Monday, March 2, 2015

Anne Frank Moved Me To Tears

"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was a young teenager. That experience would shape and influence the person I became as an adult. The good parts, at least. The thing that fascinated me most about Anne was her unwavering belief that everyone is good at their core.

The puppeteers performing Anne Frank: Within and Without, at the Center for Puppetry Arts, shares that fact about Anne brilliantly. 


Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts
Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts

"How true Daddy's words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." - Anne Frank

This was my first Center for Puppetry Arts performance. I've visited the Center many, many times before and am a lifelong fan of puppetry. Seriously, how could I not be having grown up with Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock!

I had never seen a live show there. I didn't know what to expect from a puppet theatre, let alone a puppet show about Anne Frank! I was amazed at how incredibly profound it was...how extraordinarily different it was from anything I'd seen before. It was beyond moving.

Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts
Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts

"I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart." - Anne Frank

This is the third time this show has been at the Center for Puppetry Arts. This time, the set has been completely changed—the stage now reflects a section of the Secret Annex—and certain puppets have been added. That's to say that if you've seen this show before, when you go again, it'll be different—the set, not the story, of course.

The show is an amalgamation of puppetry, acting, music, lighting, and dialogue—both narrative and lines from Anne's diary. If you've ever experienced personal emotions or empathy for the victims of the Holocaust, and their families, those feelings will return when you're watching this show. They did for me. 

I for one feel strongly that we should retell this and similar stories, to elicit compassion for each other and to inhibit such a gruesome history repeating itself.


Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts
Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" - Anne Frank

Unlike many other performances of Anne Frank's writings, the Center for Puppetry Arts continues the story after they were taken away and shares with the audience when, where and how seven of the residents of the Secret Annex died, many of them so close to liberation. 

The only survivor from the Secret Annex was Anne's father, Otto Frank. When he returned to Amsterdam, having survived Auschwitz, which was liberated on January 27, 1945, Miep Gies—a Dutch citizen who hid Anne's family and four others—gave him Anne's diary, a gift he had given her on her 13th birthday...a gift she would give us forever.

After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I would read quite a few Holocaust autobiographies, including Night by Elie Wiesel, who won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, and Playing for Time, by Fania Fenelon. It was many years later that I had the great honor of meeting Elie Wiesel in Washington, D.C....a remarkable man! 


Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts
Anne Frank: Within and Without | Center for Puppetry Arts

"...my greatest wish is to become a journalist someday and later on, a famous writer." - Anne Frank, May 13, 1944

The two puppeteers in the show are Caitlin Roe and Jeffrey Hyman, who are established actors, but to my great astonishment, this was their first time working as puppeteers! Original music was composed and performed by the brilliant and wonderful violinist and composer Chip Epsten.

Immediately following the performance, the actors return to the stage for a "talkback". They share a little about their experience performing the show and answer any questions the audience members have. I had questions, but was so emotionally overwhelmed by what I'd just seen I couldn't speak. The story already grips the heart so tightly, and on top of a spectacular and profound performance...I was moved to tears. 

Written from the perspective of a parent, I invite you to read the review by Lesli of 365 Atlanta Family.

Anne Frank: Within and Without, now playing at the Center for Puppetry Arts, is running now through Sunday, March 8. I hope you see it.  

THANK YOU: Although I've been visiting and writing about the Center for Puppetry Arts for a number of years, I'm grateful to Brave PR and the Center for Puppetry Arts for the complementary ticket to this performance. As always, this posts is my own writing about my personal experience of the show.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Power of Poison

Did you know that chocolate, cherries, almonds, cinnamon, coffee and cheese can be poisonous? I think you'll be fascinated at what you learn, experience, and discover in The Power of Poison at Fernbank Museum of Natural History! I do, however, recommend that you allow ample time to digest every dimension of this exhibition.

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

There are extensive features and displays and interactive stations, I really don't know where to start, but given the popularity of CSI-like television programs, let me tell you a little about the Live Science Shows that are part of The Power of Poison exhibition. 

