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There’s a new hero in town and he’s coming to Jacksonville Beach! Players by the Sea Theatre invites audiences of all ages to journey into the magical world of Shrek the Musical. The summer benefit production directed by Jason Nettle is staged July 19-Aug. 11 on the main stage (www.playersbythesea.org). 

Shrek The Musical brings all the beloved characters to life including Donkey, Fiona, Lord Farquaad and the big green ogre himself as they sing and dance their way into our hearts. Joshua Bond is delighted to embody the role of Shrek in his triumphant return to the stage after a 10-year hiatus. 

“I will be celebrating my 10-year anniversary to my wonderful, amazing wife Michelle this September. I actually met her doing theatre here in Jacksonville,” says Bond, who is also raising the couple’s two daughters, Taylor, 7 and Madison, 3. “When we met, I had done what I considered to be my Super Bowl. I got to do Tony in West Side Story with the Jacksonville Symphony. That was just awesome but I knew I wanted to have a family.”

Behind the Scenes of Shrek The Musical at Players By The Sea Theatre, Photo by Maxie Lamont Coleman III

Bond embraced family life and embarked on what his parents called “a real-world job,” leaving little time for the rigorous demands of rehearsal schedules and show runs. 

“I had been singing for my supper for a long time. I’m able to scratch that itch as far as music goes because I help lead worship at Crossroads Church. Until recently,” he laughed.  “I don’t know when Jason Nettle found out he was directing Shrek but he definitely planted a seed. I told my wife I think this will be good for my physical health and my mental health getting back to what I love. It was such a huge part of my life for such a long time.”

Behind the Scenes of Shrek The Musical at Players By The Sea Theatre, Photo by Maxie Lamont Coleman III

When he arrived at the auditions, Bond says he didn’t know the physicality that would be involved in the process so he danced with the rest of the hopeful still wearing his “church clothes.” The juxtaposition created the perfect visual balance he needed to see it through. 

“There are so many heartstring moments and the writers of the show have done such a beautiful job with the book and the music to really pull them,” says Bond. “And my daughters love the fart song so it’s been fun getting to find those moments where you get to be silly.” 

Behind the Scenes of Shrek The Musical at Players By The Sea Theatre

The transformation from man to ogre is an intense process and Bond was overwhelmed by the commitment of the team to make Shrek a dynamic character in voice and appearance. “We have such a great team. I literally did not know what to expect coming in. I thought maybe we’ll get some green paint and bring this character to life,” he says. “I was so over-the- top surprised to see what they’ve put into the costumes. It’s so exciting.”

Once he undergoes his physical transformation, Bond navigates the swampy waters of Shrek’s past to help him find his way. The bond with Donkey, played by Theodore Canty, is evident in the chemistry the two shares on stage.

Behind the Scenes of Shrek The Musical at Players By The Sea Theatre, Photo by Maxie Lamont Coleman III

“It’s like ‘I give up. You’ve been annoying for so long but I guess I’ll let you be my friend’. His heart is out there but he isn’t sure what anyone is going to do with it,” Bond says. “We’ve quickly developed a very comfortable relationship. He’s a great guy and he’s going 100 miles an hour all the time with this character.”

Audiences feel such a deep reverence for the animated version of the characters in Shrek and Bond is hopeful that his portrayal as the affable ogre will capture their attention and their hearts.  “Even though a lot of the things that have been thrown into his world like the fairy tale creatures and this donkey and then meeting this princess who he eventually begins to fall in love with, there’s different wants and things that have been inside this whole time that start to come out,” he says.  “Just the word ogre has a lot of weight. He even refers to himself as a ‘big, stupid, ugly ogre’ because that’s what’s he’s been known as his entire life. It’s fun trying to walk that line.”

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Earlier this year, Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis made a powerful statement: “We feel an obligation as parents and feel that we should work on behalf of all the parents of this great state to make sure their children have a clean environment and clean water to grow up on.”

Waterkeepers Florida applaud the First Lady’s commitment to restoring and protecting our state’s waters, although it is clear our state legislature does not share that same sense of urgency. Unfortunately, this legislative session failed to yield any meaningful protective policies for Florida’s waterways. Florida Moms demand better for our children and their children.

Inspired by First Lady DeSantis’ words, Moms for Clean Water represents moms around the state of Florida calling for greater protection for ALL of our water resources. We believe that our water should be clean for our children to safely fish, swim, and drink.

“Exploring our rivers and our springs with my boys is one of the simplest joys of being a mom. It is our collective responsibility to ensure clean, healthy waterways  for our children today and for future generations,” said Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper.

CALL TO ACTION:

Protect ALL Florida Waters

Too often, we see priority given to water resources in specific geographic or socioeconomic regions of the state while others are neglected. All of Florida’s waterways are connected – to pollute one is to pollute them all. Moms for Clean Water urge to do away with the piece-meal approach and support comprehensive, holistic protections for all of our state’s waters.

 

Stop Pollution at the Source

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when it comes to protecting our waterways. Pollution sources in our waterways are many and complex with no catchall single approach to fixing them. Moms for Clean Water support holistic policies that keep toxic pollution out of our waterways rather than using time, energy, and money to clean it up after the damage is already done.

Protect Our Land, Protect Our Water

One of the best ways to protect our waterways is to protect the land around it. Conservation land provides a variety of ecosystem services including, water purification, resiliency, and habitat protection. Land that is conserved in its natural state supports vegetation that is effective at removing nutrients and other pollutants from stormwater and keeping them out of our waterways. Moms for Clean Water are calling for increased funding to acquire conservation lands to protect our water resources.

