JANE presented by Circle Theatre Company at the Orlando Repertory Edyth Bush Theatre, June 4th-June 7th. This good-hearted Western musical is the story of gun-totin’, hard-ridin’, tough-talkin’ Calamity Jane, and her love-hate relationship with famed gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok.

Tickets $12-$14 (Family friendly) www.circletheatrecompany.com/shows/calamity-jane/
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ONGOING: “DRIP” DRIP, industrial bar and show. Dress down, drink up and rock out while dancers tell a love story while dancing in paint, flying water and sand, backed by a LIVE rock band. You will get messy!
Thursdays (followed by a local art night), Fridays, Saturdays
Doors opens at 8pm, show starts a little after 9pm.
Tickets: www.ILoveDRIP.com
$35 DRIP 8747 International Dr. Ste 102 Orlando, Fl 32819
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ONGOING: “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. www.sak.com
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The Flick, written by Annie Baker and starring Daniel Cooksley, Jessie Grossman, Marcellis Cutler, and Coletyn Hentz, opens June 19th in the Dr Phillips Center Pugh Theater, tickets on sale now!

Industry Night: June 29th, Tickets only $25.
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SPOTLIGHT CABARET SERIES featuring David Almeida – Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Avenue, (Winter Park).  Mr. Almeida will perform popular songs made famous by Broadway divas, television shows and comedies like the popular British comedy Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Tickets are $18 + one drink minimum. Standing room tickets are available for $10 (with no drink minimum) when seating has sold out.

Wed & Thu, June 24 & 25 ONLY!

(Rated PG) The Winter Park Playhouse online: winterparkplayhouse.org or call 407-645-0145


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DANCE/FITNESS: Now offering a Student/Theater/Dancer discount for Dion Leonhard’s Dance Barre classes at Barre Bellas! Drop-in rate for any classes Monday or Wednesday 10:30am and 11:30am is $15 (your very first class is free).

Package of 5 classes for $50; (package good for a year). A unique combination of classic Pilates Technique blended with ballet exercises, dance stretches and cardio. http://barrebellas.com

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The Athens in DeLand will hold open auditions for Footloose! on June 8 & 9 (starting at 6-8pm) at the Athens Theatre. An additional Call Back Date is Wednesday June 10. The Athens Theatre is located at 124 N. Florida Avenue in Downtown DeLand. https://www.facebook.com/events/625255240944004/
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AUDITION NOTICE: Orlando Repertory Theatre is seeking Equity and Non-Equity actors for six exciting shows the upcoming 2015-2016 season. Please visit http://www.orlandorep.com/auditions/ for the Audition Schedule, Audition Guidelines, and Character Breakdown. We strongly encourage all ethnicities to audition for all productions!
There are a total of three general calls, each of which requires an appointment.
General Audition #1 – Friday, June 5th (9:00am-5:00pm)
General Audition #2 – Wednesday, June 10th (2:30pm-9:30pm)
General Audition #3 – Wednesday, June 24th (2:30pm-9:30pm)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Auditions for Neil Simon “God’s Favorite” this Sunday and Monday Show will be at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna, July 17th and 18th. call 909-560-7454 auditions will be at 203 Washington, in NSB 32168 https://www.facebook.com/events/1619102021680913/
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
IMMEDIATE HIRE: TheatreWorks Florida is now accepting submissions for COSTUME DESIGNER for SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE!. 3+ years of musical theatre experience required. Salary: Independent Contractor Salary. To apply, please send a cover letter of interest highlighting your experience and a resume to Abel Gonzales, TWF Company Manager, at: theatrecares@theatreworksfl.org
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Auditions for Clandestine Arts production of “Carrie The Musical” are quickly approaching, and slots are filling up. Be sure to schedule an appointment so you don’t miss out on this rarely produced show!  https://www.facebook.com/events/955259921162696/
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Nintendo Attractions Coming to Universal Orlando Resort!

In what is probably the most exciting news this year, Nintendo announced last week that it would be partnering with Universal Parks to bring its popular characters and worlds to life.  WOW!

As a longtime Nintendo fan I’m still trying to put into coherent words just how excited I am for this and based on the way my Facebook and Twitter blew up after this, I’m not alone.  No specific details have ben announced and the press release simply stated that “the immersive experiences will include major attractions at Universal’s theme parks and will feature Nintendo’s most famous characters and games.” 

Even though this is easily a few years off, fans can’t help but speculate about what’s to come.  Will it be a full land in the park or will it just be a couple of rides?  Will they build everything from the ground up or will they repurpose existing rides? What franchises will they use and how deep into their catalog will they go?  Will it be at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure? Will different Universal parks around the world get exclusive attractions? If so, I will absolutely be traveling to as many as possible.


Link from The Legend of Zelda is heading to Orlando now!

Their press release also states Nintendo has created remarkable and imaginative worlds filled with captivating stories and beloved characters. Now, for the first time, those stories and characters will be brought to life in entirely new ways – only at Universal theme parks.” To me that sounds like it’s going to be it’s own land. If so, take a second to think about the amazing job they did creating the world of Harry Potter or Springfield from The Simpsons.  Now take that and apply it to Nintendo properties. In a few years we could be walking around Mushroom Kingdom or Hyrule!

Show Your Local Love at Canvs on June 5th

Since we were founded in 2009, Central Florida Top 5 has been all about celebrating the amazing things happening here in our region.

We’ve cheered on SunRail and the Dr. Phillips Center. We’ve covered the opening of the Orlando Eye and the arrival of cool new businesses like Gods and Monsters. We’ve walked a mile in her shoes and learned how sharing bikes can get us all farther.

Now, coming up on June 5th, from 3pm to 9pm, all citizens of Orlando are invited to a community celebration of everything we love about The City Beautiful. Macbeth Photography is holding a very special edition of their monthly “First Friday” photography event series at Canvs in the Church Street Exchange building.

Working with artist Nathan Selikoff of Local Notebooks, the Macbeth team researched all of the official neighborhoods of downtown Orlando and created a hand-painted map that showcases each neighborhood and the community as a whole. Here’s how it looks:

Central Florida events First Friday Fotos Local Love

For $20, you get a 5-10 minute photoshoot in front of this beautiful map. One of the images will be lightly retouched and made available via Facebook; all the others will be available for download later. Food and drink vendors will be present, but have yet to be announced.

