Monday, June 18, 2012

Roger Waters thrills with reinvention of 'The Wall'

     Roger Waters, a founding member and visionary songwriter of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, has created a wildly innovative live experience to accompany the latest reinvention of the classic album, “The Wall.” Timeless music, cutting edge technological accompaniment and larger than life twisted characters make Mr. Waters’ wild ride a trip not to be missed.

     Excited fans piled into the sold out show at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday June 16, and marveled at the innovative stage design. Sections of the unfinished wall took up the sides of the stage revealing the band set up and ever recognizable spot lit circular video screen, well know from other Pink Floyd tours in the past.

     The songs performed on this tour are taken entirely from the original album, “The Wall.” The themes and visual style of the show are modeled from the original cover art and unique animation from the groundbreaking 1982 feature film, “Pink Floyd: The Wall.”

     Throughout the first half of the production blocks are pieced into the wall from behind. Each individual brick of the wall became a small projection screen that seamlessly blends with the original wall fragmented sections. The small sections then begin to work together to create a giant living video projection capable of seemingly limitless visual potential.

     Visual accompaniments with increasing complexity on the wall are a perfect addition to this tour that raises the bar of what an immersing musical experience should be. “I grew up with his music, but until now I didn’t fully realize how amazing he is,” said audience member Lisbeth Paul.

     Images of wandering eyes, impoverished people and the effects of war, past and present fill the wall as it’s erected. The wall is fully constructed after the last few segments, leading to a dramatic video of the character, Pink, being isolated by his tormentors during the song, “Hey You.”

     The completed wall becomes the newly formed backdrop of the band. After a video from the feature film that accompanied the song “The Trial,” the entire arena repeatedly chanted “Tear down the wall.. Tear down the wall.”

     Large sections of the wall then began to tumble down and pile up center stage, as smoke and bright red confetti filled the air. “It’s better than anything I could have ever anticipated,” said delighted Waters fan and social studies teacher John Puchein.

     Waters and his band were given a deafening applause that continued for several minutes after the final acoustic performance of the epilogue song, “Outside the Wall.” Both audience and performers expressed a genuine feeling of love and admiration during this long and bittersweet goodbye.

     “The Wall Live” tour began in September 2010, and is currently scheduled to end next month in Canada. Waters has stated in several recent interviews that this will be his final tour.

By James Tutten

(Published: June 20. 2012 issue of the "Valencia Voice" on page 5.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Joe Biden calls for metropolitan mayors to act

     Vice President Joe Biden conveyed impassioned pleas of political cooperation as he spoke to a large gathering of mayors from across the nation in Orlando on Friday, June 15. Discussing the topics universally faced by an economically strained nation was just one of the key focal points of the 80th annual United States Conference of Mayors.

     “If we act now, we can help millions of people out of the God-awful situation they find themselves in,” Biden said during his speech.

     The problems faced by
Americans he mentions, are economic hardships and devastating losses in the job market that are keeping a much-needed recovery from being realized. Many of the mayors in attendance have governed through the recession that has so ill-affected the U.S and overall global economy since 2008.

     The loss of over nine million jobs and 40
percent reduction in household worth in America has nearly become a full-blown depression with a mediocre recovery in recent years. The challenges faced by the mayors of America are all the same when it comes to providing stability to their local government and providing goods and services to their citizens.

     Because the mayors in attendance all represent cities with large populations, they often find themselves providing services to individuals that aren’t residents, like providing health care, police and fire service. This puts an even higher burden on large cities and justifies the need to receive comparable support from the federal government with effective block grants and other programs.

     The topic of local government looking out for what’s best was used by Biden to demonstrate their strength and resourcefulness during hard times. The plea was made by Biden to help the American people by encouraging Congress to pass legislation the Obama administration states will save trillions of dollars and put millions back to work through the Americans Jobs Act.

Some members of Congress have worked against the Obama administration to stop the "Jobs Act" and other legislation because they feel it’s not what’s best for the country and don’t agree with raising taxes. Biden admits it isn’t easy and the Democrats are willing to compromise, but now worries they just want to work against the president so he can’t get reelected.

     “Regardless of which party you belong to, I think all of us in this room understand that some things are bigger than the party,” said Biden.

     The simple notion that we need functional roads and infrastructure to thrive as a nation is one of these common sense issues. Biden demands Congress pass the Transportation Bill as soon as possible and asked the mayors to help, a notion which received vigorous applause when mentioned.

     “They are saying now that if this doesn’t get done, it will be a thousand days we have gone without a transportation bill,” said Ardell Brede, mayor of Rochester, Minnesota. As mayor for over 10 years Brede has seen first hand much of the economic issues being discussed at this conference.

