Back in 2013, budding Kissimmee comedian Juan Atiles started making viral clips online under the name LeJuan James, imitating the "sin pelos en la lengua" sayings yelled at him by his Puerto Rican father and Dominican mother. The videos rang true for anyone growing up in a Latino household, and LeJuan quickly became a social media star in the Spanish-speaking world, gaining over 5 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. He's gotten partnerships with companies like T-Mobile, Florida Hospital and Disney – he even played the "abuela" character in Camila Cabello's "Havana" music video. Still, he keeps a pretty low-key profile in his daily life in downtown Orlando, which sounds like the best of both worlds.
Albert Bierstadt's "The Domes of the Yosemite"
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art morsemuseum.org
Your new 75-inch 4K television may seem big, but it's got nothing on Albert Bierstadt's colossal oil painting "The Domes of the Yosemite," which recently concluded its post-restoration debut at Winter Park's Morse Museum. Occupying nearly 150 square feet of canvas, Bierstadt's massive landscape was the 1860s equivalent of IMAX 3-D. The painting's once-in-a-lifetime Orlando exhibition enthralled area art admirers, just as it once did author Mark Twain, until it returned to its Vermont home in July.
Leonard Bernstein's Mass
at UCF Celebrates the Arts
He may be best known for West Side Story, but Leonard Bernstein's 1971 Mass might be the legendary conductor's most ambitious and controversial work. (Leave it to a gay Jewish Broadway composer to transform a Catholic ritual into anti-authoritarian performance art.) In celebration of his 100th birthday, UCF's orchestra, choirs, performers and alumni teamed up with Opera Orlando's youth chorus to stage the "Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers" at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Their massive effort made this rarely seen classic deeply moving.
1. Orlando Fringe Festival, orlandofringe.org
2. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, wpsaf.org
3. Florida Film Festival, floridafilmfestival.com
1. Les Vixens Burlesque, facebook.com/lvburlesque
2. The Ladies of the Peek-a-Boo Lounge, facebook.com/ladiesofpeekaboo
3. Corsets and Cuties, corsetsandcuties.com
1. SAK Comedy Lab, sakcomedylab.com
2. Orlando Improv, theimprovorlando.com
3. Bull & Bush Shit Sandwich, bullandbushorlando.com
1. Orlando Ballet, orlandoballet.org
2. Phantasmagoria, phantasmagoriaorlando.com
3. VarieTease, thevenueorlando.com
Roadsides and Skylines at Gallery at Avalon Island
This Pat Greene-curated mixed-media group show last summer at the Gallery at Avalon Island asked the artists to present new perspectives on living in Florida, and work by Jenn Allen, Spanky Hudas and Wayne Grant ably delivered. But it was the fantastical sculptures of South Florida's DeVan Jimenez and Jacksonville's Crystal Floyd that created whole new worlds out of the flora and detritus of the Sunshine State. Floyd merged shadow boxes, taxidermy, insects and antique ephemera into intricate constructs that begged for repeated viewing, while Jimenez's ceramics suggested whole new evolutionary side roads in a state where invasive species and evolving ecosystems are the rule rather than the exception. This exhibit also inspired the very entertaining "Ekphrastic Floridas" reading with Burrow Press.
Florida, by Lauren Groff
When Burrow Press brought Lauren Groff in for their Functionally Literate reading series in 2016, she was fresh off the white-hot success of Fates and Furies, her surprise literary best-seller. But this summer (June 5, to be exact), Groff's latest story collection, simply titled Florida, came out – and it utterly bewitched us. Florida lacks Fates' blockbuster, optioned-by-Hollywood glamour; it's a handful of rough gemstones next to the glittering tiara of Fates. But Florida the book, like Florida the state, is a "dense, damp tangle"; both are built of toxic decay and life-bursting elementals. Hands-down the book of the year for anyone who revels in the darkness of the Sunshine State.