Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things to do this holiday weekend

Happy early Thanksgiving! By now, you've probably planned your menu for tomorrow's Turkey Day fest. But have you figured out what you're going to do for the weekend?

For those early bird shoppers, when the clocks turn mid-night for Black Friday, one place to be is Ellenton's Prime Outlets for the Midnight Madness Pajama Jam. The first 500 shoppers to stop by Guest Services wearing their pjs will get a gift bag filled with a pair of brand new pajamas and other treats. Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the extra discounts many of the stores are offering. The event lasts until 8 a.m. Friday. For more information, go to

And while you're out shopping, don't forget those less fortunate this holiday season, especially the children. If you can, pick up a toy and donate it to the Manatee Players toy drive. The theater troupe is collecting toys and gifts for the area's abused and neglected children and teens to benefit Manatee Children's Services. New, unwrapped toys can be delivered to the theater at 102 Old Main St. in downtown Bradenton.

If you rather stay at home and watch football, but want to keep the kids busy for a little while, download snowflakes from for its Snowflake Coloring Contest. Those with the most artistic snowflake in each of the four age groups (ages 3-5; 6-8; 9-12 and 13-adults) will each win four tickets to the Sarasota Ballet's holiday program of the snow-filled "Les Patineurs" and "The Two Pigeons." To find out more, check out the ballet's Web site.

Lastly, if you're not a shopper, football fan or coloring fanatic but are looking for something entertaining to do for the holiday weekend, check out tomorrow's Weekend section for lots of movies, theater, music and performing arts ideas.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving isn't just about turkey

With Turkey day just around the corner, you could imagine my surprise when I read a report from the NPD Group on eating trends that only 30 percent of American households are planning to make a turkey this year.

Thirty percent.

I wondered if there was an epidemic going on, like a turkey shortage or something. Or that people were deciding to turn to ham this year or worse, Spam. But then I read on: Eighty-two percent plan on eating turkey, though, they weren't planning on making it themselves. Apparently, the reason that turkey making is so low is that most people are going to eat Thanksgiving dinner at someone else's home. NPD reports that two households will be the guest of another this Thursday. Though I'm not going to be "home" for Turkey Day, I'm still spending it with family. Last year, I was the guest of friends, and we had plenty of turkey to go around.

Harry Balzer, who writes the annual "Eating Patterns in America" and is vice president of NPD, said the numbers goes to show that people don't necessarily turn to food for comfort during this hectic and anxiety-filled season, they turn to other people instead.

I agree. They turn to other people with food. Eating is more fun that way.

NPD also tallied the top food items that will be devoured at tables across the country, the No. 1 pick - no surprise - was turkey. The rest:

2. Potatoes
3. Vegetables
4. Pie
5. Stuffing (I'm surprised this isn't higher on the list. Stuffing would have been #2 for me, mac and cheese #3 and a cake for #4, but that's just me.)
6. Fruit
7. Rolls
8. Salads
9. Bread
10. Sandwiches

Balzer stated in his report that with someone else preparing a Thanksgiving meal for you, "you've got to be thankful. But remember that just because you didn't prepare the meal, doesn't mean you get away with not cleaning up."

But I get away with it when it's my aunt's house.

- January Holmes

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bello is Circus Sarasota's newest star

Missed last week's daredevil stunt reavealing the newest member of next season's Circus Sarasota? The stunt, held in Five Points Park in Sarasota, involved the quick ascent up a 92ft sway pole that amazed the crowd, according to Jennifer Mitchell, marketing coordinator of Circus Sarasota. It featured none other than the engertic Bello Nock. Nock, an international clown superstar, has been called "America's Best Clown" by Time magazine.

Circus Sarasota members are very excited to have Bello be a part of their 2009 circus shows, which begin Jan. 30 and continues through Feb. 22 near Ed Smith Stadium at 1500 Stringfield Ave., Sarasota. You'll hear more about Bello through our coverage on the event next year.

In the meantime, tickets are sale now at or by calling 355-9805. Those who purchase tickets in advance save $5 per ticket.

- January Holmes

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free theater events this weekend

This weekend, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory will offer a heaping helping of theater for its popular Late Night series. All shows are free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis.

