FROM MODERN TO TRADITIONAL
Although many places in Lake and Sumter counties look like scenes from a Norman Rockwell painting, the range of art throughout the area is much more eclectic and dynamic. Arts lovers will find something to fit all their styles: from Mount Dora’s new modernism museum to Florida Cracker sculptures, from jazz to symphonic concerts, and theater productions that cover every genre from musicals to satires. Keep some weekends open and enjoy a few of the following highlights!
Modernism in Mount Dora
Is it art or is it furniture? It’s a question the minds behind the new Modernism Museum Mount Dora are hoping people will be eager to answer.
story: Shemir Wiles photos: Fred Lopez
For years, Mount Dora has been known for its shopping, its restaurants, and its quaint New-England style charm. This booming lakeside town, however, has been undergoing a transformation, embracing its identity as a fine arts and crafts community.
Adding to the local art scene is the recent opening of the Modernism Museum Mount Dora. Located on East Fourth Avenue across from the Garden Gate Tea Room, this 3,600-square-foot space is dedicated to exhibiting the richly creative works by America’s best style arts experts.
Many of the pieces slated to be on display come from the private collection of a local donor who wishes to remain anonymous. He has been working with John Sollo, a featured appraiser on the PBS show “Antiques Roadshow” and authority in the world of 20th-century modern design, for nearly 15 years to amass his works of art. Now by having them on display, the donor hopes to stimulate additional interest in Mount Dora and the style arts movement.
“A museum like this has never been done before. Most places like the Museum of Modern Art in New York may have three or four pieces of modernism art on display, but there has never been a home for the art form,” he says. “We hope it catches on.”
The first exhibit, “Wharton to Wendell,” allows museum-goers to intimately compare and contrast the works of studio masters Wharton Esherick and Wendell Castle. Esherick, who passed away in 1970, has long been considered the dean of American craftsmen who served as the link between the arts and crafts movement and the burgeoning interest in furniture-making after World War II. And Castle, the father of the art furniture movement, is widely known for his whimsically organic forms and superb craftsmanship. His pieces have been displayed all over the world.
“Wharton Esherick is responsible for my exposure to furniture as art. I didn’t know it existed,” says Castle, who turns 81 this month. “I remember looking at a book in the 1950s and discovering the unique works of Wharton. He saw the marriage between design and art. I previously thought I would be a sculptor, but Wharton Esherick turned me into a furniture maker.”
A number of rare, early, and newly discovered pieces by both artists will be on display, including Castle’s fascinating Caligari Piano and his largest work to date, A New Environment. Commissioned by the Friedman Benda Gallery in New York, this two-story installation of stack-laminated pieces is essentially a room without walls. A quirky, pod-like chamber seems to float atop a beautifully imaginative spiral staircase that is accompanied by sensually curved, fantasy-like furniture on a sleek iron base.
“It’s amazing to have these two artists brought together,” explains Sollo. “Some of these pieces have never been seen before. Now, 30 to 50 of some of the very best that’s out there will be available for people to see in person. Without a doubt, this is exciting for Mount Dora. What will be brought to this museum will be grade A stuff, a collection you can’t see anywhere else in the world. It will cover the whole gamut, from alpha to omega.”
To Castle, having a museum solely dedicated to modernism makes sense. “A lot of works are recognized worldwide, and more and more galleries are showing it,” he says. “This work is highly valued, though I don’t think it’s common knowledge this art exists. It’s still a very strong movement and while there are examples of modernism in many museums, they lack depth. You would have to go to 10 museums to see this much.”
Future exhibits will include the works of other key figures in the style arts movement, such as Sam Maloof, George Nakashima, Arthur Espenet Carpenter, and Albert Paley. And with each exhibition, visitors will witness just how these artists meld beauty and skill, how something as practical as a coffee table can also be enigmatic and inventive.
The donor told Sollo that he wanted exhibitions to be entertaining, evolving, and uplifting. His goal is to get people to look at things in their lives artistically. “The donor said he wanted people to let their minds go crazy and get into it,” explains Sollo. “He wanted them to appreciate how modernists totally immerse themselves.”
In addition to incredible art, Modernism Museum Mount Dora will offer an extensive archive of Modernism Magazine, which will serve as an educational resource. Rachel O’Ryan, who handles public relations for the museum, says special events also will be held at the museum. For example, they will be looking for local pianists to perform mini concerts.
