Category Archives: Personality

Dual Role Suits Atkins in ‘The Toxic Avenger’

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Kelly Atkins Morgan pulls off one of the greatest feats of her accomplished singing and acting career during the Hippodrome Theatre’s current summer musical comedy, The Toxic Avenger. She performs a duet with none other than herself!


Kelly Atkins all dolled up as Ma Ferd in The Toxic Avenger. Photo by Michael A. Eaddy)

Kelly Atkins all dolled up as Ma Ferd in The Toxic Avenger. (Photo by Michael A. Eaddy)

As the script calls for, Kelly Atkins plays two main characters — Babs Belgoody, the shady mayor of the New Jersey town where the play is set, and Ma Ferd, the nagging mother of the nerd-turned-superhero the play centers around — in The Toxic Avenger.

Things get particularly interesting toward the end of Act 1 when the two gruff females square off in a hairstyling salon. One moment, Atkins portrays the bombastic mayor, complete with a bright auburn bouffant and high heels. The very next moment, the actor reappears from behind a curtain as the cranky housewife in a funky housecoat and oversized platinum locks.

The quick-change stage magic is seamless and includes an ongoing argument between the female characters not to mention song lyrics that include four derogatory terms that no respectable guy (or gal) would ever utter. Judging from the roaring laughter filling the theater, however, the verbal smackdown is perfectly suitable for the Hippodrome summer audience.

“It’s one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done onstage,” Atkins said. “My cardiovascular activity is pumping full force from the physical energy it takes to not only keep my voice going and my physicality going, but the costume changing -– and there’s such limited time to do it.”

The frenzied scene is just one of the many highlights of a thoroughly entertaining performance by Atkins and the other four actors in the cast of The Toxic Avenger, which is entering its third weekend on the Hippodrome mainstage. The play is scheduled through June 26 but will likely be held over into July because of the buzz it’s generated around Gainesville.

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Hippodrome and Gainesville Lose a Shining Star

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Actor Rusty Salling, best known for playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol for the past quarter-century, passed away over the weekend in the care of hospice.


Rusty Salling as Scrooge, left, and Matthew Lindsay as Ghost of Jacob Marley during last years production of "A Christmas Carol."

Rusty Salling as Scrooge, left, and Matthew Lindsay as Ghost of Jacob Marley during the 2014 production of A Christmas Carol. (Photo by Michael A. Eaddy/Hippodrome)

On Sunday morning, Hippodrome Acting Company member Rusty Salling lost a 14-month battle with sinus cancer. He was 67.

Salling touched the hearts of a generation of Hippodrome theatregoers, including tens of thousands of Alachua County schoolchildren, with his irascible yet tender portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

Rusty Salling

Rusty Salling

Although Salling appeared in nearly 100 Hippodrome productions dating back to the theater’s formative years in the 1970s, audiences looked forward to him uttering “Bah-humbug!” and other familiar phrases during the Hipp’s annual production of the Charles Dickens classic.

“I’d say it’s the most rewarding character I’ve done,” Salling said in an interview during the 2014 production of A Christmas Carol, which would be his last.

He played Scrooge 24 consecutive years until 2015, when health-related issues prevented him from performing with the energy that Scrooge requires. Fellow Hippodrome Acting Company member Gregg Jones took over the role.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better replacement myself than this dear friend and colleague,” Salling told gainesvilledowntown.com last December.

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Art Festival, Medieval Faire Receive Dose of Sunshine

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Sunny Andrei is the City of Gainesville’s new events coordinator for the Fall Downtown Festival & Art Show as well as the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.


Sunny Andrei, left, displays her combat moves during the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.

Sunny Andrei, left, displays her combat moves with Ashley Baker during the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.

The first thing that stands out about Sunshine “Sunny” Andrei is that glowing first name.

“People have a lot of fun with it,” she said. “It was really fun when they sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ in my fourth-grade chorus class. I just wanted to shrink into a corner.”

