UKRAINE BALLET: A DANCE FOR LIFE 

The Ukraine Ballet Benefit will be held at Steinmetz Hall — the acoustically pristine 1,700-seat venue at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts — and will raise funds for charities that provide humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country. Photo courtesy of National Ballet of Ukraine

The sheer brutality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shocked the world. But the resiliency, bravery and fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people — despite the havoc and heartbreak of unrelenting war — has been inspirational. Everyone wants to help, of course, but what can one person do?

If you’re Marc McMurrin, president and CEO of the Winter Park-based Ginsburg Family Foundation, you can leverage your international arts contacts, raise significant sponsorship dollars and somehow pull together an extraordinary benefit that will feature local arts groups performing with the National Ballet of Ukraine.

The dancers, as it happened, were on tour in Western Europe when their homeland was invaded. So, thanks to McMurrin and the team of can-do kindred spirits that he assembled, the ballet company — which consists of 18 members — will visit the United States on Saturday, August 27 to perform with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Orlando.

Held at Steinmetz Hall — the acoustically pristine 1,700-seat venue at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts — the Ukraine Ballet Benefit will raise funds for charities that provide humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country. Among the beneficiaries will be the Ukrainian Veterans Foundation, Doctors Without Borders and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.

McMurrin is perhaps uniquely qualified to organize such an ambitious undertaking. His father, Roger McMurrin, a former director of music at large Presbyterian churches in Florida and Texas, moved to Ukraine in 1993 and established the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the only private orchestra in a country with a rich arts heritage. 

The younger McMurrin — who was executive director of operations at Northland Church in Longwood prior to joining the Ginsburg Family Foundation — had been executive vice president of Music Mission Kiev, a nonprofit started by his father to address humanitarian and faith-based initiatives. Between 2002 and 2007 he had split his time between Orlando and Kiev — so, for him, the war was personal. 

“The need is massive,” says McMurrin, who discussed how to respond with Alan Ginsburg, the philanthropist for whom the foundation is named. “Our foundation had given, but felt like we needed to do more.” McMurrin had a suggestion.

His seemingly impossible dream quickly attracted support. The foundation pitched in $25,000, as did the Haddock Family Foundation, Nemours Children’s Health and Universal Parks and Resorts. Dr. Phillips Center agreed to provide the use of Steinmetz Hall and all third-party costs. 

These presenting sponsorships allowed the performance to be completely underwritten. As a result, 100 percent of the revenue from ticket sales, additional sponsorships and individual donations will go directly to help Ukraine. “It was so gratifying to see the community rally around this effort,” says McMurrin. “My dad always dreamed big, too, but he found a way to get things done.”

Like father, like son. McMurrin quickly secured the ensemble of world-class dancers, who were then performing in Italy. The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra agreed to play, Opera Orlando agreed to sing. Vadim Fedotov, director of Classical Ballet USA in Orlando and an Honor Artist of Ukraine, signed on as co-chair.

Marc McMurrin, president and CEO of the Winter Park-based Ginsburg Family Foundation, pulled off something of a miracle by organizing the Ukraine Ballet Benefit. Photo courtesy of Marc McMurrin

“This will be an important and notable performance that will affirm the priceless value of culture, even in the face of mindless aggression and violence,” says Paul Helfrich, executive director of the Orlando Philharmonic. “In addition, it will raise greatly needed funds for Ukrainian assistance and relief.”

The event is particularly meaningful to Rimma Bergeron-Langlois, the orchestra’s concertmaster, who is a native of Ukraine and says that her home country “always stays in my heart.” Bergeron-Langlois, a violinist, is slated to play what will undoubtedly be an emotional solo: Myroslav Skoryk’s 1982 composition Melody.

Adds Gabriel Preisser, general director of Opera Orlando: “It has been heart wrenching to watch the ongoing warfare and aggression targeted at the people of Ukraine — especially given that we know and work with Ukrainian artists. Music can be healing and can make a difference, and that’s our hope.”

For this performance, the orchestra and its 54 instrumentalists will be directed by Sergii Golubnychyi, principal conductor of the National Opera of Ukraine and the National Ballet of Ukraine. The opera, which is bringing 40 vocalists, will be directed by Viktoria Konchakovska, principal conductor of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. 

