The Wait is Over for A-town’s ‘Waiting for Godot’

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The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre is staging Samuel Beckett’s absurd classic beginning this week. According to director Jessica Arnold, it’s a play that might make you question your very existence.


Pozzo (Esteban Alvarez) has a whimsical encounter with Vladimir (Adam Lishawa) and Estragon (Dean Carvalho) in a scene from Waiting for Godot. That’s Lucky (M. Reagle) face down on the ground. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown).

When playwright Samuel Beckett introduced his tragicomedy Waiting for Godot to audiences in Paris in 1953, it created an uproar in the literary world. The play was so different and intriguing to critics that they coined the phrase “Theater of the Absurd” to describe it and similar plays that followed.

Dean Carvalho (Estragon), left, and Adam Lishawa (Vladimir) reunite onstage in Waiting for Godot. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

The minimalist play features two eccentric characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who spend the entire performance under a withered tree on a remote path waiting for the arrival of someone named Godot. While patiently waiting for the play’s namesake to arrive, the two men engage in lively conversations about everything and nothing. They also encounter three other characters.

Beginning this week, the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre presents its own take on Waiting for Godot starring Adam Lishawa as Vladimir and Dean Carvalho as his long-time friend, Estragon. The play is directed by Jessica Arnold.

Performances begin tonight with a $5 preview at 8. Opening Night is Friday at 8. Tickets are $15 for the general public with discounts available for seniors, students with IDs, veterans and active military. The production continues through Feb. 5 with performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 and on Sunday afternoons at 2.

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Satanic Sock Puppet Rules Hilarious ‘Hand to God’

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The Hippodrome Theatre’s outrageous stage production, which opens this week, might make you wince or laugh with guilty pleasure. Just be sure to leave the kids at home!


Jason (Jon Kovach) and his sock puppet Tyrone don’t always see eye to eye. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

If Tyrone, the foul-mouthed antagonist in the play Hand to God, were a child, his disruptive behavior simply wouldn’t be tolerated. Under normal circumstances, he surely would spend most of his days alone in time-out.

The cast of Hand to God, including evil Tyrone. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

But these are not normal circumstances, and Tyrone is not a child. He’s not even human. He’s a sock puppet who speaks his mind without a filter. And, oh, that temper!

In the Hippodrome Theatre’s newest production, which opens Friday night, Tyrone transforms from Elmo cute to Chucky ugly before your very eyes. Whether you grin or grimace at his antics might just reveal the kind of person you are — or at least the mood you’re in at the moment.

“If you were to ask 15 people what they thought the play was about, depending on where we are in our lives, I think you’ll get 15 answers,” said director Lauren Warhol Caldwell. “That’s really great writing. And this is a really smart play.”

Leading up to Opening Night, Hand to God will have preview performances tonight and Thursday at 7. The production continues through Feb. 5 with eight performances a week. Tickets range from $30-$35, with discounts for students, seniors and military. (All tickets for the Tuesday, Jan. 17, show are only $10.) Continue reading

Downtown Clubs, Eateries Ready to Ring In 2017

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Gainesville’s official New Year’s Eve party returns to Bo Diddley Plaza this year, but several clubs and restaurants will also have special celebrations as we say goodbye to 2016.


There will be a full range of food and entertainment options available on Saturday night as downtown Gainesville prepares to ring in the new year.

Most of the activity will be centered around Bo Diddley Plaza, where The Couch Messiahs and Wild Blue Yonder will provide a free concert beginning at 9 p.m. and continuing past midnight.

The Couch Messiahs

Here is a list of New Year’s Eve events in downtown Gainesville:

Downtown Countdown: The Couch Messiahs, a Gainesville-based rock-and-roll band, will pay tribute to the music of The Allman Brothers, The Band, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young and The Rolling Stones during a New Year’s Eve celebration concert at Bo Diddley Plaza, 111 E. University Ave. The evening begins at 9 p.m. with a performance by popular local band Wild Blue Yonder. Downtown Countdown begins at 9 p.m. and continues until midnight, when there will be a countdown to the New Year, along with the sounds of noisemakers, which are passed out to the audience earlier in the evening. The event is sponsored by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department and WIND-FM. For further info on the concert, read our University & Main blog. Continue reading

First Magnitude Fundraiser Aids Satchel’s Crew

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The downtown brewery is stepping up to the plate this holiday season by throwing a benefit concert on Friday to help three employees whose jobs went up in flames during a recent fire behind Satchel’s Pizza.


