Thursday, July 21, 2016

Atlanta's Spectacular "Chihuly in the Garden"

Part of its 40th anniversary celebration, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is home of a spectacular "Chihuly in the Garden" exhibition. This exhibition features 19 installations, three created just for this exhibition.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

The above installation, Fire Amber Herons, is my personal favorite. It's located in the Ferst Fountain, where you will discover Lily, Lottie and Luna behind a waterfall, in the Perennial Garden.

A mere two years after President & CEO—and visionary—Mary Pat Matheson assumed leadership of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, she again put the Garden "on the map" with a Chihuly exhibition in 2004 that increased visitorship to record levels. She's continued to do so since.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

Did you know that the Japanese Garden in the Atlanta Botanical Garden pre-dates its 1976 founding? Go on a guided tour of the Garden and you'll learn lots of fascinating facts and factoids about our "Oasis in the City".


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

The two immediately above photos are Turquoise Marlins and Floats, featured in the Japanese Garden.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

Located in The Gardens in Storza Woods, opened only in recent years, you'll discover three groupings of Red Reeds. Red is my favorite color, so I found these particularly magnificent. They're strategically placed, so you may or may not see them as you come upon them, but you'll definitely see them! 


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

Sapphire Star, in Howell Fountain at the end of the Crepe Myrtle AllĂ©e and the top of the Great Lawn, is magnificent! You can't miss it and you won't be able to resist taking a photo of or with it. 


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

Immediately under the Canopy Walk (which opened only in 2010) is Green Hornets and Waterdrops. Its backdrop is another favorite...several "plantings" of Neodymium Reeds, the purple "stalks" that the sun makes sparkle during daytime and strategic lighting makes spectacular in the evening.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

At the top of the relatively new Water Mirror in Storza Woods is the 30-foot tall Saffron Tower. I'm not convinced if it's more spectacular during the day or when fully illuminated—all its neon tubes—in the evening!


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

In the lobby of the Fuqua Orchid Center you'll be mesmerized by Sapphire Neon with Neodymium Reeds, Floats, and Logs. This installation features multiple techniques used by artist Dale Chihuly, set among natural elements.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

I've seen this exhibition many times now, with friends Barry, Jacquetta, Luc and Saffold, all on separate visits, and the one installation that has grown on me the most is the Black and Green Striped Herons with Icicle Clusters, displayed in the Fuqua Orchid Center. It's truly magnificent and a favorite backdrop for visitor photos, group and individual.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

Lining both sides of the Great Lawn, in front of the Fuqua Conservatory, you'll see the splendid and spectacular Carmel and Red Fiori. I love the movement of Chihuly's work...you can't help but be moved by it.


Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016
Chihuly in the Garden | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 2016

The above, Ikebana, is located in the Tropical Rotunda in the Fuqua Conservatory. Be sure to look around when in the Conservatory...there are multiple sculptures here, each unique and splendid.

Want a video sneak peek? Check out this video featuring Dale Chihuly himself exploring Chihuly in the Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

This 40th anniversary exhibition will be on display through October 30, 2016. See it and be mesmerized! Then see it at night...see Chihuly Nights!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fort Pickens...An Historical Treasure

Happy 100th birthday, National Park Service!

I recently went on a short vacation to Pensacola, Florida, when I saw one of my dearest friends married on Navarre Beach. We also visited the Pensacola Lighthouse, toured the National Naval Aviation Museum, explored Downtown Pensacola and spent a great amount of time wandering through Fort Pickens, today a National Park.

I'm going to share here 10 bits of trivia or tips that I picked up on during my visit to Fort Pickens.


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

1. Construction on Fort Pickens began in 1829, at the time one of forty forts to protect our coastal borders. It's of a pentagon shape, designed for more than 200 cannon and built with more than 21.5 million bricks! Constructions was completed in 1834, with quite a storied process.


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

2. When you visit, get a map, find a tour guide, do research. There is a considerable lot to explore and discover here...more than what we realized! I totally want to visit again when I return to Pensacola!


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

3. One summer morning in 1899, there was an explosion. 8,000 pounds of gunpowder showered debris across Pensacola Bay. Flying brick fragments killed Pvt. Earle Welles and injured Pvt. Henry Hopgood. Visitors can today still see signs of that deadly explosion.