Sunny Andrei

Sunny Andrei

All puns aside (well, okay, not yet), Andrei puts on a bright smile (what other kind is there?) when she talks about her new role as events coordinator for the City of Gainesville’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

As of this week, she is the person overseeing two of Gainesville’s largest annual events — the Downtown Festival & Art Show and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. That’s no small task considering that, when combined, the events typically draw crowds of 150,000 or more.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” she said. “There are so many details that go into each event and we’re working on them simultaneously. We have to juggle each event and make sure they each get the attention they need.”

The 35th annual Downtown Festival & Art Show is scheduled for Nov. 5-6, 2016, on the streets of downtown Gainesville. The 31st Hoggetowne Medieval Faire is set for the weekends of Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 3-5, 2017, at the Alachua County Fairgrounds.

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For Little Jake, It’s All About Heart and Soul

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The Gainesville-based R&B performer, known as “Mr. Excitement,” appears with his seven-piece Soul Searchers in a Free Fridays concert at the Bo Diddley Plaza.


Little Jake Mitchell, also known as Mr. Excitement, knows how to entertain. Photo by Randy Batista)

Little Jake Mitchell knows how to entertain. (Photo by Randy Batista)

Little Jake Mitchell has told the story countless times about how he broke into show business as a young teenager, but he never gets tired of sharing the tale. And people certainly never get tired hearing about it.

In 1957, Mitchell was 13 and living in the projects of west Tampa when his childhood hero, B.B. King, was performing at nearby Blake High School.

little jake album cover

“Everyone had told him about me,” said Mitchell, who sang throughout his childhood and was already dubbed “Little Jake” even though his first name was Arnold. “They pushed me up on the stage and B.B. King let me sing ‘Woke Up This Morning.’ The place went crazy.”

That wasn’t all.

“That night, B.B. King accepted me as his godson,” Mitchell said. “He pushed me to continue my career, and I did.”

If that’s the case, then everyone should look toward the heavens tonight and thank B.B King when Little Jake & the Soul Searchers perform a Free Fridays concert on the Bo Diddley Plaza stage in downtown Gainesville. The music starts at 8.

“It’s going to be one helluva show!” Mitchell promised.

Mitchell, who turns 72 in July, will appear with his seven-piece band that includes Tran “The Piano Man” Whitley on keyboard, Charles “Professor” Henry on guitar, Allen “Bass” McCollum on bass and Hal “Halag8er” Saylor on drums. Meanwhile, Charlie Blade (saxophone), Doug “Skywalker” Meyers (trumpet) and Brian “T-Bone” Stevens (trombone) comprise the band’s Silver-Sonic Horns section.

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Exhibit Celebrates Lives, Friendship of Two Artists

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“Confluence: Lennie & Jesse” is a new show at the Thomas Center Galleries spotlighting the work of two iconic Gainesville artists, Lennie Kesl and Jesse Aaron. The opening reception is Friday night.


Curator Anne E. Gilroy stands among several wooden sculptures by Jesse Aaron in the Main Gallery of the Thomas Center. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Curator Anne E. Gilroy is surrounded by several wooden sculptures by Jesse Aaron on display in the Main Gallery of the Thomas Center. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Lennie Kesl and Jesse James Aaron were two Gainesville originals.

Kesl was a renowned UF and Santa Fe College art professor whose work crossed every medium and whose personality was larger than life. Aaron was a former farmworker and cook who turned to woodcarving at age 81 after God sent him a message in the middle of the night.

A line drawing by Lennie Kesl on display at the Thomas Center Galleries.

A line drawing by Lennie Kesl on display at the Thomas Center Galleries.

The two men became friends in the early 1970s. Kesl often rode his bicycle past Aaron’s home on Northwest 7th Avenue just to marvel at all the woodcarvings in his yard.

One can only imagine the lively conversations between the college professor and the humble octogenarian.