According to Jen Lomberk, Matanzas Riverkeeper, “Swimming and playing in our lakes and rivers is an integral part of growing up in Florida. Those experiences foster a connection to our natural areas and shape our identity as Floridians. The decisions and policies that we make today will determine whether future generations are able to have those experiences.”

Share your Moms for Clean Water story and use the hashtags #MomsForCleanWater, #ProtectWhatYouLove, #CaseyDeSantisForCleanWater. Nominate and tag five moms you know to join you in writing a letter and sharing their clean water stories. For more information on the Moms for Clean Water campaign, visit FloridaMomsForCleanWater.org. 

Waterkeepers Florida is a regional entity composed of  all 13 Waterkeeper organizations  working in the State of Florida throughout 45,000 square miles of watershed and home to over 15 million Floridians. Our collective mission is to protect and restore Florida’s water resources holistically through education, advocacy, and community engagement. (Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Colusa Waterkeeper, Collier County Waterkeeper, Emerald Coastkeeper, Indian Riverkeeper, Lake Worth Waterkeeper, Matanzas Riverkeeper, Miami Waterkeeper, St. Johns Riverkeeper, St. Marys Riverkeeper, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Suwannee Riverkeeper, and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper).
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The Revivalists are having a pretty exceptional year. Fans are loving the new record Take Good Care. The band has garnered attention from media outlets, TV appearances, earned numerous accolades and the chance to play the kind of venues most young bands only dream about.

But nothing compared to the moment the band learned it would be supporting the Rolling Stones on the Jacksonville date of the No Filter Tour at TIAA Bank Field, July 19. Drummers Andrew Campanelli and PJ Howard were together when they received word the band was chosen to support the Rolling Stones.

“it was pretty surreal. We got a call from our manager telling us that we’ve been offered the show in Jacksonville.  I was kind of stunned. You can’t even wrap your head around it at first,” says Campanelli. 

“I don’t know who did the actual selecting but we’d heard from our manager that we were sort of up amongst other bands. Originally, we were thinking it was for the New Orleans show. We were hopeful but we thought there’s a good chance one of these other guys would get the show. To come back and get offered another show was really quite an honor because it means that whoever was doing the selecting was really wanted us to be on even if it didn’t make sense for us to be on the hometown show.”

There wasn’t time to celebrate or even react. Ten minutes later, the band loaded up in the van for a gig that night in Jackson, MS. That night, the Revivalists delivered one hell of a show.

“It sure was. We have a song called Soul Fire and we ended up playing a 20-minute version of that song because we were just having fun.”

Whether it was the decision of Stones’ management or the band itself, the milestone event further solidifies the band’s steady climb from its hometown of New Orleans to the present. “In the first two weeks of January, we got to play two nights at the Beacon [Theatre]. We got to play The Anthem in DC. In February, we went to Europe for the first time and just last month, did a run with Willie Nelson and Phil Lesh so it’s really cool to get to play our own shows at a venue we’ve been hoping to play our whole life like the Beacon. To turn around and get to play with such legendary acts as Willie Nelson and Phil Lesh and get to watch them every night, and then on top of that to go open up for the Rolling Stones, it’s been a pretty banner year.”

The Revivalists, Photo by Zackery Michael

The Revivalists found its rhythm a decade ago as an eclectic eight-piece with soul, brass and the spirit of the Big Easy. The sound has created a cross-over success with music that resonates with fans of Nelson, Lesh and now the Rolling Stones.

Fans of the Revivalists are along for the ride, many travelling abroad to attend the European dates. “We have such great fans. A lot of them have ben with use for five years and some have been with us for 10 years. It’s a really great community. They build each other up and meet up before shows and coordinate plans and travel all over the country. We saw a bunch of people we knew in Amsterdam. It’s really inspiring. Because it’s such a good community, they enjoy being with each other so it’s a great excuse for them to go meet up with their friends and happen to see a band that they like.

Once the band wraps the Stones who, the momentum continues with an appearance at Lollapalooza, LOCKN Festival, a second headlining show at Red Rocks and rolling into Fall with a September date at LA’s famed Greek Theatre.  “We’re playing all these great venues that we’ve hoped to get to play someday and someday is now,” says Campanelli.

Looking out from behind the kit at a stadium crowd of thousands upon thousands of fans eager to hear what they have to say extends their reach in a way that is difficult to calculate. 

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. In some ways, what we’re doing hasn’t changed that much. We still write the songs we want to write and we show up and play them together. The size of the crowd and the energy of the crowd obviously influences and changes the show but it’s an interesting thing to be inside of it. You put this time in to figure out how we fit together as a band and for people to respond is so humbling that people like what we decided to do,” Campanelli says.

Should he find himself face to face with the likes of Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, Campanneli will offer his sincere thanks, not only for the opportunity to share a stage but for the bands’ contribution and lasting legacy of the music. 

“It’s really hard to wrap your head around something like that. We’ve played the main stage headlining Jazz Fest this year and we played before Bruno Mars last year and those crowds were large, maybe comparable to the 70,00 fans. But when it’s just two bands in a stadium versus a festival, we’ve never done anything like that,” he says.

“I just want to thank them for their music not just for inviting us to be on the show but for all the music and for being such a role model for bands. They’ve been around for so long and made it work interpersonally and musically for so many years that it’s really something to look up to. They’ve really been a force in music ever since they started. It’s just an honor. I feel grateful to be a small footnote in that story.”

Someday is now. 

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Chad Villarroel is channeling his inner chaos into a new solo effort that reflects his personal journey through the fire. After a self-imposed hiatus, Villaroel will launch his new passion project, Carmen, with an EP of songs called “Pause/Again,” that he says represent his cyclical journey. The single Novacaine drops July 5th and will be available on all streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. The EP will be out July 19th.

