Tuesday, July 31, 2012

'Vans Warped Tour' rockets to finish in Orlando

     The Vans Warped Tour 2012 soldiered on through a breakneck tour as it arrived at the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando, Florida on Friday July 27. A fast paced musical gauntlet burning through a record setting heat wave couldn't stop the multitudes of fans and bands from rocking out.

     Along with headlining acts like Yellowcard, New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday, was a plethora of up and coming groups with dedicated followers. Over 75 acts performed at multiple stages creating the typical chaos atmosphere that come along with outdoor music festivals.

     The relentless summer sun baked the live music fans in attendance, but cooling areas and a high number of EMS workers helped concert goers beat the heat.

     Austin Carlile, lead singer of the group Of Mice & Men performed late into the concert and paid homage to those that couldn't take the high temperature. He demanded that everyone in the audience to take a knee to honor those that have fallen out due to the heat. This was quickly broken up during several insane mosh pits during the next thrashing song performed.

     “I thought this year was great because it was so sunny out,” said Chelsea Bixler, attending her sixth Warped Tour. “Last time I went there was a torrential downpour.”

     Another notable performance was from Florida natives, Yellowcard, a commercially successful pop-punk band from Jacksonville, that attract a strong reaction from fans when they gave props to the state they grew up in.

     Though this tour is based on skateboarding and punk rock culture, this newest tour featured a wider variety than in years past.

     “I’ve been to three Warped Tours before, and I think this year had more laid back bands then recent years,” said Brooke Scruggs. This attributed to a younger crowd who were less aggressive than in years past, making the whole experience more enjoyable for her.

     On top of hard metal, ska punk, emo and more, their multiple stages offered freestyle rap battles, smooth jamming reggae beats and much more. And like years past a classic vans half piped featured up and coming skateboards grinding rails and showing off their kickflip maneuvers near the two main stages.

     “He’s only nine-years-old and the kid can really rip,” said Katt Tracy, talking about her son Christian Frazier. This was his second year skating at the Vans Warped Tour and she hopes he will be the next big name professional skater because he is a solid competitor at skateboard competitions.

     Many bands also capitalized on merchandise sales with vendor stands scattered throughout the fairgrounds. Many young fans after seeing their favorite bands live rush to pick up keepsakes to remember the experience, be it a sticker or a T-shirt.

     As summer concerts go, the Vans Warped Tour has been loved and hated just like most live traveling concerts. As music genres evolve, so will the selection of featured acts for this annual music tour nearing 20 years of providing punk rock music and more.

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Frontman, Tomas Kalnoky, (Left) rocks out with other members of Streetlight Manifesto.

Alan Ashby, a rhythm guitarist for the group "Of Mice & Men" on stage in Orlando.

Group of live music fans packed in front of the main stages at "Warped Tour" in Orlando.

Judge Belvin Perry Jr. warns of courtroom crisis

     Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr., who gained national attention as the judicator for the Casey Anthony murder trial last year, visited the University of Central Florida last Wednesday to speak about the major issues facing our local criminal justice system. The importance of voter turnout and awareness became the key topics of this event, as well as a reminder from Perry to attendees about his upcoming reelection bid on August 10.

     “I’m afraid with the climate we have in our country today and with the cuts the courts around the nation have sustained, that we are on a path of no courts, no justice and no freedom,” said Perry during his address.

     Born and raised in Orlando, as a child Perry was inspired to go into law by occasionally visiting the courtroom with his father Belvin Perry Sr., who was the second ever black police officer hired for the city of Orlando back in 1951. Now as the Chief Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida serving Orange and Osceola County, Perry Jr. manages a $42 million budget, 65 judges, 225 employees and the additional court cases he oversees as a judicator.

     Perry addressed the framing by some media outlets and others in politics that the court system is just another government agency, so they want to diminish the courts to make them less important. There is also talk about retooling the courts to better support public policy and further downsize them to help deal with spending and funding problems.

     This amounts to putting controls and limitations on a separate and co-equal branch of government that directly deals with checks and balances and issues of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

     Florida has the fourth largest populations in the United States, with nearly 19 million residents, and almost one-third of them have had some contact with the court system in the last five years. But in the ratio of judges to population, Florida ranks 45th in the nation.

