What's it like to participate in an artist-in-residency program at New Smyrna's Atlantic Center for the Arts? "Like being in Gilligan's Island,"says Mexican performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
It's one of the impressions shared in "Atlantic Center for the Arts: Exploring the Creative Process," a 28-minute documentary to be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 (with a repeat showing 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1), on WCEU-TV (Channel 15). True to Gómez-Peña's word, the program portrays the facility as a picturesque haven for the aesthetically inclined, with artists sketching models al fresco and dancers doing morning exercises in the sun. Tune in after the opening credits, and you may wonder if you've stumbled onto The Travel Channel.
Co-produced by the center and WCEU (a PBS affiliate based at Daytona Beach Community College), the documentary investigates ACA's tradition of teaming master artists with apprentices for mutually enriching collaborations. Interviews and on-stage footage trace typical residencies from incubation to public outreach.
As this is New Smyrna, not Pulau Tiga, conflict is absent. The featured artists hail the ACA experience as uniquely positive. It's an ad, all right, but who's to mind when the end product is enlightening and entertaining? The tattooed Gómez-Peña is a particular attention-grabber as he explains the significance of his 1998 performance piece, "Mexterminator." (Yes, that's a cross-dressing mariachi seated on a toilet, in case your reception of Daytona TV signals is spotty.)
Though the brief running time raises suspicion that potentially rewarding details have hit the cutting-room floor, one viewing will still leave you ready to sign on for the center's next session -- assuming that you use dancing shoes or a sketch pad as frequently as sunscreen.
After a few near-death experiences, Performance Space Orlando has closed for good. "I just got tired," says owner Winnie Wenglewick -- tired of haggling over rent with her two landlords, and of a rickety air-conditioning system that's about to give up the ghost. Adding two business partners last July, it seems, was merely a Band-Aid on PSO's continuing woes. One of those partners, Adam Williams, wouldn't have come aboard until January anyway.
Wenglewick is looking to pick up the pieces at a new venue that she hopes will be slightly larger and closer to downtown. And she's still interested in creating a Tampa fringe festival for next May (an idea she floated during last April's Orlando event). In the meantime, she's switched one of PSO's planned October offerings to the Studio Theatre at the Theatre Garage: Director Steve Gardiner's take on the off-Broadway hit "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" bows Oct. 13.
The "Angel Ticket" seasonal passes Wenglewick sold as a summer fund-raiser will be good at the Garage, and at any future shows she or Gardiner present. Impatient pass holders are entitled to the refund that was promised in the event of PSO's demise, but don't expect this angel to cash in; I'm trying to get into heaven.
Houndz of plenty
If your money instead went to "Mediahoundz," the film project that was the subject of benefit concerts this year at Sapphire and Barbarella, writer/director Paul Jordan has good news: The "close to $3,000" he collected has just about brought his feature to the production stage. Budgeted between $75,000 and $80,000, the video-shot comedy/drama will examine the private pressures felt by TV and radio personnel. It's familiar turf to Jordan, who's a production technician at WKMG-TV (Channel 6).
Actor Mark Joy -- who got big laughs as Edward Furlong's bar-owning dad in John Waters' "Pecker" -- has entered into a "gentleman's agreement" to play a British talk-show host in Jordan's film. "Gentleman's agreement" sounds like something out of Kim Basinger's legal papers, but Joy has already posted a link to mediahoundz.com on his personal website, so the interest is definitely there.
Already cast is WXXL-FM (106.7) personality Nikki Knight, who will play a TV reporter -- and thus allow her devoted listeners to place a face with the voice. Can't wait? Rent "Little Darlings" and take a close look at Kristy McNichol.;;
The Time Warp? Again?
When did you give up on "Rocky Horror"? For me, it was about 1980, when college kids started pouring into midnight screenings armed with "fan guides" that told them exactly when to chuck their toast at the screen.
Having played the part of "sweet transvestite" Frank N. Furter on stage five times, John DiDonna knows that yesterday's outrage becomes today's quaint relic. When he revisits the role in Theatre Downtown's "The Rocky Horror Show" (opening Oct. 13., one day after a preview benefit for the Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Center), the actor will be at the center of an attempt to bring the creaky franchise into the here and now.
"We don't want to play it as a '70s period piece," says DiDonna, who promises a newly techno-fied musical score and script revisions culled from various sources -- including creator Richard O'Brien, who revised his original text a few years back. The tone? "More sexual and harsher, but without ever losing the camp value." Sounds like DiDonna's work with the AntiBabe fashion/ performance troupe has left its kinky mark.
The show's club-friendly costuming supports the new conceit that Frank has recruited his followers from the late-night dance scene. Given that the previous efforts I've seen to weld theater to rave culture have fallen flat on their glow sticks, the field is open for a trend-bucking success.
While DiDonna remains committed to Theatre Downtown -- he's a board member, and will direct a play there next spring -- a hint of the nomad pervades his further plans. He recently formed PassionVine theater company with Theatre Downtown veterans Peg O'Keef, Paul Wegman and Bobbie Bell (whose outlets include writing theater reviews for Orlando Weekly); in two months, the quartet will announce a four-show 2001 schedule that will see them traveling from standard stages to "found spaces." And in the new year, they'll launch an "online journal" that will discuss the current endeavors of theater groups from across the country.
Suggested first topic: "How Much Should I Pay for Air Conditioning?"