The live shows are more lab-like, and the presenter(s) is wearing a lab coat, there are beakers and test tubes, and certain curiosities! Presentation attendees get to enjoy the fascination of the science and history of toxicology and poisoning...Seriously, doesn't that sound awesome? I didn't stop in for long, but when I go back, I want to sit in for a full "investigation"!

In addition to the show and other features in The Power of Poison, there's quite a bit of programming, including several Dangerously Delicious Tasting Events! Click that link to learn more about the chocolate and cinnamon and other delectable items noted in my lead-in question.

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

I think it's fantastic that the exhibition includes a nod to Alice in Wonderland, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015. But...you may be surprised at exactly what about Alice's wonderland you learn!

The magnificent hat on display was made in the 1900s, at a time when toxic chemicals were used in the manufacturing of hats. One chemical in particular was used in hat-making from the 1700s through the early 1900s. Let's suffice it to say that "Mad Hatter"—crazy hat maker, if you will—is quite founded in today-known factual evidence.

But, don't assume we're out of danger just yet. That same chemical, while no longer used in the hat-making process, is still a threat today...in more ways than you might think. Knowledge...is...power, and you'll gain quite a lot at Fernbank!

By the way, if you've never seen the Jose de Creeft "Alice in Wonderland" bronze sculpture in New York City's Central Park, be sure to add it to your must-see list. It's fantastic! One of my best friends just moved to NYC for a great new job, so I hope to see the sculpture again when visiting...after their snow melts, of course!

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

The Choco Rainforest diorama, at the entrance of the exhibition, is brilliant! The Choco is known to be the wettest environment on Earth and it has one of the highest concentrations of indigenous species. Even more fascinating—to me—the Choco is said to have an extremely high number of species unknown to science. 

And I love the 3X Magnification displays! There are lots of animals on display in this part of the exhibition, some of them real and some are models...all of them fascinating. 

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

The "Enchanted Book" is going to be one of if not the most popular display in the exhibition. And it totally is enchanted...at least, even as technically wired as I am, I couldn't figure out the technology behind the this magical botanical book. 

The book is massive...it's probably something close to 2.5' x 3.5', maybe bigger. You get to turn the pages and as you do they come to life...from blank pages to full animation! And then there are icons that you touch that reveal even more animation—additional information about the plants and herbs written about throughout the book. 

The experience reminds me an Arthur C. Clarke quote, who was one of my all-time favorite authors..."Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I like to think I'm a fairly bright person, but I couldn't figure out this book's technology. So it must be magic!

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

We all know that there are lots of poisonous animals on the planet. Snakes, poison dart frogs, spiders and some eels, just to name a few. And of course scorpions

I got excited when I saw this display, and not because I'd just re-watched Clash of the Titans—which has some pretty incredible scorpion scenes—but because I was stung by a scorpion when I was a teenager. Twice!

Fortunately, scorpions, like lots of other poisonous animals, are poisonous to varying degrees. The one that stung me was when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida. The doctor that my mother called explained that scorpions on the East Coast are not as poisonous as they ones on the West Coast. But I can't imagine they'd be any less painful. A scorpion sting HURTS!

Throughout the exhibition there are examples of how poison is used for good, for promoting healing. As much as I remember about the exhibition, there's a lot that I want to go back and reabsorb. In the meantime, I've been having a blast doing some tangential research. This Wired Magazine article on the potential to treat cancerous tumors using scorpion venom is fascinating! 

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Most poisonings we hear about today are accidental, but there was a time when people ingested poison on purpose. In the case of the photo above, this life-size diorama depicts Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, China's first emperor, preparing to consume what's believed to have killed him...a poison, that he thought would give him immortality. We've learned a lot about what is and what isn't poisonous since 210 BC. 

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

When you see The Power of Poison, please, please, please allow yourself ample time to explore—or plan multiple visits to Fernbank on your visit to Atlanta. You'll want to see the rest of the museum, too! I totally have to go back and continue exploring this exhibition...a couple of hours wasn't enough for me.