     “This event gives an opportunity to show mayors from around the country what the city of Orlando has to offer,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

     Aside from the legislative call to action, this entire conference gave Orlando the chance to share the city with political players from around the nation. Many of the mayors in attendance frequented several locations throughout their stay including downtown, which
some have never personally visited before.

     Dyer also noted that the mayors in attendance represent cities with large populations and “a majority of Americans live in major cities, so we are where the rubber meets the road.”

     In an election year, the issues on this road run directly to the White House.

By James Tutten
(Published: June 20, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 3.)
(All photos by James Tutten)

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer speak  before Vice President Joe Biden's speech.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'The Laramie Project' brilliantly refined by Valencia

     The Valencia Theater Company is currently presenting a rousing adaptation of “The Laramie Project” in the Black Box Theater at Valencia's East Campus. This play is based on the tragic, hate-inspired 1998 death of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. Talented acting, superb technological additions and an unconventional approach make this show powerfully moving and hauntingly real.

     “I thought the play moved along nicely, and I loved seeing the reaction from the house,” said Julia Gagne, the plays' director. She sat in the middle of the audience to hear the reactions of the people in attendance, providing her with a strong positive feedback.

     The play is written from actual interviews and other accounts from the townsfolk of Laramie soon after the news of what happened was made public. What Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Company found in over 200 interviews is a cross-section of the good, bad, and indifferent people of the town and how they were all affected by this violent hate crime.

     Strong sociological issues and striking emotional conventions are all conveyed by the diverse ensemble cast of eight actors. Each lead actor has to portray multiple characters and alternate between most of them through the production. This creates a complex challenge that every actor tackled with a fluid style and strong consistency. Quick announcements between cast members that inform the audience who is speaking gives little room for error in the dialog, and were all performed seamlessly throughout the production.

     Getting to know the back story and the actual people involved is what the opening act of this production is all about. Audience members were seated on four sides of the center stage in a arena configuration as the introduction process began. A circle of eight chairs facing outward was filled with the lead cast, and during key moments of the story they would branch off from the group to different corners of the stage to show a dramatic emphasis on what was said.

     ”It’s better in an intimate setting like this,” said audience member Kelli Mondshein. She herself performed this play during high school, but not with a close knit arena configuration like this, and feels it helps to create an overall realistic feel to the production.

     The media firestorm that descended on the small town of Laramie is perfectly represented during the second act of this play. A 12-foot media tower with 11 functional television monitors is brought out by actors portraying reporters and camera operators covering the story. The people don't like all the negative attention brought to their town, and reluctantly work with the media to get the true story out.

     The trial for convicted murderers Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson completes the third act, and presents the pinnacle moment in the production. This is the moment when Matthew's father Dennis Shepard, played by Daniel Crosby, is given the choice to put McKinney to death, but instead grants him life by brokering a deal to give him two consecutive life sentences.

     “It’s actually very stressful,” said Daniel Crosby, talking about his role as Dennis Shepard. “You’re not only holding the play together, you’re convincingly showing the hard decision to spare someone's life that has wronged you,”

     If you missed the opening week of shows, there is still time to see this production, with three shows between June 14 to June 17, starting at 7:30 p.m. A final performance is at 2 p.m on Sunday, June 17. Also, because of strong language and adult themes, no one under the age of 13 will be allowed to attend the remaining performances.

     Tickets will cost $10 for general admission, and $8 for Valencia faculty, staff and students. A $2 discount is available with online ticket purchases by using the purchase code “VALENCIAWEB” at

By James Tutten

(Published: June 13, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 7.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Brenna Arden Warner has an emotional moment.

Jessica Meguiar holds a Bible during a religious speech.

Chris Markcity reports as a member of the media.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Valencia's inspired leap into 'The Laramie Project'

     Issues of hate turned into senseless violence will be presented with a technically innovative style by members of the Valencia College Theater starting Thursday, June 7, exposing the consequences in “The Laramie Project,” about the actual murder of college student Matthew Shepard.

     “Be prepared for some serious subject matter,” said Julia Gagne, the play's director, referencing the language and content of this production, which is amplified by its detailed account of Shepard’s death.

     The powerful material also comes with a warning for more sensitive viewers and minors. Because of adult language and violent subject matter no one under the age of 13 will be admitted.

     Openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was assaulted, tied to a fence and left for dead for over 18 hours in the small town of Laramie, Wyo. in 1998. This was seen as a hate crime, and the reaction of the town and the rest of the nation changed its residents and the image of small-town America forever.

     This play was originally written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, who worked to capture the full story of what happened in Laramie. Months following the murder and for a year afterward they conducted over 200 interviews with members of the town and others involved with the events on that day.

