Category Archives: Personality

Political Correctness Out, ‘Hometown Knights’ In

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The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre kicks off 2016 with a comedy of our times, written by Chuck Lipsig, that dates back to the Greeks.

The cast of Hometown Knights (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

The cast of Hometown Knights (Photograph by Gainesville Downtown)

The fine folks of Fainburg are finally fed up with egomaniacal Mayor Perry Halfgallon.

For years, His Honor (Dishonor?) has banned downtown on-street parking except on prime-numbered days. He’s required each citizen to cut down a tree on Arbor Day. (“How else is one supposed to build an arbor?”) And, of all things, he’s outlawed puns during city meetings.

Most confounding is his ordinance prohibiting the sale of hotdogs at the local high school during sporting events. That’s a law that, to be frank, might just come back to bite him in the buns.

Fortunately, the silliness is all fiction and part of the fun that is Hometown Knights, a play making its world premiere this weekend at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre on South Main Street. There is a $5 preview performance tonight (Jan. 14) at 8. Opening night is Friday at 8.

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Nothing’s Out of Character for Hippodrome’s Morsey

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Sara Morsey, a member of the Hippodrome Acting Company, continues a string of memorable performances by playing Ruth Steiner in Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories, which begins this week.

Sara Morsey, as Ruth, offers a toast during Collected Stories.

Sara Morsey, as Ruth, proposes a toast during Collected Stories. (Photographs by Gainesville Downtown)

Juliana Davis, left, and Sara Morsey in front of the Hippodrome.

Co-stars Juliana Davis, left, and Sara Morsey in front of the Hippodrome Theatre.

During the past year, Hippodrome Theatre audiences have had the pleasure of watching Sara Morsey play a manic and hapless homebody in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a macabre and amusing hunchback in All Girl Frankenstein and a witty and spirited ghost in A Christmas Carol.

In fact, there are few roles Morsey hasn’t played at the Hippodrome and many other regional theaters during an acting career that has spanned three decades.

“Sara is very chameleon-like,” said Lauren Warhol Caldwell, the Hippodrome’s artistic director. “She’s able to transform into many kinds of people. Her characters are always memorable.”

Beginning this week, Morsey inhabits the world of Ruth Steiner, a distinguished short-story writer and college professor who guards her privacy in Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories. It is the Hippodrome’s first production of 2016 and promises to leave theatregoers spellbound.

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The Dime: Shining Example of Change

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The owners took their time after it opened to finally give the business an official name, but the swanky little cocktail bar now known as The Dime is worth every penny to its patrons.

Daniel Schexnaydre behind the bar at The Dime. (Photograph by Lena Crane, Reflections of Light Photography)

Daniel Schexnaydre tends bar at The Dime. (Photo by Lena Crane, Reflections of Light Photography)

the dime and gramfest 004For all their business acumen in transforming the epicenter of downtown Gainesville into a hip place to be, Scott Shillington and Hal Mendez might have missed a great marketing opportunity when they finally got around to naming their “no-name” bar earlier this year.

As they pondered their decision, the obvious name was literally staring them in the face.

The Old Joe.

That’s the nickname of the much-maligned Confederate statue that stands sentinel directly across University Avenue from the bar. He’s right there, perched high atop a granite pedestal, his steely gaze burning through you from 50 yards away as you exit the bar’s stubborn glass door. Late at night, hidden in the shadows beyond the streetlights, you’d hardly know Old Joe’s there.

Yep, The Old Joe has a nice ring to it, evoking time-honored Southern values that still rally some folks but rankle most others.

Instead, after almost a year of anonymity—but not a lack of attention—the classy little cocktail bar is now known simply as … The Dime.
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Persona Vintage Clothing Always in Halloween Spirit

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Owner Nava Ottenberg has a wide selection of authentic costumes for rent or purchase at her downtown store — and a whole lot more.

Nava Ottenberg holds a glittery Roaring 20s gown between displays of disco-era outfits, left, and a pirate's costume.