There's one wall that has everything from stones to bones and books to crooks...any and practically everything to do with poison across a world of disciplines. I have to admit that after seeing the Harry Potter display—which talks about Harry saving Ron after being poisoned—I've started re-watching the Harry Potter movies.

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

This is a favorite of mine in the exhibition. Not because I'm a former sailor, but because it's one of three interactive stations challenging visitors to solve a poison mystery! Sounds like fun, right? They totally are!

In fact, the friend I went with, Glen, and I, with only moments to spare before the Museum closed (we spent a lot of time mesmerized by The Enchanted Book), successfully completed all three of the poison mysteries! And no, I'm not going to give you the answers. What'd be the fun in that? 

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

When I first saw the gentle Snow White sleeping (Remember the poisonous apple?), I wasn't quite sure how to take-in this particular display. So many of us equate poison with death or possible death. To see a life-size humanoid figure—from a distance—was not exactly alarming, but it did give me pause.

In the end, I feel that it's a wonderful teaching opportunity. For the kids who love and adore fairytale princesses and might be disturbed that Snow White is "at rest", their parents have have the opportunity to teach their kids caution, to teach their kids the power of knowledge, to teach their kids the difference between make-believe and real life while recognizing how each influences the other. 

I'm not a parent, so I really can't give advice here...and I don't know enough about princesses to even be clever about it. But I do remember being a kid and wanting to know everything about everything...I was curious! Okay, I guess I've not changed that much.

The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Power of Poison | Fernbank Museum of Natural History

A centerpiece in this exhibition is a trio of witches, life-size, from William Shakespeare's Macbeth and they're magnificent! I made some photos, but those particular photos weren't so magnificent. 

BUT, guess what? Photography is allowed in this exhibition, so YOU will have the opportunity to make photos of the trio and everything else in the exhibition!

Originating from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Fernbank Museum of Natural History is the first stop on The Power of Poison's tour. You only have until Sunday, May 3, 2015, to see this amazing show. Go...be mesmerized, learn, be fascinated, explore, be curious, interact...just don't lick the poison dart frogs, okay?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wicked is Wonderful

It's rare, in my experience, that a movie, book or stage performance suggests a behind-the-scenes story that offers an alternate reality to an already wholly loved tale in such a magnificent way as does Wicked.

That Wicked has been seen by 42 million people around the world in only 11 years and that the actors, costumes and set design have been bestowed Tony Awards tells volumes of just how wonderful Wicked truly is...and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment!

Wicked is on stage at The Fox Theatre now through Sunday, March 8, but get your tickets now. Some performances have already sold out!


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

The creativity of a story of a two girls' unlikely friendship and the intricacies interwoven into a solidly established story of a third girl, who is unseen in this performance although referenced, showcases brilliance of a kind not often experienced. 


The struggles of coping with being different, a not-so-supportive family, of wanting to do the right thing are all front and center throughout Wicked. But we're shown that "right" doesn't always triumph, but that "good" wins in the end.  


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

I'd been following Alyssa Fox on Twitter for a couple of days before the show, so I knew that she'd been dealing with allergies. I was so hoping she would feel well enough to perform the evening I attended the show, but went in expecting to see her standby.

Evidently Alyssa takes "the show must go on" to heart. She performed Elphaba brilliantly. Alyssa's attention to detail in her performance is outstanding. Even the gestures she makes with her hands are telling of the forthcoming transition into the Wicked Witch of the West

By the final number in Act I, Defying Gravity—one of my two favorite songs in the show, and one I've heard approximately a bazillion times—you could tell that her allergies were affecting her voice. 

When we returned from intermission and it was announced that Emily Koch would perform the role of Elphaba in Act II, the audience gave up a fantastic ovation for Alyssa...she had given a remarkable performance. Emily was also awesome!

Check it out...you can "Elphaba Yourself


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

"Definitely by bubble. It's too cold to take a broom," was the text I sent my best friend Barry, answering my own earlier question on how we would be traveling that evening in the below-freezing temperatures to see Wicked at The Fox Theatre. It may have been cold outside, but it was wickedly hot on stage! The performances, that is...the theatre itself was quite comfortable.

