Arts & Entertainment 2018-2019 Season Preview

Get ready for hot-ticket performances and exhibitions as part of Central Florida's upcoming arts and entertainment season.

A Hamlet prequel, a musical world tour, a virtual makeover of downtown Orlando and a chance to see the man on the $10 bill come to life: You can bank on this being one of the most promising arts and entertainment seasons in recent history for Central Florida. We’re here with a guide to the highlights.

Hamilton On the Bill

If only I had $10 for every time somebody asked me when Hamilton would come to Orlando. Now I’m running out of time. The touring production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary hip-hop/jazz/blues-infused musical about Alexander Hamilton opens in January as the highlight of this season’s Fairwinds Broadway in Orlando series at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Hamilton, whose face graces the back of a ten-spot, was the primary aide-de-camp to George Washington, the nation’s first treasury secretary, the man in the middle of the country’s first political sex scandal, and the dude who died in a duel with Aaron Burr. (No, those last two things weren’t related.) To give you some idea of the phenomenon the show has become since it opened on Broadway three years ago—as if it isn’t enough that it won a Pulitzer Prize, snagged 11 Tony Awards, and enhanced the wallets of its original investors, speaking of currency, with a 600 percent return—Hamilton has recently inspired a museum-quality exhibition that will eventually go on tour. However avidly anticipated and wildly successful the show may be, though, Hamilton won’t entirely overshadow two other inventive musicals that are also on the Broadway in Orlando slate, its best lineup yet at the Dr. Phillips Center. Dear Evan Hansen is a better-bring-your-hankie tale of adolescent angst revolving around a suicide and a secret. Come From Away is based on the true story of a small town in Newfoundland whose residents opened their homes and their hearts on 9-11, taking in nearly 7,000 stranded travelers when all commercial airliners in the air on the day of the attack were ordered to land at the nearest available airport. Again with the hankie.

Don’t Be a Hatter

Let Arcadian Broad do it. He’s been wearing just about every hat there is since becoming the youngest-ever addition to the corps of Orlando Ballet seven years ago. He’s now the ballet’s multitasking artist-in-residence, adept not only as a dancer, but as a pianist, composer, and choreographer as well. He will perform in the title role of Arcadian Broad’s Wonderland: Mad Tales of the Hatter, a kaleidoscopic homage to Lewis Carroll’s 19th-century fantasy novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—as seen, in this version, from the viewpoint of one of its more addled characters. Broad created the story, wrote the music for it, and designed the choreography. He probably would make the costumes and take tickets at the door if they would let him. This will not be the first time Broad has incorporated traditional fantasy figures into a major dance production, having previously developed and performed in the ballet’s production of Beauty and the Beast. The notion of creating a through-the-looking-glass world has been germinating in him since he saw the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it’s no great surprise that he would be drawn to interpret Carroll’s story through the eyes of the Mad Hatter, a character who’s all over the place. “In my version, he is transported into the real world,” Broad says. “And he has a little trouble adjusting.”

Channel Your Inner Tuba

The tuba is a team player with a rank-and-file image. As the wind instrument with the deepest pitch, the tuba usually stays busy holding down the fort in the middle of an orchestra’s brass section. But in isolation, the trusty tuba can be as delicate as an elephant’s trunk. In April, the instrument gets a rare chance to shine in the spotlight as part of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Focus at the Plaza Live” series. Robert Carpenter, the Phil’s principal tuba player since the orchestra was founded, will play in a concerto dedicated to the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack. It was written for him by his friend and fellow musician, Benoit Glazer. Carpenter studied at Northwestern University with Arnold Jacobs, the master tuba performer and teacher of his era. But he has someone else to thank for connecting him with the instrument he loves: “When I was in seventh grade, my next door neighbor was the band director. One day, he asked me if I wanted to play the tuba in the band. I said, ‘Sure, if you show me what a tuba is.’ ”

Pigeon  Proof

Do not be alarmed if you find yourself wandering through downtown Orlando next month among buildings whose walls are wobbling with multicolored figures and designs. You did not just wake up from a bender. Your experience has been professionally curated by Patrick and Holly Kahn, owners of Snap! art galleries, who are orchestrating a series of augmented-reality creations to be virtually superimposed on landmarks and building facades beginning Oct. 3. The images—created by artists such as Nancy Baker Cahill, Can Bukukberber and Mark Gerstein—will be visible via an app on your cell phone. Other works will materialize, or seem to, in the Mills 50 district and at The Mall at Millenia, one of the sponsors of the project, which is called “City Unseen.” The Kahns envision their enterprise as an ongoing digital open-air art gallery, minus the uproar that usually precedes public-spaces beautification of the brick-and-mortar variety. No grousing about the cost to taxpayers. No construction delays. No sidewalk superintendents dissing the designs. And best of all, no pigeons.