The events are as follows:

Saturday, November 22, 2008 @ 11PM
Presented in the Allen Studio on the second floor of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Anne Towns

A groundbreaking new play by one of theater's preeminent voices, Caryl Churchill, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? is a dark political comedy that puts a new spin on the term special relationship by using a male affair as a metaphor for the tortured submissiveness of Britain to America on foreign policy.

Sunday, Nov 23, 2008 at 8pm
Presented outside the FSU Center for the Performing Arts to the right of the main entrance, by the east wheelchair ramp and under the trees.

Directed by Candace O'Neil Cihocki

Featuring: Jason Peck (Boots) and Bethany Weise (Woman)

What if the man you loved had another kind of man inside? In the deep woods south, a woman buries her lover after a shotgun blast tears him to pieces. Now all that's left are his boots…and her desire. Is it strong enough to summon up the dead to wrestle with the living? And if so, what will she do once she's got him back? It’s the story of a tangled-up kind of love.

Sunday, Nov 23, 2008 (after the 8pm performance of Trash Anthem)
To be presented in the Jane B. Cook Theatre within the FSU Center.

Feeding the Moon fish by Barbara Wiechmann
Directed by Candace O'Neil Cihocki

Featuring: Elisabeth Ahrens (Moon fish), Heather Kelly (Moon fish), Randolph Paulsen (Martin), and Michelle Trachtenberg (Eden).

The bonds of love we form during our early years shape how we perceive the world and define for us what it is to love. But what happens if your only role models are so blinded by love or the loss of it that you can only bear tragic witness? With equally dreary pasts, Martin and Eden are searching for a basic human connection they can’t find within themselves. Within their current realities, real or self created; they find complete acceptance and the ability to coexist while providing exactly what the other was missing…unconditional love.

Monday November 24, 2008 @ 4 PM
Presented on the grounds of the Ringling Museum, in the Millennium Tree Trail.

THE ZOO STORY by Edward Albee
Directed by Joel Waag
Featuring: Brent Bateman (Peter) and Kevin O'Callaghan (Jerry)

Albee’s first play, celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, is as relevant today as it was in 1958. It’s the story of a chance meeting between two men, Peter and Jerry, on a Sunday afternoon in Central Park. Peter, a disenfranchised member of the middle class, is sitting on a park bench reading when he is approached by Jerry, a man distinctly outside of Peter's world. Over the course of the next forty-five minutes the two men attempt to forge a connection in a world that shuns honesty and communion. Intended for adult audiences due to language and adult subject matter. Run time is 60 minutes.

"Unfinished Spaces" Sunday

If you missed last week's "Unfinished Spaces" Chamber Music Concert, don't fret. There's three more Sunday evening concerts planned for the series, which will be in the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center that's under construction.

It's amazing how rich and pleasant the acoustics are in the building. I had a chance to sit in on a rehearsal and I couldn't believe my ears.

This Sunday's (Nov. 23) intimate concert at 6 p.m. will feature Cheryl Losey on the harp, Dorothy Wu on flute, Keith Carrick on the marimba and JT Posadas on the Viola. Six musical works will be presented. There also will be an intermission.
Tickets are $30 to the event, but if you purchase rush tickets an hour before the show you can get them for $11 each based on availability. If you're a student, you can get in free.

Tidbits on the quartet
Losey: She's noted as one of the nation's top young award-winning harpists.

Wu: Co-producer of "Unfinished Spaces," Wu will be quite busy this season performing in New York, Milan, Berlin, Lucerne, Madrid, Sarasota and Kauai. She also will be on a fall tour with the Verbier Festival Orchestra.

Carrick: He's in his second season with the Sarasota Orchestra as a principal percussionist.

Posadas: Performs with the Sarasota Orchestra and will spend this season performing with the Naples Philharmonic.

Since the building is literally unfinished, attendees are encouraged to bring cushions to sit on the mezzanine tiers.

- January Holmes

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Film Festival headed towards "Reel Changes"

The Sarasota Film Festival had its first big event of the season last night at Sarasota Michael's on East giving a taste of what to expect from next year's festival, which is slated for March 27-April 5.

The 11th annual festival should prove interesting as we see how organizers will run the popular event without Jody Kielbasa, who served as executive director of the festival for the last 10 years, and in a budget crunch that has cut their annual festival spending in half.