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

4. To support the weight of the fort on a foundation of sand, engineers used arches...lots and lots of arches!


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

5. Fort Pickens, as well as Pickens County, Georgia, Pickens County Alabama, and Pickens, S.C. (where my mother is spending retirement years), are all named for General Andrew Pickens, a Revolutionary War soldier who was born in Pennsylvania and eventually called South Carolina home, where he passed in 1817.


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

6. Those are cannon platforms in the above photo. This fort is formidable and fascinating at the same time. 


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

7. Did you know that this is the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service? That made this visit to Fort Pickens even a little more special. Have you explored all 11 National Parks in Georgia? Since this post is about a State Park in Florida, I'd be remiss to not mention that there are also 11 National Parks in Florida. Go, explore, have a great time in our National Parks!


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

8. Fort Pickens is a fort within a fort! By the last 1890s, the brick and stone fort had become antiquated and no match for newer weapons. Completed in 1899, Battery Pensacola mounted two 12-inch rifles on disappearing carriages, that could be retracted after firing. Their 1,070 pound shells could be shot at targets eight miles away! 

You'll know it's Battery Pensacola because it's painted black—to reduce glare from the sand and water.


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

9. Fort Pickens closed in 1947, having been declared "surplus". Guns, railroad tracks, and steel towers were salvaged, leaving only concrete remains. Certain artifact were added later. A State Park in 1971, it joined and became part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, and will forever remain part of our history, present and future. I highly recommend a visit! 


Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Fort Pickens | Gulf Islands National Seashore, NPS | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

10. Fort Pickens also has a museum and an active fishing pier. We did not take advantage of those, but we did see the above pictured beautiful Blue Heron. He walked around with us for about 15 minutes! Stunning creature.

Fort Pickens offers a number of campground sites, so if you're looking to camp anywhere in or near Pensacola, this would make for a unique and rather fascinating choice!

Help the National Park Service celebrate its 100th birthday by visiting a National Park! You know you're going to have fun!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interview: Benjamin Davis on the Inaugural AMTF

Everything has a beginning.

The upcoming inaugural Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival (AMTF) started with a "Why don't we have something like this?" epiphany when Atlanta-area actor-singer-producer Benjamin Davis was at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) just one year ago.

This summer, Benjamin's then-budding vision will become a reality, making Atlanta musical theatre history!

Benjamin Davis, Founder & Executive Director, Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
Benjamin Davis, Founder & Executive Director, Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

I had the awesome honor of interviewing Benjamin who shared with me some background on his theatre adventures and some of what he plans to grow into an annual event.

About Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

Benjamin envisions the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival as an avenue to facilitate and foster "the next generation of theatre artists...to allow creative minds to explore their ideas with the guidance of seasoned industry professionals." Benjamin sees this as an opportunity to "celebrate our community and the impact that Atlanta can have on the national theatre scene."

Benjamin was inspired when attending/working the New York Musical Festival last year to start one here in Atlanta. NYMF, launched 12 years ago, today runs for nearly a full month and this year showcases 2 to 12 shows per day. Benjamin's fearless endeavor will no doubt rival its NYC sister Festival one day. That Benjamin has in only one year created and is about the launch the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival is mind-blowing! This is BIG, you guys!

There were 20 submissions received by the May 1 deadline and four official selections have been made that will be presented in the inaugural Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival, over two days and two nights, August 1-2. Tickets are available on the Actor's Express website and the shows will be performed at Actor's Express and Synchronicity Theatre

The range of topics presented in the inaugural year of the Festival is quite astounding. Festival-goers will see shows concerning slavery, family, feminism and memory! (more info about these shows is below)

Of course, getting any project of this magnitude off the ground takes vision, dedication and support. AMTF conducted a crowdfunding campaign and it was a total success at 111%! It's very exciting to see such support and enthusiasm for new musical theatre and for emerging theatre artists! 

Want to donate to the success of the Festival? You still can...donate here.

Tickets are now on sale for the two-day Festival. AMTF will take place on Monday and Tuesday, August 1-2. There will be a show at noon both days and a show at 8:00 p.m. both days...a total of four original works.

The Festival will be presented in four blocks over the two days. Each block will include a showcase performance of a local musical, in an abbreviated form, and one of the four official selections—a full performance of the original work.

