Breakthrough Theatre gears up for classics, a lost Broadway musical, and a summer camp for kids.

WINTER PARK — Wade Hair spent 13 years teaching in the public schools, starting as an English teacher. In his last few years, he became a high school drama teacher.
In those four years – two at Ocoee High School and two at Wekiva High – there was a long list of plays he longed to produce … except the subject matter or content was too adult for a high school audience.
So Hair branched out. He started a theater company of his own, The Breakthrough Theatre, found a building to rent in Winter Park, and threw himself into producing the kind of shows that didn’t quite fit in with his teaching job.
“I always pick shows that I love, shows I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “When I taught high school, I couldn’t do them — and now I can. I pick shows that appeal to me first.”
The Breakthrough Theatre, located at 419A W. Fairbanks Ave., opened in July 2009.
“In our first season, the plays were more obscure, maybe more controversial, a lot of gay themed plays – those were the plays I liked,” he said. “Season two I opened it up a little more, opened it up to more family-friendly and popular shows.”
Now, as Breakthrough gears up for its third season, Hair is still offering a mix of both – including classics that would be fine on a high school stage, to more obscure fare.
“I try to do a good mix of popular shows and some that are not as well known, and some that are not known at all — that I want people to know,” he said.
A good example is the show kicking off the third season: “The Civil War,” a short lived Broadway musical about that devastating war between the North and the South over slavery and state’s rights. The Frank Wildhorn musical opens at Breakthrough on July 29 and runs through Aug. 21.
Hair is directing the show, which premiered on Broadway on April 22, 1999 and closed on June 13 after 61 performances and 35 previews. The musical later toured the U.S. starting in January 2000 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The original cast of 28, which had been reduced to 15, also made a stop in Orlando at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center that year.
“ ‘The Civil War’ only lasted a month on Broadway,” Hair said. “It’s a show that not very many people know. I was one of the lucky few that saw it on Broadway. Every time I’ve seen it, it’s just had me in tears. It’s incredibly beautiful. When I saw it, the audience was on its feet, cheering. I thought it was amazing. There was a tour and it came through the Bob Carr, and it was totally revamped. The revamped version, I thought, was even better.”
Hair said he’s not quite sure why the musical closed so quickly.
“It just could never find an audience,” he said. “I think people just weren’t sure what it was. ‘What are we seeing?’ I think people were afraid of the subject matter, maybe, and how they could turn that into a musical. But it’s a beautiful show, one of my favorites.”
Hair hopes the musical finds an audience when it comes to Breakthrough. Then again, he has good experience finding an audience, considering that his theater opened in the midst of a national recession that hit Florida particularly hard.
Despite the economic woes that made it difficult for older established theaters to keep their box office numbers intact, “I think it helped that my space was so small,” he said. “The bigger theaters have more seats to fill, where I only had 50 seats. That helps. We never really had a problem finding an audience. The community really supported us from the beginning, and luckily it has grown. The community has really just accepted us right away. We found an audience really fast.”
Hair hopes that audience turns for his third season, which will include productions of
“12 Angry Men” (Sept. 2–18) by Reginald Rose, “Agnes of God” (Sept. 30–Oct. 16) by John Pielmeier, “Bare: A Pop Opera” (Nov. 4–27) with music by Damon Intrabartolo and lyrics by Jon Hartmere, and “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” (Dec. 8–18).
That final production, he said, will be a bit different from the beloved movie version or some other recent theatrical revivals of the Jimmy Stewart holiday saga.
“People love it,” he said. “This is different because it’s a radio play, because it’s based on a 1940s radio program. It will be performed like it was an old time radio show, with commercials and jingles and singers. I want to do a show that’s popular — with a twist.”
He hopes for the same with “Agnes of God” and “12 Angry Men,” both known for popular movie versions.
“With ‘Agnes of God,’ some people might know the movie, but I haven’t seen it performed on stage here in this area in a long time,” he said. “I saw the revival of ’12 Angry Men’ on Broadway a few years ago and fell in love with it again. I think it’s definitely a relevant show today and I thought it was time to reintroduce it. I’m so excited to jump on season three.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Breakthrough will offer a summer drama camp for elementary and middle-school students from June 13–July 14, to run Mondays through Fridays (except July 4) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students will learn acting, singing, dancing, and improvisation skills from experienced instructors, and get a snack and drink every day.
The camp concludes with on-stage experience: eight performances of “School House Rock Live! Jr.” on July 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 7 p.m. and July 16, 17, and 23 at 2 p.m.
The camp will accommodate 20 students, and all of the students will perform in the musical. No experience is necessary.
“We did our first season with a summer school, and we had a few middle schools students,” Hair said. “This year it seems like most of the big theaters are doing stuff geared toward high schools, so I decided to go with elementary and middle schools here. We decided to do a production of ‘School House Rock Live!’ with 20 kids doing some improvisation and singing and dancing and acting, and it all culminates in this production. It’s a cute show and I think we’ll have a great time.”
The camp costs $300, with a $50 deposit required to secure a spot. For a registration form, visit the theater or go to the website at and click on “Summer Registration Page.”
To learn more, call 407-920-4034.