     Two unnamed felony division judges in Osceola county were mentioned by Perry because they are currently dealing with 250 to 350 cases within a two week trial period. Another local judge is currently secluding cases for people that want to go to trial for September of 2013, which is jeopardizing swift judicial action for individuals, like for insurance claims.

     Only 0.7 percent of the entire state budget is given to Florida’s court system, which has created drastic shortcomings. To keep one courthouse from closing its doors between May and June of last year, the court had to borrow $99 million, which has to be paid back this year.

     Aside from the legal system concerns, other political issues facing student financial aid were  discussed as issues that can bring about higher young voter turnout in the upcoming elections.

     “Bright Futures scholarships are being cut by the state and on the federal level education is also under attack,” said Jordan Allen, Director of Political Affairs for College Democrats at UCF. His group featured this speech as a non-partisan event to inform students about issues with the court system and hear from the notable Chief Judge Perry.

     Perry admits that his life has significantly changed since the trial of Casey Anthony, and he is recognized everywhere he goes in public. On the way to this event he was being followed by two local T.V. news vans and a helicopter, who believed he was heading to weigh in on a high profile case.

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Monday, July 16, 2012

From delight to danger, 'fragment(ed)' delivers

Empty Spaces Theater Ensemble, under the direction of John DiDonna, presented a jaw dropping experiment in live performance with “fragment(ed)” at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando Thursday July 12. From delightful to dangerous, this production attempts to answers the complications of love and how it can lead to the fragmentation of people.

“It's incredible to know these thoughts that we have mean something to others, as an artist you never know beforehand,” said Director, John DiDonna.

The play “fragment(ed)” is the compilation of actual accounts about life, love and personal relationships of the dancers and actors, which brings home a much more palatable take on young love. In spoken word style, the ensemble cast proposed questions about what love is and what it means to be in love. All members of this ensemble cast including DiDonna brilliantly acted every line and danced every move with the utmost perfection.

“I can't believe this is in Orlando, this is New York quality,” said audience member Grover Austin. He and his wife Leigh stumbled upon the show and were both impressed with the production from start to finish.

Relationships slowly and awkwardly develop as different couples begin to meet and several stories play out at once. This gave the ensemble cast a chance to show off their acting chops as it involved quick timing exchanges between all members.

Things soon heat up as the first set of provocative dance sequences escalates during the song “Freak of Nature” which pushes the boundaries of provocative dance to the boiling point. All of the music for “fragment(ed)” was originally written by Tod Kimbro and is wonderfully blended with the plays modern style and steamy subject matter.

To help break some of the sexual tension the play had several moments of comic relief like the reminders of a “Promise Ring” as the words of a young girl’s parents awkwardly interrupt her first intimate moments.

“fragment(ed)” starts off fun and a little silly but gets dangerous as soon as loves doubt enter the relationships. They also address the sad fact that some relationships can digress into verbal and physical assaults.

In addition to all the dancing and ensemble acting there were moments where the battle of love was portrayed with action packed sword fights that utilize variances in time throughout that are brilliantly choreographed by Fight Director, Bill Warriner.

Several actors also utilized some simple bungee cords to represent the struggle of power and control in a relationship. Fighting to maintain control as they are spun around the stage, conveying the end of a turbulent relationship.

“We literally lost blood over that, you rip a bungee cord and it rips you back,” said actor, Parris Baker.

Gina Makarova, who plays the young conflicted girl in DiDonna’s latest project, is given her shining moment during her dizzying display of aerial acrobatics reminiscent of the famed Cirque Du Soleil performers. This act represents the young girl finally breaking free of the destructive relationship and starting the process of moving on with her life and one of the highlights of the play.

The complex nature of love warrants countless scenarios and “fragment(ed)” only attempted to scratch the surface. The final notion being that love is worth the risk because of the joy it can bring, is ultimately the lesson learned by all. By tackling so many issues the play became a time traveling adventure through the psychological behavior of love while inevitability searching for a better tomorrow.