     This play is an interpretation of key moments and all the information and interviews gathered. It is presented in a way that shows the thought process that leads to hate and the results that can come about.

     The ensemble of lead actors have a uniquely challenging aspect in this performance. The eight of them have to portray over 60 different characters, most of which are reoccurring and all with small changes, not total transformation. The names of individuals are giving when they speak to the audience and only changes in dialogue, mannerisms and dress can complement the actor’s roles. This all has to be transitioned with quick timing throughout the entire production.

     As the national media at the time descended onto Laramie, they also move in to subjugate the middle act of this production. Several reporters and TV cameramen bring out an oversized mobile media tower containing 11 television monitors, and they all begin to zealously cover on the story and interact with the main characters.

     16 different actors, including the eight central ensemble members, have to organize all of this activity within an arena audience configuration with spectators sitting on four sides of a central set. This creates quite a blocking and organizational challenge for director Gagne, who has directed nearly 100 plays throughout her career but only four or five have been with this type of arena format.

     Tickets will coast $10 for general admission, and $8 for Valencia faculty, staff and students. A $2 discount is available with online ticket purchases by using the purchase code “VALENCIAWEB” at

     The shows will start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 through Saturday, 9, with a 2 p.m. show on Sunday, 10, and will finish with a run Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, 16, all starting at 7:30 p.m, with a final performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 17.

     All information about this and other upcoming Valencia performance can be found at

By James Tutten

(Published: June 6, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 5.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Future of space exploration will fly from Florida

     Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is a young company at the forefront of the next generation in the commercial space industry, with the primary goals over the next three years of maintaining a hefty flight launch manifest of commercial and government launches and eventually sending manned missions into space by early 2015.

     Currently SpaceX has nearly 9,000 employees at their facilities in California, Texas, Washington D.C. and Florida, with expanding construction projects underway at its main launch facility at Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

     “The next rocket for our next mission is already down here in Florida,” said Kirstin Grantham, SpaceX director of corporate communications. SpaceX will continue to hire more employees locally to help maintain its 26 planned launches from Cape Canaveral through 2015, including four launches in 2013, eight in 2014 and 10 in 2015.

     The company was founded in 2002 by CEO Elon Musk who amassed his fortune by co-creating the internet-based financial transaction system PayPal. His primary goal, aside from running a profitable private space company on Earth, is literally out of this world: Building a base on Mars in the not so distant future.

     To get to this point SpaceX first has to develop and test the next level of space technology, and they are getting this guidance from NASA and its program for Commercial Orbital Transport System. The C.O.T.S. program is divided into several key success elements per mission, like “launch to orbit,” “berth with International Space Station (ISS)” and “proper recovery of spacecraft.” SpaceX is awarded financial assistance as they prove success with specific mission goals, which further proves they can handle elements of a manned mission later on.

     SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the ISS over the weekend, making SpaceX the first private company to accomplish this feat. Only four nation states have docked with the ISS in the past. Astronaut Don Pettit described the interior of Dragon as having a “new car smell,” and when asked live via press conference from inside the capsule if he could imagine flying to the ISS in the Dragon, Pettit said, “It’s roomier than a Soyuz, so flying up in a human-rated Dragon is not gonna be an issue.”

     Russia currently charges the U.S $53 million to fly one astronaut to the ISS and are currently the only ones providing crew transportation into space. SpaceX plans to cut the cost to $20 million per astronaut by providing a 7 member crew a flight in a Dragon spacecraft for $120 million per flight.

     To ensure its continued success the company has to ensure their investors of the potential profits that can be found in the commercial space industry. They are currently at $1.2 billion in expenditures including around $390 million from NASA, $100 million from Musk, $120 million from other investors and $300 million from commercial contracts. Though a lot of money has been spent, SpaceX states that it has been cash flow positive and profitable for the last five years, with the majority of its investment support coming from private companies looking to launch satellites.

     The price to launch a satellite into orbit varies from as low as $53 million for smaller launches, and $80 to $120 million for larger rocket launches. The Falcon Heavy rocket is currently under development and can handle these larger payloads and eventual mission into deep space. The business model for this ever-expanding industry was stated by spokeswoman Graham “If someone can show that they can afford a launch, we will sell to them.”

     Despite all the aggressive plans already in the works for SpaceX, Musk has made it clear in several interviews that his ultimate goal is to build a base on Mars and make life multi-planetary. He foresees sending millions of tons of cargo and building supplies to Mars overtime and eventually building a permanent establishment on the planet that could potently house thousands of people in the future. The rate of progress from private industry and continued government support will help to ensure this enterprising endeavor.

By James Tutten

(Published: May 30, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 3.)

(Above photo by James Tutten)

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