The former site of Lightnin’ Salvage. (Photo courtesy of Satchel’s Pizza)

Longtime customers at Satchel’s Pizza recognize Jordan Borstelmann as the bartender donning a kilt, a bushy beard and a huge smile. For more than five years, he poured drinks and served food in Lightnin’ Salvage, the entertainment venue and gift shop/toy store situated directly behind the Gainesville pizza joint at 1800 NE 23rd Ave.

On Monday, Dec. 5, a fire engulfed Lightnin’ Salvage and destroyed one of Gainesville’s most iconic hangout spots, where collections of dead butterflies and pine cones shared a home with artwork made from recycled cameras, cellphones and other household items.

The blaze, which occurred when the restaurant was closed, also left Borstelmann, 36, and fellow Satchel’s employees Danny Lore and Judy Keathley out of jobs.

However, thanks to the generosity of First Magnitude Brewing Co., Borstelmann and his co-workers should still be able to enjoy the holiday season and beyond.

On Friday from 4-10 p.m., the brewery at 1220 SE Veitch St. will sponsor a benefit concert to raise funds for the three Satchel’s employees while Lightnin’ Salvage is being rebuilt.

“It’s a little surreal,” Borstelmann said. “You don’t stop to realize how much people care until something like this happens.”

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Dance Alive Continues ‘Nutcracker’ Tradition

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For the 51st year in a row, Gainesville’s professional ballet company presents the holiday spectacle — featuring Tchaikovsky’s iconic music — onstage at the Curtis M. Phillips Center on the UF campus.


Fhilipe Teixeira and Carla Amancio in Spirits of the Forest Photo by Monica Nielsen)

Dance Alive principals Fhilipe Teixeira and Carla Amancio in The Nutcracker’s “Spirits of the Forest.” (Photo by Monica Sue Nielsen)

When Gainesville’s Dance Alive National Ballet first performed The Nutcracker in the mid-1960s, Judy Skinner and Kim Tuttle were teenagers in the middle of all the action during the magical “Kingdom of the Sweets.”

The Nutcracker Prince Photo by Monica Sue Nielsen)

The Nutcracker Prince (Photo by Monica Sue Nielsen)

“Kim was ‘Russian’ soloist and I was ‘Spanish’ soloist,” Skinner said. “And we both danced ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ – my favorite at the time.”

Fifty-one years and hundreds of performances later, the sisters remain actively involved with The Nutcracker, albeit away from the spotlight. Tuttle is Dance Alive’s executive artistic director while Skinner serves as the company’s choreographer-in-residence.

Both will again be in the wings of UF’s Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, orchestrating three performances of The Nutcracker — Friday night at 7:30 and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2. Tickets range from $17-$45 and can be purchased at the Phillips Center box office or online at UF Performing Arts (http://performingarts.ufl.edu/tickets/).

The Nutcracker, first performed in Russia in 1892, has been a Gainesville tradition for more than half a century — and for good reason, Tuttle said.

“The music, the story, the time of year,” she said. “Christmas is the biggest international holiday that is common to so many countries, so [The Nutcracker] is popular virtually everywhere.”

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Acrosstown Theatre Puts Playwrights in Spotlight

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Six stage readings, all created by local playwrights, will take place over four days this weekend at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre on South Main Street.


playwright

Fans of local theater are in for a treat beginning Thursday when the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre presents its fourth annual installment of the Gainesville Homegrown Local Playwrights’ Showcase.

The Showcase gives local playwrights an opportunity to see how their plays work with real actors and real audiences so that they can tweak them before submitting them for consideration as mainstage events.

