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6/24/2010

The Arts > Live Active Cultures

Live Active Cultures

 

Anyone following my food-tweets from Universal’s meat-tastic Harry Potter media buffets last week knows I’m a committed carnivore. Lately I’ve been spotted snacking on soy and salad at downtown’s Dandelion CommuniTea Café, but I ain’t going vegan. Blame it on Jeremy Seghers.

You may know Seghers from his hosting duties on WPRK-FM’s (91.5) Out and About or Front Porch Radio With Julie Norris. You may have seen his Under the Covers cabaret at the 2009 Fringe. Last week when we lunched he was lending his talents to leading a new secret organization named MUM. If you haven’t heard about it, that’s because mum’s the word, or maybe it’s because you’re earning a living. MUM stands for Meeting of Unemployed Minds and is an ad-hoc support group for out-of-work artists. MUM started as a tongue-in-cheek spin-off of MOOM, the Meeting of Orlando Minds, organized in 2009 by Mark Baratelli of TheDailyCity.com. Baratelli had an idea to write an article about our top unemployed creatives, and Seghers was inspired to turn the concept into a chance to connect and commiserate.

I was invited to join the group’s inaugural meeting, since they knew my 9-to-5 computer consulting career went kaput. So I sat on the big curved couch in Dandelion’s back room, consuming an unadvertised “unemployment special” (a cheap plate of quinoa and chips), while a half-dozen really talented folks talked about trying to pay the rent. In addition to “arts advocate Jeremy S.” and “out-of-work actor Mark B.,” other anonymous attendees included “Bethany,” a visual artist and stay-at-home cat-mom; “Michelle,” an ink-on-wood Etsy artisan; former film-festival producer “Chris”; and “Brian F.,” performance artist.

Without betraying any particular confidences, I can say that the meeting was part therapy session, part encounter group and part networking confab (though it’s a bit pointless to network with folks who have no more job prospects than you do). We talked about dream jobs and goals, getting motivated and the death of the Protestant-American work ethic. We even shared hidden upsides of unemployment: time to focus on creativity and relationships, less stress, more sleep. While it’s depressing to witness the depth of talent in this town that is desperate for wages, I’m willing to see where this group goes while the recession staggers along.

The following week, I was back gabbing with Seghers over Green Goddess salad dressing. This time, the topic was Spring Awakening: A Children’s Tragedy, which his Carbon Productions theater company presents this weekend at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, 3 p.m. Sunday, June 27; $15; ). If you’ve never heard of the show, shame on you for skipping my column! I’ve been bleating about the Tony-winning musical version long before Fairwinds brought the touring Broadway show last month to Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.

Before grabbing your Glee garb (two of that show’s stars started by singing Duncan Sheik’s songs on Broadway) and sprinting to the Shakes, know that Seghers is producing the original 1981 straight play that the hit musical was based on. Don’t be ashamed if you didn’t know it existed, since Seghers was also introduced to the story through the soundtrack (which he first heard via Scottie Campbell’s Life in Stages radio show). He fell in love with the play, flying to New York to see it four times, including closing night. 

Later, Seghers says he read playwright Frank Wedekind’s controversial original script in an old translation from the German that was a “good read” but “not very natural [when] spoken aloud.” After discovering the translation by The Corrections novelist Jonathan Franzen (who incidentally abhors the musical), he staged a reading in April for the Queer Quills GLBT series at Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park. By the time they were halfway through the reading, Seghers was encouraged enough to arrange this one-weekend full production.

From the start, Seghers was intent on casting actual teens instead of 20-somethings as his adolescent leads. That led him to Lake Howell High School drama teacher James Bredlinger, who helped assemble a cast with an average age of 17. The youngest is 16-year-old Brendan Crowgey, who joined Seghers and me for lunch. He plays Moritz Stiefel, a student tortured into suicide by wet dreams and failed exams. 

Seghers praises his pubescent performer (who has his parents open-minded support) for underplaying a role that’s “more poetic” and “more pathetic” than in the better-known musical. The original’s other tough differences include Melchior’s rape of Wendla and the enigmatic masked-man ending. Perhaps it’s appropriate that Seghers encountered setbacks like casting shuffles and an initial venue without air conditioning. Taking cues from the song list, he and his cast know what it’s like to be “Totally Fucked.” It’s all the better to express “The Bitch of Living.”

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