Stand for Change! It’s about Change! Change!! Change!!! As the presidential primary circus staggered to a close on Saturday, I was struck by how “change” has become the de facto rhetorical rallying point for all sides in this election. Looks like everyone is in love with change.
Well, I hate to kill the progressive party, but Orlando’s arts scene is seeing some changes, and they aren’t all good. In fact, sometimes change just plain sucks. Exhibit No. 1: the extinction of The Arts Connection. After six years of hosting the informative, intelligent weekly radio show on WMFE-FM (90.7), Rebecca Morgan was unexpectedly handed her walking papers on the last Friday of May. That dismissal put an end to one of the most valuable outlets Orlando arts groups had for reaching out to an educated, affluent, aesthetically aware audience.
I’ve been interviewed more than once by Becky, and each time she asked thoughtful, provocative questions without ever making me feel uncomfortable – a rare feat. Rarer still, she always managed to edit my ramblings in a way that didn’t make me look like an idiot. Above all, she always operates with class and dignity – even when we forced her to fake-fart at an Ubu Roi rehearsal.
What’s even more frustrating is that while the radio show has been silenced, the recently launched Morgan-less TV version will live on. The real difference between the two shows is that the radio version was produced by someone who genuinely knows, understands and likes the Orlando arts community. I’m sure the folks who put the TV edition together are very nice people who pay their taxes and love children and animals. But as far as spinoffs go, this ain’t no Angel; instead, it falls somewhere between Joanie Loves Chachi and AfterMASH. Check it out for yourself on WMFE.org: If you can make it through a half-hour of puff pieces on Cypress Gardens and the Cheyenne Saloon, you’re stronger than I.
I’m not unsympathetic to station president José Fajardo’s budget dilemma, as all arts groups are facing shrinking budgets. But at the prices they’re charging for Garrison Keillor’s November appearance at the Bob Carr, a few rows of seats could practically cover the radio show’s cost. The loss of Becky’s voice leaves Scottie Campbell’s Life in Stages on WPRK-FM (91.5) as the last platform for arts information on the local airwaves. Which leads me to wonder: If WMFE can’t support the cultural community where we live, why should I send my money to them? I like Click and Clack as much as the next guy, and I wake up every day to Morning Edition. But in an age of podcasts and satellite radio, a local station without local content doesn’t have much raison d’être.
Before you paint me a pessimist, allow me to admit that change doesn’t equal catastrophe; sometimes what seem like death throes can really be rebirthing pains. Such is the case for the Seaside Music Theater. The Daytona Beach institution has fallen on hard times since the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s corporate partner, Cox Newspapers, sued to stop the paper’s longstanding financial support. With the season scrapped due to budget shortfalls, they are raising funds with benefit performances of Les Misérables in Concert, June 21 and 22. Stars both local and international will sing the Boublil-Schönberg score, sans sets or costumes, accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra. Here’s hoping this performance can help them turn things around, even without a turntable.
Finally, there’s my favorite kind of change: watching people I like moving on to bigger and better things. Wayburn Sassy has installed his obscene-octogenarian act at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows on I-Drive, after a brief sojourn at nearby Glo Lounge. Dewey Chaffee’s cantankerous creation was a big hit at the last two Fringe festivals, and it’s great to see a show that can sustain itself outside that incubator. But not everyone has come along for the ride; Nurse Gracie will be MIA, which is a shame since Robyn Pedretti’s piercing perkiness was one of my favorite parts of the show.
And on the other side of town, my friend Jodi Thomas has led her fetish/fashion performance group AntiBabe for a dozen years, but they haven’t had a weekly home for a while. Now they’re bringing an evening of “Ms. Behavior2” to downtown every Sunday night at Vixen Lounge (formerly Pour). DJ Raven and DJ Martyr spin, and a full menu of whips and waxes will be on offer, so bring cash and leave your inhibitions at firstname.lastname@example.org