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Network needed for returning soliders, supporters say.

Family and friends waved banners on Feb. 24 when 50 Marine reservists returned to Orlando.

ORLANDO – Calling it an issue of patriotism, not politics, Doug Guetzloe is encouraging his listeners on The Guetzloe Report radio program to establish a network of people involved in welcoming troops serving in the military overseas when they come back to Central Florida.
“I think we really need to establish a network to get people involved in welcoming our troops,” Guetzloe said. “We need to know when these companies are coming in.”
Guetzloe was at the scene on Feb. 24 when two buses transporting 50 Marine reservists traveled from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Orlando. The soldiers, returning from Afghanistan, had served for 10 months overseas before returning home last week.
Guetzloe had encouraged a strong turnout at the event through his radio program and through an email blast letting people know the Marines were arriving.
“I was there with my son Jefferson and nearly a dozen listeners to The Guetzloe Report who responded to the email I sent out,” he said. “Even though we had no relatives on the bus, it was exciting and a very powerful, moving experience to see these Marines arrive back to home and hearth. Watching the families being reunited and being a part of this celebration to America’s greatness was awesome.”
The Marine Corps active duty personnel looked excited and thrilled to see so many family members, friends and loved ones turn out to welcome them home, he said.
“It was just totally all-American,” Guetzloe said. “It was a flag-waving event.”
“It was very short notice, but we wanted to try to spread the word,” said Cathy Haynes, a member of Blue Star Mothers, who helped get out the word about the homecoming.
“Their family and friends were there to greet there,” Haynes said. “We wanted to give these young people a pat on the back.”
Guetzloe said the Central Florida community needs a wide network of people who want to be notified whenever members of the Armed Services are returning to the region. Even on short notice, Guetzloe said, it would be terrific if every homecoming attracted a strong crowd to show the soldiers how much the people back home support them and their mission.
“The effort to support the troops has nothing to do with whether your support the war or don’t support the war, whether you support President Obama or don’t support him,” Guetzloe said, adding that when he went to the homecoming, “I got to talk to several of the Marines. They said they can’t wait to go back. They consider this a mission to spread freedom and justice to the world.”
For more than a decade, The Guetzloe Report has been supporting the troops by organizing an ongoing “Boxes for the Troops” campaign and “Christmas Cards for the Troops” program. This is another part of that effort, he said.
“We want to do basically a Welcoming Home to our Central Florida troops that died in the battle,” Guetzloe said. “They’re doing this right now in Tampa. They set up a line as a welcoming to the troops. Fortunately, we do not have very many casualties here in Orlando.”
Military writer Richard S. Lowry, author of the book “NEW DAWN: The Battlee for Falluja,” said these homecomings provide a boost to the morale of the returning soliders.
“I think they do,” said Lowry, who is 62 years old.
“I’m of the age where I was in the military service during the Vietnam War,” he said. “We were treated very badly by the general public. We were told we shouldn’t wear our uniforms back then. These men and women coming home are wearing the uniforms to protect us.”
The homecomings, he said, are “quite helpful” to the soldiers.
“What they truly want to see — and the people they want to be with — is their family,” Lowry said. “To have a group of people in the background has got to be uplifting to them.”
Still, he added that not enough communities set up networks to draw strong crowds for a military homecoming.
“Here in Orlando, we do a very poor job of greeting returning troops,” Lowry said. “There is an organization in Dallas, Texas that meets nearly every airplane that has troops on it.”

