Archive for May, 2010

Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival

May 29, 2010

# 1 Son Prepares to Experience the Longest Fringe Show Ever in Orlando

Guests vacationing to Central Florida read my blog because they love to discover those off-the-beaten-path treasures available to the well informed traveler seeking “more than a mouse.”™  

The really lucky ones come to Orlando during the last week of May and experience the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.  

You see, in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, you could only participate in the Edinburgh International Festival by invitation of the General Director. Several performing artists, who were snubbed, decided to produce their own works in the empty store fronts and church basements “on the fringe” of the established festival. This concept was an immediate success and the “Fringe” became more popular than the “official” festival.  

The concept of a fringe festival grew in scope and popularity across Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. It provided artists the opportunity to show their work in an uncensored and unjuried environment where 100% of the ticket sales goes directly to the performers. Fringe festivals, like the one held each year for 12 days in Orlando at the end of May, now include live theatre performances, dance, artwork that is for sale, kids fringe, food and other vendors and madness to all types and ages.  

The Orlando Fringe is the longest running US Fringe Festival.  

The mainstay of the Fringe is the live theatre shows. They range in scope from individual performers telling a story on a bare stage to elaborate productions with costumes and scenery. They can last as short as 15 minutes or as long as two hours. Some are G rated and others a definite NC-17. They can be funny, poignant, offensive, absurd and god-awful!  

When attending the Fringe, it’s a good idea to do your research; ask others what shows they liked, view websites and explore the information provided in the programming. It costs between $5 and $15 for each performance. In addition, since all the ticket money goes to the performers, attendees purchase a Fringe Button for $8 (you only need one to attend as many shows as you like.) This helps defray the administrative costs of producing a festival as large and varied as the Fringe.  

This year Number One Son decided to do the “Fringe of Nature.” This unusual concept was executed by Brian Feldman, dubbed as Orlando’s greatest living performance artist by Orlando Weekly. Typical of Brian, it was a simple, yet quirky idea. His “performance” is that he drives the audience to a State Park in a Mini Cooper, they hike 3.5 miles to a remote campsite and then he pitches a tent and they camp for the night. Only two tickets are available for each “performance.” When Number One Son attended, he was the only “audience member.”  

Number One Son really enjoyed his Fringe of Nature. Meanwhile, Number Two Son and I enjoyed a two person, hour long play that was a comedic exploration of who really wrote the works of William Shakespeare. We followed that with The Bike Trip which was one mans energetic and creative story of his attempt to retrace the steps of the first person to have invented and experienced an LSD trip. Yea, it was trippy. Number Two Son loved it.  

The following night, Mrs. LanceAround and I enjoyed Fool For a Client; an hour and a half, one man comedy sketch which was a mostly true story about a man jailed for giving false information to secure a loan to open a Ben and Jerry’s franchise.There is something for everyone at the Fringe. If you want to go this year, you better hurry. It ends on Sunday. 

If you’re planning a trip to Orlando next year, however, you might want to consider coming at the end of May and taking in a few Fringe shows. You’ll be glad you did!

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Top Ten Vacation Movies

May 21, 2010

Those who know us well know that we are diehard movie buffs.  Since this blog is about vacationing, we thought we would share with you our Top Ten vacation movies.  Before leaving on your vacation, it might be fun to schedule some family time to watch these classics.  

1. Enchanted April (1992)

Our All Time Favorite

This little gem is having some distribution problems and has not been released on Region 1  DVDs.  Pity.  It is far and away our favorite vacation movie.  What’s it about?  A woman sees an ad entitled “Wisteria & Sunshine” in a local paper.  It is for a vacation rental in Italy.  Is it a coincidence that this is our favorite vacation movie and we now own a vacation rental home company?  Is it a coincidence that our company newsletter is entitled “Palm Trees & Sunshine”?  We think not!  

2. A Room With A View (1985)

An E. M. Forester novel produced as a movie by Merchant-Ivory and written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala—could you ask for anything more?  This takes its place alongside the other Merchant-Ivory classics “Howard’s End” and, one of our all time favorites, “The Remains of the Day.”  When Mr. Emerson, played by Denholm Elliott, discovers that Lucy, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is disappointed because her hotel room lacks the promised “view,” his classic response is one of our most quoted movie lines.  He points to his chest and replies, “I don’t care what I see outside.  My vision is within.  Here is where the bird sings.  Here is where the sky is blue.  I don’t need a room with a view.”  He then offers his room, which has a view, to Lucy.  Beautiful.  