“And using Castle’s Caligari Piano, musicians will be able to play their art on a piece of art,” she says. In addition, people will be able to browse and shop in the museum’s gift shop across the street.
Sollo predicts seeing many academic and tourism opportunities with the opening of Modernism Museum Mount Dora. With great interest in modernism, especially in Europe, he anticipates the museum will attract individuals — both enthusiasts and scholars — from across the pond.
The museum is anticipated to be one of the driving forces that can help Mount Dora continue to be a flourishing arts district. And the donor is also quite optimistic his venture can be a catalyst for driving more traffic to Mount Dora to help support the downtown businesses.
Modernism Museum Mount Dora is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10a.m. to 5p.m. Admission is $8 for adults; $7 for seniors and college students with I.D. card; and $5 for ages 4–17 with student I.D. card. Mount Dora residents and military and service personnel receive 50 percent off with I.D. card.
145 E. Fourth Ave., Mount Dora / 352.385.0034 / modernismmuseum.org
Stages of Lake
Community theater is thriving as acting troupes from Mount Dora to Clermont are kicking off their 2013–2014 seasons with a wide variety of plays.
story: Mary Ann DeSantis photos: Fred Lopez
Legendary playwright Oscar Wilde regarded the theater as “the greatest of all art forms.” He believed it was the most immediate way for a human being to share with another the sense of what it is to actually be a human being. The hundreds of volunteers who participate in Lake County’s award-winning theater troupes must certainly agree. They return year after year to the stage, not for money or fame but for a desire to feed their creative side.
“The adrenaline rush that comes from performing for a live audience is almost addicting. There is nothing like it,” says Thomas J. Kline, who has volunteered since 2001 for more than 20 productions with the Moonlight Players Warehouse Theatre in Clermont. “When you get in a costume and take on a persona, you feel more alive.”
Kline says it is not unusual for volunteers to give at least 160 hours to a production. Directors, he says, put in many more hours.
“It takes roughly 36 hours just for the performances; add to that the rehearsals four hours a night, four days a week for eight weeks and you see the commitment it takes,”
So many actors — as well as the crucial behind-the-scenes volunteers — believe the benefits outweigh the long hours. The lifelong friendships, sense of community spirit, and artistic achievement bring them back time after time to share the human experience, as playwright Wilde believed, with their audiences.
Lake and the surrounding counties have an abundance of excellent theater groups. Kline believes it’s because of the area’s close proximity to Orlando’s theme parks. “I have thought about the quality here a lot. A good three-fifths of our Moonlight Players are performers in the theme parks,” he says. “Community theaters give them a chance to act outside of their jobs, which can get boring doing the same thing day after day.”
And thanks to the dreams of the dedicated volunteers who started Lake County’s four community theaters, a good play is never far away.
BAY STREET PLAYERS AT THE HISTORIC STATE THEATRE, EUSTIS
352.357.7777 / baystreetplayers.org
Nearly 40 years ago, a small group of theater aficionados rediscovered the vacant State Theatre building in downtown Eustis. They had visions of live performances in the once-grand movie house, but it took months of hauling away trash and making the building even minimally useful. Bay Street Players founding members Deborah and Dale Carpenter, Charlene Smith, and Lou Tally mounted their first production, “Hello, Dolly,” in July 1975. The following year they produced eight shows, and the Bay Street Players became permanently established. By 1986, BSP owned the State Theatre building outright, and two major renovations since then have restored the building’s facade to its original 1922 appearance.
Thousands of Lake County residents — and beyond — enjoy five Main Stage productions per season, as well as the innovative works of the Second Stage productions on Sunday evenings. In addition, the BSP Young People’s Theatre is Central Florida’s oldest continually running children’s theater program. Students ages 7–18 learn and create in year-round performance classes that end with full-scale productions.
Next Production: “A Christmas Story,” Nov. 15–Dec. 8.
MOONLIGHT PLAYERS AT THE WAREHOUSE THEATRE, CLERMONT
352.319.1116 / moonlightplayers.com
The old car shop on West Montrose Street looks a lot different from its early days as the home of the Moonlight Players. During its grand opening in 1999, the old garage door on the front entrance was a bit of a distraction when patrons arrived late.