The proceeds from the Local Love event will go to benefit the work of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (CFCH). Wondering who they are? You might recognize this video as their work:

Possibly better known as the organization behind the Rethink Homelessness campaign on Facebook, the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness is ultimately responsible for conducting the research and coordinating the implementation of community-wide solutions to the homelessness crisis. Their leadership has helped to put Orlando on the path to making homelessness brief, one-time, and rare.

In addition to donating the event’s proceeds to the Commission, attendees of the Local Love event will be encouraged to write on signs inspired by the Cardboard Stories video embedded above. You can either share something you love about Orlando, or hold up a pre-made sign in support of Orlando’s journey to ending homelessness.

Central Florida Local Love Mayor Dyer Kay Rawlins Phil Rawlins Bess Auer

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Soccer leaders Phil and Kay Rawlins, FLBlogCon founder Bess Auer, and other community members are already standing up to show their support. (We did too!)

What makes you want to show your local love for Orlando and Central Florida? RSVP on Facebook today!

Orlando – Please Don’t Redefine Us

Lately I’ve been reading numerous articles by extremely passionate Orlando-area citizens, who declare their love for the City Beautiful. They write about the thriving literary community, the bursting tech industry, the outstanding colleges and universities, and even the highly touted food and art scene.

And in nearly every article, each well-meaning writer relates angry disgust that media outlets from across the nation are just now discovering that Orlando isn’t a “cultural wasteland” after all. And as a by-product of that anger, every writer then wants to redefine who we are or wants to describe Orlando as having a rebirth. (As if all our greatness had disappeared until just recently!)

Perhaps this common theme of needing to redefine what Orlando is comes from the fact that most of these writers start their articles by explaining they moved to Central Florida “several years ago” for school or work or to retire. And like many, they didn’t expect to fall in love with the City and were thrilled to see how much it had to offer in the aforementioned literary, arts, food, tech et al. (How ironic they now take exception to the fact that outsiders don’t also know this.) These writers say, “You don’t know the real Orlando. We’re not just Disney.”

While I certainly appreciate these eager citizens wanting to tout how wonderful our area is, I find myself bristling at the term “redefining” because feels like we weren’t good enough before these people arrived in Central Florida and decided to give us a new definition.

You see, I was born and raised here, just like my mother was, and just like my grandmother was back in the 1800s. There are a number of us here, actually, native Central Floridians that have always known what Orlando is and don’t need new arrivals to suddenly tell us what we are and what we have.

We’ve Always Had a Literary Scene

Yes, even before Jack Kerouac.

Back in 1926 Rollins College began the Animated Magazine. Since paper and printing supplies were still in somewhat short supply due to the fairly recent first World War, then-college President Hamilton Holt decided that the articles should be read aloud on stage instead of printed. This turned into an annual event that used to draw thousands. In the crowd sat dignitaries from around the world, including Secretaries of State and even former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Animated Magazine - Rollins College

Animated Magazine – Rollins College

The Animated Magazine lives on today, under the tutelage of editors like U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, and has helped bring about the annual Winter with the Writers, which is where I got to see Maya Angelou when she visited back in 2007.

With the Orlando Public Library opening in 1923, and the Zora Neale Hurston Festival operating for nearly 30 years now, this is just further evidence the literary scene is not having a rebirth but has quietly been here all along.

We’ve Always Had an Art Scene

One of the nation’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious art festivals happens right here at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. The Orlando Museum of Art was established in 1924, the Maitland Art Center in 1937, and we’ve had the Crealde School of Art and Jamali for over 40 years now. Add in the Polasek Museum and the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass at the Morse Museum, and we’re doing just fine.

Albin Polasek

Albin Polasek

Famed actor Buddy Epsen’s father started the Central Florida Ballet Company in 1945. “I dared not start a ballet company here in Orlando because the idea seemed hopeless,” Epsen was quoted as saying. “Now there are several companies throughout Florida.” Epsen’s company was later taken over by Edith Royal, whose “Ballet Royal” supplied generations of dancers to the great stages of the world.

And even earlier, Ruth Pounds started a dance school in 1935, which taught both my mother and then me how to dance, sit, curtsy, and all the etiquette required of a cultured young adult.

The area has always had beautiful architecture thanks to those like Gamble Rogers, II, who helped create the beauty that attracted leading artists, business tycoons, and top politicians to settle in the area.

When President Dwight Eisenhower dedicated the opening of the basement radio station at Rollins College (still one of the longest-running basement radios in the country), we made indie radio hip long before we made boy bands hip in the 1990s.

We’ve Always Had a Tech Scene

Lockheed Martin opened its doors in 1956. (My mother worked there afternoons in high school!) Shortly thereafter, the Kennedy Space Center was built nearby to oversee the Apollo missions. We watched those missions, and later those of the Space Shuttle, right from our backyards – and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much cooler than that!

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Thankfully this tech industry also had a need for engineers; thus UCF was founded in 1963 and has grown into one of the largest universities in the nation. Add in the innovations of Walt Disney in the 70s, and then Full Sail University in the 80s, and yep, we’ve always had a tech scene.

We’ve Always Had a Food Scene

Food trucks did not make the food hip in this city.

We’ve always had great food, ranging from Dixie Crossroads and La Cantina to Le Cordon Bleu and Gary’s Duck Inn. From the 94th Aero Squadron, which served incredible food since World War I, to Ronnie’s Diner which opened in 1956, Orlando always had talked-about food. The fact that the establishments serving that food is changing, doesn’t mean there weren’t great restaurants before the new ones arrived.

Ronnie's Diner

Ronnie’s Diner

With T.G. Lee Dairy and the many orange groves, we’ve always been farm-to-table. And when you add in Publix (founded in 1930), we were doing just fine long before this so-called rebirth.

We’re Growing, Not Rebirthing

Yes, it is an exciting time to be in Orlando. We are growing in many different, wonderful ways. Newcomers are bringing great assets, and companies are setting up roots and investing here. With strong leadership we will continue to flourish.