Nava Ottenberg holds up a green-beaded belly dancer’s outfit between displays of disco-era dresses, left, and pirate costumes.

When new customers begin browsing the many racks of costumes at Persona Vintage Clothing, they soon realize this isn’t a run-of-the-mill Halloween store with plastic masks and cheap, disposable outfits.

“I have people come in everyday and go, ‘Oh my God, you have great stuff!'” said Nava Ottenberg, who owns the eclectic store on the southeast corner of Union Street Station in downtown Gainesville.

In fact, many of Ottenberg’s authentic costumes come with stories. Some appeared onstage in Broadway plays. Others were used in Warner Bros. films from a bygone era. Still others have more personal stories. Continue reading

Hippodrome Stages Monster of a Show

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Candace Clift as Victor has a monstrous task ahead of him/her during All Girl Frankenstein. (Photograph by Michael A. Eaddy)

In All Girl Frankenstein, Candace Clift plays misguided Victor in a dramatic retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic tale.

Candace Cliftin front of the Hippodrome before a recent rehearsal.

Candace Clift relaxes in front of the Hippodrome State Theatre before a recent rehearsal for All Girl Frankenstein.

In the first act of All Girl Frankenstein —playing through Nov. 7 at the Hippodrome State Theatre—the audience is pulled into the turbulent world of Victor Frankenstein. The young man copes with his mother’s death, goes off to university and creates a grotesque monster, then confronts the untimely death of another beloved family member.

The consequences of all that drama leave poor Victor with unbearable anguish that only intensifies during the second act. It’s a grueling role only the toughest stage actor could pull off.

Thankfully, Candace Clift is up to the task.

For two heart-wrenching hours, Clift breathes life into a confused character that definitely could use a hug or two.

“It’s a juicy, juicy role,” Clift told “I’ve always loved old, scary Halloween movies, and Frankenstein is so iconic—the hubris of this man who attempts to play God.”

Frankenstein was the creation of Mary Shelley, who published her first novel, Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818, when she was just 21 years old. Shelley’s own tragedy-filled life provided fodder for her ill-fated protagonist.

“You will never meet a character in literature so full of denial as Victor,” Clift said. “He’s very conflicted.”

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Big Little Mike’s in Charge at Death or Glory Tattoos

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little mike

“Little Mike” Mehaffey surrounded by tattoo art. (Photo by Lena Crane/Reflections of Light Photography)

The colorful owner of the downtown tattoo parlor takes an old-school approach to body art.

Mike Mehaffey’s mother was not pleased when she discovered her son’s first tattoo. After all, he was only 14.

“I had skipped school to get the tattoo from a biker named Eddie,” Mehaffey recalled. “It was completely illegal.”

A few weeks later, an exhausted Mehaffey fell asleep in his backyard after a long afternoon of chores.

“I was sitting down and my mom woke me up,” he said. “She saw the tattoo and started screaming, ‘I can’t believe you did that!’”

The humiliating episode might have scarred some teens. For Mehaffey, however, it was only the beginning of a lifelong love affair with body art.

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Marty Liquori All Jazzed Up at Leonardo’s 706

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The former world-class runner-turned-musician — and longtime Gainesville resident — is taking “retirement” in stride.

Marty Liquori and his jazz guitar.

There was a time when the world knew Marty Liquori for his legs and feet, which for a memorable decade in the 1960s and ’70s zipped him around tracks faster than just about any other human.

Today, however, Liquori is better known for his hands and fingers, which hold and strum a jazz guitar as well as anyone in North Central Florida.

Call it Marty Liquori’s second wind.

“I consider myself retired and pretty much a fulltime musician,” said Liquori, who has also been an Olympian, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster, an author, a lecturer and a leukemia survivor. He’s also been a Gainesville resident for more than 40 years.

At 66, Liquori is at the heart of the area’s jazz scene, not only performing three nights a week but also serving as vice president of the Gainesville Friends of Jazz and executive director of the Gainesville Jazz Festival. In 2013, the Jazz Journalists Association honored him as a JJA Jazz Hero.

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