Glinda's "Bubble" is one of my favorite elements in the overall magnificent set design. Between bubbles and brooms and houses and winged monkeys, there's an awful lot of flying in this story!

Carrie St. Louis as Glinda is the doll of the show and delightfully, perfectly funny. And she's rather inventive with regards to vocabulary. Watching other Glinda performances on YouTube, I like Carrie's the best. 


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

In a Julie Bookman interview with John Davidson (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), she said he shared, "the story introduces nuggets of things we know from the iconic 1939 film and makes sense of loose ends. It also has a message of equal rights, acceptance and how we treat—or mistreat—others." 

And the Wicked story line is just that. Well, that and a friendship that we previously knew nothing of. But I feel the obvious points being made in the otherwise hilarious, dramatic, and romantic story is indeed that of acceptance and equal rights. A green girl and a talking goat help bring to light those profound issues, still quite alive in today's "civilized" society.


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

I was so very much looking forward to seeing "Popular" performed again. One of my favorite songs from the show, it's performed exquisitely, with fervent humor...I honestly don't know which I enjoyed more, the song or the humor of it. 

By the way, did you know that Wicked author Gregory Maguire got the name Elphaba by combining the initials of L. Frank Baum, the author of the book that started it all? Read the playbill the ushers give you...there are all kinds of gems like that within its pages!


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

Drama! Why write across the sky when you can take up the entire stage! I love the unexpected—and quite creative—elements used to demonstrate the dramatic ebb and flow of emotional variations felt by the characters, as well as a fantastic amount of grandeur. Wait until you see the flying monkeys!

In a 1995 book review, The New York Times blasted the book Wicked as "deadly dull". While that paper's reviewers are far superior writers than I may be, everyone I know who read the book back then, and even now, rave about how wonderful it is. And I'm sorry, but how could such a dull story sell 42 million tickets? 

My point is, don't believe everything you read. Enjoy what you like. Period.


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

The love interest of Glinda and Elphaba was the ever so handsome, even if not-so-bright, Fiyero, played by Ashley Parker Angel. Again, kudos to the writers...respectful of the film we grew up with and loved first—The Wizard of Oz—the stage performance of Wicked honors that movie, while telling another story, even more dramatic, proposing other possibilities. I found myself quite pleased with the "person" Fiyero turned out to be in the end.

Perhaps Fiyero's best line: "It's not lying, it's looking at things another way."


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

I'd seen the billboard for Wicked in Times Square in New York City many years ago, and have the typical tourist photos of said billboard. But, it wasn't until later when on a business trip in Chicago that I saw Wicked on stage, at the The Oriental Theatre. It was magical! And I've wanted to see it again since.

With that said, I think I was more excited this time around about Barry seeing it for the first time. All of our other close friends have seen it, but somehow Wicked had not made Barry's extensive list of "seen-it" Broadway shows. You can imagine how hopeful I was that he'd enjoy it. And that he did. 


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

Having seen Wicked once before, I didn't research the show in depth before enjoying it at The Fox Theatre. When Barry picked up that the performer who portrayed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sounded like someone he'd seen perform before—as a game show host, he was thinking Hollywood Squares and that the actor had had his own television show for a time—and Barry was absolutely correct!

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is performed by John Davidson, who at 73 has had a remarkable and varied career...quite by design, actually. The feature story in the playbill, authored by the awesome writer Julie Bookman, is titled "The Man Behind the Curtain". Do read this story. 

Even though Davidson is only on stage for a total of 17 minutes, his role is vital to the story. That he acts and sings brilliantly during those 17 minutes is quite wonderful.


Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus
Wicked - Photo: Joan Marcus

I was very much looking forward to seeing the sets again! For the Chicago performance I saw I was seated fifth row center, which practically put me on stage with the sets, costumes and actors...all of which are magnificent! 

The costuming for this show is outstanding, and that's an understatement. I do believe that my favorite costumes are those of the denizens of Oz. The range of greens and angles and curves, the hats and hair and accessories...magnificent, every bit of it!

