REVIEW: ‘Savannah Sipping Society’ Opens at Theatre Jacksonville

REVIEW: ‘Savannah Sipping Society’ Opens at Theatre Jacksonville

Savannah Sipping Society, Hillary Hickam at Theatre Jacksonville
Hillary Hickam

Theatre Jacksonville opened the first production of its 99 season on November 2 with The Savannah Sipping Society. It will run through November 18th at 2032 San Marco Ave. Call 904-396-4425 for reservations.

This play is by the writing team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten or better known as Jones Hope Wooten. These three former TV sitcom writer s have created their comedy scenarios for several years and their combined plays have close to 4,000 performances. Two of their plays are well known to Jacksonville audiences, The Dixie Swim Club at the Alhambra Theatre and Always a Bridesmaid right here at Theatre Jacksonville.

This is a comedy about four unattached mature women who meet by chance in Savannah, Georgia and spend the next six months developing deep friendships. Three of them met briefly at an exercise gym, then move on to the lovely home owned by Randa Covington and a fourth woman joins them in their “sipping” sessions of various alcoholic drinks as they plan various adventures together.

Savannah Sipping Society, Abigail Hunger, Hillary Hickam and Kelley Norman at Theatre Jacksonville
Abigail Hunger, Hillary Hickam and Kelley Norman

Hillary Hickam is Randa, a very qualified professional architect who is currently out of a job and income. She owns the very lovely house that has a veranda where most of the action takes place. The set by TJ Designer and Technical Tim Watson is gorgeous and you will want to move in. Ms. Hickam’s home is in Jacksonville but she has performed on stage and in film all over the USA. Jacksonville audiences have seen her remarkable performances as Marsha in Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike and as Karen in August, Osage County at Players by the Sea.

Kelley Norman is Dot, the most senior of the four women. Dot is a widow and recently lost her husband and now worries about retirement. Mrs. Norman is very convincing in this role. She has been a teacher in Macclenny, Florida for 38 and one of the mainstays of the Baker County Community Theatre. Theatre audiences are very familiar with her daughter Sara Beth Summers an award winning actress on Jacksonville stages.

Marlafaye, the woman who moved to Savannah from Texas is played by Abigail Hunger in her 3rd performance at Theatre Jacksonville. As Lala she was the funniest actor in The Last Night of Ballyhoo. Then in a complete reversal, she was the very serious Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall. She is back to her unique comic ways in this show and is very funny, as a women who lost her dentist husband to his pretty much younger dental hygienist but is planning her revenge on her ex husband. Miss Hunger dresses strangely in this role and has long black hair that looks like a dead squirrel.

Savannah Sipping Society, Kelley Norman, Sommer Farhat, Hillary Hickam at Theatre Jacksonville
Kelley Norman, Sommer Farhat, Hillary Hickam

Actress Sommer Farhat is Jinx, a life coach who plans many of the adventures taken by these four ladies. Ms. Farhat has been in many plays on TJ’s stage, both comedy and serious roles. She has a role of some authority in this play; she speaks in a clear voice that is remarkable that came in loud and clear to me sitting beyond the middle of the theatre.

One final cast member has a cameo role as Grandmother Covington that is comic and brief. Barbara Stevenson is line perfect since she has no dialogue at all.

Jason Collins directed this play and the program listed his many directing accomplishments all over this city. He is also a fine actor and has performed in variety of roles and he really loves comedy. Jason is a member of the inprov group, the Awkward Silence.

Savannah Sipping Society, Abigail Hunger, Sommer Farhat, Kelley Norman and Hillary Hickam at Theatre Jacksonville
Abigail Hunger, Sommer Farhat, Kelley Norman and Hillary Hickam

This show marks the Jacksonville debut of Costume Designer, Amanda Moore, who went to school in Gainesville and her costume accomplishments are well known there. She will be back, she is good. Miss Moore had these ladies changing clothing many times to show the passage of 6 months time in their lives. And I was impressed with the wardrobe selections for everyone.

