Arts & Culture » The Green Room

Raptor, can you spare a dime?



Listen closely, because I'm going to tell you how you can spend the night on Jurassic Park Island at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure. You just have to duck into the men's room in the Mythos restaurant, hide there until the park closes, and ...

No, on second thought, that won't work. What you need to do is call Universal Studios Vacations at (407) 224-5299 and tell the operator you want to bed down among the dinos. He or she will turn you on to an oh-so-exclusive entertainment package Universal is currently offering, one that affords eager lizard buffs their chance to "own" the island for a night.

Sleeping in a luxury campsite attended by real, live butlers is but part of the deal; there's also the offer of a dinner banquet, fine wine and champagne. You and up to 19 of your friends will enjoy unlimited spins on rides like the Jurassic Park River Adventure and the Triceratops Encounter. As the coup de grace, your prehistoric safari party will thrill to specially devised adventures that involve a battery of expert guides and culminate in "interaction with Ã?moving, breathing' dinosaurs." (Interestingly, the latter wordage is also part of the recruitment literature for the Promise Keepers.)

As is the case in so many other walks of life, residing outside of Orlando is rewarded: If you hail from somewhere past the city limits, you will be flown in to OIA on a chartered jet and driven to the park in Humvee limousines.

Now to the messy little matter of cost. Borrowing its lead not from the "Jurassic Park" movies but the "Austin Powers" canon, Universal has set the price tag for this once-in-a-lifetime steg-o-schmooze at (drum roll, please) one million dollars.

You read that right, Dr. Evil, a cool mil. Sales representatives are standing by now -- or at least dozing by a phone while waiting for a red light to flash, a buzzer to sound and a supervisor to bellow, "We got one!" Hope they're not working on commission.

Who, after all, has that sort of dough to blow on a single night of fossil-molesting fun? Thurston Howell III? (Nope. Wrong island.) With a seven-figure fee in place, whatever ptero-pimping activities Universal has in store had better be at least as exciting as, oh, a weekend spent as personal assistant to Mariah Carey.

On the other hand, maybe we should all be pulling for the program to succeed. If Universal has but one taker, the company will have done more than its part to offset the decline in theme-park revenues that's threatening to send Orlando's economy hurtling into the abyss. And I'm sure that every million received will immediately be subtracted from the cost of the proposed $90 million toll road Uni-versal is soliciting from Florida's Turn-pike -- the one meant to give future guests access to the attraction's yet-to-be-built facilities. Maybe I should even kick in a million or two myself, just to be a team player. Take a check?

And it saves on envelopes:

Universal's expectations of largesse notwithstanding, there seems to be less of everything to go around these days. It's certainly the case with Lillie Stoates Awards, only four of which will be handed out when the annual salute to theatrical excellence has its 2001 ceremony Oct. 7 at the Winter Park Playhouse. The drop -- a marked plunge, really, from last year's total of 11 awards -- denotes the losses of the "Best Supporting Actor" and "Best Supporting Actress" competitions and the entire "musical" category, which in 2000 encompassed five awards of its own. The only honors conferred will be the "Best Production," "Best Actor in a Play" and "Best Actress in a Play" awards and the "Golden Lillie" award for support of local theater. (The recipient of the latter had not been determined at press time.)

What's behind the downsizing? Not a dearth of playgoing activity, according to Avis-Marie Barnes, executive secretary of the Stoates awards. Barnes says that the judging panel saw 22 shows this year -- down only three or four from last year. But the votes for supporting actor and actress were "just all over the place," she reports, with not enough of a quorum achieved to warrant the retention of said contests. (Last April, a similar lack of agreement among Stoates Umbrella Awards judges led to the curious slighting of some prestigious Orlando International Fringe Festival shows.)

Wither the musicals? The field was too narrow, Barnes says. In the absence of the Civic Theatres of Central Florida, the Stoates judges reviewed only two musicals this year (both staged at Sanford's SJS Productions, now likewise defunct), but neither earned a nomination.

Of the 11 shows the Stoates Awards "spotlighted" over the last year, only six ultimately produced nominees.

"We're keeping our standards high," Barnes says. "If the nominations are not there, then they're not there."

"Trash" picking:

Casting is almost finalized for the expanded version of the 2000 Fringe Festival hit "Trailer Trash Tabloid!," due to open Oct. 11 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Auditions held last weekend in New York City drew about 250 hopefuls for the show's two roles (including, oddly, the actor who played the TV-camera operator in the movie "Tootsie"). Producer Skip Stewart says that he and writer/director Lewis Routh had hoped to use local talent, but their Orlando auditions didn't attract the numbers they had hoped for. Stewart's sunny explanation: "Everybody here is working." (Remember, angry thespians: He said it, not me.) Of the new "TTT," Stewart promises "even more rape, looting, pillaging and running amok ... but only talked about, never seen." Hey, even talking about it is more than Gary Condit will do for you ... Meanwhile, Michael Wanzie and Doug Ba'aser -- who starred in the original "TTT" -- have extended the Saturday performances of their "Two Men Trapped in Women's Bodies" at the Parliament House through Sept. 15. See? They're working! Wanzie's long-in-development musical project, "Lizzie," now looks more likely to premiere in the Big Apple than here. "I don't know if the city is ready to support that kind of endeavor right now," says co-producer Kenny Howard. We're not working!

Larval stage:

Robin Van Arsdol has set a Sept. 8 grand opening for his new Church Street Gallery of Contemporary Art (located at Church Street and Division Avenue). One of its first exhibits will be a photo-documentation of the past two Venice Biennale exhibitions in Italy. The opening bash will include a "living statue" performance by Andy Coppola of the Can Sir Troupe, who accompanied RV to last July's "Sculpture Mile" show in Steinhagen, Germany. Coppola's four-hour performance there had him outfitted in black latex and butterfly wings, eventually unwrapping himself to simulate emergence from a cocoon. Wonder what a Lillie Stoates judge would have made of that.

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