Departures, Two Trains Running, The Art of the Motorcycle, and more

Thursday • 19

TWO TRAINS RUNNING We always get a little antsy when there's serious downtime between People's Theatre productions, worrying that the multicultural performance company may have tired of fighting the good fight and called it a day. Founder and executive director Canara Price says that her troupe is still struggling to expand its infrastructure, but that its four-show 2006 season is proof that it isn't about to go away. (Whew!) Two Trains Running – the first joint venture between People's and Seminole Community College – fulfills the dual function of keeping Price's organization in the public eye and keeping alive the spirit of the late, great playwright August Wilson, whom she lauds as "such a legend." The choice of script was suggested by featured actor Dennis Neal, who's back in town after a Left Coast stint that included guest shots on network dramas like ER; castmate Tory Kittles, meanwhile, was in 50 Cent's movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin', furthering the tradition of performers shuttling between stage roles here and on-camera work in Hollywood. And that's a train that shows no signs of slowing down, either. (8 p.m. at Seminole Community College Fine Arts Theatre; also 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; through Jan. 29; $15; 407-708-2040)

FLORIDA'S HIGHWAYMEN: LEGENDARY LANDSCAPES What Gary Monroe brought to the public in his 2001 book, The Highwaymen: Florida's African-American Landscape Painters caught on like wildfire; collectors can't get enough of the 1950s to 1960s paintings of idealized Florida landscapes created on the fly by the ad hoc but now famous group of roadside hawkers. On Thursday, a private collection of more than 65 original paintings – most of them from the personal collection of Geoff Cook – will debut with an evening reception and talk by Highwaymen expert Jim Fitch. Meet-and-greets with the artists who are still alive (and working their newfound fame) are planned Jan. 21, March 11 and April 1 (all 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; free with regular admission). A Feb. 16 Black History Month event brings painter Robert Lewis to the museum for an evening reception (5:30 p.m.; $10). And on Feb. 18, collectors can bring up to three of their Highwaymen paintings for evaluation by experts from Grand Antique Mall ($10 per painting; three for $25). A special meet-and-greet on Feb. 4, held under the auspices of ArtsFest, is completely free; no admission required. Those new to this African-American historical discovery as well as the collectors' frenzy will likely find the colorful captures of the Sunshine State's environmental riches similarly addicting. (reception 5:30 p.m., continuing through April 16 at Orange County Regional History Center; $10; 407-836-8500)

DEPARTURES Photographer Charity de Meer says she was visiting New York when she hit on the idea of shooting portraits of women with dogs. It was the sight of one pet owner in parachute pants and stilettos that made her rue being caught without a camera – thus inspiring an entire series devoted to the contrast between pronounced femininity and "sloppy, messy" canine companionship. De Meer's shots of ladies and pooches captured in nighttime urban settings comprise one-third of the current Departures show, which also showcases husband Steven de Meer's cityscapes and Carlos Amoedo's "ruralscapes" (as Charity calls them). Whether or not you wear parachute pants to the exhibit's Third Thursday reception is entirely up to you. (6 p.m.-10 p.m. at DMAC; through Jan. 31; free; 407-992-1200)

Friday • 20

OTRONICON: ORLANDO ELECTRONIC INTERACTIVE CONVENTION Even the organizers are eager to call this a geek extravaganza, because in this day and age, we all have a little geek in us, don't we? But how hypergeeky is 10 days of video game activities – game development workshops, panel discussions, game stations, a Halo 2 tournament and tons of other competitions. Perhaps most telling is this event – and we'll quote this directly from the press release for full effect: "Hold on to your pacemakers … on Jan. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m., you can finally put those years of hip-hop dance lessons to good use by comparing your score at the DDR video wall to a pair of Orlando Magic Dancers." We think they out-geeked themselves on this front. To overview the convention activity schedule, go to (through Jan. 29 at Orlando Science Center; $14.95 per day; 407-514-2000)

Saturday • 21

FLORIDA'S DYING CHILI COOK-OFF We trust dirty rockers to do a lot of things, but cooking for us – at least in public – is not one of them. We know there are a lot of future rock stars preparing our food in restaurant kitchens around town, and an excursion through Whole Foods will put you in contact with half of Orlando's rock scene. But a chili-cooking contest sponsored by the scurrilous folks involved in the Florida's Dying scene … well, that pushes the limits of gastronomic faith, even for us. Yeah, they had a bake sale to raise money and they did this whole chili cook-off thing a year ago to raise money – Florida's Dying likes to raise money, and one day we'll see the trash-rock compilation record that's supposed to come of it all – and nobody died. But this crew's nasty sense of humor (and the many ways to disguise ingredients in chili) has us worried. (Full disclosure: For some reason, one of our own has volunteered to be a judge.) Hopefully we'll get to see a couple of bands – the almighty Black Lips are playing, along with about a thousand excellent local bands – before we wind up in the tiny Will's Pub bathroom for the rest of the afternoon. (with Hex Tremors, Hibachi Stranglers, Fashion Fashion & the Image Boys, Tuff Luvs, Learning Curves, Libyan Hit Squad, Jeanie & the Tits; 4 p.m. at Will's Pub; $8; 407-898-5070;

Sunday • 22

REOPENING OF CORNELL FINE ARTS MUSEUM Over the years, there's been a blue-hair connotation to the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, tucked away on the Rollins College campus – undeserved, considering the depth and breadth of this significant collection of art. Still, there were scads of fans (of all ages) enamored with the quaint sanctuary that sits on the shores of picturesque Lake Virginia. Now, even though that structure has been completely rebuilt, the same welcoming feeling is still there, along with a likeable sophistication. And there's so much to take in besides the new digs. There's Eye to Eye, a striking collection of contemporary portraits, and an extensive display of Civil War illustrations by Winslow Homer. The bad news? It'll cost $5 to visit, as the donations-only policy had to be ditched in favor of progress. (grand reopening 1 p.m.-5 p.m. at Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park; $5; 407-646-2526)

THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE It isn't every day that an Orlando Museum of Art exhibit arrives bearing a soundtrack CD that includes a track by Black Oak Arkansas' redneck Romeo, Jim Dandy Mangrum. Then again, it isn't every day that an OMA exhibit has a soundtrack CD at all. The Art of the Motorcycle: Songs of the Open Road is about as unlikely a concept as the show itself, yet there they both are, reaching out to a whole new demographic of culture vultures by saluting major achievements in bike design and manufacture. The exhibit, adapted from a popular viewing experience at New York's Guggenheim, runs here for a full six months, treating locals to such smokin' artifacts as the BMW R32 (said to have been influenced by Bauhaus design!) and a 1993 replica of the lost "Easy Rider" chopper seen in the movie of the same name. The real Easy Rider, director/star Dennis Hopper, supplies one of the voices heard in the accompanying audio tour; unfortunately, you'll also have to weather the comments of late-night weasel Jay Leno, whose bike fetish won't make him cool even if he keeps on indulging it for a million years. (Orlando Museum of Art; through July 23; $15; 407-896-4231)

Contributors: Jason Ferguson, Steve Schneider, Lindy T. Shepherd

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