The open night audience consisted of mainly married couples who loved this show and laughed long and hard all evening long. As I sat there, I thought it was exciting to be drawn into a comedy in which female characters are the driving force. 2018 is truly the year of the women. Many are running for political offices all over the country. Women have exercised their rights in the work place! This play is funny and shows us the potency and power of friendships in our lives. Don’t miss this show; it is well worth a little over 2 hours of your time.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/11/06/review-savannah-sipping-society-theatre-jacksonville/


DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: World Premiere of ‘String’ at Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts

Jacksonville University’s Theatre Department presented the World Premiere of “String,” the first full length play in JU’s history written by a current JU student and produced by the theatre department.

Carlos Adorno, who is now in his third year at JU, penned this family drama and also appears on stage as Chris. In the program credits, Adorno credits Professor Brian Palmer, Dr. Tim Snyder, and Professor Erik DeCicco for their assistance in bringing this story to life.

The show is set in New York City, and most of the action occurs in the modest apartment of “Ma,” a middle-aged Hispanic woman, portrayed very realistically by freshman Nati Gonzalez in her first JU production.

As the play opens, we see Ma with Chris (Paul Evans III) and Shakespeare (Owen Betancourt), her two middle-school age sons. Aunty, Ma’s sister, soon arrives with presents for the boys; a remote control truck for Chris and a guitar for Shakespeare. The guitar is related to the play’s title, as much of the play is about Shakespeare’s efforts to become a professional musician. Aunty was portrayed by Zoë Lin Rosas, a JU senior with a number of impressive credits for appearances in JU musicals. We especially remember her as Little Becky Two-Shoes in “Urinetown.”

After a short blackout, the play moves ahead. Chris and Shakespeare are now grown men who continued to live in the same apartment with their mother. Shakespeare, portrayed by Michael Gonzalez, a JU sophomore, is a serious musician and songwriter trying to make a living with his talent. Chris, portrayed by playwright Carlos Adorno, is more business-minded. And while he has a nondescript job, he makes enough money to help his mother supplement her meager income.


`The guys have two friends who visit regularly. Ray (KJ Lindsay-Weston) is a happy-go-lucky buddy who is quite funny. Lin is portrayed by JU graduate Matthew Robertson, who has appeared in several plays in New York. Lin is a tall handsome man, but is somewhat manic and at times bounces around the stage like a rubber ball. He accompanies Shakespeare to The Fat Kat night club where he meets and becomes infatuated with Ally, portrayed by Kristen Oliver, a JU junior who recently appeared in “Mamma Mia” at Theatre Jacksonville. She falls for Lin; he is a bit goofy but is also lots of fun.

A crisis develops when Ma tells Chris she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Shakespeare becomes very upset when he discovers Ma has told Chris previously and a heated discussion of family finances follows.


And you’re probably wondering if Shakespeare really sings in this show. No, although he pretends he sings. The music we hear off stage is that of Casey Gullede, who composed the music and lyrics for the play. He is a Senior Music Theatre Major at JU.

The next to the last scene has Shakespeare with his bags packed to fly to Florida for a night club tour. When he opens an envelope expecting to find a small royalty check for a record he recently made, he finds a check for $9,000 instead. Since he has a bright financial future, he gives the check to his family to cash.

As critics, we generally do not reveal the endings of plays especially if they have a couple of weeks to run, but since ‘String’ ran only one weekend, here it is: the final scene has family and friends waiting in Ma’s apartment as Shakespeare is flying home from Florida. Suddenly, they learn from a TV announcement that the plane has crashed! Curtain!

Congratulations to Carlos Adorno for this complex play and we hope to see more in the future. It was well cast and splendidly directed by Erik DeCicco. The full house Saturday night audience appeared to really enjoy it.

The creative team included Erik DeCicco (Director), Taylor Crites (Stage Manager), Esther Olivo and Candace Dickens (Assistant Stage Managers), Brandon Lettow (Technical Director), Samantha Catone (Lighting Designer), Brian Champion (Prop Master), Candace Dickens (Sound Designer), and Erik Blomgren (House Manager).

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/10/15/string-jacksonville-university-college-of-fine-arts-review/


10 Reasons to Support Arts and Culture in Jacksonville

Cultural organizations and artists are poised to assist the City as they address their social priorities, including: Public Safety, Economic Development, Neighborhood Development, Youth Engagement, and Health and Wellness. The work of cultural organizations and artists expand far beyond just our sector. We have to dismantle the misconception that arts and culture exist in a silo and instead provide examples of how art and culture are woven into the fabric of every day life.

