Blogs: Playing Around
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Art Basel in Miami Beach attracts artists and art lovers from around the world and the entire city of Miami is transformed as multiple art fairs and festivals pop up from the beach to the Wynwood arts district and beyond.

Tachyons + (former Jacksonville noise collective members Logan Owlbeemoth and Omebi Velouria from Telepathik Friend) created trippy visuals using custom electronics and video effects during the Look Alive Festival at Churchill's Pub featuring Wolf Eyes and Silver Apples.

Zac Freeman had a piece displayed in the Context Art Miami show where Folio Weekly caught up with Overstreet Ducasse and Princess Simpson Rashid.

Ducasse’s brilliant artwork was featured in two shows just north of Wynwood (including the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center). Florida painter Kevin Grass displayed seven new photo realistic / surreal paintings at Spectrum Miami.   More



Al Letson isn’t letting anyone off the hook.

If that’s not clear in the buildup to John Coffey Refuses to Save the World, it becomes abundantly so when these imaginary characters get real.

“Black lives matter and so do imaginary black lives,” Letson says after opening night of his play’s first-ever staging, for The 5 & Dime, A Theatre Company.

The setup appears simple enough but also incredibly demanding of a talented cast — take fictional characters we know and know too well, then trap them in a room together. They are John Coffey of The Green Mile, the god of Bruce Almighty, Mother Abigail of The Stand, and Bagger of The Legend of Bagger Vance.

You might call them the “League of Extraordinary Black Stereotypes.”

Here, as they’ve been called in the past by Spike Lee and others, they’re “Magical Negroes.”

Playwright Letson and director Michelle Simkulet utilize them to far more potent effect than their creators ever did — or could.

“The important thing about this script is that a lot of people who are creating our entertainment don’t understand black people,” Letson explained.

Letson makes it clear that his writing of these characters, especially John, came from a place of love, not loathing. Here, they fight for a chance to defy — if defying means simply to live real lives.

Letson wrote the play on a trip to the southeast African Republic of Malawi in 2012 — before the killing of Trayvon Martin, the acquittal of George Zimmerman, and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Letson points out he could have written the play in 2000 or 2017. The news may be different, but the fact remains: “America does not deal with its race problem.”

The WJCT host and producer of State of the Re:Union and Reveal, poet and artist may not be able to see the future, but he remains at the leading edge of critical …   More



You might accuse the Artist Series of having a formula.

When closing out a season, take a 1950s’ icon (or a few) and pop them in a feel-good show that’s heavy on nostalgia with a narrator who’ll make sure no dullards are left in the dust.

In 2014, the Artist Series did that with one of the weakest shows they’ve brought to the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in years — in Million Dollar Quartet (see Folio Weekly review: Mediocre Quartet).

In 2015, the formula proves tried and true and not totally tired. The legendary Lucy and Ricky Ricardo deliver where Elvis and company could not.

The opening of I Love Lucy Live on Stage proves uneven — a little too much exposition from the Desilu Playhouse Host (played by Mark Christopher Tracy). He offers three too many era-setting 1950s’ quips (at least), and the production would be smarter to run stars Thea Brooks and Euriamis Losada on stage sooner.

Brooks has the stage command and charm to create a lovable Lucy who’s more than enough to carry the comedy past its weaker moments.

Losada has the charisma and voice to wow. Both hit the familiar catchphrases — “you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do” — for those old enough to remember the groundbreaking show or curious enough to catch episodes on TV Land. Neither goes into caricature in roles that risk just that.

Kevin Remington and Lori Hammel have their moments as Fred and Ethel Mertz with comic chemistry to match Brooks and Losada. The commercial breaks, beginning with one for Brylcreem, mostly hit their marks.

The crowd at the T-U Center was decidedly more, well, experienced than for The Book of Mormon or even Annie, and they went home happy.

Some of those who laughed up Lucy might have walked out of last month’s F-bombing-dropping The Book of Mormon. That’s fine. The theater crowd in Jacksonville is diverse enough and risk-taking enough to …   More



The world is divided into two distinct groups: Those offended by The Book of Mormon and those still laughing at the jokes days or even weeks later.

If you're still not sure where you belong, consider:

• "F-You, Heavenly Father?! Holy, moley! I said it like 13 times!"

• "I know you're really depressed, what with all your AIDS and everything."

