Alpin, Tamal Add Flavor to Local Restaurant Scene

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Are you sure about building that wall? In the past two weeks, a pair of family-owned eateries have expanded downtown Gainesville’s dining options well beyond our borders. 

Rachel and Nicholas Iannelli in front of their former food cart at Tamal. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Rachel and Nicholas Iannelli behind their former food cart at Tamal. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Unbeknownst to each other, two determined couples spent the long, hot summer putting love, sweat and tears into a pair of dining establishments that are now helping to give downtown Gainesville more of an international flair.

Romain Challandes in the open-air kitchen he built inside Alpin. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Romain Challandes in the open-air kitchen he built inside Alpin. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Alpin, a French bistro owned by Romain and Sita Marlier Challandes, opened earlier this month at 15 SW 2nd St., in a space formerly occupied by the Motor Room lounge.

Tamal, a storefront tamale shop owned by Nicholas and Rachel Iannelli, is now open for business four days a week at 439 Main St., in the complex that also includes the Civic Media Center and Wild Iris Books.

“This is Mom and Pop comfort food — nothing fancy,” Rachel Iannelli said about her 15-seat eatery that opens at noon Thursday through Sunday and closes each day whenever the last tamale is sold.

During the first two weeks of operation, Tamal has sold out of that day’s supplies of handmade tamales by 5 p.m.

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Actors’ Warehouse Ready to Begin Fifth Season

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The intimate playhouse on North Main Street opens its 2016-17 season with a Sunday matinee of Beautiful Thing, a coming-of-age story set in 1990s’ London.


From left, Kevin Anderson, Paulina Oswald, Anna Marie Kirkpatrick and Jonah Stokes in Beautiful Thing. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Traditionally, theaters open shows on Friday nights to get the most attention. The Actors’ Warehouse, however, likes to do things in an unconventional manner.


Ste (Kevin Anderson) and Jamie (Jonah Stokes) are friends who fall in love with each other in Beautiful Thing. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

The intimate, 60-seat theater at 608 N. Main St., begins its fifth season today with a Sunday matinee performance of Jonathan Harvey’s coming-of-age story Beautiful Thing. The British play, with its gay theme, also helps kick off Gainesville Pride Week, which culminates Saturday with a noon parade down University Avenue and Pride Festival to follow at Bo Diddley Plaza.

Beautiful Thing is the story of two teenage boys, one an introvert and the other an athlete, who live in the same East London housing project during the 1990s as the AIDS crisis is sweeping the globe. Over time, the boys become aware of their sexual attraction to each other.

“I believe this play is so important,” director Kathy Byrne said, “because, even though it is far easier to come out as a homosexual or gender-different individual in our current generation, there is still a lot of fear and misunderstanding on this topic.”

Beautiful Thing continues through Oct. 30 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students, seniors and groups of six or more.

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‘Commander’ Just the Ticket This Political Season

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Can’t get enough political divisiveness these days? Try tossing an openly gay man into the presidential race and see what happens. The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre does just that in its latest production. 

From left,

From left, Ned Worley (Adam Lishawa), his partner Richard (Milo Brooks) and political consultants Frank (Michael Glover) and Zack (Joshua Evangelista) discuss campaign strategy in Commander. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

America took more than 230 years to elect its first black president. Now most indications point to the U.S. choosing its first female president within the next month.

Ned Worley Adam Lishawa) ponders his decision to run for president. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Ned Worley (Adam Lishawa) ponders his decision to run for president. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

And that raises a valid question: Does the possibility exist for an openly gay person to occupy the Oval Office?

Such is the premise of Commander, a dark comedy making its Florida debut this week at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre (ART), in the Historic Baird Center at 619 S. Main St.

The play has a $5 cash-only preview performance Thursday night at 8. Opening Night is Friday, when tickets are $15 ($13 for students, seniors, veterans and retired military). The play continues through Oct. 30 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and on Sundays at 2 p.m.

“It’s a wonderful time to do a play about an interesting candidate for president,” said Karelisa Hartigan, who is directing Commander. “We definitely wanted it to run before Election Day.”

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Hippodrome’s ‘Baby Jane’ Ventures Into Dark Places

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Bryan Mercer and Mark Chambers channel Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively, in a stage parody of the 1962 psychological thriller Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Baby Jane Hudosn Bryan Mercer) serves up trouble to sister Blanche Mark Chambers) in Whatevre Happened to Baby Jane?

Baby Jane Hudson (Bryan Mercer) serves up trouble to sister Blanche (Mark Chambers) in a scene from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? at the Hippodrome Theatre. (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

As a teenager, Bryan Mercer got one of the biggest thrills of his young life when he and his mother attended a lecture by film legend Bette Davis in Daytona Beach.

Baby Jane Bryan Mercer) senses trouble with the neighbors Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Baby Jane (Bryan Mercer) senses the neighbors getting a little nosy. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Although Davis was well beyond her prime as one of Hollywood’s most beloved leading ladies, the two-time Oscar-winning actress made a lasting impression on Mercer.