So it's fitting that next year's theme for the 10-day event is "Reel Changes." Expect to see many of the same parties, events and star-studded celebrities, but there will be several new things in the mix too. One such thing is the establishment of the Florida Film Consortium, a special year-round program geared towards aspiring film makers that will give them access to film professionals in a national and international scope. This has been a long-time goal of the festival that has finally come to fruition. University of Tampa professor and film producer Tom Garrett has been named the festival's new director of educational programs and special initiatives. Garrett will be working closely with the new program.

The Sarasota Film Festival is now accepting film submissions for next year as well. Tom Hall, director of programming, hinted in a press release that the 2009 event will feature another multi-faceted schedule of films. He's already received numerous submissions. Look for new programming changes too, he said.

- January Holmes

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Blue Leaves' at Players Theatre

Sarasota's Players Theatre is gearing up for a short run of "The House of Blue Leaves," which opens 8 p.m. tomorrow (Nov. 20) and continues through Sunday.

The Tony Award-winning play is a dark comedy with nuns, a Vietnam-bound GI, a political bombing and zookeeper and his schizophrenic wife. It is set in 1965 when Pope Paul VI made an appearance in New York City. Tickets are $15 adults, $12 students.

The Players is offering a special two-for-one deal on tickets, which makes for an affordable night out. For more information, call 365-2494 or visit

- January Holmes

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Give a child a home by attending concert event

Your favorite local entertainers are gathering for a great cause this weekend - to give a child a home.

The event, held 7 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 23) at Southeast High School, is called Lifesong for Haiti, which will benefit the adoption of a Haitian child to Wendy Brown James, a local actress. Kelly Woodland, who will be directing the concert, gave me a ring last week with details. Money raised from the event will help James with extra adoption fees through the Haitian government and will also benefit the Rivers of Hope Orphanage in Haiti.

Lifesong for Haiti will feature popular Broadway songs focusing on family, relationships and children sung by area actors that include James, Steve and Diane Dawson, Heather Kopp, Denny Miller, Rick Kerby, Garrett Brown, Tahlia Byers and many others.

Tickets are $10. Southeast High is at 1200 37th Ave. E., Bradenton.

For more information, call 722-1104 or e-mail

- January Holmes

Monday, November 17, 2008

Asolo's "Barnum" also on display at Ringling Museum

With the excitement that the Asolo Repertory Theatre's musical production "Barnum" has brought, be sure to check out the special exhibition of "Barnum: Bally and The Big Top" at the Tibbals Learning Center of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

The exhibit features all you ever wanted to know about P.T. Barnum and his world-renown entertainment endeavors - including who he branded as the oldest woman in the world and smallest fellow in the world with his never ending humbugs - through a showcase of historic posters, photographs and rare documents. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 daily.

Also, check out Thursday's Weekend section in the Bradenton Herald for a review of the musical.

(photo provided by Asolo Repertory)

- January Holmes

Friday, November 14, 2008

Local filmmaker makes big splash

Local film producer Ryan Bodie of Studio 26 Productions, Inc. has much to be thankful for. The young entrepreneur recently won the Best Film award for his film project, "Click Clack Jack: A Rail Legend" at the ninth annual WYSIWYG Festival in California - otherwise known as the Christian What You See Is What You Get Film Festival. We're told the festival is different from others because the audience votes on the films instead of a panel of festival judges.

"Click Clack Jack" is a wholesome family film with a Christian twist. It takes place in the 1870s, centering on an endearing railroad engineer named Jack. When a greedy land baron tries to swallow the town, Jack uses his wisdom to save everyone.

The film also has been screened at several other national film festivals, including the Florida Media Market film festival held last month. It will be screened in December at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, a bi-coastal festival held in New York and Los Angeles.

To learn more about the film or to watch clips, visit

- January Holmes

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daredevil stunt will lure attention

Circus mania is definitely in the air. First with the Asolo musical production of "Barnum," which will open this weekend at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, and now with Circus Sarasota, who is planning a special treat for circus fans.

Tuesday (Nov. 18), Circus Sarasota will reveal a new act for its upcoming 2009 season in grand circus style. We hear he or she is a big circus superstar. The first superstar in the circus' 11 year history.

At 9:30 a.m. in Selby Five Points Park in Sarasota, which is across from the Selby Library, Circus Sarasota's newest act will be revealed in a daredevil stunt that is sure to be the talk of the town, though, we have no idea what the stunt will be. It's a big surprise.