“It’s an opportunity to be the first ones to hear a new work that hasn’t been spoken anywhere else,” said Meagan Reagle, one of the organizers of the four-day event held at the theater at 619 S. Main Street, in the Historic Baird Hardware Center.

Reagle is also directing one of the plays, Bond, which is scheduled for Friday night at 8. Written by Aliza Einhorn, Bond is a tragic comedy about family dynamics following the bizarre death of a family pet. The play stars Reagle, Adam Lishawa, Wilfredo Gonzalez and Carolyne Salt, who happens to be president of the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

Although Reagle didn’t provide any spoilers, she did say that in Bond, “Everyone’s waiting for this one moment to happen, and when it does, it’s ‘Thank you!'”

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Holiday Artwalk Features DNA Gallery Reception

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Nava Ottenberg and Eric Bushnell will be among the artists showcased tonight during Artwalk Gainesville. They will have an opening reception at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery. 


Fishbone sculpture, by Eric Bushnell, on display at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery.

Fishbone sculpture, by Eric Bushnell, on display at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery.

If not for Nava Ottenberg and Eric Bushnell, it’s quite likely that downtown Gainesville would be void of public artwork. Together, they were instrumental in the installation of 22 sculptures that grace the sidewalks and courtyard of Union Street Station and the Sun Center.

Horses II, by Nava Ottenberg

Horses II, by Nava Ottenberg

Tonight, Ottenberg and Bushnell will collaborate again — this time for an art exhibition of their own works. An opening reception will take place for their show at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery, 218 NW 2nd Ave.

Ottenberg will display 40 of her paintings, many of which were created during a three-month visit to Italy earlier this year. Bushnell, a metal fabricator, will display nine sculptures he fashioned out of steel, aluminum and other materials.

“The exhibit is my way of thanking these two wonderful artists for all they have done for beautifying our community,” said Gerard Bencen, a lawyer who opened the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery earlier this year.

The exhibit is one of the highlights of Artwalk Gainesville, which is taking place at 16 galleries and art spaces tonight around the downtown area. The self-guided tour combines visual art, live performances and other events.

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Gourmet Sandwich Shop Keeping It All in Family

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Three longtime Gainesville area chefs — all related — are combining their talents to open Piper Gi’s, specializing in hand-crafted soups and sandwiches. The restaurant will open for business in mid-December.


From left, Jacon Riesch, Tommy Newman and his wife, Shanti Riesch-Newman, are the co-owners of Piper Gis. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

From left, Jacob Riesch, Tommy Newman and his wife, Shanti Riesch-Newman, are the co-owners of Piper Gi’s. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Take three chefs with almost 50 years combined culinary experience, put them together in a restaurant kitchen with quality ingredients and their imaginations, and — voila! — you have the recipe for success.

At least that is what Jacob Riesch, Tommy Newman and Shanti Riesch-Newman anticipate when they open Piper Gi’s later this month at 204 SW 2nd Ave., next door to High Dive. Riesch-Newman said the eatery is shooting for a Dec. 14 soft opening and a Dec. 15 grand opening.

The carryout restaurant, with a tropical decor that extends to its pastel-colored picnic tables, will specialize in hand-crafted sandwiches, soups, salads and side dishes.

“I would say that we’re bringing the love back to sandwiches and the love back to food and to actual cooking,” said Shanti Riesch-Newman, executive chef at Emiliano’s Cafe for the past five and a half years.

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Giving Thanks Where Thanks is Due

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thanksHave you taken a look around downtown Gainesville lately? New eateries and other small businesses are opening on an almost-weekly basis. Fascinating exhibits are on display at museums and galleries. Memorable performances are taking place at local theaters.

There is also excitement in the air with the opening of Depot Park and the reopening of Bo Diddley Plaza this year. People are gathering downtown like never before.

Simply put, downtown Gainesville is a better place today than it was a year ago not because of large corporations and big money, but because of individuals who are passionate about what they do.

Today we recognize some of the individuals who have made and continue to make downtown Gainesville worth visiting and enjoying. (We have listed them alphabetically so as not to show favoritism, but we love them all!)

If we have left someone out, our apologies. Please let us know who also deserves our thanks! Continue reading