The performance, which will get underway at 7:30 p.m., will encompass a 15-minute opening and two 45-minute acts separated by a 15-minute intermission. But don’t get there late — the opening, however brief, may include some of the evening’s most compelling moments.

Before the dancers take the stage, there’ll be performances of the national anthems of Ukraine and the United States by Opera Orlando. If circumstances allow, there’ll be an in-person welcome from a Ukrainian government official.

The main performance will include excerpts from well-loved ballets, says McMurrin — including such familiar works as Le Corsaire (Adolphe Adam) and La Bayadère (Ludwig Minkus). Other dances that celebrate Ukrainian folk culture will likely be new to local audiences — even to ballet aficionados. 

Some dances will be solos, some will be duets and some will include the entire ensemble. By the time the finale rolls around — which will include Opera Orlando’s performance of Prayer for Ukraine — there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

Individual tickets are priced starting at $100. Sponsorships of $5,000 come with 10 tickets, while sponsorships of $10,000 come with 15 tickets, among other perks. Between ticket sales, sponsorships and proceeds from a silent auction, McMurrin expects to raise a minimum of $500,000.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is located at 445 South Magnolia Avenue, Orlando. For ticket and sponsorship information, visit drphillipscenter.org.

—Randy Noles


NOTE: Due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts (the pandemic isn’t over yet) venues may be closed or offering limited hours. Also, events are subject to cancellation and attendance capacities may be reduced. The dates and times in these listings are those of normal operation and may be different by the time this issue of Winter Park Magazine reaches homes. So please use the contact information provided and check in advance before making your plans. We also encourage you to anticipate that masks may still be required, as well as observance of social distancing protocols.

VISUAL ARTS

Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This lakeside museum, open since 1961, is dedicated to preserving works of the famed Czech sculptor for whom it was both home and studio for more than a decade. The museum offers tours of Polasek’s home Tuesdays through Saturdays. And it offers tours of the adjacent Capen-Showalter House three times weekly: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m., and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. Built in 1885, the Capen-Showalter House was saved from demolition several years ago and floated across Lake Osceola to its current location on the Polasek’s grounds. Continuing through August 21 is Playfully Artistic, a collaboration with the Florida Sculptors Guild that features whimsical art objects made by guild members. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children. 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park. 407-647-6294. polasek.org.

The Art & History Museums of Maitland. The Maitland Art Center, one of five museums that anchor the city’s Cultural Corridor, was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary artist and architect J. André Smith. The center, located at 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland, is Central Florida’s only National Historic Landmark and one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast. Admission to the art center’s galleries is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students (ages 5 to 17) and free for children ages 4 and under. Maitland residents receive a $1 discount. The Cultural Corridor also includes the Maitland Historical Museum and Telephone Museum at 221 West Packwood Avenue, and the Waterhouse Residence Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum, both built in the 1880s and located at 820 Lake Lily Drive. Continuing through September 18 at the art center is Corpus Delicti, an immersive installation by Florida-based artist Jessica Caldas that’s themed upon the complicated spaces, both personal and public, that women must negotiate. And through August 14 at the historical museum is Florida Byways: Jules André Smith and the Bok Fellows, a collection of watercolors and drawings that offer a rare glimpse of everyday life in Central Florida in the ’30s and ’40s. 407-539-2181. artandhistory.org.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. With more than 19,000 square feet of gallery and public space, the Morse houses the world’s most important collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany creations, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass and an entire chapel interior originally designed and built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Currently on view is Revival & Reform: Eclecticism in the 19th-Century Environment, which provides a rare look at the diversity of decorative arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with pieces by Tiffany, William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright and others; and The Stebbins Collection, which features paintings, sculptures and sketches by such celebrated American artists as Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt and Fidelia Bridges as well as works from artists who are lesser known. Other ongoing exhibitions are Watercolors from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s “Little Arcadia,” which invites visitors to look beyond Tiffany’s legendary legacy to discover the gifts of other talented artists — especially women — who worked in his studios; and Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, which features examples of Chinese ceramics dating from around 1740 to 1890. Regular admission to the museum is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $1 for students and free for children younger than age 12. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-5311. morsemuseum.org. 