And while I admire the zeal these newcomers use to tell the rest of the world how great Orlando is, please don’t act like this is a new development in Orlando’s history. Don’t call it a rebirth or try to redefine it.

We are who we are, and always have been.

We don’t want to be New York, San Francisco, or even Austin. We want to be who and what we already are. We’re orange groves and Disney. We’re tech and and old-fashioned books. We’re art and great food.

But, we’re not the best thing since sliced bread… we were cool long before that hit the world back in 1930!

This guest post was written by Bess Auer, fourth generation Floridian and the first editor of the Central Florida Top 5. You can connect with her on Twitter at @Bess_Auer.

Orlando International Fringe Festival Picks and Previews

Orlando International Fringe Festival Picks and Previews brought to you by guest contributor John DiDonna of Central Florida Theatre in Process

That time of year again is upon us where for the next two weeks theater flourishes amongst multiple venues in Orlando. Centered around Loch Haven Park, and stretching to offsite venues, the Orlando International Fringe Festival has – in its 24th year – proven to be one of the largest and most popular Fringe festivals in the nation if not the world.

On Wednesday May 13th the ribbon cutting ceremony (featuring Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Patty Sheehan) gave us the start to 2015’s Festival.

So what does the festival have to offer? So many diverse picks that it is almost impossible to encapsulate what it is other than an amazing performing arts experience. Here are a sampling of this year’s shows and events for you! Some will transcend, some will offend, some will illuminate, some will leave you laughing for hours, and some may leave you scratching your heads – but ALL will entertain! (For ratings please visit their sites or for more information or in the event of missing links… (no pun intended) please visit:  www.orlandofringe.org

ALULA – An Epic Fantasy Adventure — Storyteller “Country Joe” Rosier “ALULA” travels the fantasy world and encounters earthlings and zombies in the wind, rain, cold, fire and brimstone from the desert heat to the frozen peaks and the ocean depths. Written and performed by Five Year Fringe veteran Storyteller “Country Joe” Rosier 
Brown Venue Fri. 5/15 7:00 PM / Sun 5/17-4:45 PM / Tue 5/19 7:30 PM / Thur 5/21-6:00 PM / Sun 5/25- 11:15 AM General Audiencewww.joerosier.com /https://www.facebook.com/events/367824150082159/

ANNE FRANKENSTEIN – It’s an all-out blood-bath — and she’s done hiding. From the minds of Adam McCabe and Michael Knight comes a living grindhouse film that is sure to rock the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival! You’ve simply never seen anything quite like ANNE FRANKENSTEIN. Using the wonders of modern science, the infamous Anne Frank is miraculously brought back from the dead to kill off the remaining neo-Nazis in modern-day America. Along with a colorful cast of Hebrew heroes and psychotic antisemites, ‘Anne Frankenstein’ aims to be the most shocking and talked about show in Fringe history!
Orange Venue: Thursday, 5/14- 9:00pm / Sunday, 5/17- 10:00pmSaturday, 5/23- 10:00pm
Sunday, 5/24- 6:00pm | TICKETS are $10 w/ Orlando Fringe Button ($5 off with legal proof of Jewish heritage!) https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/anne-frankenstein/dates

COSMOLYRICAL – Introducing Phil Long (Wa.) making his debut to Orlando Fringe with 3 SHOWS ONLY of COSMOLYRICAL produced by Beth Marshall’s Husband Presents. Directed by Beth Marshall. CosmoLyrical is a Dr Seuss, Carl Sagan, Bono blend of spoken word poetry with hints of Billy Sunday and an aftertaste of Wittgenstein. https://www.facebook.com/events/666923640078314/

DARK WOOD – Written by Peter McGarry. Presented by Eyewitness Theatre Company. Directed by Winnie Wenglewick. This groundbreaking play is thrilled to be part of the 2015 Orlando Fringe. Apes Strong Arm and Rico are quite comfortable living in captivity. That is, until they are put in a cage with Mbwane, a wild ape from the outside. Having been captured and experimented on, Mbwane is determined to escape and get back to his family. Meanwhile, the contented Strong Arm and Rico struggle with whether or not they should help him… or, possibly even go with him. Aped do not wear clothes, no neither to the actors. Although the nudity is bold it is not a gimmick. The story is so engaging and funny and thought provoking the audience soon sees the characters and not the nudity. https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/dark-wood/dates

DEVIANT BEHAVIORS – Written & Performed by Winnie Wenglewick. Presented by Dangerous Theatre. unless you live under a rock, you have heard of, read or seen “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Unfortunately, this wildly popular brand does not accurately portray the world of BDSM. Deviant Behaviors offers a real world view about life as a masochist in the world of BDSM. Sometimes pain is good. Sometimes pain is a safe way to deal with all the stress that goes along with being human in today’s world. http://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/deviant-behaviors/

egg tooth – TOBO productions – Bronze venue — Ideas don’t hatch. They break free. They push, struggle, and slash their way into the light of day. They use a guitar, a camera, a pen—an egg tooth. This year, the creator of Fringe hits onomatopoeia, on the nOse, and Liquid Courage presents Egg Tooth—a feisty hybrid of live music, video, and theatrical storytelling. See what emerges.

FIELD GUIDE TO THE GAYS 2 – “We Want To Convert You!” – There IS a gay agenda! Come learn and become an #HonoraryGay at Field Guide 2!  Dive DEEPER into an ALL-NEW world of nightclubbing, activism, trans trivia, hankies and MORE! Logan Donahoo’s AWARD-WINNING, one-man, multimedia safari into the gay community is BACK with a PART TWO! “Louder, and more irreverent than ever, learn about all those things in queer culture that you were too afraid to ask about.” DO NOT MISS IT!
Wednesday, 5/13 – 10:15pm / Friday, 5/15 – 7:00pm / Saturday, 5/16 – 11:30pm Monday, 5/18 – 9:15pm / Wednesday, 5/20 – 10:30pm Friday, 5/22 – 8:30pm /  Sunday, 5/24 – 6:00pm