“I think there are elements of loss and elements of, certainly, love, and a small aspect of redemption, as well. The tracks really come from a place of heartbreak and longing and desperation. But it’s not really specific to one situation. Most of the tracks really come from hurt, but part of it is you’re better than feeling that way. There’s hurt, but there’s also self-awareness.”

After five years as bassist with The Dog Apollo, Villaroel was struggling to reconcile with his work life, band life and a crumbling personal life. Unwilling to impede the progress of his bandmates, he stepped away from the project. It also coincided with the end of a long-term relationship that left him reeling. 

“The album we had written and produced was ready to be released, and they were ready to start touring. I just knew career-wise that wasn’t something that was feasible for me. I didn’t want to leave them hanging, so I kind of bowed out in enough time for them to find somebody else to play bass and just take a break. I was a little burned out, so I definitely needed the break.”

“Pause/Again” represents the trajectory, from burning out and breaking up to playing the first few notes alone in his bedroom to the musical catharsis that followed. The record was produced with Josh Cobb at Rockbot Studios in Riverside. It took over a year for him to write and produce the five tracks. 

“That’s a long time to do five tracks. Obviously, there was a lot of other ideas and content that didn’t get flushed out. I didn’t know if I could recreate it. I didn’t know if I could do it again. So, I just kept exploring, and I ended being able to formulate a lot of different ideas that materialized on the EP. It’s definitely a testament to the cyclical nature of how those experiences are through your life,” notes Villaroel. 

“It’s this constant cycle of maybe happiness, then complacency and heartbreak, desperation. Not just with relationships but with anything in life. That’s just kind of how it goes. You find yourself in one area of the cycle, and it just continues. That’s really where the title for the EP came from.”

When Villarroel was struggling to cope with the end of his relationship, he discovered music was a powerful way to process that frustration. Navigating a painful breakup is an experience everyone can relate to.

“I found that I’m really inspired when things are kind of chaotic in my world. That’s where I find my inspiration, and music has always been an outlet for me in that way. Music was my way of expressing myself, but it was very private. I didn’t want to do anything with it. I really started to take songwriting more seriously. When I was in A Dog Apollo, I wasn’t really the content creator, so I didn’t have the experience or the interest or drive to compose anything other than the bass parts I contributed. But I found myself starting to formulate ideas and melodies, and it came out of the need to say something,” muses Villaroel.

“Creatively, this experience opened a new door for me. I think that those opportunities are only found when you are desperate for something. I don’t think that creative output can really come from a place of being satisfied. I think for me, creativity comes from disarray and sadness. Those are the things I find I can put into something creative.”

Chad Villarroel

Now that he’s made it through the darkness, he’s ready to steer his music into the light. He is looking forward to performing live once he assembles enough players to fill in the parts he recorded himself. 

“The challenging part is that it’s just me. I wrote and played everything on the EP with the exception of the drums. It’s been challenging to find people who are committed enough to play, but to also look at this as a casual thing, because that’s kind of how I look at it. This is something that has to exist for me. It has to be created, so it’s been a challenge just to find people to play with. I’m hoping in the next three or four months I can actually put together a live show with players and get out there and do it, because I think that is the component that is missing from this.”

A new project is already taking shape. He’s written three or four tracks that he hopes to include on his sophomore release, but he knows he will be forced to reopen old wounds to capture the same intensity the second time around.

“I feel like half the content that’s on the EP I was living, and half is already coming out of it and recalling those feelings. Part of me is almost intimidated to tackle another set of songs, whether it be just a single or an EP or a full-length album, because I know I’m going to have to put myself back in that place again,” he says. “I’m not really into the happy stuff. It doesn’t do anything for me, and the scars certainly still exist.”

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A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW 

 Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach staged “The Pillowman” during July 11-13, 2019 under the auspices of The Young Creative Artist Series (YCAS), an educational program which offers a theatre mentorship by the creative team at Players for high school theatre students who would like to take on a project from start to finish. The program is sponsored by Florida Blue. 

The play was presented by a group of students from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, who were responsible for everything – directing, casting, stage management, technical, and marketing. They had studied “Pillowman” in class but did not consider it suitable for production at DA due to content and language.  The opportunity to produce it in the Studio Theatre at Players was the perfect project for these hard-working talented aspiring thespians. They choose a challenging script – for both actors and audience – and they did an outstanding job.  

Photo by Darvin Nelson

The play was written by Irish-British playwright Martin McDonagh, whose more well-known works include “Beauty Queen of Leenane” and “The Lonesome West.” “Pillowman,” written in 2003, received the 2004 Oliver award for Best New Play, and was well-received in New York, with six 2005 Tony nominations; two awards.

This dramatic thriller is the story of a writer in a totalitarian state who has written many short stories; most are unpublished. He is the leading suspect in the recent gruesome deaths of several children; the details mirror his short stories. 

The play opens in a police station with the writer Katurian (Gannon Thomas) being questioned by a detective and a police officer. Good Cop Tupolski (Isabella Williams) and Bad Cop Ariel (Graciela Fernandez) spend most of the first act interrogating their captive.  

Photo by Darvin Nelson

The play contains both narration and reenactment of stories, and this is where other cast members contribute to the black humor that unfolds. Masks and shadow work were used effectively to portray many of the stories. 

Mark Bellemare appears as Michal, Katurian’s brain-damaged brother, who was cared for as a child by Katurian. Michal has confessed to the murders and implicated Katurian, who has resigned himself to execution but hopes to save his stories from destruction for future publication. He also wants to protect Michal from execution and after lulling him to sleep, he smothers him with a pillow (as he smothered his parents earlier). 