3. Field of Dreams (1989)

This might be a bit of a stretch.  Is “Field of Dreams” a vacation movie?  Well, remember that Ray Kinsella took a vacation to meet Terence Mann.  Also remember that the movie ends with carloads of vacationers paying $25 to see the Field.  But, most importantly, remember the last line delivered by Kevin Costner to the “catcher.”  If you can watch it without a lump in your throat and a tear in you eye—then you better check your pulse. During Amber’s vacation, she scheduled a stop at the actual ballfield and farmhouse where this movie was filmed.

4. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Hysterical!

When you broaden your definition of “vacation” to mean more than the annual family trip, this weekend jaunt to California to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant is a definite MUST SEE.  It was the film we wanted to take home the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006.  It should have won.  

5. City Slickers (1991)

What a great reminder of how vacations can be different things to different people.  Watching Billy Crystal cling to the rope as the cattle drags him through the mud and he wails, “I’m…On…V-a-c-a-t-i-o-o-o-o-o-o-n…” somehow says it all.  

6. A Goofy Movie (1995)

Somehow Disney manages to have two cartoon dogs give us all a lesson in the value of family vacations, single parenting and father/son relationships.  This is a great movie for dad to watch with his teenage son.  (PS: The spoof of a Disney-esque Theme Park is hysterical.)  

7. Summertime (1955)

Directed by one of our favorite directors, David Lean, and starring one of our favorite actors, Katherine Hepburn, this is worth a look. It’s not their best work, but it will do.  

8. A Little Romance (1979)

Diane Lane and Thelonious Bernard

If you are a 13 year old poor young man and in love, for the first time, with a 13 year old rich young lady visiting from another country, how can you ensure that your love will last forever?  By kissing her under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, at sunset, while the bells toll—even if it means kidnapping her and running away to Italy.  This movie is directed by George Roy Hill (“The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), stars Laurence Olivier and features the debut of Diane Lane.  

9. The Four Seasons (1981) (not recommended for children)

Written by, directed by and starring Alan Alda, this movie follows three middle-aged friends who take joint vacations four times every year.  Even with its flaws, it is a fascinating character study of relationships, middle age, values and vacationing.  

10. Same Time, Next Year (1978) (not recommended for children)

A man and woman, who are married, celebrate each year by making love during a retreat at a Northern California Inn.  Problem is, they are married to different people who aren’t attending the retreat.  This fascinating look at marriage and clandestine relationships amidst the backdrop of societal upheaval is poignant, funny and disquieting all at once.  Tour de force performances by Alan Alda and Academy Award nominated Ellen Burstyn help to glide over rough spots in the screenplay.  It’s not perfect, but it is a very thought provoking and humorous film.

Valencia College, Dr. Shugart, the Garden Theatre and Joseph

May 14, 2010

I don’t believe in coincidences

Lately, Number One Daughter has been thinking about school next year.  Even though she is only 15, her teachers have decided she is ready to take some college courses.  She is a little nervous about it. We discuss it as Mrs. LanceAround and I are driving to the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden to see a live production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Valencia College, one of the nation’s largest and most celebrated two year colleges, is in Central Florida. Both Number One and Number Two Sons were “dual enrolled” at Valencia.

Dual enrollment is a special program the college offers to outstanding high school students who take college courses and receive both college and high school credit. This is what Number One Daughter plans to do next year. She’s just a little nervous about it.

At the theatre, I am reading the program and point out to Number One Daughter that Dr. Shugart, the president of Valencia College, is doing a guest appearance as Potiphar in tonight’s production of Joseph.

Suddenly, the gentleman sitting right in front of us turns around and says, “I overheard you say you will be attending Valencia next year. I’m Dr. Shugart.” He continues to converse with Number One Daughter, helping her feel at ease. He gives her instructions for how to email him.