FROM COMO TO HOMO – Lynne Jassem.  A tale of a ten-year old struggles with life on the Perry Como Show her stage mother and gender confusion… all while tap dancing. Written and Performed by Lynne Jassem 
Red Venue – Fri. 5/15 5:30 PM /  Sun 5/17 2:30 PM / Mon 8/18: 7:30 PM / Tue 5/19 6:30 PM
Show rating: Over 12 years: mature themes http://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/from-como-to-homo/

THE GREAT SCAFLA HUNT AT FRINGE – Presented by Insomniac Theatre Company and Scavenger Tech (Ocala) at the Orlando International Fringe Festival (Orlando) Part Scavenger Hunt and Part Interactive Performance Art, the ScaFla Hunt for Glory is a week-long app-based scavenger hunt where participants complete tasks and collect memories using photos and video captured on their phones instead of finding clues or collecting items. Individuals and teams of up to ten people will find adventures, create and donate their way to the highest points earned and the chance for a prize package valued at several thousand dollars. Experience an entirely new way to engage and interact with Orlando Fringe and play to win The Great ScaFla Hunt for Glory! Pre-registration begins May 13th with The Hunt beginning May 15th and running to the 23rd. Participants can register and find out more info atwww.scafla.net
$10 to register, but free to try before you buy. Discounts available for participating Fringe Artists and Volunteers. Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/1E2H5Fi  (Family Friendly)

HOODIES – Penguin Point Productions & BETH MARSHALL PRESENTS bring you the WORLD PREMIERE! 
Written by Paris Crayton III Directed by Beth Marshall. Join us for the 3 Part of THE TRAYVON/JORDAN PROJECT, a year-long sociopolitical look at race relations between black and white culture and the unnecessary loss of black teens in our society and own backyard. Mild language, Themes General Audience
General Admission $11 (plus ticket service charge/Fringe button) https://www.facebook.com/events/1616977445191605/

LATE WITH LANCE! – Written & Performed by Peter Michael Marino From the clown who brought you last year’s Desperately Seeking the Exit comes a brand new theatrical disaster! Meet Lance… delusionally optimistic cruise ship entertainer, musical theater fanatic and celebrity stalker. Lance’s ship is docked in Orlando, so he’s hosting a musical variety-talk show with special guests Liza Minnelli, Hugh Jackman and Miami Sound Machine. But will they show? Lance has suffered for his art. Now it’s your turn.
NEW Bronze VenueThursday, 5/14- 8:45pm / Saturday, 5/16- 10:00pm / Monday, 5/18- 8:30pm
Wednesday, 5/20- 8:30pm / Thursday, 5/21- 9:30pm / Saturday, 5/23- 9:45pm / Sunday, 5/24- 6:45pm
More stuff at www.LanceShow.com /http://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/late-with-lance/

LIFE OF THE PARTY, CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE! – presented by Central Florida Vocal Arts in the Black Venue. Love him or leave him? Live or die? Our future is in your hands! Life of the Party is a cabaret style performance that combines the best party scenes of musical theater and opera into cohesive stories and gives you the power to decide how each scene ends. Every show is different from the last and you’ll never have more fun at the opera! Fringe Performances Sat. 5/16 at 2:30 PM, Sun. 5/17 at 7:30 PM, Tues. 5/19 at 9:00 PM, Sun. 5/24 at 6:00 PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/725316914233131/

OBSESSED – Hilarious one man sketch comedy show starring John Doa Farrentine in the Purple Venue. Exploring crazy obsessions from boy bands, religion, racism to being gay. Only five performances! Featured on the cover of Watermark Magazine this week as one of the gayest shows at this year’s Fringe Festival! http://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/obsessed  /  https://www.facebook.com/events/410095072492630/

ONCE I LAUGHED – produced by Central Florida Community Arts. Inspired by the music and the lives of the Andrews Sisters. Experience true stories about Patty, LaVerne, and Maxene through the music that made them famous. Directed by Donald Rupe and backed by Heather Langs on the piano, this musical highlights the charm of the Andrews Sisters and an era that appreciated music far more than we do.
At the YELLOW VENUEWednesday, May 13, 8:30 PM /Saturday, May 16, 1:00 PM / Sunday, May 17, 5:15 PM/Tuesday, May 19, 5:30 PMThursday, May 21, 9:15 PM/Saturday, May 23, 11:30 AMSunday, May 24, 7:15 PM    TICKETS: https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/once-i-laughed/dates

“POE” – Theatre Downtown/Orlando Fringe (Green Venue) – The return of Theatre Downtown to Orlando theatre at the Fringe! The powerful and evocative story of the last four days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe, the Master of the Macabre.
Fringe performances: Thursday 5/14 9:00p, Saturday 5/16 10:30p, Monday 5/18 9:00p, Wednesday 5/20 5:30p, Thursday 5/21 7:30p, Saturday 5/23 8:45p, Sunday 5/24 11:30a.
Tickets available online at orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/poe.

PSYCHOTHERAPY The Musical: Yellow Venue: Friday, 5/15- 9:30pm Saturday, 5/16- 11:30am Sunday, 5/17- 9:00pmMonday, 5/18- 6:00pm


THE REPUBLIC – Immersive theater meets gaming in this innovative performance experience. Step into a themed world, interacting with intriguing characters while taking on an important role in this conflicted society. Your decisions dictate the story’s end. You will be watched, deceived – and even touched. Inspired by Greek mythology, “Metropolis,” and Plato’s writings. Become part of our “beta test.” 
Location: BYOV @ 1427 Alden Rd, NEXT to the BLACK VENUE
Thursday 5/14 @ 8pm / Friday 5/15 @ 7:30pm & 10pm /Thursday 5/21 @ 8pm / Friday 5/22 @ 7:30pm & 10pm /Saturday 5/23 @ 7:30 & 10pm
Tickets are $11 with Fringe Button, available at:https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/the-republic/dates

