BACKSTAGE BYTES – June 2014
KEVIN DEAN will long be remembered for his many contributions to Ringling College of Art and Design as faculty instructor and lastly and mainly his directorship of the Selby Gallery of Art. I first met Kevin at a theater critics’ conference that his wife Kay Kipling was attending. Kevin would spend most of his time in the same city visiting art exhibits, though he sometimes attended evening theatrical events with her/our group. I was interested to learn that he’d received his master’s degree from Western Illinois University where I had taught briefly. (That was where Kay got her bachelor’s degree. In fact, she was a major in English, the department I worked in, though that was after I’d left.) Kevin Dean was obviously on his way to being a distinguished alumnus of that school with his accomplishments at Ringling College and elsewhere. I attended the last show he curated: “Discovering David Budd: The Forgotten Abstract Expressionist” at Ice House. I can’t say I liked all of Budd’s work, maybe because he was a champion of William Burroughs the writer, whom I think vastly overrated. Kevin’s choices for the Budd show, however, were generally interesting as well as important contributions to his movement and American art history. And that was typical of Kevin Dean’s talent and work, including his former film reviews. To say he will be missed is a gross understatement.
ICE HOUSE too left us too soon. The space was accessible and welcoming. The latter was true also of its attendants, gracious to patrons and happy to give information.
ROBERT FALLS, the guru of Goodman Theatre in Chicago, attended the opening by Asolo of “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” and sipped champagne afterward with Michael Edwards and friends. I wished I had brought the book ROBERT FALLS AT GOODMAN THEATRE: THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS for him to sign. It’s an inclusive story of how he became Artistic Director of Goodman and what he’s done to shape the great theater it is today. But there’s a local angle to my story. Goodman began as a theater of and attached to the Art Institute that was basically its graduate school students’ stage run by their teachers. The director who first made it into a professional theater using guest performers and staff, while making it a prime attraction to public audiences, was John Reich. He retired from Goodman in 1972 and, when I met him in the late ’80s, resided in a condo on Sarasota’s bayfront. I believe John Reich did one stint, or part of it, for the Asolo’s original home on Ringling Museum grounds.
IRENE HERMAN will not only continue to write for Family Beautiful magazine but she and handsome husband Ken are assembling their own beautiful family for a visit here in mid-June. A highlight of the reunion will be seeing Cara Herman in DIXIE SWIM CLUB at The Players of Sarasota. The play kicks off Players’ regular summer season, which will end with readings of new plays and a production of the best one chosen from last year’s readings.
MISSING FROM THE PLAYERS this summer will be Linda MacCluggage, who’s been either directing or appearing in something there early or late in season. Linda and sweetheart Reed will be in their Connecticut retreat. They’ll leave it long enough to see their actress daughter in a play in New England. She’s been a regular on and off Broadway.
THE EUGENE O’NEILL SOCIETY will be hosting Jo Morello at their annual conference in Connecticut. Members love Jo’s work editing the Society Newsletter.
YOU CAN READ MYSTERIES BY BILL CARRIGAN FREE on Kindle at Amazon.com if you join Amazon Prime. These include CALL HOME THE CHILD, THE PARACHUTE PLANT, SELDOM GO BY. The Kindle editions not ordered via Prime are also available for much less cost than the printed ones. Bill thinks he has found still another outlet for selling his work but you’ll have to go to his web site to find out his eventual message about it. Bill Carrigan also promotes the Fiction Writers Club that meets at Selby Library on the first Tuesday of each month.
FRANK COLSON is such a versatile artist that it’s hard to keep up with his media. I always associate him with traditional sculpture and tiles. But if you want to see some really different works, check out his Online Gallery at Frank Colson.com. And I hope you’ve read Diana Colson’s new novel. It’s available on Amazon as well as in local bookstores.
FOR PHOTOGRAPHY, do see what Eileen Cohen of Nokomis has to offer. On the web she shows and tells all at Imagesbyeileen.org. Eileen’s work as an artist informs her work as a photographer—and in some cases, the reverse.
VENICE THEATRE’S International Festival promises to be THE summer theatrical event. It’s about a third larger than the last such festival held. I especially look forward to seeing Italy’s THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS in commedia form. I had hoped to see it as a modern adaptation of regular comedy, as had been proposed two summers ago at another local theater, but that didn’t pan out. Too large a cast, maybe. With lively commedia performances, you usually don’t have to know much language to follow a plot. But there are sure to be subtitles just in case the original language is used. That’s true of most of the non-English language performances at VT. See you there?
FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE’s Mainstage will once again be alive with the sounds of country music gone sorta mainstream. Its season opener, PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, is my favorite revue that also features vocalists playing instruments. I remember seeing it in its Broadway premiere decades ago while I was at a meeting of the former University and College Theatre Association. (Incidentally, I was there as speaker on a panel I helped organize honoring Mordecai Gorelik, who eventually brought me to Sarasota and on whose book of plays I worked during his last days.) PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES became a play I wanted to see one evening. As usual, I’d brought my mom with me to the convention but while I was at panels and meetings, she would see NYC with my good friend from Carbondale, Illinois. (Jim and I worked there at Southern Illinois University and Mom lived with us and our daughters.) Mom used a wheelchair, lent her by the Sheraton where the staff was taken with her, and our friend accompanied her everywhere pushing the chair. After we bought tickets for PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, we discovered the show was in an upstairs venue that had once been a Latin Quarter or some night club with a huge dance floor (now with seats) and stage where an orchestra had been. Apparently, Mom was the first “wheelie” who’d ever appeared to see the show. But cast and crew proved resilient—making room way up front for her. First, though, two guys came down and hoisted Mom up on their arms with a third behind ready “in case” for bolster; still another two brought up the chair. All three of us sat nicely up front for the boffo show. We witnessed still another when Mom plus chair were brought down afterward as the musicians provided a backdrop for the leaving! An LP of that show is still a proud possession. I have also enjoyed FST’s repeats of the fun musical and look forward to this summer’s.
A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL, I hope, who’ve read this column for the last three years. I have a busy summer ahead with reviewing, house repairs, probably an operation, and possibly a week or so off. I’ve also noticed that with all the web sites and regional media doing backstage news and features, along with all the facebook and tweeting remarks made by people I’ve been writing about, that it’s getting harder both to find new people to write about and new things to write about “regulars” I hear from. Although this is my last column, I will send Don411.com Media news releases when I publish something of interest that I think he’ll want to share with you readers. He has been a wonderful publisher, so concerned about promoting the arts, and he continues as a wonderful friend! I hope you are all as lucky as I was to be able to share good news about arts and artists and writers with you.