Show organizers were not fully committed to the next installment of this series, only because it hasn’t been developed yet. But they revealed plans to create an experimental dance ensemble some time next year based on concepts similar to “fragment(ed)” only expanded even further.

Work on the groups next production “Phantasmagoria III,” is set to begin in a matter of weeks and is set to run at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center from mid to late October.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Video: Michelle Obama's Democratic rally at UCF

First lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, stopped at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Tuesday July 10. This event focused on rallying support from Democratic party members and continued voter registration. Obama also spoke about her husbands challenges and accomplishments since taking office.

 (Click above to watch video)
 (Produced by James Tutten)
(All photos by James Tutten)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

'fragment(ed)' will battle love with raw emotions

     Empty Spaces Theater Company in collaboration with John DiDonna Productions proudly presents  “fragment(ed)” the sequel to the “Best Dance” winner at the 2011 Orlando Fringe Festival “Unspoken.” “fragment(ed),” an original production, will look into love and loss within personal relationships and how they bring about complications to an already complex world.

     “We dive into a lot of the same issue as “Unspoken,” but this time we go a little more dark, a little more dangerous,” said Director John DiDonna. He admits the play deals with a lot of issues, but remains universally relatable to anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship.

     After touching on the na├»ve ideals of love in the beginning, the play quickly dives into the darkness that can arise from dysfunctional relationships. The production uses a mixture of spoken word accompanied with dance, fight scenes and aerial acrobatics,  all with fluid movements which visually convey raw emotions.

     Every word from the play is taken from real life accounts of the members involved with the production. This creates a very personal experience, not only for the audience but also with the actors. Sometimes it’s dark, sometimes it’s disturbing, but the stories are all true with real lessons to be learned.

     This play mainly addresses the manipulative power of sex in a relationship, and at times clothes fly off and steamy moments get very touchy feely. Then progressing into the exploration within the adult world of love, desire, guilt, rejection, violence, distraction and eventual fragmentation.

     “fragment(ed)” is designed to take live theater to new heights. Live action fight scenes with swords in hand and high flying aerial maneuvers are all sure to amaze all in attendance.

     “It’s dangerous, especially when you are 15 feet up in the air,” said Gina Makarova. She plays the troubled young girl who’s inner conflicts with adult issues are manifested on stage.

     Timing is critical for the complex fights and physical sequences to ensure that no one is injured. Fight Choreographer, Bill Warriner, has cautiously gone through the finer details of each move with the actors to ensure a safe and flawless performance.

     Production began near the later part of May and the dancers, choreographers and actors have rigorously reviewed and discussed the finalization of key moves to resolve any issues during rehearsal.

     “It’s not just a play, or a live action show, it’s a little bit of everything rolled into one,” said actress Cameron Gagne.

     Time is limited for this production with only seven shows scheduled from Thursday, July 12, through Monday July 16, at the Mandell Theater of the Lowndes Shakespeare Center located in Loch Haven Park. Performances will be each day at 7:30 p.m, with additional twilight shows on Saturday, July 14, and Sunday, July 15.

     Tickets will cost $15 to $20 with some discounts available, and parental discretion is advised for children under the age of 13 due to adult language.

     Reservations can be made in advanced by calling (407) – 328 – 9005 or online at redchairproject.com

By James Tutten

(Published: July 11, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 10.)

(All photos by James Tutten)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Orion's arrival at Kennedy marks NASA's new leap

     The Orion capsule’s arrival at the Kennedy Space Center represents a new era for NASA after the retirement of the Space Shuttle program last year. This is the first manufactured exploration-class vehicle since the Saturn V rocket, last launched over 40 years ago.

     Up to four astronauts will eventually be transported on long-term, deep space missions to several destinations within our solar system. It’s a common sense design that can also support backup transportation to the International Space Station and a wide range of support and scientific missions as well.

     “Orion ushers in a new era of space exploration beyond our home planet, enabling us to go farther than we have ever gone before,” said Robert Cabana, director at the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center.

     This spacecraft was built in the same factory where the old space shuttle’s external fuel tanks were constructed, the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It now sits in the newly renovated Operations & Checkout Facility at KSC, used during the Apollo space program.