On the Road Again

An international flair has infused the past three seasons of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, thanks to the presence and the philosophy of Eric Jacobsen. The music director is a charter member of the Silk Road Ensemble—renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s crusade to break down borders and connect countries by cross-pollinating musical traditions. Jacobsen’s emphasis on bringing music and musicians from around the world to Orlando continues this season.  The slate includes a tango written by an Argentinian master, Astor Pantaleon Piazzolla, as arranged by a Finnish aficionado, violist Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin; and three Latin American dances from a new composer-in-residence, Angelica Negron. It also includes a return engagement of Jacobsen’s fellow Road warrior Kayhan Kalhor, an acclaimed Iranian master of the kamancheh, a Persian instrument that predated the violin. But the most charming musical globetrotter in this year’s cross-cultural lineup is surely Harmony Zhu, a wunderkind concert pianist, composer, and competitive chess player who began winning accolades in each of those categories as a 6-year-old who liked to draw little smiling faces on the half notes of her sheet music. Zhu, who was born in China and emigrated to Canada with her parents, will be a seasoned 13-year-old by the time she visits Orlando to play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 as part of the orchestra’s Classics Series in February.

Bridging the Gap

in her gap year between high school and college, Maggie Doyne took a backpacking trip to Nepal. Overwhelmed by the impoverished children she saw along the way, she used her entire $5,000 in savings to buy land there and eventually build a home for more than 50 orphans. Now it’s a women’s center and school, educating more than 350 children. Doyne is creator of the nonprofit foundation, BlinkNow, established to provide quality education and a safe environment for children and women in Nepal. This month, she will be one of the speakers at the Winter Park Institute, a Rollins College initiative devoted to bringing world-changers to Central Florida. “In the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference,” says Doyne. “We have the power to create the world we want to see every day.” Another one of this season’s speakers is equally familiar with the plight of children living in poverty—though he didn’t have to travel as far as Doyne to encounter it. Sean Baker is the director of The Florida Project, which was filmed in Orlando and inspired by the plight of poor transient children living in a run-down motel near Disney World. He will return to Central Florida as one of the institute’s speakers in January.

The Gaze of a Goddess

Goddesses both real and imagined populate the paintings of Firelei (pronounced “fear-lay”) Baez. Born in Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic, she became a student of history, science fiction, and anthropology—all to help herself visually represent how people, particularly women of color, maintain their identity and aliveness through diaspora and oppression. A good example of that effort is a series of portraits she created depicting Creole women in 18th-century, Spanish-controlled Louisiana, who were required by a custom imposed upon them to cover their hair in public. They chose to do so with bright red chignons knotted into elaborate, regal headdresses. Baez’s paintings vibrate with color, but what dominates the compositions are the dark eyes as she renders them.

Everything else recedes against the subject’s direct, composed, vibrant gaze, overshadowing the battle they were born into—and linking it to struggles yet to come. An exhibition of Baez’s paintings, “Immersion Into Compounded Time,” opens at the Mennello Museum of American Art in May.

Accidentally On Purpose

Turns out there was a plan all along. At least it wound up looking that way. Seven years ago, classical guitarist Chris Belt staged his first annual “Accidental Music Festival,” a spare, inventive, guerrilla-warfare approach to bringing rarely performed contemporary classical, jazz, and electronic music to pop-up venues around town. In partnership with his flutist wife, Beatriz, and their friend, clarinetist Natalia Grata, the festival has since morphed into an ongoing, youthful presence (I’d say “institution,” but I don’t want to mess with the spirit of the thing) in Orlando’s music scene. Belt’s festival spawned an alternative orchestra, aptly named the Alterity Chamber Orchestra of Orlando. (“Alterity” means “the state of being different, or otherness.”) In this instance, that means the orchestra bypasses the traditional works of the dead European white guys whose music presides as the meat and potatoes of traditional American orchestras in favor of the modern composers who have built on and expanded upon that classical tradition. Alterity, which is now the orchestra in residence at Timucua Arts Foundation, a free-concert venue in downtown Orlando, consists of classically trained area musicians, including students from the University of Central Florida. This is its third season, dubbed “Chambers of the Mind.” Dates and venues have yet to be determined, but the program promises works by edgy, urban, modern composers.

