Face to facelift 


Something, you may have perceived, has changed.

As you click furtively through orlandoweely.com, you've likely noticed that there's no fresh addition to the Afterwords page. Instead, welcome to The Green Room, a new weekly forum that will delve more deeply into the exploding arena of Central Florida arts and culture.

Sound stuffy? Perish the thought. You're not about to be wrested from the sidelines of human oddity and plunked down in some museum gift shop just in time for afternoon tea.

Rather, think of the shift as the informational equivalent of feng shui, in which moving the furniture around miraculously makes room for more of everything. More bulletins from behind the curtain of local theater! More news of noteworthy, Orlando-based film projects! More sneak peeks at promising new venues! More visual art! More comedy -- both performed and unintentional! More scurrilous rumors and cheap shots! And all of it delivered with the dizzying, need-to-know immediacy of Stone Phillips on a smart-drink bender. Now let's move on.

Crimson, and in clover

Red walls, red walls -- what's with all the red walls? It seems as if every nightclub makeover that's been undertaken this summer has involved a fresh coat of scarlet paint. First there was Tabu; now the rose-colored brush has touched The Back Booth, the spiffy new bar that opened Aug. 11 in the east University Boulevard strip-mall space once occupied by the now-retired Java Jabbers coffeehouse.

Thankfully, the similarity to Tabu ends there. Holdover staffers Ryan Marshall, Andrew Gurjian and Pat Fatica have transformed the former beatnik hangout into a stylish watering hole that should prove an ideal host site for their planned schedule of concerts, art shows and film screenings. Not that there was anything wrong with Java's chill-and-chat atmosphere, exactly, but devoting costly square footage to cash-poor aspiring poets (and their backpacks) isn't the best way to stay in business.

Only the basic layout remains

An ornate, curved bar occupies the same rear-wall position as its more rustic predecessor. Otherwise, seating space has been minimized to keep bodies on a dance floor that's been cleared in front of the corner stage.

Look beyond the classic wood motif, and you'll find some subversive surprises. Hanging in the dimly lit rest rooms are framed mug shots of celebrities under arrest, including Sid Vicious and everyone's favorite sometime-couple, Hugh Grant and Divine Brown.

Visual works by members of the University of Central Florida Art Alliance currently adorn the main room, but individual artists will be spotlighted on a monthly basis starting in mid-September.

Live music is central to the trio's plans. (Though they reject official titles, Marshall books the bands and masterminds special events; Gurjian manages the bar while Fatica handles graphic design and publicity.) Last weekend's grand-opening festivities included a Friday appearance by the Delusionaires and a very loud Saturday double bill of Nutrajet and Agent Felix -- the first installment in a monthly "punk night" series -- that had both bands testing, and often overwhelming, a house sound system more accustomed to the modest requirements of acoustic songbirds.

"It's just another room to wreck," Nutrajet guitarist/vocalist Greg Reinel assessed, minutes before doing the very same thing to the fuses in his pitiably abused speaker rig.

Next up at the BB

"Mental Hygiene," a Monday-night film series preaching social adjustment for schoolkids. According to Marshall, a motherlode of vintage shorts was unearthed on the UCF campus, while others were found going dirt cheap on eBay. Come out and learn why cutting in line can be such deadly horseplay.

Roll 'em out

UCF's cinematic pedigree isn't limited to the discovery of glorified filmstrips. Film-department chair Sterling Van Wagenen produced the Oscar-winning feature "The Trip to Bountiful" and co-founded the Sundance Film Festival, and it's nearly a Florida law that no one can mention the UCF movie program without noting that it was the creative birthplace of the Haxan five.

The school's just-begun fall semester marks the arrival of two full-time faculty members with their own industry credentials to crow about. Now overseeing the "capstone projects" senior-film curriculum is Mark Gerstein, a digital-editing pro whose resume includes splicing together the bullets-and-broads cable-TV series "Silk Stalkings." (Woo-hoo!) Lori C. Ingle, who served as feature associate editor on "As Good as It Gets," alternates between assisting Gerstein and shepherding UCF's new digital-media program.

Next January, the pair will be joined by Jonathan Mednick -- president and founding partner of Other Pictures Inc. (Welcome to the Dollhouse) -- who will teach directing and production classes. Why the delayed arrival? Mednick is still in Los Angeles, wrapping up co-production duties on FOX-TV's reality drama, "American High." UCF students have five months to prepare for the possibility of hidden cameras in their hallways.

Drop the pilot

Though the arts-and-weirdness revue "Ballyhoo" no longer airs on Time-Warner Cable (when gay-bar raunch meets corporate censorship, "creative differences" ensue), producer Jason Neff continues to think bigger than a drag queen's hairdo. Neff is still pursuing a syndication deal for a retooled version of the program -- a goal he terminated his stewardship of the Central Florida Film & Video Festival to chase. He'll attend next January's National Association of Television Production Executives (NATPE) convention in Las Vegas armed with a pilot episode that's currently in postproduction. (Expect a public screening at a hometown location yet to be determined, sometime after the Oct. 14 Orlando Music Awards at House of Blues but before Halloween.)

Higher production values are promised for B2, with graphic elements provided by local design firm Vibranium. The pilot's flagship segment is a trip to Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba," but the real reason to watch is an interview with Larry Fessenden, the New York City film director whose stunning fusion of vampire lore and male paranoia, "Habit," was a largely overlooked highlight of the 1998 roster at Maitland's Enzian Theater.

"[Larry] has this really interesting, ecological kind of philosophy on filmmaking," Neff says.

Ecological? So the stage blood in "Habit: was recycled? Chew on that one before you buy your next bucket of red paint.


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