;Southeastern Photography Invitational
;; It was difficult to figure out the Friday (March 2) opening of the 10th biannual Southeastern Photography Invitational at Crealdé School of Art. There were 60 people there, tops, and many of them were students. There was a camouflage pickup truck in the parking lot with "Abortion is murder" spray-painted on the side and I felt like there was a Christian contingent there, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
;; Glen McClure of Virginia was the featured artist among the four photographers — David Wharton of Mississippi and Benjamin Beckendorf and David Paul Scott of Daytona Beach are the others — in the exhibit, which is organized into three black-and-white "collections." McClure's A Portrait of Umbria photo collection made its debut, and he was amiable enough in his short lecture about his work and influences. Curator Rick Lang (longtime director of photography at Crealdé) says McClure has a personality that "gets subjects to give of themselves" when posing for him. McClure's portraits of townspeople were taken in Italy late last year. Every photograph was named after the subject and had a short summary of the person's life and aspirations.
;; But I like Wharton's work better. It's more real, and the most emotionally evocative in this grouping. Wharton offers a looser definition of "portrait," as he captured images such as a young boy discovering fresh eggs, an Elvis fan's tattoos and a woman at her husband's funeral. Scott's and Beckendorf's work placed subjects in front of a blank background, and then asked them to answer the question, "If you died at this moment, how would people remember you?" This device walked the line between trite and endearing, with the subject themselves determining which way they teetered. (through April 28 at Crealdé School of Art, Winter Park; free; 407-671-1886; www.crealde.org);
;;— Aya Kawamoto
;;Pirate and Princess Parties
;; It began modestly in 1996, with a few nights of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party to boost revenue during a slow season. But in the decade since, it's expanded into the monster that swallowed the Magic Kingdom, first with Very Merry Christmas Parties, and now with the just-concluded Pirate and Princess (P&P) Parties. It's the "hard-ticket event," a special after-hours happening that requires a separate admission to attend. Special lighting and décor, customized entertainment, "treasure coves" distributing free candy and strictly limited attendance all combine to create a uniquely intimate experience far removed from the usual daytime tourist crush. An annual pass will only save you a few dollars off the mandatory up-charge, so many locals will give it a miss, but here are five reasons to consider attending when P&P returns this August.
;; • If you don't already have a season pass, it's a cost-effective way to see the Magic Kingdom. Adult party passes are about $20 cheaper than a one-day park ticket and offer 90 percent of the attractions available to day guests, along with the party-specific pluses.
;; • For safety reasons, Disney guests are normally prohibited from wearing costumes. But for these parties, dress-up is not just permitted, but encouraged. If your little one has a closet full of tiaras or eye patches, this alone may make it worthwhile. (That goes for adults, too: While booking tickets, I was reminded to dress as a pirate — seems like clear gender discrimination to me.)
;; • The specially themed parade and fireworks outdo the day-to-day shows. Highlights include a Captain Hook–led pyrotechnic assault on Cinderella's Castle and a schooner sailing down Main Street, swarming with swashbuckling stuntmen.
;; • Short of visiting during a hurricane, this is your best chance to experience E-Ticket rides with little or no wait. Even slow-loading bottlenecks like Peter Pan and Dumbo are walk-ons, and you can ride Space Mountain until you need a spinal fusion. The only packed queue of the evening was the one to "Meet Jack Sparrow."
;; • Most importantly, a high cast-member-to-guest ratio makes for a virtual "VIP" experience. Meet-and-greets with rarely seen characters (like Cinderella's wicked stepmother), fistfuls of chocolate for the taking and other little bonuses abound. Seeing every cast member bow and curtsey to your little Snow White is a memory that money can't buy for day guests.;
; Unless you have an allergic aversion to franchise synergy, P&P can be a great way to experience white-glove treatment at a reasonable price. The one downside is the nagging suspicion that these perks come at the expense of the daily park entertainment. The first-rate parade highlights how long in the tooth Spectromagic has become since its 1991 debut, and the current daytime parade recycles five-year-old floats. With rumors brewing of a new teen-targeted Halloween event to compete with Universal, don't look for Disney's hard- ;ticket train to slow down any time soon.;
;;— Seth Kubersky;; firstname.lastname@example.org