LAUNCH 2005 You can't exactly say that Playwrights' Round Table has a tradition of kicking off the new year by staging a program of short plays by member authors: The first and last such foray took place way back in 2002. Venue-booking snafus caused the group to sit out 2003 and 2004, says PRT stalwart John Goring, but "Launch 2005" is confirmed for a weekend's worth of shows at Theatre Downtown. Each night, audiences will witness performances of a sextet of playlets that have already gone through the group's relatively involved workshopping and evaluation process. Among the pieces being presented in their new and (one infers) improved forms are Cecil, a Buffy-like vampire tale written by David W. Womble, and If I Were You, a Jack McGrath comedy that puts a trailer-trash spin on the pressing issue of identity theft. As a framing device, singers Stephen Combs and Marylin McGinnis will perform a series of hit Broadway numbers, all in support of the ambitious-sounding motif PRT has chosen as the theme of the evening: "Broadway Bound." "We say that with tongue in cheek," Goring clarifies. That's a relief. (8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at Theatre Downtown; 407-788-8468; $15)
OVAL @ OMA This unusual double-O combo brings the spirit of downtown's OVAL (Orlando Visual Arts League) gallery and its cadre of local artists into the Orlando Museum of Art's "1st Thursday" affair. Downtown to Loch Haven Park isn't such a big leap in distance, but both institutions have their own distinctive scenes and scenesters, even as they share a mission to bring together the arts and the community. Unlike most "1st Thursday" events, there won't be a hokey theme behind the art and music, so expect a free-form flow through a variety of art styles, media and subjects that'll be all over the place. (Shipyard Brewing Co. will be selling beer, and ZaBella something to soak it up.) Parking overflow is directed to the Orlando Science Center parking garage ($2) and those pedicab kids are around to give rides for cash tips if you want to end the night with a chilly ride around Loch Haven Park. (6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Orlando Museum of Art; 407-896-4231, ext. 5; $9)
7 p.m. at Hard Rock Live; 407-351-5483; $15)
8 p.m. at House of Blues; 407-934-2583; $16-$29, sold out)
THE MOSCOW PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA We were holding out hope for some Shostakovich in this program, but if an orchestra's going to be traditional and Russian, they could do a lot worse than an all-Tchaikovsky program, which is what the Moscow Phil will bring to town. Although the orchestra typically chooses challenging works (any group that invites Krzysztof Penderecki as a guest conductor is unafraid of scraping the skulls of its ticket-buyers), the current conductor is shying away from avant-garde pieces. Yuri Simonov's background is strictly straightforward, with an emphasis on opera and mainstream composers. That's not to say that Simonov and the Moscow Phil don't have the chops or are boring: Although the Tchaikovsky pieces on the program are well-known (and, in the case of the Capriccio Italien, somewhat fanciful), the music will be thoroughly engaging. And when Taiwanese violinist Cho-Liang Lin sinks his teeth into the Violin Concerto, Op. 35, it's likely listeners will find an entirely new appreciation for the term "chops." (3 p.m. at Carr Performing Arts Centre; 407-539-0245; $40-$80)
COLLEGIATE FOOTBALL: THE DICK BUTKUS AWARD Perhaps it was the regular ass-kickings by jocks that some of us received back in high school that tainted our overall opinion of football. Even now, moving a ball from one side of a field to another strikes us as a Sisyphusian pursuit; thusly, the name Dick Butkus did not ring familiar. But wussy writers can hustle, too, and it turns out that the fearless Chicago Bears legend got an award named after him for being the ultimate extreme linebacker of the helmet-smashing, body-slamming variety, dating back to his early, still-unequaled college years (373 tackles). The trophy encourages other collegiate linebackers to do the same, and for 2004, Texas Longhorn Derrick Johnson was distinguished as the nation's best. What few people know is that the prestigious Butkus Award is the brainchild of the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando and the gala awards dinner, with Butkus at the top of the list, was held Dec. 10 here in town. So the history center has devoted a small exhibit to brag about our town's importance in Butkus-kissing. Still, the pigskin hero's name makes us giggle. Say it: Dick Butkus. Again: Dick Butkus. Now with feeling: DICK BUTKUS. You can see why we got beat up. Go Trojans! (through Jan. 31; Orange County Regional History Center; 407-836-8500; $7)
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