On the highway to Haven 

While the fates of the performing arts continue to follow a "one step forward, two steps back" pattern south of Colonial Drive, theater companies are deepening their recognition that Loch Haven Park has almost every amenity the downtown area doesn't. You know, like stages.

The latest set of Loch Haven boards to be opened up to local drama is located inside the Orlando Science Center's 250-seat Darden Theater, where Trilemma Productions will stage its interpretation of New Jersey playwright Buzz McLaughlin's "Sister Calling My Name" beginning this Friday, Oct. 27.

Once a platform for kid-targeted shows by the center's Einstein Players, the theater takes a step into the lofty with "Sister," a portrait of a disabled painter and her estranged brother that won the 1995-1996 National Play Award. The evolution was foreseen by Trilemma's president, Jim Morris, more than a year ago. Coming across the name "Darden Theater" on a list of venues that had been compiled by the Central Florida Theatre Alliance, Morris was motivated to pay a visit. His assessment: "It's a great space, and nobody's used it yet."

Maybe they had tried; the OSC at first rebuffed Trilemma's overtures. "Under their old director, they were not interested," Morris recalls. But when the powers-that-be became the powers-that-were, the path was clear for a test run. If "Sister" is successful, Morris says, the Darden will host the group's February 2001 presentation of Roger Rueff's "Hospitality Suite" (the basis for the recent film "The Big Kahuna").

The OSC's definition of success, at this point, is "not totally quantifiable," Morris acknowledges. Ticket sales will be balanced against a variety of other factors, including the "professionalism" the group displays in its use of the facility.

In the best-case scenario, the theater will become Trilemma's official home -- its first in a 21-month history that has included stands at Longwood's Northland Community Church and Rollins College, plus an acclaimed run of Neil LaBute's "Bash" at last April's Orlando International Fringe Festival. Morris and his people are trying hard to make "Sister" a memorable kickoff: Under the sponsorship of the Theatre Alliance, they're bringing in scribe McLaughlin for a Nov. 4 writing workshop at the Theatre Garage, followed by a chat at Chapters Bread & Books Cafe and Bookshop.

As his troupe joins the growing Loch Haven family of performers, what does Morris think of that downtown performing-arts drive?

"Anytime you try to take something that isn't, and really force it to be," he says, "it's difficult to do."

Loch unlocked

Trilemma's new neighborhood welcomes the public from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, as this year's Arts in the Park event offers free tours of the Orlando Museum of Art, the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and the Mennello Museum of American Folk Art. Presentations by area arts groups and music by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra seal the deal. Come learn why -- for now at least -- the park is the place to satisfy your deepest cultural yearnings.

And if you see a lizard statue, by all means shoot to kill.

Screams and sighs

Last week, Orlando Weekly columnist Jim Hill noted the lack of adequate Halloween festivities on Disney properties. As an adult horror fan, I'd no sooner attend an event titled "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party" than I would one dubbed "Bea Arthur's Not-So-Shaven Lingerie Night." But I'm disappointed that most of the efforts to reverse the trend originate in California's Disneyland, not here.

The latest benefit that Anaheim enjoyed and we didn't? An exclusive, invitation-only dinner held Oct. 25 inside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. According to www.doombuggies.com (a wonderful fan site for Mansionites), guests were offered a single-night accommodation at the Disneyland Paradise Pier Hotel, free admission to the park, a luncheon with a "special guest artist" and the opportunity to dine at the Mansion in the company of Imagineer Rolly Crump.

Now, if the soiree were to be replicated in Lake Buena Vista, I have no illusions that I'd be taking part: Only 30 names were on the guest list, and they had to pay a cool $2,000 apiece for tickets. Still, the prospect of gleaning even a second-hand story of grazing among the Grim Grinning Ghosts sets my morbid little heart racing. Even if I'd probably have to hear it from some damn Backstreet Boy.

Playing Jacks

Six installments remain in attraction-land's finest seasonal blowout, namely Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. As always, I heartily recommend a junket. Jack the insane clown proves at least as suitable a father figure for an officially sanctioned bloodbath as well, Sheriff Kevin Beary. And a good 50 percent of the haunted houses live up to the expectations you'll accrue during the long wait in line.

Pressed for time? Make theAnxiety and Total Chaos attractions a higher priority than Dark Torment, an expansion of the Earthquake ride that ends with all of us plate-shift victims going straight to Hades. Though it's laudably cynical of Universal to assume that not one of its patrons is destined for The Other Place, the only theological lesson you'll learn as you stumble through the musty gloom is that Hell smells like a thrift shop.

Old fiends

Enter the Universal Classic Monster Mania spook house, and you may recognize one of the fluorescent-painted faces that abruptly emerges from a wall to put you in touch with your pacemaker. That's Kymber Parrish, the cover model for Orlando Weekly's Oct. 28, 1999, story on the deathless Goth scene.

OK, so landing the cover of this paper isn't always the fast track to fame. But at least it helps to get you seated at the Toxic Avenger's table. In her spare time, Parrish has been working with Troma Films, the purveyor of kitsch classics like the "Toxie" films and "Class of Nuke 'Em High." Her duties as a "Tromette" have her bolstering the company's cheerily seedy image at conventions and TV shoots. She also penned the box notes for Troma's forthcoming video release, "Space Zombie Bingo." And how did she win that job?

"I think nobody else wanted to do it," Parrish admits. You go, ghoul.

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