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In one House and out the other 

I'm not going to use this week's space to go into an extended, Dennis Miller-like rant about Florida's election imbroglio. Let me just note my disappointment, however, that (1) the presidential recount wasn't performed live during one of WUPN-TV Channel 65's Florida Lottery telecasts ("Tonight's winning numbers are 3 ... 15 ... Buchanan ... 27 ... ") and (2) Ric Keller was elected to the House of Representatives.

Remember those TV ads in which Keller's opponent, Linda Chapin, was assailed for spending thousands of dollars on "art"? Remember how the spot's narrator spat out that word as if it were the name of a hideous glandular disorder? Somehow, I don't get the impression that we've sent a champion of culture to Capitol Hill. And I sure don't expect Keller to be our go-to guy if we ever want federal funding of a Robert Mapple- thorpe exhibit. But maybe that's just me.

Parliamentary procedure

While Keller was packing his bags for the trip to Washington, Michael Wanzie and Doug Ba'aser were bailing out of "Trailer Trash Tabloid," the Orlando International Fringe Festival hit whose extended revival at the Parliament House was supposed to run every Saturday through Nov. 25. The engagement ended early when Wanzie notified writer/director Lewis Routh that he would not perform the final three shows on the schedule -- speaking, Wanzie says, for his partner as well.

The particulars of the pullout are wildly disputed by the involved parties, but the flashpoint was the contract Routh signed with an outside producer to mount an expanded, two-act version of "TTT." According to Routh, Wanzie demanded that he and Ba'aser have "first right of refusal" to perform the two-man show's multiple roles in all future productions; Wanzie counters that he merely sought contractual assurance that the comedy duo would be allowed to audition.

They didn't get it. The unnamed producer, Routh says, is "not interested" in using the actors, and has forbidden Routh from entering into any other written agreements that concern "Trailer Trash Tabloid."

The controversy raises a thorny question: Is "TTT" a Routh product, a Wanzie & Doug vehicle or a bit of both? The pair's established fan base and personas were clearly integral to the show's Orlando success. Ba'aser calls the endeavor a "collaborative effort" from a creative standpoint. (The business end may have been different: "For reasons unknown to myself," he says, "I was continuously not included in important decisions made by the rest of the members of "Trailer Trash."")

Routh, however, retains the writing credit. Though Wanzie feels that his and Ba'aser's input made the performed version "vastly different" from the original script Routh turned in, they never asked to be listed as co-authors.

"We were stupid," Wanzie says, "and you can print that."

"Stupid" isn't the harshest word that's being tossed around. Other terms I've heard include "deceit," "cheat," "lies," "drunk" and "emotional problems." Sounds like the Bush/Gore race, all right.

Inferior woods

During a recent vacation, I finally had time to take in the "Blair Witch" sequel, "Book of Greenstamps." (Sorry. "Shadows.") Though it was as bad as I had feared -- the world's most sophisticated DVD player could not reassemble this picture into a coherent statement -- I'm still glad I forked over the cash. Why? Because I want to see "Waiting" some day.

"Waiting," you may recall, was the next Orlando-bred film foray snapped up by Artisan Entertainment after "The Blair Witch Project's" national breakout. Last January, locals Rob McKittrick and Dean Shull announced that their script had been sold to Artisan for a six-figure sum, with "American Pie's" Chris Moore on tap to produce.

Since then, the low-budget comedy has been stalled in rewrite hell. Shull still hopes to act as co-producer, and Moore likewise remains involved. In the interim, however, the latter has shuttered his Fusion Films imprint and started LivePlanet, a multimedia venture that includes Moore, Sean Bailey (his co-producer on the 1999 crime drama "Best Laid Plans") and next-gen heartthrobs Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Having the LivePlanet logo on its letterhead is a healthy portent for "Waiting": The quartet was the subject of a recent cover story in Fortune magazine. But if Artisan tightens up its purse strings in the wake of "Blair Witch 2"'s nose dive, "Waiting" may encounter further setbacks anyway. Shull has no official comment.

At least Artisan has my money to play with ... not to mention that of the other folks who were in the theater when I saw "Book of Shadows." All four of them.

Blanks slate

Also in celluloid limbo is "Shooting Blanks," the crime comedy that producers Todd Thompson and Balinda DeSantis have been promising for close to a year.

According to Thompson and DeSantis, difficulties in securing financing have them stuck in "development mode." The film's previously announced creative team -- including director Daniel Hugh Kelley and stars Jennifer Tilly, Michael Rapaport and Seymour Cassel -- is said to remain intact, as long as their respective schedules permit them to take part when the cameras finally roll.

In the interim, everyone has been keeping busy. An actor as well as a mini-mogul, Thompson had a cameo role in the Nov. 8 episode of TV's "Dawson's Creek," playing a paramedic who helped revive Meredith Monroe's Andie after an ecstasy overdose. (Living in Orlando must have made his research a breeze.) And Tilly and Cassel tested their onscreen chemistry by appearing together in last summer's "The Crew" -- which, shall we say, failed to set the world on fire.

DeSantis saw it. Her verdict? "We love Seymour." I'm sure he loves them, too.

Cows don't leave

As the Mad Cow Theatre Co.'s exemplary staging of "The Cherry Orchard" enters its final weekend of performances at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park, word arrives that the troupe will revisit the Lowndes turf for its next production, director Trudy Bruner's take on Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart." Delays in the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's construction plans allowed the Cows' window of residency to "open a little wider," Bruner says -- just wide enough for a Cow to fit through.

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