 

Photo by Darvin Nelson

 Kyle Worrell and Brynne Tolentino play the mother and father and other small roles. They portray his parents in white masks with black markings, and have no lines. Cecelia Despres is listed in the program as Girl. One dramatic scene which involves her is the story of “The Little Jesus,” in which she believes she is Jesus, wears a beard, is forced to carry a cross, and is crucified. Sort of. 

The most demanding role in the play is that of Katurian played brilliantly by Gannon Thomas. He has most of the lines and long passages of recitation that he performed to perfection. He graduated from Douglas Anderson and will be a freshman in the fall at Shenandoah University.

Photo by Darvin Nelson

Yes, Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” is a grim ghastly bit of storytelling that nevertheless held the audience spellbound under the skillful direction of Cameron Schmitt and Assistant Director Liam Carroll. Applause goes to all involved in the project. 

The crew included Caroline Owen (Stage Manager), Anna Toutain (Production Manager), Hannah Neville (Physical Marketing), Kezia Ari (Social Marketing), Darvin Nelson (Artist & Photographer), and Mickenzie Lee (Masks & Shadow Work).

The three performances played to full houses with a young crowd of mainly DA students and friends. It was excellently cast and directed and had an outstanding crew to handle all the many other aspects of production.  This is a summer project that comes with bragging rights – and we’re looking forward to seeing more of the project participants in the future.

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NEW CULTURAL COUNCIL LEADERSHIP: Joy Young Found Her Voice and Uses It to Build Legacy with Arts and Culture

A 1:1 with the new Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville as we sat at Einstein Bros. Bagels overlooking the 1924 Memorial Park’s Olmsted Brothers landscape design as the sun glistened on the iconic C. Adrian Pillar’s “Spiritualized Life” bronze sculpture.

 

BY JOANELLE MULRAIN

It all began when Joy Young found her voice, literally. Born in Oklahoma, she grew up as an Army brat and learned the discipline of how to play the piano as a young girl. In middle school, Young began to sing at the request of a teacher. She sang…and sang…and sang. Young found her true voice during graduate school at Manhattan School of Music.

(insert)

“God respects me when I work,

but loves me when I sing.”

Tagore

 

Young became a young entrepreneur and opened a studio, Music Matters. She worked hard managing this small business while balancing life as a wife and raising three kids – now 25, 24, and 20. A multi-disciplined artist and teacher, her career morphed and progressed into nonprofit administration and work in nonprofit arts and cultural organizations across South Carolina. She joined the South Carolina Arts Commission (Columbia, S.C.) where her career continued to flourish for more than 14 years. While at the Commission, she and the board of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville connected. At that time, the Council was searching nationally for a new Executive Director. Impressed with her leadership and knowledge of the business of art, the board hired her as the new E.D. just over a month ago.

Young has a B.A. and M.A. in music and a HR certificate in employment relations law and mediation. She is a former Fellow with AmeriCorps, where she learned the importance of youth engagement through the Five Promises and how to direct kids to lead through service in order to obtain the skills to go out into the world to make a difference. Presently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in organizational leadership.

Her broad arts and cultural experience as an arts administrator, strategic planning executive, advocate, collaborator, university adjunct faculty, and partner in the public-private sector, has melded together preparing her to make her mark as the leader for the arts and culture sector in Jacksonville.

“I did the groundwork, which helped me develop into the person I am today,” says Young as she shared some of the deep knowledge she’s gained through her career.

 

(pix – Joy presenting)

 

“I’m willing to share how artists ‘can fit’ successfully into businesses as micro-businesses, and willing to  teach the skills needed to thread together a disciplined artistic community,” she says. Young wants to invigorate the full spectrum of arts (design, literary, media, performing, visual, and traditional) and regional cultural activities as “products to sell” by “defining willing buyers” to purchase the goods, giving the Jacksonville cultural economy cycle a high level of success.

How to does she plan to begin? By building a network of collaborators. By promoting cultural tourism as a unique driver in Jacksonville with its historic communities, public art, educational facilities, and parks and recreation activities in support of the city’s key engines:  The NFL Jaguars, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball team, Jacksonville Armada soccer team. She understands the city’s unique public access to national, regional, state, and city parks and green spaces, which are major assets that create value. And, you cannot forget the river as the St. Johns runs north like an organic artery feeding life into the city.

“I want to tap into the creative energy here and put together people, the arts, and the communities for positive impacts,” she goes on to say. “I want funders and the broader community to embrace the arts – their value and impacts. I think it is important to convey that the arts are more than an aesthetic or strictly entertainment. The arts and cultural sector is a valuable tool in youth education, health and wellness, community design, and even public safety.”

As a servant leader, Young wants to make the arts accessible in every way to everyone, young and old, rich and poor. Her organizational skills were well-honed during her long-term and successful career in South Carolina. She has a gift and unique ability to envision the Cultural Council moving forward and to realize its optimum potential while serving the entire arts and cultural sector with the city as a partner.

Young is busy networking and researching Jacksonville’s leadership and business relationships to create a strategic design to ensure a place for the arts and cultural sector of Northeast Florida. “The Cultural Council has a responsibility to work with all stakeholders – to show others what the sector needs as well as work collaboratively across boundaries to accomplish important goals.”

 

She is an adapter.

A strong leader.

Perhaps quiet thunder.

Definitely quiet strength.

 

“We have to help create markets for cultural entrepreneurs and artists and bring those markets to businesses and individuals, neighborhoods and the community at large. We also have to identify those who want to give to the arts through funding opportunities,” she says.