Both men are gone now—Aaron passed away in 1979 at age 92; Kesl died in 2012 at age 86—but the two master artists left behind wonderful memories and ageless artwork.

Gainesville gets a chance to revisit with Kesl and Aaron this summer during a double exhibition at the Thomas Center Galleries. Titled “Confluence: Lennie & Jesse,” the exhibit will have an opening reception on Friday from 7-10 p.m. during the monthly Artwalk Gainesville. The public is invited to attend.

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Anglin Carries Torch for the Wailers

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Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin is the latest frontman for the legendary reggae band, which performs all their classic tunes tonight at High Dive.


Vocalist Dwayne "Danglin" Anglin performs during a recent Wailers concert. Photo by Charley Akers)

Vocalist Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin performs during a recent Wailers concert. (Photo by Charley Akers)

Dwayne “Danglin” Anglin was in his mother’s womb on May 11, 1981, when the legendary Bob Marley died of melanoma cancer at just 36 years old.

Bob Marleys music lives on with the Wailers.

Bob Marley’s music lives on with the Wailers.

When Anglin entered the world in Marley’s native Jamaica several months later, no one could have known that the child would one day carry on Marley’s cool rhythms as lead singer of the Wailers.

Although Marley would have turned 72 earlier this year, Anglin says his spirit lives on every time his music is played.

“Anybody who understands the significance of his music and its purpose will in some way channel Bob Marley when they’re singing his songs,” Anglin said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think that’s something specific to me only because I’m lead singer of the Wailers. I think it’s something that transcends through all people who perform his music or listen to his music.”

Gainesville will have an opportunity to share in that experience tonight when Anglin and the Wailers perform at High Dive. The lineup also includes Gainesville’s The Savants of Soul, Maca Reggae Samba and Turnaround. Doors open at 6 p.m. The music begins at 8. The Wailers will take the stage close to 11.

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The Jam is Going Away, But Won’t Be Forgotten

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The quirky little concert venue on West University Avenue is shutting its doors at the end of May, leaving local bands and music fans one less place to, well, jam.


Blake Briand stands near the entrance to the Jam, at 817 W. University Ave. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Blake Briand stands near the entrance to the Jam, at 817 W. University Ave. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

After a sure-to-be memorable Memorial Day weekend, the Jam will be just a memory.

The nightclub at 817 W. University Ave. will close its doors at the end of the month because its UF landlords are redeveloping the entire block on which the Jam stands.

The writing has been on the wall at the Jam.

The writing has been on the wall at the Jam.

“We knew this day was coming and we’ve dreaded it,” said Blake Briand, who has co-owned the Jam for the past three-and-half years with Veronica and Eddie Arenas. “I’m giving it my all so that I have zero regrets at the end.”

Later this year, the buildings that house the Jam and other tenants on the block —including two tattoo shops and the Unified Training Center—will be bulldozed to make way for the expansion of the Innovation Square neighborhood. A six-story luxury apartment building, called Inception at Innovation Square, will replace the strip of locally-owned businesses.

For Briand, 38, closing the Jam means losing a livelihood he has cherished.

“We’ve gone from amateurs to one of the premier venues in town,” he said. “When I lock the door for the last time and turn in the key, I don’t know how I’m gonna feel. And I’m a little scared of that.”

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DeWitt Weaves Tapestry of Good Music, Goodwill

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The hard-working Gainesville musician pays tribute to Carole King and her classic 1971 album when the Free Fridays Concert Series returns to Bo Diddley Community Plaza this week.


Cathy DeWitt holds the "Tapestry" album of her mentor Carole King. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Cathy DeWitt holds the “Tapestry” album of her mentor Carole King. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Cathy DeWitt and Carole King go way back. Well, at least in the sense that DeWitt, the longtime Gainesville musician, started listening to King more than half a century ago.