Crealdé School of Art. Established in 1975, this nonprofit arts organization on Winter Park’s east side offers year-round visual-arts classes for all ages taught by more than 40 working artists. Visitors may take a self-guided tour through the campus’s lakeside sculpture garden, which includes more than 60 three-dimensional pieces of contemporary outdoor art and educational panels that describe the diversity of expressive styles and showcase durable media. Admission to the school’s galleries is free, although there are fees for art classes. 600 Saint Andrews Boulevard, Winter Park. 407-671-1886. crealde.org.

Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Established in 2007 by the Crealdé School of Art in partnership with residents of Hannibal Square and the City of Winter Park, the center celebrates the city’s historically African American west side with hundreds of archival photographs, original artwork and oral histories from longtime residents that are collectively known as the Heritage Collection. The center also offers a walking tour of Hannibal Square, Now and Then, with Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian. The tour, offered on the third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m., requires reservations; the cost is $10, or $5 for those with student IDs. 642 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-539-2680. hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org.

Rollins Museum of Art. Continuing through September 4 are Subject: Artist, a collection of works from the 19th to 21st centuries that examine the notion of the artist as subject; Trauma to Triumphs: Perceptions of the Human Body, which explores how artists engage with the study of anatomy; and Boundaries & Frontiers, a showcase of classic and contemporary depictions of the ocean. Opening at the on-campus museum on September 17 are two new exhibitions: Modernisms, which highlights works by Iranian, Turkish and Indian artists from the ’60s and ’70s; and Billows, a new installation by sculptor Barbara Sorensen that offer her interpretation of the natural world. Guided tours take place at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the nearby Alfond Inn, where a selection of more than 400 works in the museum’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art are on view. Happy Hour tours of the Alfond Collection are also conducted on the first Wednesday of most months at 5:30 p.m. If you prefer historic works, Throwback Thursday tours are offered at the museum from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of most months. Admission is free, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2526. rollins.edu/cfam.

Snap! Downtown. Patrick and Holly Kahn’s contemporary photography art gallery in the lobby of Camden Thornton Park Apartments showcases the work of local and international photographers and digital artists. On view through August 12 is Le Salon 2022, the gallery’s annual showcase that features works by an array of artists. Admission is free. 420 East Church Street, Orlando. 407-236-1190. snaporlando.com.

PERFORMING ARTS

Annie Russell Theatre. “The Annie,” in continuous operation since 1932, kicks off its 90th season with A Doll’s House, Part 2 (September 23 through October 1), a witty and insightful sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s legendary work. The rest of the season includes Water by the Spoonful (November 11 through 19), As You Like It (February 17 through 25, 2023) and Into the Woods (April 21 through 29, 2023). Curtain times are 7:30 p.m., 4 p.m. or 2 p.m., depending upon the day of the week. Individual tickets are $25. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2145. rollins.edu/annie-russell-theatre. 

Winter Park Playhouse. Winter Park’s only professional, nonprofit theater kicks off its 2022-23 season with the madcap off-Broadway musical, Murder for Two (August 5 through 28), followed by Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream (September 23 through October 16), Steppin’ Out with Irving Berlin (November 11 through December 17), Nunsense: A-Men (January 20 through February 18, 2023), Shout! A Swinging ‘60s Sensation (April 2 through April 22, 2023) and Desperate Measures: A Musical Comedy Gone Wild (May 12 through 21 and June 1 through 11, 2023). Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 for students to $45 for evening shows. 711 Orange Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-0145. winterparkplayhouse.org. (For more information, see blurb after events listings.)

FILM

Enzian. This cozy, nonprofit alternative cinema offers a plethora of film series. Tickets are usually $12 for regular admission; $10 for matinees, students, seniors and military (with ID); and $9.50 for Enzian Film Society members. Children under age 12 are admitted free to Peanut Butter Matinee Family Films, shown on the fourth Sunday of each month at noon. Other series include Saturday Matinee Classics (the second Saturday of each month at noon), Cult Classics (the second and last Tuesday of each month at 9:30 p.m.) and Midnight Movies (every Saturday night). FilmSlam, which spotlights Florida-made short films, takes place most months on the second or third Sunday at 1 p.m.; the next scheduled date is August 14. 300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland. 407-629-0054 (information line), 407-629-1088 (theater offices). enzian.org.