Glass Act

Elaborately staged sculptures of multicolored glass are a family business for brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre. Born in Guadalajara in the early 1960s, they grew up in California, where for the past four decades they have been shaping gaudy creations that can be both humorous and profound—typically combining pop-culture images with resonant archetypes, like an Aztec calendar made to resemble a Ferris wheel. Their boisterous sculptures often use humor to make a point, so it’s not surprising that stand-up comedian Cheech Marin is a fan and collector. Many of their glass sculptures express their sense of being mestizo—“mixed”—geographically, culturally, and aesthetically. They incorporate everyday objects in the glass like so many insects in amber—offhand objects that slyly resonate, such as smiling faces made of beans in various shades. On one hand it’s a celebration of skin tones, but on the other it’s a tacit reference to “beaner,” a slang word that is often used as a slur. They like the term “border baroque” to describe their creations, some of which were chosen as the featured inaugural exhibition at the new Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington, D.C. The exhibit of their work, “De La Torre Brothers: Rococolab,” opens at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in January.

Double, Double

Writing about larger-than-life figures is nothing new to Mark St. Germain. He’s made his living crafting plays about the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. But he’s found himself a bit intimidated by his most recent project, just the same. St. Germain has been commissioned by Orlando Shakes to write Gertrude and Claudius, a full-length prequel to Hamlet that imagines how a deadly romance—one that resulted in the murder most foul of Hamlet’s father, the king—developed between Hamlet’s mother and his uncle. The drama will be based on a novel of the same name by the late author John Updike. The production is the brainchild of Rita Lowndes, chair of the Shakes’ board of directors, who read Updike’s novel shortly after it was published in 2000. The play will be performed in February and March in repertory with Hamlet itself; the actors cast as Gertrude and Claudius will play those characters in both productions. By then, St. Germain hopes his nerves will have calmed down. He figures, in William Shakespeare and John Updike, he has not just one but two tough acts to follow. “That’s one heck of a double whammy,” says St. Germain.

Their Eyes Are Watching Zora

It’s been a hundred years since Zora Neale Hurston left the little town of Eatonville and went off to discover the world. This year, the world returns the favor. In a rare field trip to the United States, roughly 200 members of the prestigious Collegium for African American Research, an international organization of scholars from Europe, China, Japan and Canada who are devoted to black diaspora studies, will travel to Central Florida as part of Eatonville’s annual ZORA! Festival. The nine-day celebration blends concerts, art shows and children’s activities with historical, entrepreneurial and scholarly events, many in partnership with the University of Central Florida and Rollins College. All of it honors the connection between two improbable trailblazers: a small community in north Orange County that became one of the first self-governing, all-black municipalities in the United States in 1887; and Hurston, the daughter of a Baptist preacher, sharecropper and carpenter and a mother who advised her to “jump at the sun.” Taking that advice to heart, Hurston left Eatonville in 1918 to study literature and anthropology, first at Howard University, and then at Barnard College at Columbia University, where Margaret Mead was a classmate. Hurston’s brassy, insightful, spiritually rich and supremely self-assured novels, short stories and essays went largely unnoticed for decades, but they have come to be revered.

Annual Highlights

Global Peace Film Festival. The first of our can’t-miss selections among Central Florida’s annual events brings depth and devotion to a lineup of feature films and documentaries that explore the quest for peace at both the social and individual level. Sept. 17-23.

Earth Into Art. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park will draw from its extensive collection of pottery for a season-long series of exhibits celebrating the role that pottery played in the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Opens Oct. 16.

Immerse. A performing and visual arts block-party binge funnels artistry of every imaginable ilk into a weekend-long downtown Orlando event. Oct. 19-20.

GladdeningLight Symposium. This Winter Park lecture and discussion series holds down the metaphysical corner of the calendar with speakers discussing art, science, and spirituality. This year’s headliners: Episcopal theologian Mathew Fox and Franciscan nun Ilia Delio. Feb 1-3.

Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. An aesthetic heavyweight, thanks to the pretty Park Avenue setting and the quality of its roughly 200 invited artists. March 15-17.

Florida Film Festival. This intimate, nationally recognized fest traditionally screens nearly 200 features, documentaries and shorts in an atmosphere that narrows the gap between visiting filmmakers and local movie buffs. Apr. 12-21.

Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. An unjuried and unconventional theatrical pro-am overtakes venues in Loch Haven Park and the surrounding area with productions by roughly 150 solo acts and troupes—both local and international. May 14-27.

Florida Prize in Contemporary Art. The Orlando Museum of Art’s ongoing initiative to discover and celebrate promising Florida artists with a multi-artist exhibition. May 31-Aug. 18.

Categories: Art & Entertainment, Performing Arts