ROBYN DA HOOD: A Rap Musical – From the creators of last years Fringe hit “Jekyll N Hyde” comes a new twist on a classic tale! SAK Theatre Company is proud to present its brand new hip-hop musical, Robyn Da Hood! The people of Nottingham are being overtaxed by a tyrant sheriff and a wimpy prince and there’s only one person who can stop them: Robyn Hood! With her “Merry Maids” and Lil John by her side, Robyn faces off against evil in this hilarious new show that flips the classic tale upside down. 
With catchy rap songs by Jordan “Heir Jordan” Keyes and a cast of SAK and Orlando favorites, this show is sure to be a delight for audiences of all ages. Written by: Chris Dinger, Lindsay Taylor, Mike Carr
Music by: Jordan Keyes Directed by: Mike Carr
The Orange Venue SHOWTIMES: Sat., 5/16 @ 12:45pmSun., 5/17 @ 7:00pm / Mon., 5/18 @ 7:00pm / Wed., 5/20 @ 9:45pm /Sat., 5/23 @ 6:15pm / Sun., 5/24 @ 2:00pm
Tickets: $10 with Fringe Buttonhttp://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/robyn-da-hood-a-rap-musical/

 – David Lee, whose previous Orlando International Fringe hits include: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Thom Pain (based on nothing), will star in the provocative solo show such as what you can find at  SexCelebrity website. SEX, DRUGS, ROCK & ROLL by OBIE-award winning writer Eric Bogosian. With a biting wit, the show comments on the larger social issues and the self-delusion and anxiety endemic to modern life, in a one-person format, for a penetrating theatrical experience. This non-stop tour through some oddball minds enjoyed a lengthy run Off-Broadway. “Clever and often devastating…. Spiky, stinging, caustic without cauterizing … and funny.”- New York MagazineSEX DRUGS ROCK & ROLL is produced by Margaret Nolan and award-winning Fringe veteran Kangagirl Productions 
Pink Venue: Saturday 5/16 @10:30 PM Sunday 5/17 @5:30 PM Tuesday 5/19 @10:30 PM Thursday 5/21 @9:00 PM /Sunday 5/24 @3:15 PM Tickets: $11

SHAKESBEER – FWP Productions invites Fringers to belly up to the bar for a FREE, lightning-fast adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ The interactive, three-person show takes place four times during the festival at The Thirsty Topher on Sunday, May 17 at 11:30 p.m.; Wednesday, May 20 at 11:30 p.m.; Friday, May 22 at 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 23 at 12:00 a.m.https://www.facebook.com/events/1396248157365882/

THE STIMULATORS – a medical-murder-mystery-sex-comedy. A seedy neighborhood. In a university lab, a doctor experiments to control the minds of criminally violent and mentally challenged patients. In local night clubs, exotic dancers are being murdered. What is the connection? Larry Stallings (winner of the 2009 DailyCity.com award for Best Original Play for “The Shaeffer Killing”) teams with writer Dr. Tony Sterling to explore the possibilities. 
BROWN VENUE / $11.00 (plus Fringe Button) / Rated Mature (partial nudity)
SCHEDULE: Friday, May 15 10:45 pm / Saturday, May 16 6:00 pm / Sunday, May 17 9:00 pm / Wednesday, May 20 11:00 pm /Thursday, May 21 11:15 pm / Saturday, May 23 7:15 pm
Sunday, May 24 10:15 pm

STREISAND: THE GREATEST STAR – LIKE BUTTAH! – Carla DelVillaggio produced by Main Event Entertainment and starring award-winning Streisand tribute artist Carla DelVillaggio is back at the Orlando Fringe for 7 shows! The New York Post said she is “The next best thing to seeing STREISAND herself” and the Orlando Sentinel raved “…she has the superstar nailed, not only in her remarkable vocals, but in her patter, manner, giggles and gowns. She’s in the Babs zone!” From the hair down to the trademark nails, she is Simply Streisand in every way. This dynamic one-woman show is a multi-media celebration of the greatest songs from the Streisand songbook.

GOLD  VENUE https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/streisand-the-greatest-star/dates

TELL ME ON A SUNDAY – Orlando’s own Sarah-Lee Dobbs brings her British best to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s acclaimed one-woman song cycle about an English girl’s pursuit of love from the UK to Manhattan to LA! Sarah’s talents are complimented by Musical Director, Chris Leavy & Director, Laurel Clark in a show the telegraph (UK) calls, “a Golden Hour.”
Pink Venue: $11 (+svc. Charge) Rating: 13+  https://www.facebook.com/events/639600992851079/

TOMMY KOOL PRESENTS: KINDNESS GETS A BAD RAP! – In the ’90s, this young rapper was after your hearts. 20 years later: He’s after your kids! Join the artist Entertainment Bi-Weekly called, “Creatively Comatose” during 3rd Period for a one-of-a-kind, multi-media, interactive, hip hop extravaganza, teaching students the value of kindness and rising above bullying. You won’t wanna miss Tommy Kool! (because attendance is mandatory for all grade levels).
GREEN VENUE: Friday, 5/15 – 10:30PM / Sunday, 5/17 – 8:45PM / Monday, 5/18 – 7:15PM
Wednesday, 5/20 – 11:00PM / Saturday, 5/23 – 5:00PM TICKETS: ONLY $7 (with Fringe button)


THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR BEAR – Presented by Orlando Furioso! Troubled kiddie-show host Dr Bear, a life-size grizzly puppet, spends a night in a cheap motel room on Lee Road trying to connect with a sexy massage therapist and evade a menacing detective. With nudity and puppetry!
The Orlando Sentinel called the original 2001 production a “hilarious, self-aware spoof.” 
YELLOW VENUE – SCHEDULE: Friday May 15: 11pm /Saturday May 16: 9pm Sunday May 17: 10:30pm Tuesday May 19: 9:15pm  / Thursday May 21: 11:15pm / Saturday May 23: 9pm / Sunday May 24: 11pm 
Tickets $11 (with Fringe button) http://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/the-torture-chamber-of-dr-bear/

THE TRICKY PART – by Martin Moran A Southeast US Premiere, presented by John Peros Casting in assoc. with GianniQuest IndustriesA true story of sexuality, spirituality, and the mystery of the human experience. Moran’s 2004 Obie Award winner for Best Play is a riveting, funny, and surprising journey through the complexities of boyhood, manhood, Catholicism, desire, trespass and forgiveness. Featuring John E. Palmer, directed by Mark Edward Smith. “A translucent memoir of a play… shattering.” – NY Times. “Powerful.” – NY Post. “Artful storytelling, able to touch deeply the hearts of listeners.” – Variety. “Surprising and moving! Startling, marvelously told.” – NT Newsday
BLUE Venue – 13+ SHOWTIMES: Th 5/14 – 10 pm / Sa 5/16 – 10:15pm / Su 5/17 – 12:30pm
Mon 5/18 – 8:45pm / Wed 5/20 – 6pm / Th 5/21 – 9:45pm / Su 5/24 – 7:15pm
Tickets: $11 plus Fringe button