Popcorn Flicks in the Park. The City of Winter Park and Enzian collaborate to offer classic, family-friendly films free in Central Park on Park Avenue. These outdoor screenings are typically held on the second Thursday of each month and start at 7 or 8 p.m. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and bring blankets or chairs. 407-629-1088. enzian.org.

HISTORY

Casa Feliz Historic Home and Venue. This stunningly restored Spanish farmhouse-style home, designed by acclaimed architect James Gamble Rogers II, is now a community center and museum. Free open houses are hosted by docents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200. casafeliz.us.

Central Florida Anthropological Society. Do you want to preserve Florida’s historic heritage? Are you curious about prehistoric Florida? Join the CFAS for this new lecture series highlighting current anthropological and archaeological investigations with a special focus on Central Florida. Enjoy light refreshments and socializing when the doors open at 6:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. Meetings, which are free of charge, are usually held the third Monday of each month at the Winter Park Library & Events Center. After a summer break, the next meeting is September 19. 1052 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park. cfasorlando.com.

Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida. The center is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, with the goal of developing a moral and just community through educational and cultural programs. It houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, archives and a research library. The museum’s ongoing exhibition, Tribute to the Holocaust, is a presentation of artifacts, videos, text, photographs and other works of art. Continuing through August is Lawyers Without Rights, which documents how the rule of law was undermined by the Third Reich and the fate of Jewish lawyers under Hitler’s regime. Admission to the center is free, but as of press time was limited to small groups with advance registrations. Check the website for the most up-to-date information. 851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland. 407-628-0555. holocaustedu.org.

Winter Park History Museum. Travel back in time with ongoing displays that include artifacts dating from the city’s beginnings as a New England-style resort in the 1880s. The efficiently designed 800-square-foot museum features Rollins: Florida’s First College, an exhibition through which visitors can experience student life as it was in the college’s early days with re-creations of a dorm room, a “conference plan” classroom (a concept pioneered by President Hamilton Holt that prioritized one-on-one interaction between professor and student) and a student union with sports memorabilia, collegiate fashions and more. Admission is free. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-2330. wphistory.org.

Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Eatonville is strongly associated with Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who lived there as a girl and recorded her childhood memories in her classic autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. The museum that bears her name provides information about the historic city and sponsors exhibitions that feature the works of African American artists. Admission to the museum is free, though group tours require a reservation and are charged a fee. 344 East Kennedy Boulevard, Eatonville. 407-647-3188. zoranealehurstonmuseum.com.

HOLIDAYS

27th Annual 4th of July Celebration. Head to Martin Luther King Jr. Park on July 4 for patriotic music performed by the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble. There’ll also be apple pie (of course) and watermelon ices along with games and other kids’ activities from 9 a.m. to noon. If you want to start celebrating even earlier, enter the annual Watermelon 5K run, which begins at 7:30 a.m. on Park Avenue. Military personnel and their family members receive a race bib and a $10 discount on the 5K registration fee. 407-599-3463. For information about the race, visit trackshack.com. For information about other activities, visit cityofwinterpark.org.

LECTURES

Morse Museum Wednesday Lecture Series. The Morse regularly invites recognized scholars in the field of late 19th- and early 20th-century art to speak on topics related to the museum’s collection and exhibitions. As of press time, no lectures had been scheduled, but go online for the most up-to-date information. Admission is free. 161 West Canton Avenue. 407-645-5311. morsemuseum.org.

University Club of Winter Park. Nestled among the oaks and palms at the north end of Park Avenue’s downtown shopping district — a block beyond Casa Feliz — is another historic James Gamble Rogers II building, this one home to the University Club of Winter Park. Members are dedicated to the enjoyment of intellectual activities and socializing with one another. The club’s various activities, including lectures, are open to the public, although nonmembers are asked to make a $5 donation each time they attend. (Some events include a buffet lunch for an added fee.) Check the website for the most up-to-date information and a full schedule of events and speakers. 841 North Park Avenue. 407-644-6149. uclubwp.org.

MUSIC

Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. This eclectic venue is part concert hall, part recording studio and part art gallery. It offers live performances most evenings, with an emphasis on jazz, classical and world music — although theater, dance and spoken-word presentations are sometimes on the roster. Check the website for a full schedule of performances. Admission generally ranges from free to $25. 1905 Kentucky Avenue, Winter Park. 407-636-9951. bluebambooartcenter.com.