About Benjamin Davis

A native Georgian, Benjamin has been acting since he was 12 years old. He grew up as a singer, and simply stumbled upon musical theatre when his middle school chorus class presented a musical each year.

He was born in Buford, Georgia, matriculated at University of Georgia and did his apprenticeship at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Georgia, a theatre I've enjoyed on many occasions and highly recommend.

His first role came in 7th grade, as Wihthrop in The Music Man. Benjamin recounts the experience as one in which he "thought he was cast because of his natural talent, but probably had more to do with the fact that he had bright red hair and an actual lisp." 

His favorite shows today include a plethora of contemporary musical theatre, but he says the shows he's dying to tackle are Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Dogfight...*wink* *wink* to all Artistic Directors in Atlanta.

The most recent performance I had the pleasure of seeing Benjamin in was Sweeney Todd at Actor's Express, one of the theatres hosting the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival. After meeting him, I fully know that his passion for theatre is authentic. His desire for AMTF to be a total success is indeed genuine, and I'm wholly convinced it will be!

Over the years I've known many actors and actresses, some of them very close friends. The one common trait each and every one of them possess is a complete and total devotion to their craft. Benjamin's commitment to singing, acting and launching the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival is exactly that...a wholly committed devotion to a successful launch and continuation of the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival.

When I asked him what he does for fun in his spare time—knowing that was a long shot—Benjamin said, "You hit the nail on the head when you mention that our lives are acting. In addition to my acting career, my actual free time is usually spent on the Festival or other projects. My REAL free time would be spent cooking with my girlfriend, playing with my dog, or studying the craft. My free nights are spent watching other shows or movies, usually engulfing myself in other people's work. Free time and hobbies are a thing of the past for me!"

Sadly, Benjamin recently lost his canine companion to health complications. My heartfelt condolences to him and others who loved his pup.

When Benjamin got the idea for the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival, he was working as the Associate Producer for a show called The Last Time We Were Here at the 2015 New York Musical Festival, and the show was a great success.

Before that, Benjamin also had the awesome opportunity to tour with the Broadway Dreams Foundation as a production assistant/intern coordinator. Through Broadway Dreams, Benjamin has had the opportunity to work alongside Broadway greats including Billy Porter, Tituss Burgess, Eden Espinosa, Jarrod Emick, Megan Hilty, Stafford Arima, Norm Lewis, Stephanie J. Block, Tyler Hanes, Deidre Goodwin, and Tony Vincent, among others.


His resume is impressive to say the least! I believe he will prove to be the musical theatre promoter that Atlanta wants and needs.

Benjamin also maintains a steady amount of on-camera work. He has appeared in feature films, including The DUFF and The Fat Boy Chronicles, as well as commercials for Georgia Lottery, Top Flite, Zaxby's, RaceTrac, and Home Depot, among others.


Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival



Official Selections

Let's now have a look at the four Official Selections that will be featured in the inaugural Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival, presented here in performance date/time order. Tickets for all shows are available on the Actor's Express website.

Underground (tickets)
Monday, August 1  |  12:00 p.m.  |  Synchronicity Theatre

Book and Lyrics by Akil DuPont

"1850. With dreams of freedom tuggin' at his soul, Bali plans to escape from slavery after learning that his master, Jacob, is going to sell his young daughter ...Bali encounters a house slave, Dembi, who is content with her station in life..."

Human strife and struggle is often the catalyst for music, whether it offers relief or fuel. This show, I believe, is a story about the human condition, about the incredibly difficult decisions we sometimes have to make...decisions that will dictate our future. A must-see!

Underground | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
Underground | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

The Yellow Wallpaper (tickets)
August 1  |  8:00 p.m.  |  Actor's Express

Adaptation by Hannah Church
Music & Lyrics by Julia Appleton

"...a treatment called the 'rest cure'. Imagine lying in bed for eight weeks in complete isolation."

Granted, there are times, especially in today's busy world, I crave quite alone time, but never would I, or most anyone for that matter, want it forced upon me. I am completely curious about this 1891 "cure"...and how it's put to music!