In 2017, the U.S. News and World Report noted, “Jacksonville is growing. The region witnessed an ignition of the arts and music scene, stimulating business development that has led to demand for a higher standard of living. As a result, Jacksonville is undergoing an economic boom.” Over the past five years, Jacksonville has experienced an average population growth of 1.46%, or 7,759 new residents each year. ​

10 reasons to support the arts, per Americans for the Arts

1) Arts improve individual well-being. 63 percent of the population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 64 percent feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 73 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

2) Arts unify communities. 67 percent of Americans believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 62 percent agree that the arts “help me understand other cultures better”—a perspective observed across all demographic and economic categories.

3) Arts improve academic performance. Students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates. The Department of Education reports that access to arts education for students of color is significantly lower than for their white peers, and has declined for three decades. Yet, research shows that low socio-economic-status students have even greater increases in academic performance, college-going rates, college grades, and holding jobs with a future. 88 percent of Americans believe that arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education.

4) Arts strengthen the economy. The arts and culture sector is a $730 billion industry, which represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences), which supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.

5) Arts are good for local businesses. Attendees at nonprofit arts events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters—valuable revenue for local commerce and the community. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42).

6) Arts drive tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists, staying longer and spending more to seek out authentic cultural experiences. Arts destinations grow the economy by attracting foreign visitor spending. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that, between 2003-2015, the percentage of international travelers including “art gallery and museum visits” on their trip grew from 17 to 29 percent, and the share attending “concerts, plays, and musicals” increased from 13 to 16 percent.

7) Arts are an export industry. The arts and culture industries had a $30 billion international trade surplus in 2014, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) exceeded $60 billion.

8) Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The Conference Board’s Ready to Innovate report concludes, “The arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.” Research on creativity shows that Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times more likely to be actively engaged in the arts than other scientists.

9) Arts improve healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

10) Arts and healing in the military. The arts are part of the military continuum—promoting readiness during pre-deployment as well as aiding in the successful reintegration and adjustment of Veterans and military families into community life. Service members and Veterans rank art therapies in the top 4 (out of 40) interventions and treatments.

CULTURE IN JACKSONVILLE

In 1990, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville was designated by the City of Jacksonville as the official re-granting agency for arts and cultural organizations in Duval County. The agency receives funding through the City as budget line item “PSG-Cultural Council.”

Despite this growth, funding for our sector has remained flat since fiscal year 2013-2014; and declined from over a decade ago with peak funding in 2002-2003.

While funding has remained flat, eligible non-profit cultural organizations applying for funds has increased. In fiscal year 2013-2014 there were 21 organizations that received funding. For fiscal year 2018-2019 there are 27 eligible organizations that have applied for funding. This means that organizations are being awarded smaller amounts, which negatively impacts their ability to serve their missions. Compound this with the fact that the State’s budget cut funding for arts and culture by 90%.

Below is a list of arts and cultural organizations who currently benefit from City funding for arts and culture, which is administered through the Cultural Service Grant Program.

Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre
Beaches Fine Art Series
Beaches Museum and History Park
Cathedral Arts Project
Civic Orchestra of Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Don’t Miss a Beat
Florida Ballet
Florida Theatre
Friday Musicale
Hope at Hand
Jacksonville Children’s Chorus
Jacksonville Dance Theatre
​Jacksonville Historical Society
Jacksonville Symphony Association
Mandarin Museum and Historical Society
Museum of Contemporary Art – Jacksonville
Museum of Science and History
Players by the Sea
Ritz Chamber Players
Riverside Fine Arts Association
Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council
The Performers Academy
Theatre Jacksonville
Theatreworks
WJCT Public Broadcasting

Though funding has remained flat since 2013-2014, the list of eligible organizations applying for funding continues to grow. For fiscal year 18-19, 27 eligible organizations have applied for funding through the Cultural Service Grant Program.

This August, The Florida Theatre conducted an electronic survey. Of the 1,143 respondents, 90% support public funding for the arts, while 87% support increased public funding for the arts.