Then, sure enough, at the proper moment he leaves his seat and gives a flamboyant, flirtatious performance as Potiphar–much to the hearty amusement of many members of the audience who clearly know him personally.

After his cameo role, he comes back to his seat. In a joking manner, I loudly proclaim to Number One Daughter, “I’m not so sure I want you to attend Valencia next year, I hear the president is a little…” By this time, Dr. Shugart is laughing and says, “That’s as wild as I’ve been for a long time!” 

Too bad, it looked like a lot of fun.

The rest of the show, by the way, was also really good. The Garden Theatre did a wonderful job. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end. Dr. Shugart got the biggest applause.

And Number One Daughter was feeling a lot more relaxed about attending Valencia next year.

Like I said, I don’t believe in coincidences. Thank you Dr. Shugart, for helping Number One Daughter feel more relaxed.

Best Venezuelan Food in Orlando

May 11, 2010

Great Venezuelan Food Awaits Inside This Unassuming Entrance

Number One Daughter’s Montessori Teacher is from Venezuela. She recommended an authentic Venezuelan Restaurant with the very unpretentious name of Orlando Snack Cafe.

The restaurant is located in Hunter’s Creek, a cozy residential area about 10 minutes east of Disney World. It was easy to find the small strip mall where the sign on the door told us we were at the right place. Our first impression did not give us any indication that culinary delight was waiting just inside.

Luis is a Master Cook

Luis Andrade was raised in Venezuela and came to this country five years ago to escape the political turmoil of his native land. Three years ago he opened the Orlando Snack Cafe. He made the same authentic Venezuelan dishes he was accustomed to cooking in the restaurant he used to own in Venezuela.

Despite his difficulty with the English language, it was evident that the quiet, unassuming Luis is proud of his food.  In addition to traditional Venezuelan fare, such as rellenos, empanadas and cachapas, his restaurant serves hot dogs, grilled chicken, lasagna and various other traditional snack house favorites.

The food was exceptional and modestly priced. If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to try the Venezuelan fruit or rice drinks, you can enjoy the coffee, smoothies or traditional American soda pop.

Each Dish Was Scrumptious

We ordered a selection of side dishes–coleslaw, potato salad, mashed potato, and fried plantains–along with a cheese relleno and a cachapas. The food was homemade, fresh and delicious. We asked to meet the owner to offer our compliments. Luis stopped by our table and briefly shared with us the story of his trek to America and the opening of his restaurant.

Whatever your culinary preference, Montessori Teacher Karen was correct, this is the best Venezuelan food in the Orlando area. It’s also perfect for a family or group with some members who want to try the adventurous and exotic and others who wish to stick with the tried and true.

Either way, everyone in your party will love the food and the prices at this delightful new discovery.

Orlando Snack Cafe
3708 Town Center Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32837
407.851.4646
www.OrlandoSnackCafe.com
Service@OrlandoSnackCafe.com

Hours
8am – 8pm Mon thru Sat
8am – 1pm Sun

Spreading the Word

May 7, 2010

With Flashy Creativity, He Draws Your Attention

“Hey, check this out!” 

My cousin, Debby, was in town for a short visit.  We were driving past the back entrance to Sea World on International Drive when we spotted the car above.  I’m not sure what kind of car it is because I was too focused on the combination of cartoon characters, religious icons and referenced sayings plastered on the top and every side. 

At First Glance You Get the Impression That the Car is Covered with Barnacles from Under the Sea

Of course, this was not the first time Mrs. LanceAround and I have seen this car.  Every single time we have driven past the intersection of International Drive and the Central Florida Parkway during the day we see it.  He makes a continual one block circle on International drive, passing through the intersection of the Central Florida Parkway many times each hour. 

This time, however, when we explained to Cousin Debby that we always see him driving here, she makes the mistake of asking out loud, “I wonder why he does that?” 

“Well, let’s find out!” I reply, as I make a quick U-turn and head back towards the unusual car. 

I pull into the cross-way where the car always turns around and await him.  As he pauses to enter the traffic lane I jump out of my car and knock on his driver’s side window. 

“Hi,” I begin, “You have a unique car and we were just wondering what you are doing driving around here in circles?” 

