‘These Shining Lives’ Heartfelt, Heartbreaking

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The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre begins its 36th season with a sorrowful play by Melanie Marnich that dramatizes the perils many women once faced in the workplace.

From left, Emma Grimm Catherine), Jessica Arnold Pearl), Norma Berger Frances) and Carlyn Howells

From left, Emma Grimm (Catherine), Norma Berger (Frances), Jessica Arnold (Pearl) and Carlyn Howells (Charlotte) star in These Shining Lives opening Friday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre. (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

“This isn’t a fairytale, though it starts out like one. It’s not a tragedy, though it ends like one. It’s something else. We’re something else. …”

Tom Adam Lishawa) examines a gift from his wife Catherine Emma Grimm)

Tom Donohue (Adam Lishawa) examines a foreboding gift from his wife, Catherine (Emma Grimm), in a scene from These Shining Lives. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

And with those opening lines from character/narrator Catherine Donohue, the tone is set for These Shining Lives, the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre’s (ART) 2016-17 season-opening production that will take audiences on an emotional journey into the lives of four ill-fated women.

The play tells the real-life story of four female workers who, in the 1920s, painted the tiny numerals on the faces of watches for the Radium Watch Dial Company only to discover that the luminous compound gave them radiation poisoning.

“They’re good, honest women and, through no fault of their own, they lose everything,” said Laura Jackson, who jumped at the opportunity to direct These Shining Lives for the Acrosstown. “It’s a very touching story.”

The play opens Friday night at 8 at the theater located in the Historic Baird Center, 619 S. Main St. Performances will take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Oct. 2. Tickets are $15, with discounts for students, seniors, military personnel and veterans.

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Matheson Exhibit Examines Area’s Healthcare Legacy

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A new exhibit at the Matheson History Museum will cure your curiosity for knowledge about the storied history of medical practice in Gainesville and the region.

Matheson Museum Executive Director Peggy Macdonald and museum board member Mae Clark in front of a display case that is part of the Medical Milestones exhibit. )Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Matheson Museum Executive Director Peggy Macdonald, left, and museum board member Mae Clark in front of a display case of medical items from the collection of Dr. Mark Barrow. (Photographs by Gainesville Downtown)

A display case in the Matheson History Museum’s newest exhibit holds a fascinating assortment of vintage tins, bottles and small cardboard boxes that once contained medications used to treat just about every malady.

A midwife's uniform from the early 20th century.

A midwife’s uniform from the early 20th century.

One wooden box is imprinted with the words “Cocaine and Epinephrin” and once contained 100 capsules (or “carpules”) intended to treat toothaches. For obvious reasons, you won’t find such a product on today’s drugstore shelves.

Another corner of the exhibit hall includes a midwife’s uniform from the 1930s. The white cotton dress has visible stains from the birthing duties once performed by its owner.

Those are just two gems to be discovered in an informative exhibit titled “Medical Milestones: Transitions in Health and Wellness in Alachua County.” The exhibit opened this week and can be viewed Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. through Dec. 23 at the Matheson Museum, 513 E. University Ave.

The exhibit, curated by Matheson Museum Executive Director Dr. Peggy Macdonald, examines the rich history of medicine in the area, including the use of nearby natural springs for their healing powers, the evolution of the medical community here, the founding and growing significance of the UF College of Medicine, and the rise of natural childbirth in and around Gainesville.

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Local Author Showcase Strictly by the Book

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The Alachua County Library District is hosting an event on Saturday that shines the spotlight on a dozen area writers who have been published.

Hugh E. Suggs, with his wife of 35 years, Janet, in front of their Gainesville home. Photo by Raphael Michael/Gainesville Downtown)

Hugh E. Suggs and wife Janet in front of their Gainesville home. (Photo by Raphael Michael/Gainesville Downtown)

Hugh E. Suggs has performed many duties in his life to put food on the table for his family of six. He’s worked construction, laid down carpet, managed restaurants, sold cars, taught grade school and done landscaping work, among other things.

local authors showcaseBut not anymore. Now, Suggs is a writer.

Earlier this summer, the Gainesville resident self-published “Stepping on Cracks,” a creepy novel about a serial killer lurking around the University of Florida. Suggs is preparing to release two more books in the coming year — one containing poetry and the other a series of short stories based on his life.

“Writing is what I love to do,” Suggs said the other day from his home in the Duckpond neighborhood of downtown Gainesville.

On Saturday, Hughes will be one of 12 writers featured during the Local Author Showcase at the downtown Headquarters Library, 401 E. University Ave. The others are Stephen Smitherman, Theodore Josiha Haig, Sandra Gail Lambert, Caroline Anaya, Nancy Rankie Shelton, Stephanie Smith, Terri Depue, Sandra “Lee” Phillips, Glenn Vellekamp, Richard Gartree and Melinda Grimmage.