UNCOUTH – Windy Wynazz’s “UnCouth” (Oakland, CA) Co-Created and Directed by Dan Griffiths. Co-Created and Starring Windy Wynazz. The endearingly maladroit Wynazz has the taste for ShowBiz and fantasizes about her impending international acclaim. A natural, however, she is not. Through acrobatics, audience play, and general merriment, she ultimately finds and defines her own success. This show is “driven by her zany energy!” (New Orleans Gambit) and has critics raving: “Funniest woman I’ve seen in a long time… the future of theatre is in good hands.” (Bay Area Dance Watch)

PINK VENUE: Schedule: Wednesday 5/13- 8:45pm Saturday, 5/16- 3:00pm Sunday, 5/17- 9:15pm Tuesday, 5/19- 7:00pm Friday, 5/22- 11:15pm Saturday, 5/23- 9:45pm Sunday, 5/24- 5:45pm Run time: 60 minutes Rating PG 13 Pricing: $10 with one-time $9 Fringe button purchase.https://www.facebook.com/events/803786833038212/www.windywynazz.comhttps://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/uncouth/dates


THE WAIT LIST MURDERS – Is a homicidal maniac trying to murder his way up the wait list into a performing slot in the Orlando Fringe? Hey, people have killed for less! (Not much less, but still…) Hilarious comedy with an all-star cast. From Steve Schneider, writer/creator of 2014 smash hit “Escape From Baldwin Park,” and directed by Laurel Clark, Show Director, Sleuths MDS.
In the GREEN VENUE:Thursday, 5/14- 11:00pm / Saturday, 5/16- 8:45pm / Sunday, 5/17- 10:30pm
Wednesday, 5/20- 9:15pm / Friday, 5/22- 5:30pm / Saturday, 5/23- 7:00pm / Sunday, 5/24- 10:45pm
$10 (with Fringe button) TICKETS:https://orlandofringe.ticketleap.com/the-wait-list-murders/dates

–  John DiDonna


Science of Wine at the Orlando Science Center

This past weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the 5th Annual Science of Wine event at the Orlando Science Center. Science? Wine? Food? Dinosaurs?!?! Yes please! Your all inclusive ticket grants the ability to sample over 150 wines from all major wine producing regions along with tapas sized food offerings from local restaurants and caterers.

The entire 4th floor of Orlando Science Center was full of tables overflowing with multiple bottles of wine (over 150 they say – I’ll take their word for it, because it was overwhelming!) and displays of cascading nosh ranging from BBQ to seared scallops, burgers to pork belly bao, and paella to cupcakes.



Sakes and Plum wines from Gekkeikan

Want a little more science to go with your wine? The Wine Education seminar which teaches about the unique wine regions of the world might have been up your alley. Or maybe you’re curious as to the affects of weather on your favorite vineyard? WFTV Channel 9’s own Meteorologist George Waldenberger was on hand with the assistance of a motion sensored projection globe. Personally, I enjoyed conducting my own science experiments such as which goes better with brisket – Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon?


Food is the control – wine is the variable


Oh but wait, there’s more! Maybe you’re not satisfied with eating and drinking until your heart’s content, specially since we know you have contacted the team at https://www.leyba-defense.com/possible-false-positives-when-using-an-ignition-interlock-device/ for several dui problems in the past, it is better to keep the drinking aside. The Science of Wine has you covered there too. Pianist Lynn Peghiny filled the room with classical music while aerialists spun from long silks overhead. There was a corner turned art studio where you could create your own masterpiece and a table where the ‘King of Cigars’ was hand rolling his namesake for patrons to puff on.


Are you not entertained?!?

The night also featured a silent auction. Bids were placed on theme park tickets, hotel stays and a weekend getaway to the Big Apple. Those who were more interested in winning a prize with skill could try their hand at the Wine Toss, by tossing rings, carnie style, over bottles of wine for prizes or guessing the number of corks it took to fill the large glass container. The correct guess won 2 tickets to the upcoming Neanderthal Ball on November 7th.

Overall the Science of Wine had a little something for everyone and every palate. For less than the price of a theme park ticket, this is my kind of thrill ride – no fast pass needed.


Take me home! And so I did

Festival of Equality teams with NOH8 Campaign tomorrow at Parliament House

So much is going on this weekend in Central Florida! We love fun, and we know all of you love fun too! That’s why we had to share with you a very special party happening on Saturday, May 9th at the Parliament House.

Now in its second year, the Festival of Equality presented by Wedding Alliance and Helium Group has gotten even bigger! With local vendors, DJs and performers, a pool party, two fashion shows and a big NoH8 Campaign photo shoot with reknown celebrity photographer Adam Bouska, is sure to be another hit! (Remember last year’s event?!)

Festival of Equality

Brian P. Gouthro, founder of the Festival and President of both the Wedding Alliance and Helium Group, started this with one goal in mind – bringing fun to awareness. “There is no differences between us; regardless of our gender, orientation, race or size. We all should be welcomed in the community we work and play in. Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity.As humans we simply long to be accepted and loved by one another. At Festival of Equality, we believe that equality equals love; love and acceptance of all. Period,” he says.

Many locals are familiar with the NOH8 Campaign, and many more have even posed for a photo including our own Nando Torres and his BFF Christina Carmona of Bad Kitty Films! Everyone is invited to the party as well as welcome to pose for pictures. Here are some details…

Festival Info:


Top 5 Writer Nando Torres & BFF Christina (Photo Credit: Adam Bouska)


NoH8 Campaign photo shoot info:

  • NOH8 Campaign will be set up in the Footlight Theatre from 12pm – 3pm
  • Make sure to WEAR A WHITE SHIRT!
  • Props are allowed but no licensed characters, etc.
  • Go to registration table, fill out a release to get your number. (Each person photographed needs a release, minors need a guardian’s permission)
  • Cost: Solo shots are $40, Groups are $25 per person. (Cash and credit are accepted)
  • NOH8 temporary tattoos and duct tape will be provided onsite
  • Adam will take 5-10 frames per person, one will be selected, touched up and sent to you in 4-8 weeks.
  • Can’t make the Orlando shoot? Join NOH8 at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort on Sunday!