“I remember her power!” Mercer said. “I was struck by how small she was physically, but she seemed to fill the stage. At 14 I had no vocabulary for it, but I remember the feeling of awe I had.”

That was in 1974. More than 40 years later, Mercer is paying the ultimate homage to Davis by inhabiting one of her classic film roles on stage at the Hippodrome Theatre. For the next four weeks, Mercer will amp it up as the adult Baby Jane Hudson in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

The production has previews tonight and Thursday night at 7 on the Hippodrome mainstage before Friday’s Opening Night at 8. The play continues through Nov. 6 with eight performances a week.

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Dance Alive Set for Entertaining Season

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With their first half-century behind them, Dance Alive National Ballet is surging into the 2016-17 season, beginning with a Meet the Dancers event on Saturday at Pofahl Studios.

Many members of the Dance Alive National Ballet company at Pofahl Studios. (Photo by Gainesville downtown)

Members of the Dance Alive National Ballet company pose at Pofahl Studios. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

One of the first things that people familiar with Dance Alive National Ballet (DANB) will notice about the new season is that the company’s roster has grown from 12 to 16 principal dancers.

Kim Tuttle, left, Judy Skinner and principal dancer Jessie Dominguez.

Kim Tuttle, left, Judy kinner and principal dancer Jessie Dominguez Reyes. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Accomplished dancers have arrived from Brazil, Ukraine, Cuba and, yes, Virginia, to give the Gainesville-based professional dance company one of its strongest ensembles ever.

“They’re all wonderful dancers with beautiful techniques and lines,” said Kim Tuttle, executive/artistic director and choreographer-in-residence for DANB. “They also have great performability and are very hard workers. We couldn’t be happier.”

On Saturday at 2 p.m., the public can get up close and personal with many of the performers during the DANB’s annual Meet the Dancers event at Pofahl Studios, 1325 NW 2nd St. Tickets are $25 and available at the door, although seating is limited.

Attendees will be able to watch vignettes from upcoming productions of Dracula, Vampyra, Rhapsody In Blue and L’Amour plus a work created for DANB’s new Cuban principal, Jessie Dominguez Reyes, by Gainesville’s Ani Collier. A catered reception will follow.

Tuttle, who took over the DANB’s artistic reins 30 years ago, said the strength of her principal dancers is their versatility and balance.

“It’s hard to believe that there are people from all over the world here in Gainesville that are international award-winning stars,” she said.

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Thomas Center Exhibit Explores Womanhood

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EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction, featuring more than 35 works from a wide variety of local and regional artists, opens this week at the Thomas Center.

"Releasing Pink," by Amy Freeman

“Releasing Pink,” by Amy Freeman

In Amy Freeman’s large-scale painting titled “Releasing Pink,” more than a dozen flamingos have seemingly taken over the living room of an apartment.

Curator Anne E. Gilroy wipes down the frame of a painting.

Curator Anne E. Gilroy wipes down the frame of the painting “I Am No Bird,” by Brianna Angelakis.

A quilt pattern dominates the left side of the painting. On the right, a pregnant woman leans back against a wall and stares at the viewer, the exhausting task of imminent motherhood etched on her tired face.

“The woman is pregnant with a girl,” Freeman said. “The pink flamingos represent the weight of that child. The quilt pattern is taking over, creating this child.”

The captivating painting is one of 36 pieces that will be on display through Jan. 10, 2017, as part of the exhibit titled “EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction” in the Mezzanine Gallery at the Historic Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.

An opening reception for the exhibit takes place Friday night from 7-10 as part of Artwalk Gainesville. There will be open waltzing downstairs in the Spanish Court with the Gainesville Old-Time Dance Society and Thomas Royal at the piano. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited.

The exhibit spotlights 30 artists, including 11 from the Gainesville area. “EVE :: Woman from Archetype to Abstraction” includes paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, drawings, collage, mosaic, digital art and etchings.

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Red Soul Days Sheds Light on Abuse Victims

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A week of events begins tonight with the Joss Whedon Burlesque Show at Market Street Pub & Cabaret. Other events are planned at The Midnight and Maude’s Side Car Bar. 

Joss Whedon surrounded by many of the characters he created in Buffy the Vampire slayer, Angel and other shows.

Joss Whedon surrounded by many of the characters he created in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and other shows.

Rachel Wayne has personal reasons for organizing Red Soul Days, a semi-annual pop-up art festival that raises awareness about sexual and gendered violence while empowering victims.

“I was bullied as a kid, albeit not badly, but it leaves a mark on you,” Wayne said. “As an adult, I am a survivor of intimate partner abuse.”

joss-posterWayne added that her situation is not rare. Many more people are sexually assaulted than ever gets reported to police. One reason is that many people don’t consider themselves victims because they know their assailant or because of the shame they feel.

And that’s where Red Soul Days come in. The series of events in downtown Gainesville use art, music, performance art, spoken word and theatre as means of getting the message out about sex and gender/race and ethnicity issues of violence and discrimination in the workplace, schools, the media, and interpersonal relationships.

