Live Active Cultures

I want to stop for a moment this week and talk not about my latest cultural find, but rather someone we've lost. On March 16, a tribute was held at Theatre Downtown honoring the life and works of John Goring, author, director and longtime president of Playwrights Round Table. Goring passed away at age 56 on March 8, following a stroke last September.

The memorial event, organized by his friends Barbara Solomon and Bonnie Sprung, attracted 50-plus mourners, mostly fellow members of the local theater community. John and I weren't close, but I feel like I know him better after hearing his collaborators and admirers share stories about his legacy. I knew him only in passing: as a warm, welcoming presence at PRT's productions; as a writer whose short plays I admired for their wit and wry humor. Last October I was honored to direct a reading of his play Silly Mary Chop Chop for a benefit, but sadly never had the chance to talk with him about his superbly silly script (a Restoration sitcom featuring foppish hairdressers prepping Marie Antoinette for the guillotine).

Born in 1953 to an Army officer stationed in Germany, Goring grew up on military bases across the continental U.S. and Hawaii before settling in Michigan. He earned bachelor's degrees in botany and music, then worked for a local TV station producing soap-opera parodies and talk shows. Goring moved to Central Florida in the mid-'80s with longtime friend Rick Zatorski and was active in our creative community. He demonstrated his diverse dramatic capabilities in a range of motifs and media. He composed musicals for Doreen Heard's Florida Children's Rep, wrote a Germanic operetta and directed Psychosis, a documentary that screened last year at Enzian Theater's FilmSlam.

But Goring's most visible impact was on PRT, which he joined shortly after the group's inception. He helped establish it as a nonprofit and served as its president for a decade. Near the tribute's conclusion, PRT vice president Erik Morris announced an annual "John Goring award," to present recipients with PRT lifetime memberships. It's a fitting tribute to a man devoted to supporting fellow writers, but his influence will also live on in lives he touched; speaker after speaker testified to his kindness, passion and positivity. John Goring loved theater, loved his community (he served for many years on his homeowners association board and wrote its newsletter) and loved community theater. Wherever he is now, he's probably wearing his hallmark unpretentious plaid shorts and sitting in the best seat in the house.

The show must go on, and last weekend's big show was the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. The perennial Park Avenue event celebrated its 50th anniversary, an amazing achievement in our attention-deficient environment. This is where I could share insights about the thousands of exhibiting artists whose work I inspected or offer an amusing anecdote about the children's activities and live entertainment. But just thinking about the quarter-million-plus patrons jockeying for a parking spot is enough to induce an agoraphobic aneurysm, so I gave the historic occasion a miss.

Instead, I stopped in just down the street (1,400 footsteps away, to be exact) to Frames Forever & Art Gallery on Orange Avenue, where I effortlessly found a perfect parking place. That was the site of the Outsider Art Fair, an intimate, unjuried answer to the supersized celebration down the street. Shirley Mackey, Swamburger, Tr3, Tobar, Everett Spruill, Clifton Greene, Maria Bolton, Jessica Earley, Ededron Juarez, Maria Arenas and German Lemus were among the participating local artists. They didn't have tens of thousands in prize dollars or a verdant lawn on which to pitch their tents (the store's smallish parking lot sufficed). But they did have a few things the bigger guys didn't, like a pet-friendly policy, an old-school hot-dog cart and Orlando's Capoeira Guerreiros demonstrating their Brazilian blend of martial arts and breakdancing.

Most of all, the Outsider Art Fair had Brian Feldman, undisputed king of Orlando's performance-art scene (such as it is). I've observed many of Feldman's marathon performances — from leaping off ladders to sitting in IKEA — with bemused appreciation, but his latest stunt was extreme even by his surreal standards. From last Thursday through Sunday, he spent 50 straight hours sleeping inside a Plexiglas-topped box on the sidewalk. Wearing pajamas and a sleep mask, with elevator music endlessly looping from a nearby speaker, Feldman dozed as more than 200 passersby walked over him.

Wasn't this called "enhanced interrogation" at Gitmo? I don't know what the deeper meaning is, or if the weekend of Twitter deprivation will do Feldman good, or if he's finally been driven around the bend. I just know that if we were in New York or Paris, Feldman would be world-famous by now.

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