Twitter: @TheWedAlliance@PHouseOrlando@NoH8Campaign #ProudToLove

Event Pages:



Oblivion Taproom: Star Wars Day Event

Oblivion Star Wars

Photo Credit: Oblivion Taproom Facebook Page

May the 4th be with you and all of us!

Sure, you’ve been to Oblivion Taproom and enjoyed their creative menu of burgers, mounds of flavor topped tots and mouthwatering smoked wings – but have you been to one of their themed events? If not, you’re truly missing out on what Oblivion is capable of!

Their most recent event was this year’s annual Star Wars ‘May the  4th 3rd Be With You’ (May 4th falls on a Monday this year and Oblivion is closed on Mondays – hence the 3rd).  Not only did they have a themed menu of food and drink specials for this event, there were decorations, the movies playing on various screens (and on their new wall sized projection screen!), vendors selling Star Wars themed merchandise and memorabilia, face painting, photo backdrops and a costume contest (oh my!). Even the staff got involved by dressing up. The local 501st Legion also appeared for photo ops.

501st Legion

501st Legion


Of course the real stars here are the specials and the hungry hoards that have filled the place shortly after opening, know it. I embraced my inner Sith and ordered the Dark Side Burger (House burger patty served open faced on garlic toast, topped with french fries, bacon gravy and house beer cheese sauce) and a pint of Endor (Hinterland Luno Coffee Stout NITRO infused with white chocolate). I was mistakenly offered a side with my burger (a side was not offered with this entree as it’s covered in fries), however my chosen garlic parmesan tater tots arrived along for the ride.

Dark Side Burger

Dark Side Burger

The Dark Side Burger may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid, and that’s in flavor. The patty was cooked perfectly to a nice medium rare which allowed the bed of garlic toast to soak up the delicious juices. Oblivion’s bacon gravy, while not a usual topping on the menu (it makes special appearances at events and brunches) was much thinner than I’ve had in the past. This may be due to the addition of the beer cheese sauce. The two blended together to cloak the crispy fries in cheesy, bacon-y goodness…I mean evilness (it is a dark side burger after all). Served open faced, I had no choice but to use the forks to defeat this Empire of gluttony.

The next themed event on the Oblivion calendar is the Ghostbusters Brunch on May 17th followed by Batman’s Superhero Birthday Party on May 23rd. Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Cyberbullying towards Aspiring SeaWorld Trainers from Anticaps?

Cyberbullying towards Aspiring SeaWorld Trainers from Anticaps?

By: Kaylin Williams

Hard to believe? Think again. Kids from ages of 10 all the way to 18 and older kids who are aspiring to become SeaWorld trainers are receiving death threats from Anti-Caps on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc…

I’m an avid Instagram user and I’ve personally gotten multiple death threats like, “You want to work for PoolWorld? Well, you deserve to get dragged under and killed like Dawn Brancheau did.” I’ve also gotten attacked just for simply talking about SeaWorld at my own school. I also remember seeing a post to the Blackfish Film Facebook page of my article (Link to “The Truth About SeaWorld Parks:The Blackfish Backlash”) where an anti-cap said “The Kaylin Williams scribbling is quite insipid, it’s honestly depressing that kids and teens get sucked into the SeaWorld brainwashing epidemic”.


People go to crazy extents just to tear a kid’s dreams apart. The idea that you have to be in your 20’s to know the truth about SeaWorld needs to be debunked. I’m here spreading the truth, and i’m only 16 years old! There are kids and teens who have done their own research and spread awareness about SeaWorld and the Blackfish backlash going around. People are misinformed, that is becoming more and more apparent. The other day I was talking about Blackfish with a kid that had seen it and wanted my input on the film, and from across the room this girl shouts “SeaWorld is awful! They beat the whales with buckets and they only use those whistles hurt their ears!” Where are these horrendous accusations coming from? These claims aren’t even made in Blackfish itself.

There was even an account I was following on instagram of this aspiring trainer, a young girl who had a HATE account made about her. The account was based around screenshots of pictures on the girl’s account and hating on her, including a long list of followers. This girl had to report that account, delete her own, start a new account and put her account on private! This is uncalled for.

Another incident happened over halloween. A woman dressed up like a zombie Dawn Brancheau, and her baby boy as a killer whale. How disrespectful is that? To glorify the death of someone like that? Unacceptable. Can you imagine how Dawn’s family would’ve felt seeing that? Disrespectful.

Kids, teens and adults should not be scrutinized, torn down or given death threats and wishes. Let kids be kids, teens be teens, and adults live their lives. These keyboard activists need to learn when they’ve gone too far. People shouldn’t be trashed like this, when chatting up SeaWorld with a pro-cap, anti-caps need to be respectful, don’t trash talk or use foul language. Be thoughtful, and courteous to others please. Make this world a friendly place.

Business inquiries: If there is anything you want me to be involved with, rather it be a class, workshop, internship, article or interview or anything please contact me through Instagram: @Blessedbytheorcas
Article I wrote for former SeaWorld trainer, Kyle Kittleson: http://marinemammaltrainer.com/seaworlds-history/
Articles I wrote for Central Florida Top5 can be found through this link to the first one I wrote: http://centralfloridatop5.com/2014/05/17/the-truth-about-seaworld-parks/
Thank you for your time and consideration! It means a lot!
And have a Whale of a day!