• "I can't believe Jesus called me a dick!"

• "I have maggots in my scrotum!"

I'm laughing as I type these, and you'll have to trust that they're even funnier when sung on stage than read off a computer screen.

With Mormons in the cross hairs, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park) are unrelenting. They skewer from every angle. They know God has a plan, and one of their stars believes "that plan involves me getting my own planet."

Stone and Parker have made a career (and millions) off vulgarity and sacrilege. They've pushed the line so far that most of the crowd at the Times-Union Center on Wednesday night — with a median age likely in the late 40s or 50s — was laughing far too hard to be offended. There's certainly a subset of Jacksonvillians who might find this offensive, but they aren't the type of crowd to spend $122 a seat to take a chance.

The stars of The Book of Mormon, David Larsen (as Elder Price) and Cody Jamison Strand (as Elder Cunningham), are a revelation. They're a classic oddball pair sent off to a village in Uganda to convert the locals while trying to avoid tribal warlord General Butt-Fucking Naked.

Elder Price's high-energy narcissism could easily go over the top in less skilled hands. Here, Larsen nails it. 

That gives Strand the chance to "Man Up" as Elder Cunningham. By then, he's easily won over the crowd, going from the awkward weirdo who's just looking for the Type-A Price to be his best friend to a plucky hero ready to share the Book of Mormon, even if he hasn't read it.

Stone, Parker and Robert Lopez weave …   More



The first week in December is becoming know as Miami Art Week every year since Art Basel (the world's premier international contemporary art fair formed in Basel, Switzerland in 1970) started to work with roughly 250 leading art galleries around the world to showcase work in the Miami Beach convention center. The show spills out into the environment transforming Collins Park and surrounding public spaces with sculptures, film, and live performance art. With Art Basel comes over 20 other major art fairs which take over an area stretching from South Beach to downtown Miami to the Wynwood Arts District.

Northeast Florida artists always flock south to participate in this international spectacle, which draws over 70,000 people from around the globe.

I met Florida painter Kevin Grass at the Red Dot art fair in 2013 as he was selling an original work to a Jacksonville resident. This year, partially aided by a crowd funding campaign, Grass was set up in the Spectrum art show run by the same people who put on Artexpo in New York. "It worked out so much better for me than Red Dot did. A guy who wants to show my work in Shanghai has already followed up with me from the show. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!"

Allow at least four days if you ever make the trek south for Art Basel and the surrounding art fairs. Miami can seem rough, decadent and even Babylonian. The beautiful weather and transformation possible through such a grand event as multiple international contemporary art fairs make it an epic journey.

Below are the personal takes by four Northeast Florida artists who attended and participated in this year’s festival:

“What I am always so grateful for is the fact that I can take a drive down I-95 and find myself at the very center of the contemporary art world. And I feel grateful that I can experience all of this once every year while never even leaving my state. This year I visited four different fairs in three days. It was the most I had ever …   More



Jacksonville filmmaker Damian K. Lahey can be a bit of a recluse at times, so — being the annoyingly prodding journalist friend that I am — I attempted to crack open his oyster shell and, in the spirit of All Hallows' Eve, ask him to give me a list of his favorite horror films. For those not familiar with Lahey from his award-winning Indie film work, his feature-length movies include Cocaine Angel and The Heroes Of Arvine Place, both shot here in picturesque Cowford. Arvine Place, a Christmas holiday-themed movie, is currently finishing up its festival run after winning several awards, and will be released this December on Blu-ray and all major digital platforms. The tireless Lahey has also just completed post-production on a lil' horror/comedy short that he shot in L.A. in July called Soccer Moms In Peril, and is in pre-production on his next feature, which will be shooting in Jacksonville at the beginning of 2015.

Anyway, Lahey agreed to churn out the list at my behest. Curiously (and I would say criminally) missing from his compilation is Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood, featuring a post-relevancy Corey Feldman and pre-right wing Dennis Miller. I'll now step aside and let Mr. Lahey take over the scene from here: 

Lahey: When RDS3 asked me to shoot him a list of my favorite horror movies, I was already tired from a long day of work and writing. Nonetheless, I threw back a can of HyperFizzics (a potent locally produced energy drink) and marched forth. Suddenly, it was 4 in the morning and I had not only finished this list, but had also nearly completed the construction of a fully operational time machine in the basement of my apartment building AND finished reading all of Dave Sim's Cerebus tomes.