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New Pizza Restaurant Spelled V for Victorious

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V Pizza, which opened last week in a prime spot in downtown Gainesville, has gone to great lengths to bring authentic Neapolitan-style pizza to town. All the way to Italy, in fact.

Executive Chef Matt Kepp in front of one of two wood-fired ovens at V Pizza Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Executive Chef Matt Kepp in front of one of two wood-fired ovens at V Pizza (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Most everyone can agree that Gainesville has its share of pretty decent pizza joints. After all, this is a college town, where pizza plays an essential role at the top of many students’ food pyramid.

Now we’re pleased to report that downtown Gainesville has a great pizza restaurant.

A pepperoni pizza from V Pizza.

A pepperoni pizza from V Pizza.

V Pizza is the new guy on the block, and it’s a premium location at 115 SE 1st St., on the ground floor of the Hampton Inn in the large, open space formerly occupied by Vello’s.

“When you think of pizza, you think of greasy and fattening, right?” said Matt Kepp, executive chef for V Pizza. “With our pizza, you can eat the whole pie and feel good about eating it.”

That’s because V Pizza uses only premium ingredients with no preservatives and chemicals. Better yet, the dough, cheese, tomato sauce and most other toppings have Italian connections.

And everything the restaurant cooks, including piping-hot calzone and stromboli, is baked in massive wood-fired ovens made from clay molds and soil from the base of Mount Vesuvius. Yes, that Mount Vesuvius!

“We get the ovens up to 900 degrees, and that allows us to cook our pizzas in 90 seconds,” Kepp said. “The intense heat allows the pizza dough to puff up and become nice and airy. It all translates into great flavor.”

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Less Than Jake Home for Wake N Bake Weekend

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The Gainesville-based band has been around the world more than a few times, but on Labor Day weekend you can count on them to perform for their hometown fans at High Dive. 

Less Than Jake relaxes at a hometown hangout, Satchels Pizza.

Less Than Jake relaxes at everybody’s favorite hometown hangout, Satchel’s Pizza.

Does it really seem like Less Than Jake, which began its rise to stardom from simple Gainesville roots, is beginning its 25th year as a band?

“Absolutely not!” said Vinnie Fiorello, the band’s drummer and co-founder with Chris DeMakes. “It feels like the blink of an eye.”

Chris DeMakes performs with Less Than Jake.

Guitarist and band co-founder Chris DeMakes performs with Less Than Jake.

That’s because Less Than Jake, the five-member ska punk band, has maintained a fast and furious pace for the past quarter-century, recording eight studio albums, keeping a tour schedule that would burn out many musicians and creating what Fiorello calls “an unshakable bond.”

“What I do know is that we’ve been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows together, and that the rest of the dudes that I share a stage with may not be blood, but they are most definitely my brothers and they’re most definitely my family,” Fiorello said.

To show appreciation to their hometown fans, the band is hosting its fifth annual Less Than Jake Wake N Bake Weekend over the Labor Day holiday at High Dive in downtown Gainesville.

The fun begins tonight with Less Than Jake headlining a Night 1 concert that also includes Morning Fatty, Kash’d Out and Dr/veways. On Saturday night, the Night 2 lineup includes LTJ, Peelander-Z, The Busdrivers and Bothering Dennis. Tickets to each night are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

“It’s all to celebrate Gainesville, man!” Fiorello said. “It’s a simple thing. A few years ago, we found that while we were touring a lot, we were neglecting our hometown, that we were neglecting Gainesville.

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Hot, Heavy ‘Stage Kiss’ Begins Hipp’s 44th Season

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Prepare yourself for an excess of kissing and laughter as the Hippodrome Theatre and UF School of Theatre + Dance present a romantic comedy by Sarah Ruhl.

Stephanie Lynge and David Patrick Ford embrace in Stage Kiss. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Stephanie Lynge and David Patrick Ford embrace in a scene from Stage Kiss. (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

There’s plenty of chemistry going on during the production of Stage Kiss, which kicks off the 44th season of the Hippodrome Theatre this week in downtown Gainesville.

The steamy story by Sarah Ruhl involves two actors who rekindle a torrid love affair after discovering they’ve been cast as lovers in a new play. What follows is a two-hour smooch-fest sprinkled with witty dialogue and topped with a poignant message that should leave audiences feeling warm and fuzzy.

hipp logoBut the most impressive chemistry is not between the actors, but rather between the Hippodrome and the UF School of Theatre + Dance. For the fourth year in a row, the two Gainesville institutions are partnering their resources to present a production the entire community can fully embrace. (But not that way!)

“The annual co-production formalizes what has long been a strong relationship between the two,” said Tim Altmeyer, the UF acting professor directing Stage Kiss. “In the words of Beyonce, they put a ring on it —and it’s a mutually beneficial marriage!”

Stage Kiss will have previews tonight and Thursday night leading up to Friday’s Opening Night performance. There will be eight performances a week through Sept. 25 at the Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place.