His Personalized License Reads, "To Jesus"

The shy, older man behind the wheel looks a little startled.  I get the impression that not too many people take the time to speak with him or compliment his car. 

“Oh, I’m just spreading the word,” he replies. 

“What word?” I ask. 

“The word about Jesus.” 

“Do you mind if I take your picture for my blog?” I request. 

He asks that I do not photograph him, but he allows me to photograph his car.  I request that he pull off the road so I can get some shots, but he waves me off.  He seems a little nervous.  I don’t want to startle him.  There was so much more that I wanted to ask him.  With his permission, Cousin Debby begins snapping photos as we pull past. 

After all, it’s one of the unique things you might encounter if you ever drive on International Drive past the back end of Sea World in Central Florida.  Now, thanks to LanceAround’s keen investigative journalism, you will know that all he wants to do is to spread the word. 

His methods may be unique.  You might agree or disagree with his message.  But it’s hard not to appreciate his passion and his effort!

Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows

May 4, 2010

Exterior of Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows

A murder is committed at least once every night in Orlando. And if you’re skillful enough, you might even figure out whodunit!

I’m talking about the good time you’ll have at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows.

There are several dinner theatres in the Orlando area. Let me share with you why I believe Sleuths is among the best:

Variety–Sleuths has three very different, very intimate theatre spaces that seat from 75 to 250 guests. They also have a repertoire of 14 different shows. There is something for everyone and it’s different every time you go.

Customer Service–Proudly locally owned, there is good attention to detail

Talent–The actors at Sleuths are the best I have seen in this kind of venue. Not only are do they maintain believable characters, they are very skilled at being extemporaneous.

Getting Caught in the Act

Audience Interaction–Part of their talent is the ability of the actors to interact with the audience. You will feel like you are part of the show. Indeed, some shows even incorporate audience members onto the stage!

The evening begins with a salad, bread and Sleuths signature cheese spread as various cast members mingle among the tables and help set the atmosphere while you munch on the hors d’oeuvres and get to know your table mates. The first act introduces the various characters and sets up the situation. It is a mixture of comedy and intrigue. Some of the scenes involve various members from the audience. Once the murder occurs, the scene is set for the next act.

At this point, dinner is served and you can take notes about the various clues you observed. The main dinner options are Honey-glazed Cornish game hen or, for an extra three bucks, Prime rib. Being vegetarian, Mrs. LanceAround and I were relegated to what seems to be the only vegetarian option at almost every dinner theatre we’ve ever been too–Soggy, bland vegetarian lasagna. The guests at our table reported that their cornish hens were really good. Beverages, including all the wine and beer you want, are included in the price.

During the show Mrs. LanceAround and I attended, every table in the theatre was given the opportunity to come up with a question to ask one of the surviving cast members. After eating dinner, this Q & A was skillfully moderated by one of the cast. During the Q & A interrogation, dessert was served. The evening ended with the audience indicating who they thought committed the murder. Our show was so balanced that each of the four cast members had approximately 1/4 of the audience thinking it was them!

The Characters at Sleuths

The evening ends with the revealing of the murderer and everyone in the audience who correctly identified the culprit was given a small detective badge as a reward.

In addition to their nightly mysteries, Sleuths also does children’s parties, traveling shows and offers meeting space for rent. They provide group discounts for parties of 15 or more.

Prices begin at $52.95 for Adults and $23.95 for children ages 3 to 11. The shows are family friendly. You can save by using one of the coupons that are easy to find in the many discount publications throughout the area or simply print a coupon off Sleuth’s website.

The readers of the Orlando Sentinel voted Sleuths the Best Dinner Show in 2008.

Step into a world of intrigue, comedy and suspense–You might just die laughing!

Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows
8267 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
407.363.1985 or 800.393.1985
www.Sleuths.com

Best Thai Restaurant Near Disney World

May 1, 2010

Welcome to Thailand

When Number One Son turned 21 he got to choose the restaurant for dinner.  He chose the Thai Thani Restaurant right next to Sea World.

Exquisite.

Mrs LanceAround, Number One Daughter, and I joined Number One Son for the festivities.  We were sad to miss Number Two Son who was at college.