"Thank you, thank you, thank you" to Brave Public Relations, Broadway in Atlanta and The Fox Theatre for inviting and ticketing me for the Atlanta Press Night performance of Wicked. For my readers, know that my reviews, recaps, and stories are completely my own and are influenced only by the experience I've personally had.

Wicked is playing at The Fox Theatre through Sunday, March 8, 2015. Whether by broom, bubble, train, car or your own two feet, get yourself to The Land of Oz and see this remarkable, heartwarming show.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times

Totally just for fun, because both Dragon Con and Medieval Times are so awesome, even though it was a couple of weeks ago, I want to share with you a few photos from the Second Annual "Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times".

Prior to the two-hour dinner and tournament, there was a costume contest!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015, Tony Stark & Flo
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015, Tony Stark & Flo

My favorite couple at the event was Tony Stark and Flo, the Progressive Girl (which happens to be the insurance company that covers my car--No, they didn't pay me to say that, nor her to dress like that). Aren't they awesome?!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

This was the second annual Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times...and I hope there will be many, many, many more!

The Arena was sold out, so ALL the Medieval Times staff were there...including "Greg" (I think that was his name) the hunchback...This guy was hilarious! "Thank you!" to all the Medieval Times staff--including Lady Ann, the Master Falconer--for making this a fantastic event!

I have no idea what he was doing with the bubble wrap!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

There were many more costumes there than I'd even hoped for. I had just come from work, so I didn't have the opportunity to don my Starfleet tunic, but perhaps next year. There was only one Star Trek couple there that evening, that I noticed, but there were quite a few Medieval, Steampunk, and other similar genre costumes...all fantastic!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015. Dr. Who
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015. Dr. Who

There were 10 contestants in the children's category of the costume contest..."Dr. Who" won that category, for obvious reasons...just look at that adorableness! Who else could have won?! And don't you love the Tardis bag?

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015. Iron Man
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015. Iron Man

In addition to the 10 children who entered the costume contest, there were approximately 70 adults who entered the contest! And the costumes were brilliant...absolutely and totally brilliant!

The winner of the adult category was none other than Iron Man, of the Marvel Universe (see Tony Stark in the first photo)...who crafted his costume from scratch!  He totally deserved to win!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

What young lady doesn't want to be a princess...and have a pony?! There were a few princesses there that evening, but none quite as spectacular as the one pictured above. She was marvelous!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

If you've been to Dragon Con you know how magnificent the creativity of the cosplayers can be. It was no different this night, or knight, in some cases. The evening's Wind Sock Dancer was a favorite and gave quite the animated performance!

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015, Vader-Clown-Chicken
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015, Vader-Clown-Chicken

Some of the costumes were waaaaaay over the top! I'd seen the Clown Darth Vader from across the room, but didn't realize he was on a giant chicken until he took the stage (I'm assuming it was a "he"...could have been anyone!). This was also a crowd favorite, even if a little creepy. Okay...a lot creepy. But still brilliant.

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

The tournament was fantastic, as it has been every time I've been to Medieval Times...now up there in number. The horses are magnificent, as are the knights and their performances. This is a fantastic show. It's great for a special event (there are birthday celebrations ranging from single digit to 60s, the times I've been there) for all ages and all special occasions.

Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015
Dragon Con Night at Medieval Times 2015

I have to give a shout out to Leah, our "serving wench" (That's her on the left carrying the red & yellow flag!). She's absolutely brilliant! She waited on my party the last time I was there and she was equally brilliant that time. "Thank you, Leah" for making our Medieval Times experience so much fun!

So...looks like a great time, right? Whether you go to the Dragon Con Parade, the Dragon Con Convention, or Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament at the Atlanta Castle, you're in for a grand, unique, unparalleled Atlanta experience.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Romeo et Juliette

Perhaps the strongest force on the planet—and decidedly the most delicate—love is, of course, the focal point of Shakespeare's timeless story of romance-turned-tragedy, Romeo and Juliette.

I for one, being the (self-proclaimed) romantic that I am, highly recommend seeing Romeo et Juliette at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, on stage now through Valentine's Day.


Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)
Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)

One of the pleasures, hopefully not a disappointment, of writing a personal blog—although I approach it as a service to Atlanta's tourists, visiting and local—is that I can write about something as profound as ballet without having to have the provenance of a classically trained dancer. Sound and resolute enthusiasm and love of the arts drive my writing on such a topic.

With that said, I personally found Jean-Chrostophe Maillot's Romeo et Juliette, as performed by Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Ballet Orchestra to be delightfully sublime, wonderfully entertaining, and magnificently delivered. 


Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)
Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)

This particular rendition of Romeo et Juliette is delivered in a cinematic format, which I thought was brilliant, being a lover of dance and cinema. 

There were two aspects of the performance that I particularly enjoyed. The magnetism of Christian and Alessa's performances together and the segment that was performed in slow-motion...both are magnificent!


Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)
Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)

The roles of Romeo and Juliette have been reprised by Atlanta Ballet company dancers Christian Clark and Alessa Rogers, respectively. And the communicators at Atlanta Ballet have been kind enough to let us hear from them both on performing their roles:

Christian Clark on Romeo: VIDEO

Alessa Rogers on Juliette: VIDEO


Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Kim Kenney)
Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Kim Kenney)

The purity of the set design and lighting are subtle, to the point of magnifying the dancers' performance. My applause to those designers for such artistry. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. I'd not attended a performance there in a while, to my detriment. I'd of course remembered its beauty and thinking that it felt like a contemporary Kennedy Center—a relatively petite version of the amazing Kennedy Center. I quite like the Cobb Energy Centre and I love its Sydney Opera House-esque silhouette. 


Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)
Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Charlie McCullers)

The evening I was there to see Romeo et Juliette, I and many of the other guests were privy to a public and incredibly touching marriage proposal. She said, "Yes!" 

To those who say seeing Romeo et Juliette during Valentine's season is cliche or corny—and there have been a few of you—I say your heart could be in a sweeter place...and Romeo et Juliette just might help it get there. 

The couple that became engaged that evening now have a wonderful story to tell their children, their grandchildren, their friends and other family...for a lifetime. And a romantic story at that! I say good for them. We should all be so lucky.

You only have a few days left to see this splendid performance of a love story that we all know, performed in a manner we've never seen. Release your inner romantic and get yourselves to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre to see Romeo et Juliette!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Peachtree Food Tours

"Increasingly, I've found food to be one of the deciding factors when choosing a new place to visit." That was said by Adam of Travels of Adam in a story titled, Travel for Food - The Importance of Food in Tourism.

I wholeheartedly agree with Adam on this matter and am thrilled to share with you a fantastic new way to experience Atlanta's food...John Hannula's new Peachtree Food Tours!

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, Cypress Street Pint & Plate

I started this post with a photo of a dish that wasn't on our first stop...because it's the best burger I've ever had in my life! This burger, Cypress Street Pint & Plate's Sublime Doughnut Burger, is made with two Sublime Doughnut doughnuts, applewood bacon and caramelized onions! 

Some of you may think that it was the bacon that made this burger so good. Of course the doughnuts were a significant feature, but the caramelized onions were magnificent! And our sip on this stop was a local beer. I always prefer local beverages (and locally grown food) when available—and it fortunately is in a LOT of Atlanta dining establishments.

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, The Varsity

Our tour started at a MARTA station in Midtown, easy for visitors to get to if they haven't rented a car for their visit, and it beats having to figure out parking!

Our first stop...The Varsity! This place is an Atlanta icon and a has a legendary provenance, and it's the original The Varsity and it's definitely "an experience!" To give you an idea, their brochure shares this: "Two miles of hot dogs, a ton of onions, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and 300 gallons of chili are made from scratch daily." 

I encourage you to read up on the restaurant's fascinating history, too. It may not seem like the most illustrious first stop, but believe me, you're in store for a memorable tour!