The Yellow Wallpaper | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
The Yellow Wallpaper | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

The Fine Art of Forgetting (tickets) (website)
Tuesday, August 2  |  12:00 p.m.  |  Synchronicity Theatre

Book by Heidi Cline McKerley
Music by S. Renee Clark
Lyrics by Jeff McKerley

"...we follow Karen's journey as she juggles a mother battling Alzheimer's disease, a disappearing father, a nonexistent romantic relationship, and a new career opportunity that seems too good to be true."

I know S. Renee Clark's music. That alone tells me this one will be magnificent. The story is one that I believe many of us have in the past or are currently dealing with, making it wholly relevant to so many today.



The Fine Art of Forgetting | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
The Fine Art of Forgetting | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival


What's Past (tickets)
Tuesday, August 2  |  8:00 p.m.  |  Actor's Express

Written by Chase Peacock and Jessica de Maria

"What would you do if you could remember all the things you never knew you forgot?

That part of the show's synopsis terrifies me. Not because of the show, but because I don't think I'd want to unravel certain aspects of my past, but I can hardly wait to see it dramatically acted out on stage!


What's Past | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
What's Past | 2016 Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

You can get a discount by purchasing multiple shows and for a short time there will be full-festival passes available for all four shows at a significant savings! Remember to double-check your ticket and time, as the festival is being conducted at two different theatres, Actor's Express and Synchronicity Theatre.

Stephen Michael Brown, Title Sponsor of Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival, is someone I do not personally know, but I've seen his hand in a lot of great work, a lot of magnificent theatre, so it wasn't a surprise when I learned that he extended his expertise and generosity to the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival.

I hope to meet Stephen at some point in the future, but allow me please to share with you one of his favorite quotes, which I believe is accurate of how he approaches every day:
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find out." - Roger Ebert
I'm looking forward to what I know will be a magnificent musical theatre experience! Thank you Benjamin, staff, artistic advisors, sponsors, playwrights, directors, crew and actors! And of course a huge thank you to all who purchase tickets!

Submissions for the 2nd Annual Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival will open this fall, so be sure to sign-up for informative email updates (bottom of their homepage) and follow AMTF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We may all very well be witnesses to the beginning of the next national musical theatre sensation! See you at the Festival!


Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Final Star Wars Night at Turner Field

I finally made it to Star Wars Night at Turner Filed, an extra-fun Atlanta Braves game. The fun was out of this world, "in a galaxy far, far away"...yet really close! And the fun began as soon as you stepped inside the gate.

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

As most everyone knows, this is the final season the Atlanta Braves will play in Turner Field. We're not sure "exactly" what's going to happen to the field, but I sincerely hope it finds a new home, avoiding the wrecking ball. I hope the Braves like their new home, but I'm going to miss having them so close to downtown!

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

I made sure to make it to the field in time to see the on-field Star Wars Parade, which started 45 minutes before game time.

Some of the parade participants were fascinated with the view from the field. The youngster pictured above looks so very much like my great nephew Johnny, also a curious little fellow. 


Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

The field was fully wrapped by time all the participants made it out. There were some excellent costumes and it looked like everyone on the field, including staff and players, were having a great time!

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

If you're making plans to attend a Braves game that has a parade, do make time to see it...it's great fun! Check the schedule for games that have a parade.

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

Of all the Star Wars characters, Yoda is my all-time favorite. And he's the one I most often quote, for inspiration: "The is no try. Do or do not." I love the droids, too, but Yoda is wise and tell it how it is. I admire that directness.

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

As I mentioned, there were some awesome costumes for Star Wars Night! There were characters and cosplayers throughout the stadium and up by the giant drum near the main entrance, but the parade is when you get to see the costumes best.

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

When I went to "Zombie Night" at Turner Field last year, they had zombiefied everyone on the scoreboard. For Star Wars Night, they used bad guys (Yoda, Boba Fett or Darth Vader) for the opposing team's photos. But there was video of them getting ready to bat, so it was all in fun.

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

For the Atlanta Braves, they dressed them in good guys costumes! They played a great game, but a few Jedi mind tricks for the win would have been nice.

The next Zombie Night at Turner Field is scheduled for Friday, July 15. I had a great time at last year's, as I did at this year's Star Wars Night. I highly recommend going! Just remember to get there at least an hour early so that you have time for photo ops and to see the on-field parade!

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Freddie Freeman | Atlanta Braves

I've been talking about Star Wars and not much about baseball, of which I am truly a fan. There was some excellent playing this game. In fact, we went into overtime with a 5-5 score. 