     This capsule is the primary pressure structure for housing future astronauts, built from reinforced aluminum-alloy with a lustrous surface colored seafoam green. Several windows will allow for external viewing in flight, and a large rounded corner hatch positioned on the side allows for crew members to enter and exit the vehicle.

     Orion’s crew module will now be assembled with a heat shield and other primary components. This will take around 16 months to complete, with tests along the way before any final launch preparations can be made. This project currently represents the latest technology available and is backed by the greatest minds in aeronautics -- NASA and Lockheed Martin.

     The Operations and Checkout Facility is designed to give Orion technicians on-site manufacturing with assembly line speed and overall cost effectiveness. This will employ around 350 to 400 people, including some veteran space shuttle employees, in a process of build, assemble and launch that will guarantee an American return to self reliance in space exploration.

     “Isn’t this beautiful?” said Florida senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson, looking at the impressive spacecraft. “And I know there is a lot of people here that can't wait to get their hands and fingers on this hardware.”

     Orion will be officially tested in 2014 when it is launched on Exploration Flight Test – 1. An unmanned double-orbit flight will journey to a height around 3,600 miles from earth, a distance 15 times greater than the orbit of the International Space Station. This flight will test out the environmental effects of the vacuum of space and the stress and heat experienced by atmospheric re-entry and splashdown landing.

     This test flight will be carried by the Delta IV Heavy rocket, but later missions into deep space will require the Space Launch System, or SLS rocket, currently under development.

     SLS will be NASA's advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle designed for solar exploration outside of Earth's orbit. It will carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, astronauts, important cargo, equipment and scientific experiments into deep space.

     This is the most ambitious and powerful rocket that will ever be developed when it is eventually launched around December 2017. The long term investment also promises to lead the way in evolution over the coming decades and take future astronauts to the Moon, asteroids, Mars, and beyond.

By James Tutten.

(Photos by James Tutten)

Florida Senator Bill Nelson speaks to NASA guests about Orion.

Stellar start for inspiring songstress Renee Yohe

     ReneeYohe's recently formed solo music group, “BEARCAT,” triumphantly returned to the stage in Orlando at Park Avenue CDs, a small independently owned music store, after undergoing their first tour. Local fans and family showed up to give support to a talented young woman whose story has inspired help for millions in need.

     “The most important thing is reaching out and connecting with other people,” said Yohe. And that she does, not only in her music but also with countless interactions that occur online and in person between Renee and her supporters.

     The small independent record store was packed with fans and family, all lined up between rows of compact discs and vinyl records. The close-knit, personalized atmosphere of Park Avenue CDs created an overall irreverent vibe that was perfect for this unique artist's performance.

     The enchanting vocals of Yohe reflect a talent far beyond her years. Confident and cool with every note performed, it's hard to believe that Yohe has only recently stepped into the world of live music within the last year and a half.

     Synthesized effects and steady backing rhythms created a classically infused modern sound with an upbeat attitude. Fans joyfully applauded between songs, with many in attendance only hearing the band over the internet previously.

     Yohe has focused her creative mind into a rapidly rising music career backed by a confident persona and unique, modern, retro style. Shows at large venues have been selling out, and larger numbers of fans are saluting the music quality and personal songwriting.

     Many have learned about Renee's personal battles after her story inspired the non-profit group, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” which works to help people coping with addiction, depression, self injury and thoughts of suicide. Yohe life story also inspired the recently debuted film, “Renee,” starring Kat Dennings as Renee and Chad Michael Murray as TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski.

     Renee openly talks about the mistakes of her past and has helped others dealing with problems in their own lives, not as a therapist, but as a friend, with a few simple words of encouragement or advice to complete strangers reaching out for guidance.

     Before each song Renee would briefly explain the inspiration behind her music, be it funny nostalgia or real life trauma. Building an honest relationship like this is refreshing to find in a world of music more concerned with materialization than personalization.

     “It's really meaningful and deep music,” said BEARCAT fan Amber Garrison. She had only seen the band before on YouTube, and was amazed by the quality of the live performance.

     The most meaningful part of the show, unbeknownst to most there, was Renee's parents Dene and Tom Yohe, who saw their daughter perform live with BEARCAT for the first time.

