The Shakes’ “It’s a Wonderful Life” sweeps us back to the 1940s


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It's a Wonderful Life

The Orlando Shakespeare Theater is now producing “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play.”

ORLANDO — The production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” now playing at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater isn’t really about the 1946 Frank Capra movie that starred Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, the savings and loan executive who sacrifices his dreams to help his neighbors, and eventually learns he’s much richer than most others in town.

Well, let me back up: yes, this play does reenact the story of the 1946 movie — how George thinks he’s going to lose everything and go to jail after his Uncle Billy loses $8,000 in client cash deposits, and wants to throw himself off a bridge on Christmas Eve. It takes the intervention of the angel Clarence to convince George that he’s had a very positive influence on the lives of the people of Bedford Falls, and that he’s had a very wonderful life after all.

But note the full title of this play: “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” Written by Joe Landry, it’s an adaptation of an actual radio production of the 1946 movie, but it’s not set in Bedford Falls, and it doesn’t feature a huge cast that re-creates all the memorable characters from the Capra story. This production is set in a radio station, and this nostalgic, funny and clever play is actually about the old fashioned days when radio — before the arrival of television, DVD and the Internet — had the unique ability to capture the hearts and minds of the American listening public. Continue reading

Owl trapped in water is rescued in Polk County


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Darren Monk

Firefighter Darren Monk holds the owl he helped rescue in Mulberry on Monday.

MULBERRY – There’s an old joke about firefighters in small towns with very fire fires, who are quick to respond to calls of a cat stuck high in a tree, needing to be rescued.
This week, there was a variation of that story in Polk County, where an injured owl actually did get rescued by Polk County firefighters.
The owl, which has been given to the Woodland Wonders Wildlife Rehabilitation Service so it can be treated and rehabilitated, probably owes its life to those firefighters. They pulled the injured owl from a small pool of water Monday morning near Mulberry.
Kevin Watler, communications specialist for the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, reported that around 7:30 a.m. Monday, Polk Fire’s Station 710 in the Willow Oak area got a call about an owl that was trapped in a man’s pool.
“The resident wasn’t sure who to contact, so he called Polk County Fire Rescue,” Watler noted.
Capt. James Towns, Engineer Darren Monk and Firefighter James Parker went to the home on Bailey Road in Mulberry, where they found the owl stuck in about a foot of water, with one claw tangled in a tarp. The owl was caught there and unable to fly. Continue reading

Fringe Review: “Phantasmagoria’s Wickedest Tales of All”


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Phantasmagoria Fringe

The Phantasmagoria troop is back at the Orlando Fringe Festival. (Photo by C. A. Bridges).

ORLANDO – It’s been a constant in my life for a while now: I have a complete inability to miss theater productions that include the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
It isn’t just that I love Poe’s writing. His dark, macabre, irresistibly creepy tales are so vivid in their descriptions, and conjure up so many haunting images, that I think they’re ideally suited for stage productions.
Just reading them aloud is highly effective in and of itself; if you’ve never listened to those old 1940s radio shows like “Suspense,” you’d be amazed how scary it can be to listen to a really well-written horror tale that asks you to let your imagination do the work.
So it was that I found myself immensely enjoying “Pantasmagoria’s Wickedest Tales of All,” and in particular the final segment, which recreated Poe’s classic tale of terror, “The Masque of the Red Death.”
Phantasmagoria, for the uninitiated, is the long-running group of circus-like performers who recount classic horror stories, and they’re now are presenting a sort of “Greatest Hits” production, “Phantasmagoria’s Wickedest Tales of All,” at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.
Phantasmagoria and Poe were made for one another, and the troupe led by writer, director and actor John DiDonna know the critical role that atmosphere plays in a story like this one. Using images on a screen, they conjure up the agony tormenting the countryside as a black death sweeps the land, leaving the survivors in mortal fear of being the next victim. Continue reading

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