The activities begin tonight with what is being billed as Sequins, Stakes and Starships: The Joss Whedon Burlesque Show at Market Street Pub & Cabaret, 112 SW 1st Ave. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the Vaudeville-style show begins at 10. There is an $8 admission, with a portion of the proceeds going to support Red Soul Days and local charities.

Wayne said that the theme was chosen because Whedon is a Hollywood screenwriter and director known for introducing nontraditional characters in his TV shows and films, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse.

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Hippodrome Family Says Goodbye to Rusty Salling

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Family, friends and colleagues shared heartwarming stories and humorous tales about the late Hippodrome actor during a Celebration of Life on the stage where he performed for 43 years.


In 35 years at UF, Dr. Albert Wehlberg taught more than 45,000 students in the School of Theatre and Dance. One of those students, a wiry youngster from Jacksonville by the name of Rusty Salling, entered his Stagecraft 1 classroom in September 1969 and never truly left the building.

Hippodrome artistic director Lauren Warhol Caldwell shares a story about Rusty Salling. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Hippodrome artistic director Lauren Warhol Caldwell shares a story about Rusty Salling. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

“He enjoyed class, but mostly when I dismissed class early,” Wehlberg said of his former pupil, who would go on to a long career in theatre.

“Technical theatre wasn’t his favorite subject,” Wehlberg said later. “In fact, he probably thought it was a pain in the ass because I made him work.”

But Wehlberg, now 79, came to admire his pupil’s work and said as much on Monday night during a Celebration of Life for Salling at the Hippodrome Theatre. About 200 people, including family, friends, fellow actors and admirers, attended the two-hour tribute on the mainstage where Salling performed for more than four decades.

“He did well,” Dr. Wehlberg said of Salling. “He always used to make a funny sound whenever I complimented him on a production. I don’t know where that sound came from!”

Wehlberg was one of more than a dozen speakers to share a story or two about Salling on a night that included some tears but mostly laughter for a man who was bigger than life on stage but otherwise a humble and private individual. Dan Jesse, a longtime friend of Salling, emceed the Celebration of Life.

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Patticakes’ Grand Opening Sweet News for Plaza

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The new café/bakery at Bo Diddley Plaza will have a grand-opening celebration on Tuesday morning with giveaways and a special cupcake as a fundraiser for Pace Center for Girls.

Some of the cupcakes selection offered at Patticakes. Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

Some of the homemade cupcakes offered at Patticakes. (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

Downtown Gainesville finally has a cafe dedicated to providing coffee and tasty breakfast items six mornings a week. Patticakes opened last week in a brand-new building on the northeast corner of Bo Diddley Plaza, at 185 E. University Ave.

The entrance to Patticakes on East University Avenue.

The entrance to Patticakes on East University Avenue.

“I think working professionals appreciate the ability to enjoy a good breakfast before heading to the office,” said Erin Leigh Patterson, whose parents, Jan and David Patterson, have operated Patticakes at Haile Plantation Village Center for the past five years.

The new Patticakes, adjacent to Alachua County Civil Justice Center, also serves paninis, cold sandwiches, salad, baked goods and ice cream throughout the day and evening.

On Tuesday, Patticakes will celebrate its grand opening with a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gainesville City Manager Anthony Lyons and other dignitaries. Those attending will be able to sample coffees and breakfast goodies. There will be hourly giveaways of coffee and merchandise.

A “Toast to Patticakes” will take place from 5-7 p.m. with free mini-cupcakes being handed out. Also, Patticakes will be selling a special Mocha Cappuccino Crunch cupcake all day for $3.50 that includes a free small house coffee. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Pace Center for Girls.

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Hippodrome Costume Sale Offers Some Surprises

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During a two-day sale this weekend, the Hippodrome is giving the public a rare opportunity to purchase clothing items used in various mainstage productions over the years.

Shoes in all sizes and shapes will be for sale during the Hipp Costume Extravaganza. Photo by Gainesville downtown)

Shoes in all sizes and shapes will be for sale during the Hipp Costume Sale Extravaganza. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

On Thursday afternoon, the basement of the Hippodrome Theatre resembled a cross between a thrift shop and a movie studio’s wardrobe department.

Stacie and an owl costume

The Hippodrome’s Stacie Danahy poses with an owl costume. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Everything from furs and wedding gowns to men’s jackets and military uniforms lined several clothing racks. Nearby, dozens of pairs of shoes, headpieces and masks were arranged on tables. Almost all the items were worn in performances on the Hippodrome mainstage. Each told a unique story.

For example, a mermaid outfit from last season’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher is available for purchase.

“That’s my favorite costume of all!” said Ansley Pentz, an intern with the Hipp’s Public Programs department.

For the first time since 2010, Gainesville’s only professional theater company has cleaned out its closet. This weekend, the Hipp Costume Sale Extravaganza will offer shoppers the opportunity to buy the theater’s historic wardrobe inventory, including handmade accessories.

The Hipp event will feature pieces fit for every budget and style. Items start at $10. Others are in the hundreds of dollars. Continue reading