Circus Sarasota is the area's non-profit arts organization that not only provides wonderful circus entertainment, but has special community outreach programs. Its new season will begin Jan. 30, 2009.

Tuesday's event is free to the public. Other Circus Sarasota stars will be on hand for autographs and photos. Don't miss it!

- January Holmes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can you create 10 minutes of magic?

The concept of timed plays - like one-minute play festivals or 10-minute play festivals - remind me of those timed math tests they make you take in the second grade, where you're only allotted so much time to get as many multiplication, division, addition or subtraction problems completed. I was usually pretty good at it, though they were awfully nerve-wracking.

Except when it comes to plays, you have to set up interesting characters and a plot all within a matter of minutes. I've written short stories before, but have never tackled plays. It's amazing how brilliant some people are at presenting great staged works with all the major elements in such a short period of time.

For those adventurous playwrights and others who are up to the challenge, here's a chance to submit short plays: Theatre Odyessey's 10-minute play festival, which will be held March 27-29 and April 3-5, 2009 at the historic Crocker Memorial Church. Organizers are now accepting submissions. Works will be selected in early January. Those who are chosen must commit to attending the April 5, 2009 production and awards ceremony. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 31.

For this contest, playwrights should submit three anonymous copies of their works with a cover letter that includes contact information. Writers should also be full time or part time residents of the Florida Gulf coast region.

Send scripts to: Theatre Odyssey, 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 209, Longboat Key, FL 34228.

For more information and guidelines, email or visit

- January Holmes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Update on Perlman tickets

Those interested in snagging free tickets to the upcoming Perlman Music Program Winter Residency should get up bright and early this Saturday and head to the University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee campus.

There will be 15,000 free tickets given away to the outdoor concerts, making it a great entertainment opportunity for families on a tight budget. Limit is six tickets per person. Concerts will be held under a tent on the campus of USF Sarasota/Manatee.

Events include:
Sun Dec 21, 7 PM Works-in-Progress Recital

Mon Dec 22, 7 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Tues Dec 23, 11 AM Cello Masterclass
7 PM Works-in-Progress Recital (North Port Performing Arts Center)

Wed Dec 24, 5 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Fri Dec 26, 11 AM Viola Masterclass
7 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Sat Dec 27, 7 PM Works-in-Progress Recital

Sun Dec 28, 5 PM Chorus Rehearsal
7 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Mon Dec 29, 5 PM Chorus Rehearsal
7 PM Works-in-Progress Recital

Tues Dec 30, 5 PM Chorus Rehearsal
7 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Wed Dec 31, 6 PM Works-in-Progress Recital

Fri Jan 2, 5 PM Chorus Rehearsal
7 PM Orchestra Rehearsal

Saturday, Jan 3, 7 PM Celebration Concert (Sarasota Opera House,Tickets: $65, $30)

Ticket pickup begins 9 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 15) at the USF Sarastoa/Manatee Rotunda at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Other hours are 1-6 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Nov. 18-21 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 22.

Parking passes and a complete schedule of public events can be found at

- January Holmes

Friday, November 7, 2008

Political project to inspire youth

Though middle school and most high school students didn't get the chance to vote in the recent election, they can still make their political voices heard through a video competition via C-SPAN. The cable network is seeking creative multi-media talents for its fifth annual StudentCam video documentary competition.

The contest is open to those in grades sixth through 12th. Requirements are simple - produce a five to eight minute documentary on the topic "A message to the new president: What is the most urgent issue for the new president to address after taking office, and why?"

I'd throw a few ideas out, but the jest of this is to get the kids to do some research to discover the issues, then find a savvy way to present it. It would be interesting to hear their perspectives. Many of them will come of age to vote in the next presidential election, so I'm sure they'll have some great insight. Never underestimate youth.

The deadline for the contest is 5 p.m. Jan. 20, 2009, Inauguration Day. Winners will be announced March 10. Up for grabs is $50,000 in prizes, which includes 75 student awards and 11 teacher awards. The contest also is open to international students. The best out of the international category will win one $500 prize. Videos have to be original student works, but teachers can offer guidance and critique. The documentaries will be judged by a panel of C-SPAN representatives.

For more info and to upload videos entries, visit

- January Holmes

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Free Perlman event tickets available soon

The world-renown Perlman Music Program's Winter Residency will return for a fifth year to the Sarasota/Bradenton area next month, allowing many of you to take advantage of the wonderful free concerts offered by some of the world's most talented young musicians.

