Our Moveable Feast

It’s funny how the arts work their magic.

Take for instance, Tropical Theatre’s 1986 production of Come Back  to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. It was just one night at the theater, but 27 years later, it still resonates with me. Perhaps it’s because it was one of the first arts events I attended after moving to Orlando. Or maybe it was that the performance space was an old warehouse downtown next to the railroad tracks, where noisy trains didn’t change their schedules to accommodate live theater. But most likely it was because of the fantastic performances, including those of local acting masters Peg O’Keef and Christine Robison.

The theater company is gone now (some of the troupe eventually started Theatre Downtown), and the building was razed long ago. But something special was created that night, something I took away from that spot.

Arts experiences are rarely forgotten. They don’t run together in the mind as a never-ending loop, like a baseball game or a forgettable TV sitcom. Instead, your life is made richer by having witnessed the effort and power that artists bring at a singular moment to a stage or gallery, a concert hall or street corner.

When was the last time you said that about an episode of Two and a Half Men?

And so it’s an enriching experience to listen to the Bach Festival Choir celebrate timeless works. Or to watch a middle-schooler nail the part of Scout in a local production of  To Kill a Mockingbird. Or to take pleasure in the Orlando Philharmonic’s mastery of a Tchaikovsky symphony. Or to listen to an enthusiastic artist talk about his or her works on display at a downtown gallery during the 3rd Thursday art strolls. Or to revel in a weeklong display of edgy performances at the incomparable Fringe Festival.

Why these groups and individual artists who add so much to our lives seem to be in a constant state of financial distress has always perplexed me. But one thing is clear: In order to thrive, the arts need an audience. And that means you. If you’re an arts newbie and don’t know where to start, turn to our “On the Town” listings in the back of this magazine. Or go to the Red Chair Project’s arts and culture website for details of local events and presenting groups big and small (redchairproject.com).

Take advantage of the arts this area has to offer, and you may feel much as Ernest Hemingway did about his favorite city when he wrote more than 50 years ago: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

In Orlando, the arts are our moveable feast. Experience them. And they will stay with you.

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