You Feel Like You Are in Thailand

Located in a small strip mall at the corner of the Central Florida Parkway and International Drive, the moment you enter this exotic place you will forget that you are in a strip mall in the middle of touristville.  The restaurant features carved, teak wood walls and rooms, a few low-to-the-floor Thai seating places, numerous Buddhas, Thai sculptures, intricately carved archways, and the walls are adorned with authentic Thai artwork which is also available for sale.

Like most Thai restaurants, the servers are conscientiously attentive and polite and the food is delivered quickly.  We all order Thai iced tea; appetizers of fried tofu, egg rolls, and spring rolls; and tofu red and yellow curry for entrees.

The Thai iced tea comes quickly and leaves us with the usual dilemma.  For those of you who never had Thai iced tea, it is a combination of regular iced tea topped with a rich, creamy milk.  The two sit completely separate in the glass with the dark brown tea on the bottom and the white creamy milk on top.  (How in the world do they do that?  They must pour the milk in very slowly and carefully.)  If you suck on the straw carefully, you can keep the two liquids separate and have a sip of tea interspersed with a sip of milk.  If you are too rough or select to stir your tea, the white milk and the dark tea combine for a cream colored treat.  Amber and Brandon solve the dilemma by vigorously stirring the tea while Mrs. LanceAround and I take alternating sips.

The refreshing tea is enhanced by the atmosphere that transports you to Thailand.  Soft Thai music plays while candlelight dances along the teak wood walls and artwork.  Every now and again a Buddha reminds you to be present in the moment.  Alas, however, worldly pleasure quickly intervenes as the appetizers are served.  We ordered extra peanut sauce to spread over our appetizers, all of which are delicious.

No sooner were the appetizers gone then our curry arrives.  Heavenly!  Wimps that we are, we ask for all the dishes to be prepared very mild.  The curry tastes of heavy cream, the vegetables are done just right, and the addition of rice makes for a scrumptious meal.

Authentic Thai Artwork

As is usual when our family eats at a Thai restaurant, Mrs. LanceAround and Number One Daughter admonish me for my totally uncouth behavior of spooning the rice directly into my curry bowl.  “First you put the rice on your plate, then spoon on some curry, then add the peanut sauce,” scolds Number One Daughter, as if talking to a two year old just learning to eat with a fork.

I concur that, no doubt, the cooks in the kitchen are chatting about the Ugly American who eats like a pig.  “In fact,” I reply, “I could hear them talking about us as I walked past.  Only they were speaking in Thai, thinking I could not understand.”  (Is Thai even a language?  I don’t think it is.)

[Editor’s note:  Actually, according to Wikipedia, the official written and spoken language of Thailand is Thai.  Sorry, I can never pass up an opportunity to educate–Even if it is educating myself!]

We are too full to order dessert and prepare to leave when, unexpectedly, a group of Thai servers dressed in traditional garb come to our table with a dish of fried bananas and coconut ice cream and a single lit candle in the middle.  They sing happy birthday to Number One Son in English.  Although we are all touched by this tender scene as the rest of the restaurant applauds, I keep thinking of the last scene in the classic movie “A Christmas Story” where the family goes to the Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day and the waitstaff sings “Deck the Halls” in pigeon English.

The bill was only $87 for the four of us and I leave a generous tip as we all congratulate Number One Son for an excellent culinary choice for his 21st birthday!

Big thumbs up!

Thai Thani Restaurant
11025 International Drive
Orlando, FL  407.239.9733. 
www.ThaiThani.net.

PS:  We went to the restaurant at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night during the off season and it was packed!  You might want to make reservations for this place.  I hope to see you there.  (And if you do see me, please be sure to pick up my check as a way of saying thanks for the recommendation.)  Then, leave a comment on the blog letting us know your thoughts about Thai Thani.

PPS: Shortly after we celebrated Number One Son’s birthday at Thai Thani on International Drive, a new Thai Thani Restaurant opened in downtown Celebration. We tried that restaurant and found it just as fantastic. Now the lucky readers of my blog have two great Thai restaurants to choose from when looking for “more than a mouse”™

Thai Thani Celebration
600 Market Street, Suite 100
Celebration, FL 34747
407.566.9444
www.ThaiThaniCelebration.com