Central Florida Folk. This Winter Park-based nonprofit is dedicated to promoting and preserving live folk music, primarily through concerts usually held on the last Saturday of each month (unless a holiday intervenes) at 2 p.m. Upcoming dates are July 30, August 27 and September 24. The group’s primary venue is the Winter Park Library & Events Center, 1052 West Morse Boulevard. A donation of $15 for nonmembers is suggested. 407-679-6426. cffolk.org.

Music at the Casa. The Casa Feliz Historic Home and Venue presents acoustic performances on most Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. in the museum’s cozy main parlor. Past performers include opera singers, jazz guitarists and flamenco dancers. A $5 donation is suggested. Check the website for a full schedule of performances. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200. casafeliz.us.

Orlando Opera Summer Concert Series. The first official performances of Opera Orlando’s 2022-23 season are its three-part Summer Concert Series, which takes place at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue. First up is soprano Emily Pulley (August 14), followed by soprano Susan Hellman Spatafora (August 21) and bass Andrew W. Potter (August 28). Tickets are $46.35 each or $108.15 for all three recitals, which will take place at 2 p.m. 407-512-1900. operaorlando.org. (For more information, see blurb after events listings.)

Performing Arts of Maitland. This nonprofit organization works with the City of Maitland and other organizations to promote performances for and by local musicians. It supports various groups, including the Maitland Symphony Orchestra, Maitland Market Music, the Maitland Stage Band and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra. Check the website for a full schedule of events. 407-339-5984, ext. 219. pamaitland.org.

MARKETS

Maitland Farmers’ Market. This year-round, open-air market — held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — features fresh produce, seafood, breads and cheeses as well as plants, all-natural skin-care products and live music by Performing Arts of Maitland. The setting on Lake Lily boasts a boardwalk, jogging trails, a playground and picnic areas. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland. itsmymaitland.com.

Winter Park Farmers’ Market. The region’s busiest and arguably most popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Since last summer, the market has been held in the Central Park West Meadow, located at the corner of New York Avenue and Morse Boulevard, instead of in its previous location at the old railroad depot that also houses the Winter Park History Museum. The open-air market offers baked goods, produce, plants, honey, cheese, meat, flowers, crafts and other specialty items. After shopping, make a morning of it with a stroll along nearby Park Avenue. Dogs are welcome to bring their people. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. cityofwinterpark.org.

WRITING

Florida Writers Association. Join fellow scribes for lectures by guest speakers and discussions led by local authors. The Orlando/Winter Park-Area chapter meets on the third Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for July 19, August 16 and September 20. Another chapter, the Maitland Writers Group, meets on the second Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meetings are scheduled for July 14, August 11 and September 8 at the Maitland Public Library, 501 South Maitland Avenue, Maitland. floridawriters.org.

Storytellers of Central Florida. Experienced and fledgling storytellers gather to share stories and practice their craft on the first Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Library & Events Center. Upcoming meetings are scheduled for July 5, August 2 and September 6. 1052 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park. 321-439-6020, jerrysmith19@me.com or wppl.org.

Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts. This group offers various free programs that attract writers of all stripes. Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour, a literary open-mic night, meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of most months at Stardust Video & Coffee (1842 Winter Park Road). It’s for authors, poets, filmmakers, comedians, musicians, bloggers and others who enjoy creative pursuits. Upcoming meetings are July 13, August 10 and September 14. Orlando WordLab, a workshop that challenges writers to experiment with new techniques or methods, meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Winter Park Public Library (1052 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park). Upcoming meetings are July 27, August 24 and September 28. meetup.com/writers-of-central-florida-or-thereabouts.

BUSINESS

Good Morning, Winter Park. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these monthly gatherings attract business- and civic-minded locals who enjoy coffee and conversation about community issues. Held the first Friday of most months, upcoming events are July 8, August 5 and September 9. Networking begins at 8 a.m. followed at 8:30 a.m. by a 45-minute program. Admission, which includes a complimentary continental breakfast, is free. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-599-3580. winterpark.org/good-morning-winter-park.