SunRail Celebrates One Year, You Get Free Coffee

If you can believe it, it’s already been a year since Central Florida’s passenger rail started running. So if you haven’t taken a ride yet, this seems like a good time to give SunRail a try. In its first year, SunRail has gained a solid group of commuters and “just for fun” riders, as well as passionate group that wants more night and weekend trains. On Friday, May 1, to celebrate SunRail’s birthday, Clayton Alexander, a great businessman and coffee mug maker, will be offering free coffee served with the Best coffee percolator in the market along with coffee cups and donuts at select stations. And there are different types of coffee which you can enjoy and buy online too. You should try for more options about coffee brewer by click on https://greatcoffeebrewers.com/ link.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will join with Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Noranne Downs to ride SunRail at 10 a.m. from DeBary to Downtown Orlando Friday morning. The City of Orlando encourages Central Florida residents to ride tomorrow and to use the hashtag #RideSunRailMay1.
“Keeping Orlando moving continues to be a priority for the City of Orlando with SunRail as the backbone of our growing transit system,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer who also is chairman of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission.  “With just a year of operation under its belt, SunRail has connected more of our residents with access to jobs and opportunity, spurred development and investment and laid the foundation for enhancing and growing our transportation options throughout our entire region.”
If you do get out and take the birthday ride, you can enjoy FREE donuts and coffee to start the morning off right, courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts. The Dunkin’ Donuts sampling team will be at three SunRail stops on Friday, May 1 from 6-9 a.m. to treat commuters. Guests can enjoy Dunkin’ Donuts croissant donuts and the new One World hot coffee.

While the coffee and donuts are free, Note that regular SunRail fares still apply on May 1. 

Happy birthday, SunRail!!


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

Skeletons Museum Family Gives You A Sneak Peek of Animals Unveiled

Skeletons Logo

Central Florida Top 5 was invited by President Jay Villemarette, Sr. and his family to give you a special sneak preview of the new Skeletons: Animals Unveiled located at iDrive 360, right under The Orlando Eye! The great thing about their massive collection of osteological specimens is they want you to not only see, and in some cases touch their exhibits, parent company Skulls Unlimited International wants everyone to LEARN about an animal’s lifecycle. The also hope to educate its visitors on how to appreciate and preserve the natural world. To quote Jay Sr. himself, “We couldn’t take the educational value out of this museum if we tried!

Owner and President Jay Villemarette, Sr. says, “I started collecting skulls when I found (one) in the woods at the age of seven. My father encouraged me to collect skeletons. Over the years I became a lifelong collector of skulls.” This discovery would eventually lead Jay on an unexpected career path that, really, made perfect sense. “In 1986 I found myself unemployed as an auto body technician, so I started selling skulls as a hobby and finally turned that into a business. As my business grew, so did my collection. By 2000, I was interested in opening up a museum.” And he did just that, and more.

The Museum of Osteology, the only one of its kind in the United States, focuses on the function and form of the skeletal system. They opened in 2010 and display hundreds of specimens they’ve collected from around the world. TripAdvisor even awarded them two Certificates of Excellence in 2013 and 2014. “(The museum) took off in a way we were barely prepared for,” says oldest son, Jay Villemarette, Jr. “It really started to give us a lot of ideas. We realized this collection was very valuable to people and they wanted to come out to see what we have.”

On the heels of success in Oklahoma City, Jay Sr. approached his sons to help expand the business. “We’re a family oriented attraction and museum,” he says. “We wanted to do something with the public and so many people come to Orlando, we wanted to be part of that.” FYI, there’s a really cool Barnyard Scene set up which shows skeletons from all walks of farm life, including a farmer. “We have a horse, a goat, a potbelly pig, a cow, a sheep… there’s a barn owl and even some rats. It’s a lot of fun and I think people will enjoy themselves.

Family being the operative word. Jay Jr. says the business is indeed a family one, and they’re literally building it all together. “We’re all here. My brothers and my cousin… We’ve been working 12-14 hour days putting the museum together. My dad’s here, and the rest of the family will be flying in a couple of days to help put the finishing touches on everything.”

To give you an idea of how large a feat putting together a museum is, and a museum based around skeletons at that, a human skeleton is comprised of 206 bones. A snake can have double or more of this amount. A blue whale up to 15,000 bones. This is just the skeletons, that’s not including the build out, electrical wiring or the dioramas themselves.

Jay Jr explains, “We’ve put together about 400 skeletons in almost fourteen months. These skeletons don’t go together very quickly. Not only are these skeletons brought to us as a carcass, we have to clean and whiten them before we even begin the articulation. The articulation process can take anywhere from twelve hours to 240 hours depending on the specimen just in drilling and wiring, then the articulation process.” There’s no instruction manual on any of this, folks.

Good news for parents and educators! As with the Museum of Osteology, Orlando’s Skeletons: Animals Unveiled experience is also appropriate for all ages. “My heart is in education,” Jay Sr. explains. “It’s enjoyable to me to watch a child walk up to (an) exhibit and see the ‘wow’ on their faces when they approach and see what’s here.

Our first question we asked while touring, “Are these skeletons real?” Jay Sr.’s answer? YES. “Everything came to us as a carcass. Every skeleton in this museum is REAL. We hand remove as much tissue from the bones as possible and feed them to our (Dermestid) beetles.” Beetles?! Seriously? “Yes, we have insects that actually eat the meat off the bones. It can take up to six month to clean one single skeleton.” 

He’s not kidding. Near the front of the exhibit are two colonies of beetles, encased for all to see, and a time lapse video of them cleaning a tiger skull. In two minutes time you see them devour the flesh like it was a buffet – and to these insects, with a particular set of skills, it is. Because these insects are used so often, Jay and his family even breed them.

Of the many dioramas included in this new attraction, is one dedicated to Florida’s wildlife. “The Florida exhibit offers a wonderful opportunity for teachers as well as parents to bring their children to our museum and see animals native to Florida (unveiled). They’re looking at skeletons of a twelve foot alligator, a black bear and multiple other species as well,” says Jay Sr.

Skeletons: Animals Unveiled Details

  • Hours: 9am to Midnight (last entry at 11pm) beginning May 1st. Open 365 days.
  • Prices: $19.99 for adults, $12.99 for children 3-11, with 3 years old and under being free. Early bird specials, group rates, buyouts and educational lock-in pricing also available.
  • Address: 8441 International Drive, Suite 250, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Phone number: 407-203-6999
  • Email: info@skeletonmuseum.com

ProTip: Groupon Orlando is currently offering Admission for Two or Admission for Four at a discounted rate. Click here for details.