Young plans to reach out to leaders and pivotal entities who connect with tourists, our neighborhoods, and organizations to bring “art” and “culture” to the forefront of their visions for growing Jacksonville into a model hallmark city. She wants to develop new, sustainable partnerships as she reintroduces the concept of art and culture as part of the discussion of urban planning and community design.

Her arrow is pointed into the center of Jacksonville’s economic engines with a focus to uptick cultural tourism. She wants Jacksonville to have a positive and memorable reputation as a center for arts and cultural activities – a cultural brand, if you will. In order to do this, she wants to work with others to help identify and define our cultural and historic assets, then reintroduce them in ways to refresh area citizens’ curiosity and willingness to support the Cultural Council.

 

(pix – Joy with kids)

 

Young wants Jacksonville to experience an arts and cultural eruption, where activities, programs and performances are visible Downtown and in the neighborhoods. So, she’s going to be on the lookout for funders – old and new – who want to come along for this extraordinary ride as our city’s cultural scene is reactivated and infused with more imagination and excitement for individuals, children, and families with a goal to make Jacksonville an even better place to live and thrive. Securing and sustaining funders is the cornerstone for future success.

 

As a visual and auditory learner, she’s always learning and is curious as to what’s next around the corner. Young’s always got a book open – right now she’s reading “Violet”, her reward in the quiet time after a long week of work. She relishes the quiet times, which are not very many lately – as she settles into her new nest and continues meetings and her listening tour around the communities the Cultural Council serves. She’s planning arts advocacy strategies and wants to see arts incubator “hubs” that are designed to jumpstart the young and old in the business of the arts.

Her stamina and focus come from her parents, Carol Ann and Jimmie. Both are 76 and live in Columbia, South Carolina, they have been married for more than 57 years. She smiles when she thinks about family – that’s a sure sign to know the relationship between family and her professional life is well balanced.

Only 35 or so days on the job, she has hit the ground running. She’s already spent time in Tallahassee to garner support from the Division of Cultural Affairs for Jacksonville’s well-vetted arts and cultural grantees.

“I want to help downtown Jacksonville think differently about its empty spaces and more about how arts and cultural programs and projects can animate them,” she explains. “And, we need to think differently about our funding structures and how more arts and cultural funding can lead to more vibrant communities, cultural tourism, quality of life, safe neighborhoods, jobs, education, and so on. Research demonstrates that the city’s current public investment in the arts returns over $80 million in economic impact. We can do more, with more, for the greater good,” she says.

 

(pix/Joy and Ann)

 

Why Jacksonville? Cultural Council Chair Ann Carey and the Board had the foresight to realize Young was a great fit for the job. And, Young had a sign she was coming. A surprise happening you might say. By her side for years, Young’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier recently passed. She misses him terribly. When she closes her eyes she can still hear his loving woof-woof. She’s mindful of his photo in her phone. Smiles come when she looks back at that photo – his name was JAX.

Welcome to JAX, Joy Young!

 

(insert)

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”

Soren Kierkegaard

 

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“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” -Leonardo Da Vinci


There is so much to be said about the present moment . This moment right now is already changing and moving; and everything that moves in turn moves something else. Da Vinci made a poignant observation that is valid for all ages. Water, just like time, is always in motion. No moment will ever be the same as another. No water molecule will ever be in the same place that it already was.

Living in Jacksonville, we are surrounded by water. From the beaches to the St. Johns River to the Intracoastal Waterways, we are blessed in our geographical location by the presence of water. Water sources provide us with a place to come together, to recreate, to educate, to explore, to relax. And just like in art, water sources offer us a place to be quiet, to contemplate, to reflect, to heal, and even to transform.

Alma Ramirez is a familiar friend to water’s transformational power. She has been in a difficult place before that both water and art helped pull her out of. By slowing down and taking the time to look, really look at colors, shapes, water, Ramirez noticed her work start to change, to progress, to adapt, and take on a new life of its own that allowed her to heal in the process. On July 18 th from 530-730 in the Heather Moore Gallery at the Cathedral Arts Project building in Downtown Jacksonville, there will be an opening reception for Alma Ramirez’s most recent body of work “By the Water”.

Although she has become a regular at Vilano Beach, Amelia Island, St. Augustine’s Marinas, and the Jax Beach Pier, Ramirez is originally from Mexico, born and raised. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in Chihuahua, Mexico which she described to me as a university that valued and trained in a very realistic, almost Renaissance style of painting we might compare to Florence’s Academia D’Arte. As with so many other painters throughout history, Ramirez learned the tools to create representational paintings, then decided to take the road less traveled and pave her own way into an abstraction color-field style all her own.

When you look at Ramirez’s paintings, you see bright patches of color. You see versions of what water might look like under a bold sun. You see an abstracted, almost pixelated scene of boats resting in a marina. You see a glimpse into the world as Ramirez sees it. Calm. Peaceful. Colorful. Being that she was classically taught, Ramirez didn’t consider her new style of painting to be validated as real art when it began taking shape. She told me that one day, she was taking pictures from a dock and accidentally dropped her camera into the water. Once the images were retrieved, they had this pixelated look to them; the water and the boats were broken into squares and other geometric shapes. This happy accident prompted her to look closer at scenes she was already accustomed to seeing.

Ramirez started to notice pure colors, shapes, forms, and consequently, she started to feel pure emotions. This was the birth of her newest body of work, and her reawakening as an artist. Vibrancy and tranquility coexist in Ramirez’s work. She explores this concept of the broken image by juxtaposing organic forms found in nature with geometric shapes and lines created by man made boats. At first glance, something in these paintings feels broken or perhaps pieced together, like viewing a mosaic or stained glass. Then you take a second glance and you stop, you look closer at the paintings, and this is the exact effect Ramirez is hoping she will elicit from every viewer. She wants to offer us an opportunity to slow down, look closer, to see, really see her work, just the way that she now sees water. “Those colors are actually there if you look closely, and the colors can tell you a story. We are so accustomed to seeing everything as these images, like we are already trying to recognize something how it is supposed to look. You have to really observe what you see and let the colors speak to you.”