At the bottom of the 10th, with bases loaded, we thought we'd win the game. But that wasn't the Braves' destiny...not that night anyway. 

The game finished 5-7 at the bottom of of the 12th inning...it was a long game, but a good game!

Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves
Star Wars Night 2016 at Turner Field | Atlanta Braves

And as is tradition for Friday night home games, there were fireworks! On this particular evening, however, the fireworks were choreographed to Star Wars music.

The evening was great fun...I'm so glad I finally went to a Star Wars Night at Turner Field and I wish the Atlanta Braves all the best next year at their new home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Of Mice and Men" Mesermizes

I'd never read or seen Of Mice and Men, but I have enjoyed the Serenbe Playhouse experience so I knew going in that it would at the very least be a remarkable evening. It was so much more. I was mesmerized from the beginning until the lights went down in the final scene, a tear slowly finding its way down my face.

Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning John Steinbeck penned the novella in 1937. It's a tale of Great Depression hardship, unlikely friendship and an examination of loneliness. Serenbe Playhouse's adaptation, acted in the natural world—outdoors!, follows the friendship of George (Daniel Parvis) and Lennie (Blake Burgess) for a brief, but powerful time. You will enjoy some laughs with "the witty small guy and loafing giant"...and you'll be moved.

Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus


"Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. ... With us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack jus' because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us." - George

The play begins off in the distance, in a field to the right of the stage. George and Lennie had been let off a bus quite a distance from the ranch where they were to find work. They spent the night under the stars, but not before Lennie insists on George regaling him once more with the story of how they're different from most guys, how their lives are going to prevail against all odds.


Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

For this Serenbe Playhouse experience, theatre-goers remain in their seats (some shows are "roving"), but the set is brilliantly diverse, ranging from a meadow to creek-side, from the ranch bunkhouse to a barn loft. I had the experience of sitting in the middle of the front row...I was practically on set. It was awesome!


Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

There are two four-legged members of the ensemble, Hector and Autumn. Serenbe Playhouse partnered with LifeLine Animal Project to work with the awesome "actors", who are both recent rescues.

Michael Rudko, who portrays Candy (pictured above), is husband of the performance's director, Jenny Lord, alumnus of The Juilliard School. Both are Broadway vets and it shows. Rudko's performance, ranging from heart-broken to hopeful, is brilliant.


Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

Drama is the order of the day, or night as it may be. This show contains high-impact dialogue, energy and emotion. The natural outdoor setting—at the Hay Barn in Serenbe—and intimate-size audience makes you feel like more than a spectator...I felt like I was there on the ranch, feeling what the characters were feeling.  


Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus
Of Mice and Men | Serenbe Playhouse | Photo: BreeAnne Clowdus

One of my favorite aspects of a Serenbe Playhouse experience is that you're mingling with the cast, in costume, well before the play even begins. 

My friend Luc and I played horseshoes with Carlson (Jonathan Horne), while leisurely enjoying a libation, before the show! He's super nice, which I don't think was an act, then we were witness to his brilliant acting. Carlson is not nice at all...he has an evil streak, played quite convincingly by Horne, who had been so pleasant not long before.

The entire cast is stellar, truly! We also got to meet Hector and Autumn after the show!   



My schedule did not allow me to see this show at the beginning of the run (I'd have seen it more than once!), so if you're just learning about it in this reading, get your tickets now! Of Mice and Men finishes with its Sunday, June 26 performance.

For dinner, make reservations at The Farmhouse. I didn't go this time, but I have been before...it's lovely and delicious! Want to make a weekend of it? Book a room or cottage at The Inn at Serenbe. Both are sponsors of the show.

A huge wanderlust ATLANTA "Thank you!" to Serenbe Playhouse for the tickets to the show, and a reminder to my readers that my writing is always of my own opinions and observations.

Next up at Serenbe Playhouse...Miss Saigon! Tickets are available now.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pensacola Lighthouse

On a recent four-day, three-night vacation—specifically to attend the wedding of one of my dearest friends—our briefest visit of the many destinations we explored was the Pensacola Lighthouse, and one of the most exciting for me. 

