Drama duo leaves the curtains open

Here's an idea to chew on: What would the world be like if actors could do anything they wanted?

Well, Charlie Sheen's day-to-day routine probably wouldn't change much. But from a professional standpoint, most of his fellows in the field would find their horizons greatly widened. They would at least be freed from hearing those words they so dread: "You're not right for the part."

Ending close-minded casting is the goal of Spirit Daddy Productions, a new theater company formed by area stage vets Dennis Enos and Beth Marshall. Its mission statement? To "help local artists showcase their various talents in productions that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to be a part of."

The experiment begins with the Aug. 18 opening at iMPACTE! Productions of Spirit Daddy's debut offering, "The Baby Dance." Enos directs this take on playwright Jane Anderson's drama, in which a husband and wife living in a trailer park agree to sell their unborn fifth child to a wealthy West Coast couple.

Marshall plays the female half of the lower-class duo. It's not a role one would immediately associate with her. Blame a variety of factors -- body type, general aura or whatever P.C. kiss-off is in favor this week.

"She's an ingenue, and I'm not normally cast as a leading lady," Marshall says. Indeed, two of the freelance player's memorable turns (both at iMPACTE!) were as the emotionally unstable mother in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" and an abrasive lesbian webmistress in the first episode of the theatrical sitcom "Caffeine."

"I am the guinea pig of this, I think," Marshall says of "Baby Dance." "But [whatever happens], I can take it."

Enos -- who met Marshall when they worked on 1999's "Annie" at the Civic Theatres of Central Florida -- thinks the time is right for the nontraditional casting that will be Spirit Daddy's specialty.

"I don't think people give audiences enough credit," Enos says. "I try to give them the benefit of the doubt."

So what's he going to do when confronted by an auditioner whose estimation of his or her versatility is genuinely out of step with reality? After all, not every lost job can be put down to a casting director's shortsightedness. Some actors simply can't carry off as many personas as they would like to think.

"That's going to be an interesting part of the journey," says Enos, who plans to rely on gut instinct to tell him just how far to push the fabled envelope. "You have a feeling of whether an audience is going to buy it or not."

As an actor, Enos has range to burn. His résumé includes portrayals of Daddy Warbucks in "Annie" and Murray the cop in Mad Cow Theatre's recent reinterpretation of "The Odd Couple." While getting Spirit Daddy off the ground, he's also playing a full four roles in Theatre Downtown's "Alice in Analysis," which opens July 20. Let me be the first to congratulate "Alice's" director/co-writer, Douglas E. Huston, for finding so many new and exciting places to put his Enos.

Get your wings

Further surprises in Spirit Daddy's trick bag include the introduction of new faces to Orlando stages. Jeffrey Grant, who plays the husband of Marshall's character in "The Baby Dance", has heretofore concentrated on film and TV. Even the choice of iMPACTE! as a venue is meant to change public preconceptions -- specifically, the pervasive opinion that anything going on at the space is irrelevant to audiences over the age of 30.

"This is a mainstream drama," Marshall says. "It's not an original work, and not a cutting-edge [piece]. We want to strengthen the theater community in that space. [And] we're opening the door for actors of all ages to get in there."

However, she stresses that Spirit Daddy is by design a nomadic venture: "We're not looking to find a specific home. This is just an outlet for us to be able to produce shows when we want to."

Marshall is married to iMPACTE! in at least one, wickedly literal sense. Next fall, she'll wed her fiance, Chris Foster, on the premises. The private ceremony will be a full-set, Gothic-themed affair designed by Jim Sturgell, who's doing the scenic work for "Baby Dance" and also directed the aforementioned "Annie."

Now, I ask you: Do the terms "Gothic stage wedding" and "fear of typecasting" reside anywhere near each other in your personal lexicon? I didn't think so.

Screen saver

If the Colonial Promenade movie multiplex reopens this weekend -- and it will, barring any last-minute glitches -- the art-house crowd will have cause to rejoice. Restaurant Entertainment Group, the theater's new parent, plans to follow the tradition set by former owner General Cinemas and reserve at least one screen for foreign and specialty films. According to Restaurant Entertainment's vice president, John Duffy, the company is also very interested in resuming the Promenade's service as the second venue for the annual Florida Film Festival. (In between owners at the time, the theater was unusable for last month's screenings, though the festival staff seriously explored the idea of reopening the Promenade solely for its event.)

Should the theater/festival arrangement not pan out, Duffy suggests that screenings could instead be held at the Altamonte 8, the other 'plex his company recently resuscitated. Other cinemas on Restaurant Entertainment's makeover list: GC's Fashion Square ("about 95 percent sure" at press time, Duffy said) and unnamed locations in the Lake Mary, Florida Mall and Sand Lake Road areas.

Always art, never home

You can't swing a drunk expressionist painter these days without knocking down art promoter Victor Perez. His busy July schedule includes the July 20 "Erotica" show at the Parliament House, which will augment sensual, sexual works by 30 participants with performance art and such saucy treats as chocolate-dipped genitalia. (I think he means chocolate in the shape of genitalia; the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.) His significant other, abstract artist Tiphanie Windsor-Perez, has a solo show July 27 and 28 at the Gallery at Avalon Island. "The Execution of Tiphanie" is its title, but don't worry: It denotes the execution of an idea, not some bizarre bit of staged, firing-squad-as-art outrage.

Looking further down the road, Perez's immensely popular "Nude Nite" will move next year into the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts ... and will still be packed to the rafters, I daresay.

Fly, Robin, fly

Another visual-art kingpin on the move is Robin VanArsdol, who has ended his short-lived residency in that land of the living dead known as the Church Street Exchange. RV is moving a few blocks west into the Parramore district, where he's already begun to put paintings into local storefronts in advance of the opening of his new, 4,000-square-foot gallery/showroom. Look for it in August or September.

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