Alma Ramirez, Photo by Cole LoCurto

Alma Ramirez doesn’t just spend all her time in reflection, however. She collects these images, colors, emotions, and then she works and works. She wakes up with intention, gives her art the same enthusiasm, and once she starts painting, she can’t stop. “The catalyst for me in becoming a professional artist was when I started believing in myself, when I stopped asking. Some days are very hard, but I show up for my art. The more I believe it’s possible, the more real it gets. If you paint just for selling, it becomes only a product. Painting for me is a means of experimenting, playing, healing. Some days I start painting at 10am and don’t stop until 10pm. I want to be there.” Ramirez has taught herself how to stay in the moment, to work, to believe, and to allow the elements that constantly change to do just that, and she will adapt with them. Just like water.

A few years ago, Ramirez donated a piece to a fundraising training event for the sailing team at Jacksonville University and they took her out on one of their boats. She watched the sails dance in front of her- an energetic, dynamic movement coming from a geometric shape that delicately cut everything organic around it. The clouds, the sky, the water, the sails, all dancing and moving together. Transformation is an ongoing process, as is the passing of time and so, the movement of water.

You can find the work of Alma Ramirez at Southern Grounds and The Vault in San Marco, Holly Blanton Art Studio Gallery in Atlantic Beach, and at the Cathedral Arts Project building Downtown. Join her for the opening reception on July 18 th at North Laura Street, Ste 300, from 530-730.

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Peter Pan July 18-21 at Theatre Jacksonville 

Jason Woods returns to Neverland once more with an encore performance of Peter Pan to benefit Theatre Jacksonville. On the heels of its successful – and award-winning –three show run in February, Woods was inspired to make the journey one last time, this time for six additional performances.

Woods’ staged reading of Peter Pan is presented July 18-21 at Theatre Jacksonville. The show was named Best Local Play at the 2019 Rainbow Awards. www.peterpanbyjasonwoods/eventbrite.com

 “It’s fun for me. It’s engaging. Three years ago, it’s the show that got me into theatre so there’s a sacredness I think to it for me in that way. I want to do things that are more grounded in humanity going forward but it’s just so much fun, I wanted to do it one more time because I was surprised by the success of it in February. I thought it would be good and entertaining but I didn’t think people would respond the way they did. I was really pleased.”

The ensemble cast returns for a stylized staged reading, that is to say with scripts in hand but in costume with fully realized musical numbers. Audiences will notice a few new surprises, including a slow-motion fight sequence. “I called it a staged reading but then I got them up on their feet and fully costumed,” he laughs.

Photo by Jonathan Scherf

 Joshua Taylor is at the helm once again as the deliciously snarky Capt. Hook. Lee Hamby enjoys a delightful return as Mermaid Moll. The role of Moll was written for a female and originated by Sadie Akers but she was appearing in another show so Woods tweaked the role for Hamby, including a solo number called “Yass Queen.” 

“They are all so good. I just called the best people I could think of. They are all so hilarious and giving and incredibly talented and so in command that I just sat in the pit like a kid. People said there were two shows; what was happening on stage and me watching with my mouth open. I was running sound cues because I just wanted to be as close as I could to what was going on. It was just so joyful.”

Photo by Jonathan Scherf

Stephen Dare brings a wide-eyed innocence to the role of Michael Darling. Dare infused the character with the honesty of a young boy who is clearly unimpressed with Pan’s Neverland, voicing his displeasure that ‘it’s just a bunch of trees and water. Is there a rainbow slide?’ He was just so grateful to be among these people and he’s just so funny with the things that he says,” muses Woods. 

“At the end when Peter Pan suddenly is going to take them all back to London, he says ‘so, just like that you’re going to take us all home? That’s really lazy writing’. So there’s some winks out to the audience. We acknowledge that there’s no flying in the show because the theatre needs more grants.”

Photo by Jonathan Scherf

Woods is drawn to the spirit of Neverland, the kind of place where mermaids sing and tinkerbells ring and ticking crocodiles roam the island. It was J.M. Barrie’s story of the who wouldn’t grow up that inspired him to pursue theatre. He staged his first production of Peter Pan three years ago but this is reimagined version of that story. As a playwright and director, Woods is always searching for new paths to explore.

“I’ve always thought that the most interesting characters were the fantastical ones, and that’s Captain Hook and Tinkerbell and the crocodile. I’ve always seen more potential in Capt. Hook as a comedic vehicle. He usually just a fopp or he’s really bad. I love Shakespeare and the opportunity to use Shakespearean insults. He has a little book he refers to when he wants to insult someone.”

As difficult as it may be to leave the world of Neverland behind, Woods is planning a transition into more dramatic work. “As I get older and I look at escapism, I value escapism but Peter Pan is grounded in a tragedy. He can’t grow up. In fact, Barrie says that ‘all children, except one, grow up’. That one sentence carries so much to me,” he says.

“It’s hard for me to leave it. A few years I ago I wanted to not be known as the guy who does the magic stuff. I felt like I was being pigeon-holed in that way. My ego got in the way. What I realized is that people needed the escape. That’s become very important to me.”

Woods will produce and star in a future production of Hamlet, the first time it has been produced in Jacksonville in 19 years. He will also appear alongside the Vintage Players to stage a senior level production of “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell” based on the play “The Silver Whistle.” Woods will play the title character, a 45 year- old author pretending to be 85 who sneaks into an old folks’ home with a dead man’s death certificate. His goal is to convince the members if senior community that he’s discovered the secret to eternal youth with a fake pill and a bit of whiskey.