After a full day—until closing at 5:00 p.m.—we'd been at the neighboring National Naval Aviation Museum. We'd passed Pensacola Lighthouse on the way to the Museum (both are located on NAS Pensacola), and I'd expressed an interest in seeing it, not realizing that we would close the Aviation Museum, only a half hour before the Lighthouse would close.

We arrived at Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum at 5:15 p.m., with only time to explore the lighthouse tower before they closed at 5:30 p.m. I was determined to reach the top, even with only 15 minutes to climb to the top, and descend!


Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida | Photo by Travis S. Taylor
Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida

I didn't catch their names, but the two staff members who were working in the gift shop that afternoon—and in the process of wrapping up for the day—were wonderfully patient, pleasant and polite. With only 15 minutes to explore, they answered a few questions I had, sold me a $6 ticket (what a bargain for such an awesome experience!) and I was on my way!


Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida | Photo by Travis S. Taylor
Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida

I'd been told in the gift shop, where I purchased my ticket, that the lighthouse is the equivalent of a 17-story building. 

Challenge accepted! 

It wasn't until I was on the 70th-something step that I realized they were numbered, which I assumed was part of the ongoing restoration project. Seeing various states of renovation, I marveled at the engineering it takes to build, let alone restore, a structure that would last as long as this one has. After the 100th step I took a break of a few seconds and kept on climbing, stopping only to catch a quick glimpse out of the few windows, while ascending. 

It wasn't until I reached the top of the lighthouse that I was told—there's a guide regularly stationed at the top of the lighthouse, volunteers I believe—that there's a total of 177 steps in the lighthouse tower. I made it! It wouldn't be until much later that I'd learn the fascinating history of this amazing lighthouse.


Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida | Photo by Travis S. Taylor
Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida

I walked around the deck at the top of the lighthouse at least three times. 

The views from the top include the National Naval Aviation Museum (which we'd just visited minutes before), Santa Rosa Island (where we'd been to the wedding the night before, on Navarre Beach), and Fort Pickens (where we would be exploring the following day), to name only a few.

If I was out of breath from the climb, I didn't notice. I was wholly mesmerized by the 360 degrees of stunning Florida Gulf beauty. You might remember that I was born on the Florida Gulf, in St. Petersburg. So I've long had a love affair with Florida beaches and a fascination with lighthouses.   


Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida | Photo by Travis S. Taylor
Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida

After seeing so many lighthouse documentaries on television and seeing replicas in museums, getting to peek inside an operating lighthouse lens room was exhilarating! I made this particular photograph (all in this post are mine) black and white, to better show the spectacular contrast of the lens room lenses.

A quick bit of history...

The first Pensacola Lighthouse was proposed in the early 1820's and Congress appropriated funds for that lighthouse in 1823. The light from the new tower was displayed on December 20, 1824, atop a 40-foot lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the Florida Gulf Coast! That same year, Congress passed a Senate bill authorizing the "establishment of a Navy Yard at or near Pensacola".

Construction on today's Pensacola Lighthouse, located approximately half a mile west of the original, was completed in 1859 and stands at 151 feet tall, 191 feet above sea level. Ten years later, in 1869, the tower's daymark—distinctive shape and/or color of a lighthouse as seen during the day—was changed from all-white to the lower third being white—to contrast the trees, and the top two-thirds were painted black—to contrast cloudy skies. 


Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida | Photo by Travis S. Taylor
Pensacola Lighthouse | Pensacola, Florida

One lighthouse resident that all visitors are sure to see is "Jeremiah, Pelican Lighthouse Keeper", one of the dozens in the "Pelicans in Paradise" 2004-2005 project to raise funds for the Pensacola News Journal's "Newspapers in Education" literacy program.

My best friend Barry and I were on vacation together, but he opted for a walk on the beach while I was climbing, a climb he'd made before. I walked down after my lighthouse experience to enjoy the views and white sand on the adjacent beach. 

Remember, the Pensacola Lighthouse and the nearby National Naval Aviation Museum are on an active Naval Air Station, so do your research on where to enter the base and what credentials you'll need to gain access.

I didn't get to visit the Museum or the grounds on this particular visit, but I will return to Pensacola Lighthouse with ample time to visit everything is has to offer! Whether you have only a few minutes or a whole day, I encourage you to visit this historic and fascinating landmark. I wouldn't trade those 15 minutes for anything and can hardly wait to return!

Please visit the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook page for more photos from this visit!