Fall Guide 2014: Performing Arts 

Our picks in theater, comedy, dance, literary events and classical music Sept. 24-Nov. 18

click to enlarge [DANCE] Dance Is Art - PHOTO BY SIMONE BOOS
  • [DANCE] Dance Is Art

We observe almost every year that the arts season reverses the seasonal cycle: Trees and plants may be winding down, but dancers, actors, musicians, comedians and poets are flowering forth in their biggest burst of creativity. This year is no different. The Orlando Phil continues its search for a musical director, meaning patrons are able to enjoy the inspired competition of the contenders all season (see Steven Jarvi conduct a program featuring violinist Midori Nov. 8). The inaugural Orlando Indie Comedy Festival brings 30 emerging comics from all over the country for a four-day laff riot (while also celebrating our own local comedians); but don’t overlook other big names on the comedy horizon: Jay Pharoah at the Improv, Nick Swardson at Bob Carr, Mike Birbiglia at Hard Rock. And that doesn’t even cover the dozens of plays, readings, dance performances and almost unclassifiable events – lookin’ at you, Creative City Project – that fill this brief eight-week slice of the cultural season.

Sept. 25-28
Orlando Indie Comedy Fest

Kyle Kinane – the man who once described pho as “what happens when a former child soldier pours hot rainwater over fish nightmares,” forever earning him a place in our hearts – headlines this ambitious four-day fest that brings together 30 up-and-coming comedians from around the country, as well as a dozen or so locals, in 17 venues around town. This is a truly impressive first-time effort from the organizers, so go out and support (besides, half the proceeds go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando). Everyone but Kinane performs multiple sets, which means you have zero excuse not to discover your new favorite this weekend. Thursday-Saturday; check website for individual show times and locations; $5 per day; orlandoindiecomedy.com

Oct. 3-5
The Trayvon Martin Project, Part 1: A Tribute

As part of a yearlong collaborative project, theatrical producer Beth Marshall commissioned a series of short plays exploring the larger societal issues that made the killing of Trayvon Martin possible – from Stand Your Ground laws to 21st-century parenting to that old shibboleth, race-based fear. The five playlets range from an introspective lament by a mother to a history of Sanford à la Our Town to a Twilight Zone-ish Senate hearing set in the near future. Actors are a mix of accomplished locals and young first-timers discovered via audition, under the direction of Marshall, John DiDonna and Paul Castaneda. Expect to feel a lot of feelings. Maybe bring some Kleenex. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; Valencia College East Campus, 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail; $20; 407-299-5000; bethmarshallpresents.com

Oct. 11
Orlando Philharmonic: Cirque de la Symphonie

We would have made the Phil’s 2014-15 opening night our pick (music director contender Alondra de la Parra conducting Mahler, Mozart and a piece by Arturo Marquez), but that happened the week before this guide went to press. So we might as well bow to the popularity and sheer Spectacular-Spectacular!-ness of Cirque de la Symphonie, in which Cirque performers fly, juggle and contort perilously above and around the Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s the Phil’s biggest annual seller for a reason, and if it gets people to thrill to classical music, we’re all for it. 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Saturday; Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St.; $31-$71; 407-849-2020; orlandophil.org

Oct. 18
Orlando Ballet: Peter and the Wolf

Sure, it’s a little weird for us to be singling out a “family” ballet as our Fall Guide pick, but Sergei Prokofiev’s score is irresistibly nostalgic, and – sorry, Vampire’s Ball – we aren’t so into vampires these days. (Picking a wolf over a neck-biter: I guess that makes us Team Jacob.) We’ll be all over Robert Hill’s newly choreographed Coppélia come May, but in the meantime, we look forward to a Wes Anderson-esque good time, what with Prokofiev’s symphonic story-weaving and Orlando Ballet’s fantastic costumes and sets. And dancers, of course. 11 a.m. Saturday; Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St.; $28-$37.50; 407-426-1739; orlandoballet.org

Nov. 6-9
Mary Lynn Rajskub

Rajskub steals scenes in films like Sweet Home Alabama, Little Miss Sunshine and Julie & Julia, where she’s inevitably cast as the lead actress’ quirky sidekick. But her devastatingly deadpan turns on Mr. Show and The Larry Sanders Show are what basically makes her comedy royalty. Her time on torture-porn series 24 exposed her to her widest audience – though, sadly, she spent a lot of time making scowl-faces and not enough time making anyone laugh – but forget all that Jack Bauer stuff. Rajskub’s tales of social awkwardness and weird sexual fantasies make her any nerd’s dream girl. 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday; Orlando Improv, 9101 International Drive; $20; 407-480-5233; theimprovorlando.com

Nov. 1
Creative City Project 2014

It’s difficult to know how to categorize this multi-location, multi-practice art explosion, but promoter Cole NeSmith says the word to keep in mind is “immersion.” As CCP takes over all of downtown Orlando Saturday evening, attendees might find themselves standing in the middle of an orchestral performance – musicians on the outside, audience in the center – or see Cirque du Soleil acrobats hanging from silks overhead, or wander through a “musical forest” of interactive lighting, video and sound effects. Anything can happen when you turn enough artists loose. 7 p.m. Saturday; downtown Orlando; free; facebook.com/creativecityproject

Nov. 15
Functionally Literate: Jeff Vandermeer, Usman Tanveer Malik

Whether you prefer to call it sci-fi, speculative fiction or, like master of the genre China Miéville, the “New Weird,” fantastic stories are having a moment. Let’s not look too deeply into why America is gobbling up dystopian novels and dragon-filled TV shows at such an avaricious rate; let’s simply enjoy the profusion of mind-tickling new tales coming our way. Yeah, I’m a fan. If you are too, you won’t want to miss this reading and interview with Jeff Vandermeer, Floridian author of the wonderfully creepy Southern Reach trilogy. (Run out now and buy all three so you can get ’em signed.) 7 p.m. Saturday; Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St.; free; 407-447-1700; functionallyliterate.org

To find more performing arts events, visit our calendar.

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