Two weeks chock full of Perlman music events will take place Dec. 21-Jan. 3, including orchestra and chorus rehearsals, works-in-progress student recitals and master classes that lead to the big Celebration Concert. The finale, held at the Sarasota Opera House, features the internationally-known violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman. Tickets are $30 and $65.

The free events will be held outdoors in a performance tent at the University of South Florida/Manatee campus at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, but you'll still need a ticket to get in. Free tickets will be available to the public beginning 9 a.m. Nov. 15 at the USF Sarasota Manate Rotunda. As a special incentive, those who purchase tickets to the Jan. 3 Celebration Concert will receive six free event tickets to USF by mail as a thank you for your support. Those interested in the offer can call 366-8450.

If picking up free tickets at USF, print or clip a Perlman/Sarasota ad to use as a parking permit on campus.

For more information on the Perlman program, schedule of events and other information, call 955-4942 or visit

- January Holmes

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Play for charity

Help those less fortunate this holiday season, whether it is your fellow man or a furry friend, by attending a special theater performance at 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 10) presented by the talented students from Manatee School of the Arts.

The event is called "Short Stories and all Good," and will be held at the Manatee Players' Riverfront Theatre on 102 Twelfth St. W., Bradenton. From what I'm told, the "fun and heartfelt" short plays are original creations from the students themselves.

The only admission they require is one dry or canned food item per person. It can be people food or pet food. The treats will benefit some of the event sponsors, which include the Manatee Food Bank, Honor Sanctuary Animal Rescue and IAM Wealth Management. The sponsors hope that "Short Stories and all Good" will give families an inexpensive night out while allowing them to help other local families in need at the same time who will be struggling financially this holiday season.

If you're interested in attending the show, please RSVP as seating will be limited. Call 1-800-853-9972 to RSVP. For more information, call the Honor Sanctuary at 302-0933.

- January Holmes

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WE TV pokes fun with presidental poll

So, what do you get when you take all of the top presidential candidates and their spouses for Election 2008, put them tumbler filled with a thousand woman and start to shake it? You get Women's Entertainment Vote '08's "Purely Entertaining Political Poll."

WE Vote,, is a national grassroots initiative whose mission is to urge women to vote on Election Day. Approximately 1,151 woman were surveyed about a month ago for this special opinion poll, which has a little fun with the presidential candidates.

Poll questions and results included:

Who most needs a makeover?
John McCain at 30 percent. Seems like the Republican party should have shared the wealth of the $150,000 it spent sprucing up Palin. Then again, maybe not. Sarah Palin trails right behind McCain for most in need of a makeover at 19 percent. I don't know. I think she looks presentable enough.

Whose personal style do you like best?
Michelle Obama at 35 percent. People seem to like the J. Crew look on her. But here's what I don't understand, Sarah Palin is right behind her at 31 percent. So maybe she doesn't really need that makeover after all.

Which couple would you like to see in a reality show and follow around the White House?
Sarah and Todd Palin at 46 percent. With talk of hunting, pit bulls with lipstick and hockey moms on the campaign trail, a reality show with the Palins would be the highest rated on TV - ever.

Who would you most like to go dancing with?
Barack Obama at 38 percent. He looks like he's got moves.

Who do you most want to be stuck on a desert island with?
Barack Obama at 31 percent, followed by Sarah Palin at 21 percent. I say instead of me being stuck on a deserted island with either of them, they should be stuck together. Kind of like a "Survivor: The Presidental Race." Whoever gets home alive first wins the presidency!

- January Holmes

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free Improv classes

Calling all aspiring actors who are interested in tapping into their inner improv abilities: Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota is hosting a FREE improv workshop from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 4).

Here are the specifics from FST:

"This FREE workshop will introduce basic Improvisation. Discover the freedom of spontaneity. Sign up for this FREE Improvisation class that is the launching ground to start developing one’s skills as an Improv performer. Learn the fundamentals of Comedy Improvisation using theatre games and scenes. Students are given the opportunity to explore creativity, hone presentation skills, and build self-confidence through teamwork. This class is designed for those who have no previous Improv knowledge and who have not taken classes with FST Improv before."

RSVP's required. For more information, call 366-1350. FST is at 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.

-January Holmes