Nonetheless, the Moonlight founders Jan Sheldon and Sara Achor were delighted when the Moonlight Players finally had a permanent home. The two women actually began the troupe in 1994 with a monetary birthday gift from Jan’s dad. They produced “The Sound of Music” with Jan directing and Sara handling the music direction. Later that year, they produced the musical comedy “Nunsense” to sold-out audiences at Lakeridge Winery. For the next five years, the Moonlight Players performed in several venues, including the Jenkins Auditorium and the South Lake High School Auditorium.
This season, the Moonlight Players have an ambitious eight-play schedule that includes classics like “South Pacific” and the farcical comedy “Beyond Therapy.” In addition, the Moonlight Luna-Tics, a youth improv group, practices weekly.
Next Production: “The Man Who Came to Dinner” Nov. 1–24
SONNENTAG THEATRE AT THE ICEHOUSE, MOUNT DORA
352.383.4616 / icehousetheatre.com
The can-do attitude of Mount Dora residents goes back a long way. It’s not surprising that a group met on Sept. 17, 1948, just to discuss the idea of forming a little theater. Officers were elected that same night and within a few days, an abandoned ice plant — with amazing acoustics no less — was located. On Feb. 7, 1949, the IceHouse Players opened to a sold-out audience with “Return Engagement.”
The city donated the land on North Unser Street in 1958 where the current 270-seat facility is located. The most recent renovation took place in 2011 thanks to an extraordinary gift from The Sonnentag Foundation and other private donors.
As they approach the 66th season in 2014, the IceHouse Players produce five to six shows a season ranging from classic musicals like “Oliver” to modern day comedies, such as the upcoming “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” by Mitch Albom.
Next Production: “Fiddler on the Roof” Nov. 22–Dec. 15
MELON PATCH PLAYERS, LEESBURG
352.787.3013 / melon-patch-players.com
Three Leesburg women — Emily Faulhaber, Ruby Herlong, and Mildred Howard — had a vision for creating a little theater in town in 1951. The Leesburg [Daily] Commercial spurred the idea along with an article urging folks to attend a theater meeting. The Leesburg Women’s Club offered the use of its building for meetings and rehearsals and, thus, the Melon Patch Theater was born. The name was in honor of Leesburg’s fame as the watermelon capital of Florida and its annual Watermelon Festival.
During the initial years, shows were held at the Lee Elementary School auditorium and the Leesburg Community Building. In 1955, the current facility opened on 13th Street with the production, “Father of the Bride.” In 2002, Patchwork Productions began offering classes to area youngsters in drama, dance, comedy, and musical theater.
The Melon Patch Players offer six productions a year, including musicals like “Sweeney Todd” and classic stage plays such as Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.”
Next Production: “A Nice Family Gathering” Nov. 22–24; Nov. 29–Dec. 1; Dec. 6–8
Mind your Music
When the urge to hear good, quality live entertainment hits you, check out these local venues that are just teeming with talent.
story: James Combs photos: Fred Lopez
Although Olivia Spilotros enjoyed a successful career as a real estate agent, she fine-tuned her life after attending the Lake County Folk Festival six years ago.
“I stepped inside an art gallery to see live entertainment and knew the building would be a perfect place for a coffeehouse,” she says. “I was so intrigued with the building that I would dream about what my coffeehouse looked like.”
When the building became vacant, she decided to turn that dream into reality. In 2008, she officially opened Olivia’s Coffeehouse on Bay Street in Eustis. “It was something I had to do. I didn’t want to look back one day and wonder what might have been.”
Since that time, locals have flocked to her coffeehouse to fill their stomachs with tasty food and homemade desserts while filling their hearts with wonderful music. “This is an old-time coffeehouse similar to what you’d find in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. We have a friendly, easy-going atmosphere where guests and musicians are well-received.”
Both coffee and music are always brewing at Olivia’s Coffeehouse. “We have two rooms. One side is music oriented and the other side is a café where you can socialize with friends and family while listening to music in the background,” Olivia says.
On any given night, visitors can expect to hear everything from folk music, mountain music, bluegrass, acoustic, and blues. One of the most popular events is the songwriter’s forum, which is held on the fourth Thursday of every month from 7 to 9p.m. During this event, two singers selected by Olivia perform original music. Before the start of each song, the singer explains to the crowd what inspired the song and the meaning behind it. “This is an amazing night of art because the singers are so expressive,” she says. “We also have a question-and-answer session so the crowd can ask the musicians anything they want pertaining to their music.”
