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Zeina Salame Brings Iraqi Women to Life

The lights are low, and the chairs frame a circular stage set by a ring of embroidered pillows on a wooden floor. As Zeina Salame walks in and positions herself center stage, a calm settles over the room. With just her words and a flowing black piece of fabric, Salame transports the audience through space and time to Iraq during the U.S.-led coalition invasion. Salame’s one-woman performance of nine different Iraqi women’s stories is transcendent.

As the characters share pieces of their lives with the audience, the desperation in their voices is palpable. A desire like winds that fan the fading embers of the soul emanates from each of these women. Their desire is not just to find freedom but to find peace. Salame loves with these women, she cries with these women, she becomes these women. Each story is her story. Despite language and custom barriers, the dialogue is honest and identifiable.

These women are the surviving remnants of a nation torn by war and unspeakable violence. Through each monologue, we begin to see a clearer picture of what it means to be an Iraqi woman. An artist, a doctor, a 9-year-old girl, a rugged street-woman and a mother are among those who lay out their lives for the world to see.

Recounts of torture, shame, confusion and hopelessness are woven together with themes of strength and love. There was laughter along with sorrow and resilience despite the helplessness.

In one of the most powerful scenes, Amal, the artist, is killed by a bombing of her house. Nanna, the rugged street-woman, salvages some of her paintings after the explosion. All of Amal — her beauty, her rebellion, her passion — is lost, except for her paintings. However, the value of her life is reduced to $2, the amount Nanna pleads with passersby to pay her for the artist’s work.  

The 5 & Dime Theater Company’s production was accompanied by complimentary authentic Middle-eastern dishes of stuffed grape leaves, …   More


Animal Magnetism in Locally Shot Music Video

It's not everyday that you see a beaver, a dog, a tiger and turtle walking down the streets of Downtown Jacksonville.

But that's the adorable image Jacksonville musician and photographer Joshua Wicker assembled for his music video of "Royals," a cover of the song by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde (aka Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor).

Wicker convinced four lanky dudes to don big mascot costume heads while hanging out on streets, parks and rooftops around town: Kyle Horton as the beaver, Reid Parrish as the dog, Blake Parrish as the tiger and Chandler Merritt as the turtle. In one scene, a couple of the cool creatures leap-frog on the Northbank Riverwalk. 

The video popped up on Wicker's YouTube page on Oct. 17, and a photo by Cameron Korn was shared on igersjax's Instagram page the same day.

Check out the video for an amusing look at Jacksonville set to a seriously good soundtrack.


Playing Around

Advocating 'Less Nagging, More Shagging'

Men and women are different. It’s the plain-as-day punch line of much relationship-driven comedy.

Lethargic men want to watch sports; fickle women desire undivided attention. Selfish men sweep problems under the rug; badgering women invent problems for the sake of discussing them.

The reason for all the tension? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Luckily, there’s manual for this sort of thing, and Peter Story, our “friendly resident Martian,” is here to bridge extraterrestrial barriers between the sexes. He’s traveled from afar to the Times Union Performing Arts Center, Jan. 14-17, to take this tired comedic formula a step further and bring something fresh to the relationship monologue — solutions.

Story takes the audience along on a recent date, a botched evening at the opera house ending in disdain from his wife because of his preoccupation with sports.

It’s a familiar scenario for many, and knowing glances between couples and nods of affirmation from Martians and Venusians alike show that Story’s quips and jabs are landing close to home.

While Story was mid-joke on Tuesday, Jan. 14, a woman who at first appeared to be part of the show approached the stage and set flowers at his feet. The resulting nonsensical exchange between her and the comedian revealed she was a heckler with too much liquid confidence.

Story appeared ready for anything on opening night for the four-show run, Jan. 14-17 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening came from a 30-year veteran of marriage in the audience who, when asked what date he and his wife’s anniversary falls on, answered “Memorial Day.”

Further into the show, Story receives a phone call from his wife, which he takes. He plays it off as a surprise, but the resulting conversation segues seamlessly into his next bit about communication in a …   More


Six Broadway Veterans Bring Flavor of Big Apple to 'Rox'

New Yorkers make great pizza and dreadful tourists. They claim their city as the center of the universe, and won’t let anybody forget it. But for one night on Feb. 1 at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, we were the tourists, given a glimpse into the world of Broadway, a world that indeed has influenced our universe of entertainment.

"Broadway Rox," an ensemble of six talented singers and a backing band of authentic New York musicians brought Big Apple charm to the River City, promising to take the audience on a musical journey through 50 years of Broadway.