     “I thought it was great,” said Renee's father Tom Yohe. “I was surprised how well they sounded just in a small record store, and it came across very well,”

     Renee originally started singing music in a choral program at her elementary school back in Illinois, and always had an ability to harmonize. After encountering a lackluster music program when they moved to Florida, she fell more into sports like soccer during middle and high school.

     “We are 100 percent behind her,” said Dene Yohe, Renee's mom. “We’re just thrilled, and we love her music.”

     Dene couldn’t believe how soulful Renee sounded when she first heard her sing within the last few years.

     Renee can't wait to get back on the road and writing more music as she continues to define her style. BEARCAT has only one more show in Orlando, a CD release party at BackBooth in downtown this Saturday, July 7. They will immediately be flying out to California to continued working on music and performing more shows currently being scheduled. More info can be found at their official website http://www.Bearcatmusic.com

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Video Report: Zimmerman awaits bond decision

George Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara plead his clients case on Friday, June 29, requesting him to be released after violating his original bond on June 1. Judge Kenneth Lester will now make the decision to keep Zimmerman in jail till his trial or issue a new bond.

(Click above to watch video)

Video by James Tutten / Valencia Voice

 Photos by Fred Lambert / Valencia Voice

Silvia Lizama brings refined style to a new frontier

     Silvia Lizama's fine art photography uniquely captures the hidden beauty of unfinished or abandoned structures. For the first time her internationally renowned style is applied to digital photography with her newest exhibition series “Sights of Construction.”

     “For me it's all about the visual, and I'm comfortable in those spaces I select,” said Silvia Lizama, a professor of photography at Barry University in Miami. She has found most of the locations for her photography by driving around her home and looking for the hidden artistic potential in everyday life.

     Originally born in Havana, Cuba, Lizama immigrated with her family to South Florida when she was three years old. She became interested in photography while attending college, and after 30 years her award-winning work has gone on to receive international attention.

     Throughout her distinguished career she has photographed many historic areas like Stonehenge, ancient Roman ruins, temples of South America and many other unique locations. But she feels most comfortable developing pictures of unknown places to create an original image that is uniquely her own.

     Her newest series displays strikingly barren landscapes of rock, metal and concrete highlighted by a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors. She transforms unexceptional areas into something far richer with her refined hyper-realistic coloring style.

     Lizama takes a black and white image then manually adds unique colors that look realistic and full of wonder. The technique she has mastered of applying oil-based paints to printed photographs is masterfully transferred to the realm of digital photography.

     Lizama describes her relationship with digital photography as a love-hate situation and “I'm doing digital because I have to learn it for my students.” She stresses the importance of learning updated techniques, and keeping up with the latest developments in technology in this modern digital age.

     The ease of use and high output of digital photography are strong beneficial factors favoring the use of digital, but she fears a digital image lacks the personal refinement and beauty of conventionally printed photos developed in a darkroom.

     To ensure a personal connection Silvia adds a fingerprint next to her signature with every one of the photos. She wants to fight the notion that an artistic photographer just sends an image to a print lab and never sees their work before it's framed.

     Her acclaim came from photos of the desolate interiors of unfinished buildings with natural light mixed with customized colors. She intentionally leaves people out of the image because the person's look and style may limit the artworks timelessness.

     The stark and hauntingly beautiful images convey ambiguous emotions that are open to interpenetration. On top of the prolific use of color is the masterful utilization of natural lighting to create an image that looks otherworldly.

     “I do photography myself, and I love finding inspiration in other peoples work,” said Valencia film student Tomoko Goddard.

     Lizama walked around construction areas near Valencia College's East Campus where this current exhibition is being displayed, as she gathered more shots for her next exhibition in about a year. She spends about a year working on each new series and feels a drive to continue looking for unique locations for her art.

     “Sights of Construction” by Silvia Lizama will be on display until Aug. 5 at the Anita S. Wooten Gallery located in Building 3 at Valencia’s East Campus. This free gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday.

By James Tutten

(Photos by James Tutten)

Silvia Lizama (right) with attendees, opening of her fine art photo exhibition.

“Sights of Construction” series features desolate landscapes complemented by a majestic skylines.

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