Friday’s open mic, held from 7 to 10p.m., is an instrument-focused event where performers are onstage for 15 minutes. They can perform by themselves or alongside bassist Daisy Millitt and fiddle player Sean Curran. Saturday night showcases a feature entertainer, which may include a solo artist or band that sings a blend of their original songs with popular fan favorites. The featured entertainment starts at 7p.m. and ends at 10.
Live entertainment is also featured on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3p.m. The first Sunday of each month features Dixieland jazz; the third Sunday is old-time mountain music; and the fourth Sunday showcases Celtic and Irish music. The second Sunday is open to any genre.
Olivia also performs at the coffeehouse with her own band, Olivia’s Stray Dogs.
108 N. Bay St., Eustis / 352.357.1887
Maggie’s Attic, a charming wine bar and shop in downtown Mount Dora, offers a selection of 350 wines and 250 beers.
“We’re a wine shop with a beer problem,” manager Jerome Brouhard says and laughs.
Certainly, Maggie’s Attic does not have a music problem. The company offers live entertainment on Wednesdays from 7 to 10p.m. and Saturdays from 6 to 9p.m. Visitors can hear a unique selection of blues, jazz, rock and roll, and contemporary music from talented local musicians such as Jim Rast, Robin Gallo, and Port Barlow. Visitors are equally impressed with Randie Paul, who is legally blind but possesses a wonderful singing voice.
237 W. Fourth Ave., Mount Dora / 352.383.5451
With its intimate setting and small-club atmosphere, GarVino’s reminds many people of venues they’d find it New York or California.
“People tell us all the time that we’re the classiest place in The Villages,” says owner Sandee Bonnie.
The wine bar, located adjacent to the wine and cigar shop, offers 24 wines by the glass, wine flights, microbrews and imported beer, and light appetizers. The softly lit and beautifully decorated bar is especially popular for its live entertainment offered Wednesday through Saturday from 7 to 10p.m. Local artists perform a variety of music, including rhythm and blues, jazz, American folk, and acoustic guitar. Some perform several times each month, including husband and wife duo Scott and Michelle Dalziel, who recently released an album. Tommy Treadway and the Orion Jazz Trio are other popular performers.
1081 Canal St., The Villages / 352.430.1435
Florida Lakes Symphony
If you prefer a traditional sound where classical music reigns supreme, then you are in luck. Since its formation in 2005, Florida Lakes Symphony has delivered world-class music to Lake County. The 60-member symphony was formed by the late Guy Saint-Clair, who passed away in April 2010. It is now led by his wife, Audrey Sanders, and award-winning conductor Michael J. Garasi.
The 2013–2014 season promises to bring another outstanding season of beautiful music that leaves the audience in awe.
All concerts begin at 7:30p.m. Performances in Mount Dora are held at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 6803 Old Hwy. 441. And in Clermont, the performances are held at Family Christian Church, 2500 S. U.S. 27. To order season tickets, visit their website.
Series Concert 1:
Majesty in Time of Mayhem
Nov. 7 in Mount Dora; Nov. 8 in Clermont
Veterans will be saluted with musical pieces such as “I Vow Unto Thee My Country” and John Williams’ “March of 1941.”
Dec. 6 in Mount Dora only
The symphony, along with the Mount Dora School of Ballet, will perform joyful Christmas music. Popular Irish composer/conductor Eimear Noone will also perform.
Series Concert 2:
Jan. 16 in Mount Dora; Jan. 17 in Clermont
Hear romantic masterpieces of Baroque literature such as “Dance of the Furies” and “The Four Seasons.”
Series Concert 3:
Sounds of the Forest
Feb. 20 in Mount Dora; Feb. 21 in Clermont
Nineteen-year-old virtuoso pianist Sten Heinoja will perform a Grieg piano concerto.
Series Concert: 4:
March 27 in Mount Dora; March 28 in Clermont
This concert will feature the work of famous composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Series Concert 5:
Dreams of Youth
May 1 in Mount Dora; May 2 in Clermont
This final concert of the season will feature the winner of the Guy Saint-Clair Young Artist Concerto Competition, as well as popular tunes such as “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night).”