Half a century of ubiquitous, influential music is an ambitious journey, and "Broadway Rox" wasted no time getting into the thick of it. The show opened up with a medley of hits, ranging from rocker Jason Wooten’s "Jesus Christ Superstar," to Ashley Loren’s energetic rendition from "Footloose," to Green Day’s "21 Guns."

The performers encouraged the audience to sing along, and sometimes they did. On slower songs, like the haunting group a cappella of the Beatles' "Because," the audience stayed silent while the singers exercised their impressive range.

During his rendition of Jersey Boys’ "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You," the charming Darren Ritchie serenaded one lucky lady in the audience — concluding with a quick apology to the gentleman she was with.

"Broadway Rox" got the audience fired up with the energetic, slightly campy "Time Warp" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show." From the first few notes, the performers were able to get much of the crowd — ranging from older couples to children — grooving and pelvic thrusting along to the signature dance from the Broadway hit.

The performance was moved to the more intimate Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. With a capacity of 600, the theater was packed, but no one seemed to mind.

While the first half of the show mostly kept the very tight and professional backing band in the periphery, the …   More



The smell of alcohol and fried food was in the air for the Jacksonville Jazz Festival on May 24. The streets were lined with chairs as festival attendees staked out their places. When Jacksonville residents show up for an event, they really show.

The Stooges Brass Band's jazzy sound straight out of New Orleans had people dancing in the streets. The festival crowd had a peaceful, laid-back vibe, and one had to laugh at the over-50 set dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

On the Breezin’ Stage at the Jacksonville Landing, it was standing-room-only, as the Katz Downstairz went off. They serenaded the crowd with covers of R&B and hip-hop classics, such as The Isley Brothers “Between the Sheets” and OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The band looked to have a pretty big following judging by the size of the crowd and fans sporting tank tops with the band’s name in the fashion of the Run DMC logo.

At the jazz festival, it's the norm that about 60 things are going on at once. As evidence, Average White Band played the Groovin’ Stage while the Katz Downstairz kept the Landing crowd moving. I caught bits and pieces of Average White Band’s solid set, but I completely missed Al Jarreau, and I’m really not sorry about it. (Note to self after shuffling back and worth between stages: Don't wear flip-flops next year.)

As the clock struck 11 p.m., the jazz fest began to shut down with vendor tents being dismantled. But the night was still young and local favorites were just getting started for Jazz Fest After Dark.

The Band Be Easy kept the crowd satisfied with covers of recent hits like Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie." They didn’t even shy away from rapping Jay Z’s verse.






Even heavyweights in the DJ remix world get flak from music purists for not treading new ground in songwriting. But a true remix, one that takes a song’s core element in a completely new direction, is a legit discipline on its own. Lars Behrenroth, host of the global weekly radio show Deeper Shades of House, has mastered that discipline, and he brings beats he uses to move and groove audiences the world over to Northeast Florida. Presented by The Garage, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. July 19, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, $15.   More


Dancing for a Living

An audience arriving for opening night of "Flashdance —The Musical" is bound to expect amazing moves.

Jacksonville native Ryan Carlson, playing a break dancer, and the rest of the cast exceeded all those expectations as the eight-show run kicked off Tuesday night. The Douglas Anderson graduate, possibly energized by his hometown crowd, showed some smooth steps and an aerial move that appeared to unwind in slow motion.

The dancing delivered, but the surprise that got the Moran Theater rocking was that star Jillian Mueller had a show-stopping voice to match her grace.

Mueller's Alex Owens and Corey Mach's Nick Hurley sparred well in a story as old as time, if time began in the '80s. The plot of rich guy woos tough girl probably extends even earlier, but this is the 30th anniversary tour of "Flashdance" — the movie. Fans might feel nostalgic for Jennifer Beals in the 1983 film, but they're unlikely to forget Mueller.

Alex welds by day, flash dances by night and dreams of making it into Pittsburgh's top dance academy. Nick — Alex's boss at the steel mill — chases Alex while also trying to fend off his family's attempts to lay off workers.

The main shortcomings of "Flashdance" are in the story. Supporting characters are given time on stage, but they deserve more plot with which to work. They have the talent but only some of the tools.

Alex's friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) imagines herself as a dancer on MTV, then decides to join a strip club. Her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) leaves for New York, chasing his own dream of standup comedy, then comes home before anyone can miss him.

While trying to offer comic relief, his "timing" is on, but his writers have offered him hits as well as misses.

Those writers fare better in scenes involving seasoned dancers Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (Alison Ewing). Moore nearly steals the show with her vigorous voice and intense acting.

Though not perfect, "Flashdance The …   More


'Responsibility to Get It Right'

You might have seen her guest star in big name shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Homeland," "Matlock" or "The Office.' Of course, that doesn’t include her extensive career in theater productions including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "The Baby Dance" and "Getting and Spending." She has also released several albums of jazz music.