“I think I heard some of her early stuff before she became popular,” DeWitt said before singing softly the lyrics to King’s 1962 Top 25 hit “It Might As Well Rain Until September.”

free fridayHolding a copy of King’s iconic 1971 album “Tapestry,” DeWitt sang the praises of the Grammy Award-winning pop artist.

“She’s a brilliant songwriter. I love her sophisticated chords. Her lyrics are great. She plays piano and sings, and that’s what I do, so she has definitely been a major influence on me,” DeWitt said.

On Friday night at Bo Diddley Community Plaza in downtown Gainesville, DeWitt will channel the very best of King during “Tapestry Rewoven—Again!” The concert kicks off 25 consecutive weeks of Free Fridays Concert Series at the plaza, which had been closed for a year to undergo $1.8 million in renovations.

The two-hour music event begins at 8 p.m. DeWitt will be accompanied onstage by some of Gainesville’s best musical talent, including Mike and Carolina Boulware, Brad Bangstad, Heather Hall, Janet and Maggie Rucker, Rob Rothschild, Bruce Shepard and Ron Thomas.

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Student’s Performance Art Stretches Imagination

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Emily Bonani will perform a series of mini-plays as well as show off some of her concrete creations tonight at the Hardback Café during Artwalk Gainesville.


Emily Bonani and Andrew Quimby fight with Kool-Aid in "Squirt." Photo courtesy of emilybonani.com

Emily Bonani and Andrew Quimby fight with Kool-Aid in “Squirt.” (Photo courtesy of emilybonani.com)

UF senior Emily Bonani isn’t graduating this weekend—she will get her degree in December—but the 22-year-old sculpture major will be in the spotlight tonight nonetheless.

Emily Bonani clutches a toy hammer encased in concrete that she made. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Emily Bonani clutches a toy hammer encased in concrete that she made. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Bonani will present an evening of performance art titled “STRIP” at the Hardback Café, 211 W. University Ave., as part of the monthly Gainesville Artwalk festivities.

“I’m doing this out of my own free will, just because I’m crazy!” Bonani said Thursday night while setting up props for the event that is billed as a “playground-inspired interactive experience featuring music, dance, spoken word and video performances.”

To give you an idea of Bonani’s boldness, she will begin the night by staring at herself in a mirror unflinchingly for 30 minutes to Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” along with a recording of Bonani reciting her interpretation of making choices. She will perform wearing either a yellow rubber suit or a blue sparkly dress.

“In my mind, no one else will exist in that space for 30 minutes,” Bonani said.

And that is only the start to almost three hours of performances by Bonani, her boyfriend Andrew Quimby and others during one of the more imaginative stops on Artwalk. Although “STRIP” begins shortly after 6, most Artwalk events run 7-10 p.m.

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Gainesville’s Rock History Makes an Excellent Read

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Marty Jourard lived, breathed and actively participated in Gainesville’s vibrant music scene in the 1960s and ’70s. Forty years later, he’s written about it.


Music_Everywhere_RGBMarty Jourard’s new book, “Music Everywhere: The Rock and Roll Roots of a Southern Town,” chronicles a golden era during which Gainesville was home to eight future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and a slew of other young musicians who pursued their passion with fervor.

On Thursday at the Matheson History Museum, Jourard will officially launch his book with a presentation and question-and-answer session starting at 6 p.m. Later in the evening, he will sign copies of “Music Everywhere,” which the museum will make available for purchase.

“I suspect that this will be the definitive book about that period,” Jourard said last week in a phone interview from his home near Seattle.

Jourard flew into Gainesville earlier this week and has spent much of his time rehearsing for a Friday night gig at High Dive. He will be resurrecting Road Turkey, the band he formed during his teenage years in Gainesville.

Joining Jourard, a keyboardist and sax player, will be former bandmates Steve Soar on guitar and Stan Lynch on drums. Richy Stano, renowned guitar instructor at Santa Fe College, will play bass. The band will perform an eclectic mix of familiar tunes from the day.

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