Soirée: A Summer Happening. Meet new people, sip a cocktail and learn some fresh ideas about how to put your best self forward on July 21 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Winter Park Events Center. This fun and informative gathering, sponsored by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, will feature exciting speakers, demonstrations and vendors sharing presentations on food, drink, fashion, lifestyle, personal branding and more. Tickets are $75. Register online. 1050 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park. 407-599-3580. winterpark.org/soiree.

Winter Park Professional Women. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these gatherings — held the first Monday of most months from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — feature guest speakers and provide networking opportunities for women business owners. Topics revolve around leadership development, business growth and local initiatives of special interest to women. Upcoming events are August 1 and September 12. Tickets, which include lunch, are $25 for chamber members and $35 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-599-3580. winterpark.org/winter-park-professional-women.

Winter Park Outlook. The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce’s annual regional issues summit will take place September 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Alfond Inn. The focus will be transportation, with opening remarks by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and a discussion moderated by Rollins College Vice President of Communications and External Relations Sam Stark. 300 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-599-3580. winterpark.org/winter-park-outlook.

CAUSES

Keep Winter Park Beautiful. Volunteer to help the city keep local watersheds beautiful all season long with cleanups held throughout the year. Call or check the website for dates and locations. Litter grabbers, safety vests, gloves and garbage bags are provided at City Hall. Volunteers must contact kwpb@cityofwinterpark.org for more details and to complete a waiver. 407-599-3364. cityofwinterpark.eventbrite.com.

GARDENING

Winter Park Garden Club. The club’s general membership meetings always offer something intriguing for lovers of gardening and the great outdoors, and are usually held on the second Wednesday of each month from September through May at 10 a.m. Field trips and other community events are also held throughout the year. All meetings are at the club’s headquarters at 1300 South Denning Drive. For more information about the club, which was founded in 1922, and upcoming programs, call 407-644-5770, visit winterparkgardenclub.com or email winterparkgc100@gmail.com. 


HERE’S A KILLER OF A MUSICAL COMEDY

Winter Park Playhouse co-founder and executive director Heather Alexander and her husband, artistic director Roy Alan (above right), chose the musical comedy Murder for Two to kick off the playhouse’s 20th Anniversary Mainstage Series. Actor Kevin Kelly (above left) will reprise the role of aspiring detective Marcus Moscowicz, which he first played in the playhouse’s hit 2017 production of the hilarious whodunit. Photo courtesy of The Winter Park Playhouse (above left); Photo by Rafael Tongol (above right)

The Winter Park Playhouse will open its 20th Anniversary Mainstage Series with a killer of a musical comedy. Murder for Two is a hilarious whodunit with two frenetic actors playing 14 roles and accompanying one another on the piano when song breaks out.

“We chose this show to kick off our anniversary because it’s a happy, funny, forget-your-troubles type of musical,” says Heather Alexander, cofounder and executive director of the professional nonprofit theater with her husband, artistic director Roy Alan. “We think people are ready for laughter and joy.”

Amen to that. Murder for Two, which runs for 24 performances — including matinees — between August 5 and 28, was previously staged at the playhouse in 2017. In fact, one of the two cast members, Kevin Kelly, was in the earlier production.

“It’s a laugh-a-minute show,” says Kelly, a veteran actor who has also appeared at Mad Cow Theatre, The Abbey and the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden. “It’s outrageous, fast paced and has lots of physical comedy.” 

Kelly plays one character — Officer Marcus Moscowicz, an aspiring detective — while a second actor, who had not been cast at press time, plays 13 others, all suspects in the murder of a renowned novelist. Kelly’s co-star will channel characters ranging from the victim’s scene-stealing wife to his gruff, cigar-smoking therapist.

With book and lyrics by Kellen Blair and book and music by Joe Kinosian, Murder for Two was the winner of the 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical and in 2014 was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, a Drama Circle Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Musical.

For the local production, Alan will direct while the playhouse’s resident musical director, Christopher Leavy, will oversee the tunes. The show is a brisk 90 minutes with no intermission.

Over-the-top offerings like Murder for Two are why Alan and Alexander’s venture has lasted for two decades. Patrons are grateful for the unapologetic escapism found at the Orange Avenue venue, which is the only professional theater in Florida that specializes in musicals and cabarets. 

The co-founders, both actors themselves, met in Jacksonville in 1991 when they were performing in a dinner-theater production of Singin’ in the Rain. They married and were lured to Winter Park by its beauty, culture, schools and proximity to theme-park jobs. 