The next step in advocacy is to appeal to City Council and the Finance Committee. There is a special Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 16 that will specifically review all PSG budget items. Additionally, the Finance Committee meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 9:00 AM in City Hall.  These meetings are open to the public.  Between now and September, the Finance Committee will formulate their 2018-2019 budget recommendations to present to all of City Council.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/08/14/10-reasons-to-support-arts-and-culture-in-jacksonville/


Theatre Jacksonville’s 98th Volunteer Awards

Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom, Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville

On Sunday July 22, 2018, Theatre Jacksonville held its annual celebration honoring volunteers from the 2017 –2018 season. The theatre combines the annual awards ceremony with its membership meeting. This year, the celebration was held at the theatre.

Board President, David Paulk, began by summarizing the past season and its accomplishments. He enthusiastically announced that TJ has once again finished in the black, thanks to the many individuals and groups who have generously contributed funds. Contributors included local foundations and non-profit organizations, businesses, and city and state organizations. New members of the board were unanimously voted in by the subscribers, and can expect an exciting term, as planning for the theatre’s 100th birthday celebration is underway.

President Paulk additionally thanked the staff of Theatre Jacksonville and all of the dedicated volunteers, who had once again donated over nineteen thousand work hours to the theatre’s operations.




OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER AWARDS

Front of the house: Marcia Pozen

Technical & Back Stage Support: Spencer Carr

Outstanding Teen Volunteer: Savannah LeNoble

Outstanding All Around Volunteer: Rhonda Fisher

ACTING AWARDS

Actress in a Leading Role (Tie): Amy Allen Farmer as Little/Big Edie in “Grey Gardens” & Kacy Hope as Donna Sheridan in “Mamma Mia”

 Actor in a Leading Role: Christopher Watson as Robert in “Boeing, Boeing”

Supporting Actress in a Musical: Sara Beth Gerard-Summers as Tanya in “Mamma Mia”

Actress in a Supporting Role: Cathy O’Brien as Gretchen in “Boeing, Boeing”

Supporting Actor in a Musical: Bill Ratliff as Sam Carmichael in “Mamma Mia”

Actor in a Supporting Role: Geoffrey King in “Wolf Hall”

 Outstanding Performance by a Juvenile: Caitlyn Fennell as Scout in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”

PRODUCTION AWARDS

Outstanding Costumes: “Wolf Hall”

Outstanding Set: “Mama Mia”

Outstanding Properties & Set Dressing: “Grey Gardens”

Outstanding Lighting Design: “Wolf Hall”

Outstanding production: “Boeing, Boeing.

After the presentation of awards, the attendees were wined and dined with delicious food prepared by Anthony’s Gourmet Catering.

Theatre Jacksonville’s Executive Director Sarah Boone concluded the exciting evening with drawings for door prizes donated by many businesses based in San Marco and throughout Jacksonville, to the delight of the many fortunate recipients.

It was a fantastic evening for those who attended; a great opportunity to meet and greet theatre folks and members. Thanks go to the staff of Theatre Jacksonville for making this one of the highlights of the 2017 – 2018 season.

The theatre has another outstanding season planned for the 2018 – 2019 season, which begins with the classic “Arsenic and Old Lace” on September 14, 2018; the productions runs through September 30. Visit theatrejax.org or call 396-4425 for reservations.

http://eujacksonville.com/2018/07/27/theatre-jacksonvilles-98th-volunteer-awards/


Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Upcoming Events

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Comedian Gerry Dee World Comedy Tour in Naples, Florida

    November 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  3. Ocala Balloon Glow

    November 23 @ 5:00 pm - November 25 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0
  4. 9th Annual Shopapalooza Festival, Part 2

    November 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
  5. Lake Helen Christmas Parade & Santa’s Village

    November 24 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm UTC+0
  6. Christmas in the Country – Lights Display, Hay Ride & Festival

    November 24 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0
  7. Soul Beach: The Outdoor R&b / Jazz Concert & Comedy Show on the Water

    November 24 @ 7:30 pm - November 25 @ 1:00 am UTC+0
  8. 15th Annual X-Country Marathon, 30K, Half-Marathon & 5K

    November 25 @ 7:30 am - 2:30 pm UTC+0
  9. FREE TICKETS! Tampa Improv 11/27 Stand Up Comedy Show

    November 27 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm UTC+0
  10. FL Orchestra Happy Hour Concert – Nov 28

    November 28 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm UTC+0