homepage logo

BIG ARTS brings humor, drama to Schein Hall this season

By Staff | Jan 6, 2011

Pictured from top left are Carrie Lund, Gordon McConnell, Michelle Damato and Chris Clavelli, the cast of the Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of “Sylvia,” which make a one-night-only appearance on the BIG ARTS stage in February.

BIG ARTS will kick off the 2011 season on the stage with A.R. Gurney’s “Sylivia,” a comedy about the “other woman” who comes between a New York couple married for 20 years.

“This show is about a couple in their middle years — they’re empty-nesters now, they’ve moved back to Manhattan from the suburbs, and they’re each trying to enter a new phase of their life when the husband finds a dog and brings it home,” said “Sylvia” director Maureen Heffernen. “It’s really about how the dog affects the marriage, how it changes the family dynamic, and I think it’s a humorous look at marriages, pets and the people who have and love them, and I think if you’ve been married or loved a dog — or been with someone who loved a dog when you didn’t — there’s a lot for you to enjoy in this. Though it’s a delightful comedy, it has a strong element of truth in it.”

Heffernan, who didn’t consider herself a “dog person” until she rescued a nine-pound poodle in New Jersey four years ago, said that most of the cast and crew are dog people — including Michelle Damato, who plays Sylvia.

“I didn’t do much research for the role beyond just watching my own dog and learning a lot from the way he behaved,” Damato said, referring to Wally, a Lhasa, who recently passed away. “Wally had a lot of character and I remember a lot of the things he did — and that’s what Sylvia does.”

“Michelle is a dog lover and gets all sorts of things about the way dogs act — and she really gets the kind of personification we tend to project on our pets, she really gets that humor,” Heffernen said.

Carrie Lund (Kate), Gordon McConnell (Greg) and Michelle Damato (Sylvia).

But not without some exhausting technique.

“It’s a physically demanding role because dogs have a lot of energy. Dogs lead with their nose, so I lead with my nose, and I find that I’m really weary by the end,” Damato said, noting that while Sylvia is supposed to be a dog, she takes on different meanings for different people — including the audience — throughout the show. “Sylvia is much more doglike in the beginning than she is at the end of the show. By the second act, she’s quite womanly and humanlike because of the characters projecting what they need and want to see onto her.”

“Sylvia” will play in Schein Hall on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m., and is sponsored by Linda and John Kramer with John and Marjorie Madden and supporters Dan and Shirley Valentine.

“The Florida Rep has lots of friends and family out on the islands, and we’re all delighted to share this show with the island people. It’s like an encore, and it will be a real thrill to get to do it again” Heffernen said, adding that the cast and crew are always excited about performing the show one last time on the BIG ARTS stage.

“It’ll be so nice to come out to the islands — I wish it was for more than just one show,” Damato said. But she’s grateful to have an encore opportunity. “By the time we get out to Sanibel, the show will have been over for a week or two. It will feel great to do it again!”

Will Stutts as Edgar Allan Poe

If you can’t wait until February, the Florida Rep will present “Sylvia” at the Historic Arcade Theatre in the Fort Myers River District until Jan. 23, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesday, Sunday and selected Saturdays.

If you can, “Sylvia” isn’t the only thing to look forward to.

Life in Motion

The Cashore Marionettes present artistry, insight and illusion in Schein Performance Hall on Wednesday, March 30, at 8 p.m. Tickets are general admission $36, student $15. Sponsored by Susen and James Berg.

Joseph Cashore has been designing and performing marionettes for more than 30 years. In “Life in Motion,” he presents his collection of marionette masterworks in a series of scenes taken from everyday life set to music by composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi, Strauss and Copland.

Cashore’s Maestro Janos Zelinka plays the violin.

Cashore spent 20 years experimenting with the construction of marionettes and the means of controlling them to achieve the fluid motion he sought. His breakthrough came in the 1980s when he succeeded in making puppet Maestro Janos Zelinka appear to “play” Ralph Vaughan Williams’ violin solo, “The Lark Ascending,” note for note.

Cashore has received numerous awards for his artistry, including a Pew Fellowship for Performance Art, based upon his artistic accomplishment; a Henson Foundation Grant, an award intended to help promote puppetry to adult audiences; and a Citation of Excellence from the North American Center of Union Internationale de la Marionette-U.S., the highest honor an American puppeteer can receive.

A Journey Through the Mind: Edgar Allan Poe with Will Stutts

Journey through the mind of poet Edgar Allan Poe — in Schein Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $36 for general admission and $15 for students. Sponsored by John Seaman.

Edgar Allan Poe was a drunk, a cradle-robber and usually broke — he was also a poet and writer of enviable talent. Poe is long dead, but Will Stutts brings him back to life in this one-man show. Stutts takes the form of Poe talking about his life, with dramatic re-tellings of Poe classics like The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and poems Annabel Lee, and The Raven. Literary types, Poe fans, and general bibliophiles will find much to like, as will anyone who enjoys a good story told by a master of the art form. Stutts is a gifted storyteller who creates an inky black mood as dark as night, which sweeps the audience away from Poe’s fictional parlor into a world of nightmares.

Susan Swaney and Ray Fellman in Cardinal Stage Theater’s “Souvenir.”

Souvenir — A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins A hilarious and touching look at the worst singer of all time — in Shein Hall on Wednesday, March 9, at 8 p.m. BIG ARTS Schein Tickets are general admission $36, student $15. Sponsored by BIG ARTS Angels.

“Souvenir” is a heartfelt comedy about the celebrated Ms. Jenkins, a New York socialite who made a name for herself in the 1930s and 1940s with a deep-seated belief in her own singing talent. If you’ve actually heard her sing, however (she is on iTunes and YouTube), you’ll quickly realize that Jenkins lacked any semblance of musical talent. Her terrible voice did not stop her from filling Carnegie Hall. Stephen Temperley’s very funny and uplifting love-letter of a play was a recent smash hit on Broadway and at regional theaters across the country.

“Souvenir” is performed by the Cardinal Stage Company,a professional regional theater company in Bloomington, Ind.

BIG ARTS Schein Performance Hall is located at 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. For more information, go to www.BIGARTS.org. To purchase tickets stop by BIG ARTS or call Marks Box Office at 395-0900.