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Gainesville Has Treasures Waiting to Be Found

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With an influx of thousands of freshmen to UF and Santa Fe College — and new residents arriving in town every day — this is a great time to boast about what the Gainesville area has to offer.

This painting by Gainesville artists Miriam Novack incorporates many landmarks in Gainesville and on the UF campus.

This painting by Gainesville’s Miriam Novack incorporates many landmarks in Gainesville and on the UF campus.

There are people who have been to Paris but never visited the Eiffel Tower. There are people who have been to New York City but never explored the splendors of Central Park.

And, as puzzling as it might seem, there are people who have been to Gainesville but have never descended the Devil’s Millhopper or attended a performance at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Don’t let that happen to you!

Gainesville has much to offer in terms of nature, history and entertainment. There is more to see and do here than in most cities our size because, yes, it is a college town (Go Gators!), but it’s also a thriving community away from the two campuses.

If you’re new to Gainesville, welcome to town! If you’ve been here awhile and plan on sticking around, you might as well immerse yourself in what the area has to offer.

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Years in the Making, Depot Park Worth Wait

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Thousands of people turned out on a sunny Saturday morning to enjoy everything that Gainesville’s newest park has to offer — and there’s a little something for everyone!

Kids enjoy the splash pad.

Kids and adults alike enjoy Depot Park’s Blue Grotto Splash Pad. (Photo by Raphael Michael/Gainesville Downtown)

The opening of Depot Park in downtown Gainesville is a life-changing event for Aretha Carter. The resident of the adjacent Springhill neighborhood now has a safe place to take her children — and to breathe a little easier.

Aretha Carter and her son.

Aretha Carter and her son.

“This is my third time here!” said Carter while pushing her 2-year-old son, Tyreque, on one of the modern new swing sets in the city’s newest and largest public park. “I love that it’s right here in our neighborhood.”

Within eyesight was Carter’s 10-year-old daughter, Tomasia, playing on a huge piece of playground equipment that resembles a locomotive. She and hundreds of other children were frolicking around the Adventure Play Area on Saturday morning during Depot Park’s grand-opening celebration.

The 32-acre park off South Main Street and Depot Avenue began welcoming visitors on Aug. 1, but Saturday’s festivities allowed city officials to showcase Depot Park in all its glory. More than 3,000 people enjoyed live entertainment, family activities, food trucks and much more on a sun-splashed day.

“This day has been a long time coming,” said Cindi Harvey, project manager for the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), which spearheaded the project. “The citizens of Gainesville have waited two decades for this to come to fruition. It took a village to build this park and, look, we’ve done it!”

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Gator Baked Satisfies Late-Night Cravings

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The newest restaurant in downtown Gainesville is hoping that late-night partiers will have a huge appetite for comfort food once the bar scene closes down. 

You cant miss the home of Gator Baked at 12 SW 2nd St. Photo by Gainesvil;le downtown)

You can’t miss the home of Gator Baked, at 12 SW 2nd St. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Three once-vacant storefronts on Southwest 2nd Street, in the shadow of the city parking garage, are coming alive this month, doubling the number of eating and/or drinking establishments on the block.

DSCN4336Last week was the grand opening of the FishHawk Spirits Distillery Tasting Room at 21 SW 2nd St. Although not a formal bar, customers can sample rum, vodka, whiskey and other products made by the distillery and then purchase bottles and other merchandise.

“FishHawk Spirits is very excited to part of the growth on the near west side of downtown Gainesville,” said David Molyneaux, CEO of the Ocala-based distillery. “Our distillery tasting room will add a new dimension to the area.”

Next door, at 15 SW 2nd St., the husband-and-wife team of Romain and Sita Challandes are converting the old Motor Room dance club into a French bistro called Alpin. They hope to open within a few weeks.

And this week, at 12 SW 2nd St., is the soft opening for Gator Baked, a late-night carry-out and delivery food service that has set up shop in the former Infinity Lounge hookah bar. Continue reading

For Savants of Soul, Future is Now

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The nine-piece Gainesville band returns to the Bo Diddley Community Plaza stage this week for a Free Fridays concert that is sure to be a crowd-pleasing event.

The Savants of Soul performing at Bo Diddley Plaza in February. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

The Savants of Soul warm up for Charles Bradley at Bo Diddley Plaza in February. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

The last time the Savants of Soul performed on the large outdoor stage at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, they opened for the legendary Charles Bradley in a memorable concert event in late February.

On a chilly winter evening, the band’s soulful music warmed up a spirited crowd of more than 2,000 people during the highlight of a special event known as Changeville.

“That was a really special night,” said Alex Klausner, drummer for the Savants of Soul. “I can’t even describe the thrill of getting the email inviting us to play that night. And Charles Bradley was one of the most gentle, warm-hearted people you’d ever want to meet.”

This week, the Savants of Soul are not a warmup act but rather the headliners at Bo Diddley Plaza for a Free Fridays Concert Series event from 8-10 p.m.

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