John was kind enough to answer a few questions about the tour. I asked him what was the catalyst for Peachtree Food Tours, given that it's quite different from his career. Here's what he shared:
"All three of my grown sons are entrepreneurs, never really having had a boss. So, I retired in 2008 as the Operations Manager for a small company that built luxury homes and in 2009 the conversations with each of my sons went something like this, 'Dad, you're too young to be retired. You should start your own company.' My response was typically, 'And what would that company do?  No more houses for me so what do you suggest?' Their retort was, 'We'll figure out something for you to do!"
Fast forward to September 30 of 2014, walking down Peachtree Street with my oldest son who has lived in the UK for the past 10 years. As we headed to lunch to enjoy the world's greatest burger, I was telling Todd why this burger was like no other burger, ever! He blurted out, 'Dad! You need to do a food tour!' One of the great perks of having a son with an MBA is that in one hour (and two beers), I had a business plan. Then we went to Villains and had a "Prohibited at Turner Field". Wow! Todd was laughing as he said it, but I got the message, 'Dad! This is a friggin' no-brainer! If you don't do a food tour I'm never coming back to Atlanta!'
The key to life is often in just the listening!"

Peachtree Food Tour, Livingston, Shrimp & Grits
Peachtree Food Tours, Livingston, Shrimp & Grits

Many of you know how much I enjoy Livingston Restaurant, in The Georgian Terrace. I was thrilled to learn that it was on that day's tour! And delightfully Southern that we would enjoy Shrimp & Grits! Our sip on this stop was a Riesling, which I rarely drink—I've not had many that I truly enjoyed—but this one was great and paired nicely with the Low Country dish.

In addition to a recent birthday brunch, dinner and drinks at Livingston has become a tradition for me before every show I see at The Fox Theatre, and other times just because.

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, Saint Mark United Methodist Church

As you can see from the photo above, we were treated to a tour of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, a church that I've long wanted to see the inside of. It’s beautiful.

Peachtree Food Tours is a delightful mash-up tour of food, drink, architecture and history.
When I asked John why he thinks that’s such a winning combination, he shared:


"I am convinced that today's information bombardment has created a much more sophisticated traveler, maybe not in the fine dining/wine aficionado sense, but in the 'I want the back story, I want to be entertained while learning, I want to easily relate the cost of the tour to the total experience, and I want to have something cool to tell my friends when I get home' type of traveler. My hope is that my guests have a really great story to tell others about the incredible, crazy, yummy, history-driven experience they had with John. Even if they only remember a third of what just happened to them!"

Peachtree Food Tour, Cypress Street Pint & Ale
Peachtree Food Tours, Cypress Street Pint & Plate

Valentine's Day! Let me tell you about a sweet treat that John has in store for this Valentine's Day tourees. After their food tour, he's treating them to a shopping experience! And that's not all. He's also giving tourees—complements of John himself—special gifts at EVERY tour stop! How sweet is that?! 

There are only a few tickets remaining, so if this sounds like something you want to do, sign up soon. Speaking of limited tickets, these tours are an intimate experience. There are only eight slots per tour, including John. You not only get to enjoy Atlanta's awesome cuisine, you're very likely to make a new friend or two.


Peachtree Food Tour, Three Taverns
Peachtree Food Tours, Three Taverns

Peachtree Food Tours is a tastes and sips experience. The sips range from local craft beer, such as the Three Taverns' White Hops we had at Cypress Street Pint & Plate, to wines, bubbles and other fun libations.

It sounds like a lot, but they're sips and after walking a mile and enjoying so many tastes, you've had a delightful, filling sampling of some of Atlanta's most fun and fine culinary offerings.


Peachtree Food Tour, Rum & Coke & Peanuts
Peachtree Food Tours

Our sip at Villains was a called "Prohibited at Turner Field". John will share the back story on this one, a story I'd never heard. It's fashioned after a childhood treat...salted peanuts in a bottle of Coca-Cola, but they use Mexican Coke. I believe I was one of the only tour guests who was familiar with this Southern "traditional" way of enjoying a Coke. Of course, when I was a kid, we never had it with bourbon, but I wasn't complaining as an adult.