Is there anything Linda Purl can’t do?

Her most recent endeavor involves performing in a one-woman play, "The Year of Magical Thinking," directed by Jenny Sullivan. The show is staged for three performances, 8 p.m. Jan. 17 and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18, at Theater Jacksonville in San Marco. The production is part of Theatre Jacksonville's Guerilla Show Series.

The play is about one woman’s emotional journey after unexpectedly losing her husband and their only daughter. Purl describes her character as “brutally honest, a formidable talent and intellect, and very exacting of herself in her writing.”

Purl faced a common fear when preparing for the play. “This play is so brilliantly written, it is such a truthful piece that my primary fear of doing a one-woman play is that it would be crushingly boring to watch one woman talk on an empty stage. I happily discovered this was unfounded.”

While there is quite a bit of grief and mourning in this play, Purl believes that it’s much deeper than that. “There’s a good deal of humor and I can tell you, from having done the play and spoken to a number of audience members after the show, that for many, the play has deep tides of healing in it.”

Purl’s preparation for this play did not solely entail memorization and acting lessons. It was an emotional journey that took a lot of strength. It’s a story that happened behind-the-scenes. And it is one of the reasons that Purl’s character, Joan Didion, really comes to life.

“The journey to the play was life meeting art. My friend and wonderful actress Bonnie Franklin was slated to do the role. However, she …   More

Playing Around


Hailing from Troy, Mich., We Came As Romans features an interplay of clean singing and brutal screaming vocals over punchy guitar riffs, tight drumming and electronic sections. Vocalists Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone and guitarist Joshua Moore spoke with Folio Weekly before their set on the opening day of Welcome to Rockville.

F.W.: Your latest album, “Tracing Back Roots,” came out in July 2013, what do you think is different about this album, in relation to “To Plant a Seed” or “Dreams EP”?

D.S.: It’s definitely more melodic. We went with a different producer this time. On our last two records, we used Joey Sturgis. This time around we went with John Feldman. Feldman is so focused on melodies and stuff like that, so it really shines through.

F.W.: Are you currently writing?

D.S.: We’re brainstorming some ideas, but nothing too crazy right now. We’re still on the album cycle for “Tracing Back Roots," so we’re still focused on touring.

F.W.: When you do write, do you usually set aside some time to write or do you work on ideas on the road?

J.M.: It’s kind of both. Usually we’re on the road, and we’re kind of crunched, you know? But we’ll start pulling out ideas and stuff like that. Then we’ll take those ideas and work on them in rehearsal. Hopefully, on the next record we’ll be able to sit down and work things out together, like we did on the last one.

F.W. When touring, do you prefer to play big festival shows like Welcome to Rockville, or do you prefer the smaller, more intimate club shows?

K.P.: Both have their ups and downs. We like the smaller shows, because we get to see our fans close up. But we also like the bigger shows at the same time, because we like seeing all the energy, and it pulls in new fans too.

F.W.: Do you notice any difference between the shows you play here and your international tours?

D.S.: They like to circle pit a lot in Europe. They’ll circle pit to anything. It could …   More



The Gateway Shopping Plaza, once a popular shopping hub on the Northside, is now a drab town center where the main attraction is Publix. But something inside the Gateway Mall is attracting an audience of its own.

Through the vision of founder Darryl Reuben Hall, Stage Aurora Theatrical Company has been bringing productions to the stage since 2001 and showcasing arts on the Northside.

Stage Aurora continues to make an impact in the community through its Black Arts Festival, now in its seventh year. The festival gives participants an opportunity to show their talents in a variety of art forms. This year’s festival features an Oceanus Tae Kwan Do exhibition in which students will display the teachings of Master Joseph E. Morgan, and a production of the Tony award-wining musical The Wiz featuring 100 Youth Voices. According to Anntoinette Jones, who works for Stage Aurora, the actors (who are mostly students between the ages of 6 and 18) have been working on the production for about two and a half months. She also says that the students won’t be the only ones who will be given the chance to display their talents. Kids of all ages are welcomed to show off their artistic ability to the Stage Aurora audience at the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion.

Though Stage Aurora offers local actors a chance to express themselves on stage, they have also hosted nationally recognized performers at past Black Arts Festivals. Jones says T'Keyah Crystal Keymah (from That’s So Raven), Tony Award winner Melba Moore and Ella Joyce (in a performance of A Rose Among Thorns) were three highlights from past festivals.

The Black Arts Festival spans the July 18-20 weekend, beginning with the Oceanus Tae Kwon Do exhibit on Friday and ending with the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion on Sunday. Performances of The Wiz are Friday and Saturday.   More