“I’ve been pushing them a little further and I’m creating an opportunity for them to all be on stage with me in November in a reading at ABET. It’s about old people in an old folk’s home who feel that everybody has given up on them which is sometimes the message that I get from them. I’m interested in their escapism. I need to do something current and dramatic for me as an actor that will satisfy and challenge me,” he says.

“We can’t audition for anything, nobody will cast us, I can’t drive that far anymore. The theme of the play is that everybody has value no matter their age. When I work with people, if you say I can’t do something, we’ll figure out a way to do it.”

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The First Coast doesn’t lack for food and drink with a view, specifically a water view. Here’s a rundown of a few of the places you can find with varying water vistas.

Oysters from the Chart House in Downtown Jacksonville

For a view of the St. Johns River and Downtown Jacksonville, there are two places you might try: the River City Brewing Company (835 Museum Cir, Jacksonville, 398-2299) and Charthouse (1501 Riverplace Blvd, Jacksonville, 398-3353). If you go to the Charthouse for the view, it’s a good idea to come during happy hour for bar snacks. Prices are exceptionally high on their dinner menu. River City Brewing Company is more casual and less pricey, plus they brew their own beer onsite. We recommend ordering their Red Rooster Ale to go with your meal!

Out in Mayport, the two places you ought to seek for views are Singleton’s Seafood Shack 4728 Ocean St, Jacksonville, 246-4442) and Safe Harbor (4371 Ocean St, Atlantic Beach, 247-0255). Both are on the St. Johns River, just before it spills out into the ocean. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a shrimp trawler hauling in that precious Mayport shrimp. Fare at both places isn’t upscale, but it is delish, plus, Safe Harbor has a seafood market onsite, so you can pick up some fresh seafood to cook at home. All the fried ocean things are good, but those shrimp nachos are phenomenal. 

Fried Shrimp and Hush Puppies at Palms Fish Camp in Jacksonville

Take the ferry across and you’ll find Palms Fish Camp Restaurant (6359 Heckscher Drive, 240-1672). Grab a table on their outdoor patio for supreme sunset watching. Come by boat or car, stay for the live music and fried alligator ribs.  

When it comes to a beach view, the main problem is dunes. There are places (which shall remain nameless) located right on the beach, that talk about beachside dining, but where you never shall see a single sliver of the ocean from your seat. The best Jacksonville Beach ocean-view, as far as I’m concerned, has to be at the Casa Marina Inn (691 1st St, Jacksonville Beach, 270-0025) with their elevated lounge overlooking Jacksonville Beach. Order appetizers whilst you imbibe an excellently crafted cocktail. The deck outdoors can get crowded around sunset, because that’s when and where the view is spectacular. 

Every tourist visiting our beaches should have at least one drink at The Lemon Bar (2 Lemon St, Neptune Beach, 372-0487), if they’re looking for a view and fruity drinks. At this slightly hidden gem, drinks are tropical and refreshing, and the food consists of bar bites. It’s long been a local favorite, tucked away behind brightly-painted Seahorse Inn, a wonderful place to stay for the view as well.

 On the Roscoe Boulevard corridor in Ponte Vedra, there are many waterfront dining options featuring the Intracoastal Waterway. At times, it’s just a narrow band of water, one shore strewn with driftwood and Florida scrub, the other with the docks of multi million dollar houses and restaurants. A parade of boats and yachts go by, scaring away the occasional egret. If you don’t get out to Ponte Vedra often, Valley Smoke (11 S Roscoe Blvd, Ponte Vedra, 285-3235) is most likely new to you, as it’s a little less than two years old, owned by the Groshells, who know what they’re about as far as the restaurant biz goes (they’re behind places such as Marker 32, Palm Valley Fish Camp and more). While most places along the waterfront tend to showcase seafood or have a neighborhood bar vibe, this place is all about barbecue. And bourbon. They’ve even got a delightful little bourbon nook, with an impressive collection of bourbon bottles (many of them rare enough not to be for sale). Big picture windows in their two main dining areas give you a view of the Intracoastal without the devastatingly moist heat of Florida, and outdoors they have a tiny one-hole putting green. 

A little further down you’ll find Barbra Jean’s (15 S Roscoe Blvd, Ponte Vedra, 280-7522) where the theme is Southern and seafood, and you can order anything from fried chicken to the crabcakes or their beloved shrimp fritters. The food mostly isn’t modern, but they’ve got old-school charm.

For super casual family-oriented fried seafood seafood eating, you’ll want to try the neighborhood fixture and bar Lulu’s Waterfront Grille (301 Roscoe Boulevard N, Ponte Vedra, 285-0139) 

Right next door is the decidedly more upscale Palm Valley Fish Camp (299 N Roscoe Blvd, Ponte Vedra, 285-3200). It’s one of those places that’s a fish camp in concept rather than practice (like its sister restaurants, North Beach Fish Camp, and Julington Creek Fish Camp). Food, service, and atmosphere are excellent, but it’s more a fish-camp-inspired-and-made-upscale restaurant than it is a genuine fish camp experience. 