Villains closed its doors shortly after I toured with Peachtree Food Tours, but the owners didn't vacate. They're reopening, very soon from what I hear, as Hi-Five Diner


Peachtree Food Tour, Kale Salad
Peachtree Food Tours, Asian Caesar Salad

I know that kale is considered to be a super food, but I've never really "enjoyed" it. Not until I had Villains' HAIL NERO, aka "Asian Caesar Salad". It's chopped kale, ramen "croutons", white miso dressing and chili flake…the best kale I've ever had!


There's great news for future Peachtree Food Tours tourees...when Hi-Five Diner opens in the same space, they're keeping the same sip and taste on the menu! So, you too may very well have the opportunity to experience a grown-up version of Coca-Cola & Peanuts AND the awesomely delicious Asian Caesar Salad! Seriously...It was so good that I wanted to lick the box!


Peachtree Food Tour, Spinning Rock
Peachtree Food Tours, Rockspinner

I've already shared with you that this is more than just a food tour. The food tour alone is fun, but John wouldn't have be only that. He wants his tourees to experience so much more. Our quick turn around Rockspinner was like being a kid again! 

Rockspinner—technically not the first made, but the first with that designation—was created by artist Zachary Coffin for the 2001 Burning Man. This 22,500 pound boulder is a wonderful piece of public art at the intersection of Peachtree and 10th Street. And just to clarify...yes, this giant rock spins! 

The obvious target audience for Peachtree Food Tours is out-of-town tourists, BUT, as a longtime Atlanta resident, I can say with great confidence that local tourists will enjoy this as much as someone from New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and any of the other populated continents.

I asked John how he and Peachtree Food Tours would describe Atlanta's food philosophy. He said, "I like the iconic fried peach pie as a Southern start, and then moving on to some fairly sophisticated presentations of classic Southern food. I'm selling Peachtree Street and will continue to narrowly focus on what the South does for fun and fine food. That's a Peachtree Food Tours mantra."


Peachtree Food Tour, Chicken & Bubbly
Peachtree Food Tours, Max's Wine Dive

"Fried Chicken and Champagne...Why the Hell Not?!" is one of the first things you'll see when you visit Max's Wine Dive's website, in addition to a far superior photo of the same subject matter. I don't know why I didn't think of fried chicken and champagne...I love both. So sure, why not?!

There are a LOT of restaurants in Atlanta that do friend chicken, and many do it quite well. This was the first restaurant I've encountered that suggests a champagne pairing, but even without the champagne, their friend chicken is awesome! For the record, for our taste and sipping experience our sip was proseco, and quite a good one.


Peachtree Food Tour, Cafe Intermezzo
Peachtree Food Tours, Cafe Intermezzo

I'd been wanting to go to the relocated Cafe Intermezzo for a while, so I was thrilled that it was on the tour! I'd been visiting the former location on Peachtree near Collier Road and Piedmont Hospital—now Cafe M Rouge Bar & Bistro—since the late 80s. 

I always loved the European feel of Cafe Intermezzo, and John tells me that some of his international tourees have said the same of the new location of this dessert mecca! I forget the name of the dark chocolate dessert I enjoyed, but I fully recall that it was amazing!

The mile-long food tour isn't the end of the experience. One of the things that John does, that I think is brilliant and I do not recall happening after other tours, is that he sends a follow-up "Thank you" email. I've of course received thank yous, but it's the recap of the tour that you just experienced that's such a wonderful capstone of Peachtree Food Tours! 

In one of his earlier comments, John said, speaking to the immensity of the four-hour food tour, "Even if they only remember a third of what just happened to them", tourees will remember a wonderful time, and he's right. We experienced so much, that I would not have remembered everything. AND knowing that the recap email was forthcoming meant I didn't have to take notes...his recap email did that for me!

If you do find yourself basing a travel destination decision influenced by food, I for one think you'll be quite pleased if you choose Atlanta, and Peachtree Food Tours. I personally had the distinct pleasure of the company of fellow foodies, a history lesson on my beloved Atlanta, and a "Peachtree Food Tours" tour that I can hardly wait to repeat!

Get ready to, as John says, "taste...sip...explore!"