Now, this is a purely subjective list. This is not what I believe are the best horror movies or the most influential horror movies. This is a list of MY …   More



When Sir Paul’s people hook up media types with review tickets, they really hook you up with review tickets. Like, on the floor, 12th row, maybe a hundred feet from the man who has defined rock ’n’ roll for the last 50 years, a living legend in every sense of the word. These were $500 seats, as I heard some clearly intoxicated bro behind me announce. (My photographer was not so lucky; he learned that his photo pass only granted him access for the first two songs. After that, he was escorted out of the building, and had to wait outside for me, as I was his ride. Clearly, I got the better end of that deal.) For that kind of coin, you expect not just a concert, but a show. And Sir Paul delivered.

Before we continue, a confession: I wasn’t a huge Wings fans, beyond maybe “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run.” And I’m not sure I could name three songs from the entirety of McCartney’s solo efforts, but then again, neither could most of the 12,000 or so people in attendance. Without John Lennon as a sort of ballast, McCartney leans a little too much toward sap and sentiment. That’s what made The Beatles work so well: John and Paul balanced out each other’s impulses. And so I, like almost everyone else, was hoping for a set list deep in Beatles songs. We got what we came for — “Yesterday,” “Back in the USSR,” “Paperback Writer,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” etc. — especially toward the end of the evening. 

When you are Paul McCartney, and you are doing a world tour, you can afford to hire some of the finest musicians on the planet, and McCartney’s backing band was indeed flawless, effortless, as you would expect. And while Paul’s voice showed its 72 years from time to time, especially on the high parts of “Maybe I’m Amazed” — no, Times-Union, he has not …   More


When Paul McCartney rolls into town this weekend, the legendary statesman of rock gives old and new fans of The Beatles a chance to reflect on a member of one of the most seismic forces of pop culture of the 20th century. Yet there is another person who, over the years, and almost by default, has become the proverbial “fifth Beatle.” Vilified by most, glorified by some, Yoko Ono might forever be known as the person who “broke up The Beatles,” when in fact most Beatles bibliophilia points the guilty finger at Sir Paul. Regardless of who pulled the plug, like that crazy relative every family seems to have, the one that is unilaterally loved or loathed by the rest of kin, there is no in between with Yoko.

Why is Yoko the target of such animosity? To some degree, she was surely a victim of the place and the time. When she met John Lennon in 1966, the Western world was only two decades away from the aftershocks of WWII and knee-deep in the conflict in Viet Nam. Second-wave feminism was just beginning to rise. Would it be an overstatement to believe that there was an immediate suspicion, if not outright prejudice, towards an Asian woman (who was – gasp – a strong-minded artist in her own right) who would dare snag the Alpha Male of the Fab Four?

By the time John met Yoko (or vice versa) she had already established herself as a viable force on the NYC avant garde art scene, having collaborated with creative heavyweights like John Cage and La Monte Young and participated in a variety of visual and performance art activities. Art school dropout John was admittedly drawn to Yoko for her artistic output - he first met her at London’s Indica Gallery, which was exhibiting a show of her conceptual work. Over the next decade-plus, and up until John’s murder, the line between the pair’s romantic and creative partnership remained in a steady state of diffusion. Much to the dismay of close-minded Beatles fans, Yoko was …   More

Playing Around


Among his CEO duties helming self-started Grand Hustle Records, rubbing elbows with the likes of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in Hollywood films, and serving two stints in county clinks, it’s undeniably impressive that Atlanta-based rapper T.I. (pictured) has found time to write and release eight studio albums, nearly all to chart-topping reception. The three-time Grammy-winning rubberband man brings his brand of hip-hop street cred to Jacksonville’s Aqua Nightclub. Say what you will about one-dimensional songwriting, objectification of women and migraine-inducing grammar – this man knows how to top charts and fill clubs.



When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Or sometimes you just enjoy a really fabulous Game of Thrones-inspired cocktail. Superfans celebrate their obsession this weekend with a GOT-themed party, complete with fire-dancers, GOT-inspired burlesque shows and a costume contest. The best represented house will claim the Iron Throne and the glory that goes with it, and all can take pictures seated on the massive replica, created just for the event. Oh, and, uh, brace yourselves. Winter, and lots of geeky-fun cosplay, is coming.   More