Whitey’s Fish Camp in Fleming Island

Speaking of fish camps, we do have some of those genuine experiences here in North Florida. The real deal is an eatery that started out as a place where boats refueled and people got sandwiches. There must be a dock on the property that leads to actual water. The two orignal that come to mind, as the genuine article are: Whitey’s (2032 County Rd 220, Fleming Island, 269-4198) and Clark’s (12903 Hood Landing Rd, Jacksonville, 268-3474). The food you’ll find at both will be mostly deep fried and bar fare, though Clark’s has some exotics on the menu (kangaroo, snake, excellent frog legs). Mainly you’re taking folks there for the atmosphere and the gator tail. Whitey’s still sells bait, boat rentals and they have an RV camp onsite, with the the best evening entertainment of the the two. Clark’s is the wackier of the two, with taxidermied deer, big cats and more, peering out from every corner of the room. We recommend going during the day to either Clark’s or Whitey’s for the water view, but both are open for dinner.

The Conch House Lounge in St. Augustine

Lots of Jaxons day trip up to St. Augustine on the weekends, so knowing where the best views and the best food coincides is paramount. The Conch House Restaurant (57 Comares Ave, St. Augustine, 829-8646) has a touristy tiki vibe, but a solid Carribean-inspired menu and view of the Salt Run. At low tide you can see the broken oyster beds, small crabs scrabbling about, and water birds going about their business from elevated tables with palm thatched roofs. For an even more unusual view, head out on the docks to the separate Conch House Lounge, which features a metal grate in the floor, giving you a top-down view of the oyster-encrusted dock posts and the water beneath. A frequent St. Augustine favorite is Cap’s on the Water (4325 Myrtle St, St. Augustine, 824-8794), where you’ll come for the view and stay for the oyster bar. The Reef Restaurant (4100 Coastal Hwy, St. Augustine, 824-8008) is just a few miles away in Vilano Beach, a great place for either an old-fashioned white table cloth experience or a Sunday brunch. On St. Augustine Beach, The Beachcomber (2 A St, St. Augustine, 471-3744)  is a place where the dunes are a feature, not a bug. The restaurant abuts the pretty dunes and are used to define the space of an outdoor lounge. While the place does get tourists, it’s a very casual local haunt as well, and has been open since the 1940s. If you just want drinks, slip into the Tini Martini Bar (24 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, 829-6099) inside the Casablanca Inn. The view here gives you the streetscape of historic downtown St. Augustine, the fort, plus a bit of the Matanzas River. They only serve martinis, but they do make your drink and give you the shaker, so it’s well worth it for booze hounds or anyone who just likes getting their money’s worth when it comes to alcohol. 

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Fantasy and allegory unite in this classic children’s tale brimming with mysterious characters, smart puns, and delightful adventures. 

The Phantom Tollbooth—a play by Susan Nanus based on the classic 1961 novel by Norton Juster—has long served as many young reader’s first foray into the world of science fiction and fantasy adventure. The Island Theater in Fleming Island enlivens the quirky tale for a new generation. Whether you’re a reminiscing reader sharing the story with your kids or grandkids or you’re entirely unfamiliar with the storyline but are looking for a family-friendly summer excursion, you’ll find a whole lot to love.  

The story begins in the bedroom of an insufferably bored young man named Milo (Jonathan Okey). His uneventful life is turned on end when he receives a mysterious package in the mail: a magical tollbooth. Transported into the Lands Beyond, Milo finds himself on a wild adventure to rescue Princesses Rhyme and Reason from the Castle in the Air. 

With the adorable watchdog Tock (Chloe LaBrie) and the spunky Humbug (Olivia Williams) at his side, Milo sets out on the adventure of a lifetime. Azaz the Unabridged (Chris Lewis)—the ruler of Dictionopolis—vehemently believes words are the most important aspect of life. His mathematical counterpart, the Mathemagician (Brandon Sullivan) fiercely proclaims numbers to be the true key to understanding. Their inability to amicably agree resulted in many problems, beginning with the banishment of Princess Sweet Rhyme (Anna Hambleton) and Princess Pure Reason (Natalie Hambleton).  If the princesses can be rescued—an admittedly impossible task– all will be right in the land once more. 

The journey from Dictionopolis to Digitopolis introduces the audience to delightfully colorful characters. You’ll adore the Spelling Bee (Brighton Brown) and the Dodecahedron (Elizabeth Stitt). Kakafonous A. Dischord (Larissa Ashton) and the Awful Dynne (Analise Stuart) are perfectly creepy. I loved the multi-colored Lethargarians and the Whether Man. The costumes were fabulous and the script closely mirrors the novel. I enjoyed the smart word play throughout and the timeless themes simmering just below the surface. 

Directed by Tricia Williams and Mac McDonald (Assistant Director), The Phantom Tollbooth is part of the Island Theater’s Family Summer Shows Series. The production offers children of all ages a taste of stage life without having to worry about it interfering with school schedules while also bringing great children’s literature to the stage for the community to enjoy. The double-cast production is entirely family-friendly and features actors and actresses of all ages and experience levels. There are plenty of parent/ child acting duos on stage. I love all the Island Theater is doing to make theater accessible in Northeast Florida. If you have an aspiring actor or actress, check out their affordable acting workshops (Scholarships are also available!). 

I adored the costumes and sweet community performers most of all. Each of them acted their hearts out and I’m so proud of the efforts they made. My daughter read The Phantom Tollbooth this past schoolyear for her Classical Conversations class and it was so special experiencing the story on stage together. She gives it a big thumbs up and thought the cast did justice to the book.  The story is a bit odd if you aren’t familiar with it, but sit back and approach it with an open mind. This is a great show to share with the whole family and it’ll give you plenty to talk about afterwards. I feel inspired to pluck the novel off my bookshelf and revisit it with my younger children. There’s so much wisdom within these words!

Beat the heat this summer and allow yourself to be swept away to the Lands Beyond. The Phantom Tollbooth runs July 11-21st. Come out and show your support for local theater and the brilliant young performers on stage. It’s beyond adorable!  

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