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Area lawmakers, pressured to create jobs, struggle with high speed rail issue.

Prior to its March 16 rally in Tallahassee, Ax the Tax is distributing bumer stickers in support of Gov. Rick Scott's decision to kill the high speed rail project.

APOPKA – When U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Florida, met with a group of Tea Party activists in Apopka on Saturday, she promised to work on the stubbornly high unemployment rate facing both the nation, at 9 percent, and Florida at an even higher 12 percent rate.
“We are working on legislation to create jobs,” Adams said, including measures to reduce federal regulations on businesses.
But when Adams was asked whether she supports Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal funding to build a high speed train from Orlando to Tampa – with the promise that it could create up to 34,000 jobs across Central Florida — she sidestepped the subject.
“It is a state issue,” Adams said. “It’s up to the state government and the governor.”
Adams did add that if Scott doesn’t reverse his decision, the $2.4 billion shouldn’t go to another state, such as California or New York, for a similar high speed rail project.
“If the money is rejected,” Adams said, “it should go to deficit reduction.”
Gov. Scott’s decision to kill this project has left local Republican lawmakers with a dilemma: at a time when Florida’s unemployment rate remains mired in double digits and the region is hungry for new jobs, they have to answer the question of whether killing this project means killing jobs.
State Rep. Mike Horner, R-St. Cloud, is both a local lawmaker and the president of the Kissimme/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. When asked about the governor’s decision to kill high speed rail, and with it the possible loss of local jobs, Horner said, “Frankly, this is an issue that’s within the governor’s prevue, and I respect the governor and his decision.”
Not everyone agrees. U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, a longtime supporter of the high speed rail project who helped steer federal dollars to the plan, has suggested a shorter and less costly route that would take travelers around Orlando, with stops at Orlando International Airport and the theme parks, without going as far as Lakeland and Tampa.
Horner said he wasn’t familiar with Mica’s plan and couldn’t comment on it.
“If he (Mica) thinks this is not the correct step for the governor to take, that is his decision,” Horner said. “Congressman Mica’s plan is one I have not had an opportunity to review, and I’d have to learn a lot more of the details before I comment on it.”
Not everyone is sold on the argument that a high speed rail system across Central Florida would create jobs, either in the construction phase or long term.
“You can’t quantify it, the number of jobs it would create,” said Rod Reynolds, a Winter Garden businessman and member of the Florida Tea Party. “The contractors to the rail projects, typically being international or national companies, bring their labor with them, and a lot of the higher paying jobs will come with the contractors. The jobs that will be created in Florida will be the lower paying-type jobs like ticket takers and maintenance people.”
Reynolds, a candidate for the Winter Garden city commission in the March 8 municipal election, said supporters of the rail project were exaggerating the economic benefits of this costly project, including projections for job growth.
“They’re inflating them and understating the actual cost,” he said. “Essentially the cost overruns for the projects are pretty significant.”
Reynolds praised Scott for killing a project that he said would saddle this state with long term, and very expensive, maintenance costs.
“I believe that the governor is looking at it with a very reasonable business approach,” Reynolds said. “I feel like if it was a good scenario and workable, the private sector would have already stepped in and began to create a rail service from Tampa to Orlando. The private sector, if it can make money, will fill the gap. The governments tends to get involved in things that are a black hole and continuously require taxpayer money to support it.”
Doug Guetzloe, founder of the anti-tax group Ax the Tax and a longtime critic of the high speed rail, said that on Wednesday, March 16, there will be an Ax the Tax and Florida Taxpayers Union rally in Tallahassee to show support for the governor’s decision to kill the project. As part of that, Guetzloe is distributing “I Love The Guv” bumper stickers to supporters.
The rally will also be an opportunity for critics of the proposed SunRail system – a 61-mile commuter train going from Debary in Volusia County to downtown Orlando and then Poinciana – to urge the governor to dump this project as well.
“This is about all things rail,” Guetzloe said. “We’re opposed to it all.”
He dismissed the project’s supporters as special interests and said the governor’s office needed to know that Floridians back up his decision to protect taxpayers.
“It’s up to us to back up the governor from all the vested interests on the other side,” Guetzloe said.

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