In 2000, Alan and Alexander launched the Master Class Academy to provide instruction in dancing, acting and singing. Two years later, they sold the school and leased a small space to establish the Winter Park Playhouse. 

By 2003, when their production of the off-Broadway musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, packed the house, they knew they’d found a winning formula with musicals. 

In 2009 the theater moved next door, increasing the number of seats from 73 to 123, and expanded again in 2014, doubling in size to 10,000 square feet with a new lobby, bathrooms and dressing rooms. Various improvements — including a higher, deeper stage and an upgraded HVAC system — were implemented during the pandemic pause in 2020.

Prior to COVID-19, more than 18,500 people annually attended performances at the playhouse, while another 11,500 people — primarily underserved children and mobility-impaired seniors — were reached through classes or community performances. 

The 20th anniversary season will feature six shows, all of them past audience favorites, including: Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream (September 23-October 16), Steppin’ Out with Irving Berlin (November 11-20 and December 1-17), Nunsense A-Men! (January 20-February 18, 2023), Shout! The Mod Musical (March 17-April 22, 2023) and Desperate Measures (May 12-21 and June 1-11, 2023).

In addition, this season a program will be launched to upgrade theater seating along with a major capital campaign dubbed “The Next 20,” the goal of which is to ensure the theater’s long-term viability. Perhaps, Alexander says, that will require buying a building.

“This theater was launched with passion,” adds Alexander. “As we’ve gathered more and more community members as supporters, it’s been very humbling.” 

The Winter Park Playhouse is located at 711 North Orange Avenue, Winter Park. For more information, call 407-645-0145 or visit winterparkplayhouse.org.

—Randy Noles


OPERA’S SUMMER SERIES AGAIN DAZZLES FANS IN WINTER PARK

Appearing during the Opera Orlando Summer Concert Series will be (from top left) Emily Pulley, Gabriel Preisser, Susan Hellman Spatafora and Andrew Potter. Held in the intimate confines of the University Club of Winter Park, this concert series “offers guests the unique opportunity to hear and meet nationally renowned opera singers up close and personal in an intimate setting,” says Preisser.

Opera Orlando kicks off this year’s Summer Concert Series with soprano Emily Pulley, whose repertoire includes some of the genre’s most iconic roles. But she’s also a champion of contemporary works, and late last year sang the role of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in the world premiere of The Secret River, which was commissioned by Opera Orlando.

The first concert in the series, scheduled for Saturday, August 14, also features a special season preview presentation by Gabriel Preisser, an award-winning baritone and the opera’s general director.

Coming on Saturday, August 21 is Susan Hellman Spatafora, a celebrated soprano whose most recent Central Florida appearance was in Opera Orlando’s critically acclaimed staging of Die Fledermaus, in which she sang the role of Rosalinde. 

The series concludes on Saturday, August 28 with Andrew Potter, a towering 6-foot-10 bass known for his vocal prowess and commanding stage presence. “Andrew Potter combines a virile yet spry stage presence with sturdy, responsive and infectious singing,” opined The New London Day. “The guy owns the stage.”

Singers will be accompanied by pianist Robin Stamper, artistic director, managing director and chorus master for Opera Tampa. Stamper will be familiar to local opera fans as the former music director of Opera Orlando’s predecessor company.

Held in the intimate confines of the University Club of Winter Park, “this concert series offers guests the unique opportunity to hear and meet nationally renowned opera singers up close and personal in an intimate setting,” says Preisser. While programs had yet to be formalized at press time, attendees can expect a thrilling — and sometimes scandalous — assortment of songs, arias, duets and mini scenes.

Pulley plans to feature, among other works, Pour une femme de mon nom, an aria from Donizetti’s opéra-comique La fille du régiment (Daughter of the Regiment) in which a noblewoman laments how difficult wartime is for a woman of her exalted station.

Spatafora’s program will include the meeting of the devil and the once-innocent Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, or Scarpia’s attempted seduction of Tosca in Puccini’s opera of the same name. And she says guests can expect “a little theater to lighten up the mood and a solo work for piano played by the exquisite Robin Stamper.”

The University Club of Winter Park is located at 841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. For more information, visit operaorlando.org.

—Connie Sue White