Defying The Odds

When trying to push past your limits, a lot of people say they do not want to hear excuses. That is where the catch phrase “no excuses, no limits” came into play for Luca Patuelli.

Patuelli was diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a disease that limits muscle growth in certain parts of the body. For Patuelli, it took a toll mostly on his legs.

“My dream is to be able to walk,” says Patuelli.

Through hard work and perseverance, he is slowly realizing that dream. Patuelli participated in a 2.5K walk and finished. The amazing part: he did not use his crutches.

Patuelli now travels all over speaking to groups of people to push his message of positivism and encouragement. He wants people to believe in themselves and realize they can do whatever they want— all it takes is confidence.

 

Siesta Key Crystal Classic Draws International Sand Sculptors To Sarasota

Siesta Key, located in Sarasota, Florida, gathered sand sculptors from Canada, Texas, the Netherlands and all around the world. The event began on Veterans Day, giving the sand sculptors three days to carve.

Canadian Delayne Corbett has been sand sculpting for over 10 years.

“I got into sculpting sand because of a passion for sculpture,” Delayne said.  “I’ve been carving stone for over 25 years; sand is nothing but a bunch of little pieces of stone, so it was pretty natural for me to jump into sand sculpting.”

Spectators believe sculptors use glue-like substances to keep the sand intact. However, according to Delayne, all they use is a lot of water and sand to build the form they desire.

“We basically have to make a birthday cake of sand,”Delayne said.

McKenzie Lee traveled from Venice, Florida to see the sculptures. “I thought they were awesome there is so much detail and I think it is crazy that they can make all of these sculptures out of sand,” Lee said.

This event draws thousands of people to an art gallery with a beautiful view. The purpose is to raise money for endangered sea turtles through the Mote Marine Aquarium. This year marks the seventh year in a row of a successful Siesta Key Crystal Classic.

 

Experience St. Pete Through Dance

St. Pete Festival helps to build the city’s reputation as a harbor for the arts and celebrates local artists and their creations with 57 dedicated events ever weekend through September

On Sept. 17 a series of curated dance performances took the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. It was part of Our Town: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete, an original art installation directed by USF assistant professor of dance Andee Scott. Scott has wanted to create a piece of moving public art for some time now.

“I think it’s just fun to think of the audience as part of the performance,” said Scott.

The project received an overwhelming amount of support by all those who joined the tour and even those who chose to stay on the sidelines. Dozens of members of the community attended the event to discover something new about their city. Scott, together with the St. Pete Dance Alliance and Dance Linkages, are already in the process of putting together an even bigger art installation.

The audience traveled through the streets of downtown from one performance to the next and experienced historic sites in a new way. Dancers and performers from around the Bay Area were invited to participate in the event. Alex Jones, a choreographer from Collective Dance Soles Company, directed one of the seven performances of the evening.

“It was really nice to be asked to be a part of something so awesome,” said Jones.

 

Vegan Food Catering Business Embraces Education, Wellness

Yourhighness Tafari has been a vegan and Puritarian since 1998, which was a decision that motivated him in helping people improve their quality of health in the consumption choices they make.  Tafari’s devotion to spiritual purity, and food education soon became his life’s work.

In 2014, Tafari and co-owner Erica Cobb started the delivery/catering business The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen in the Wesley Chapel/Tampa area. Over the past two years, the business has made a commitment to provide cleaner eating at an affordable rate while using precision in their vegan cuisines to benefit people mentally and spiritually.

Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen caters all local events, as well as appearances in all of the open air eateries in Hillsborough County.

The business concept arose when both Tafari and Negus traveled to New Orleans to do volunteer assistance with victims of Hurricane Katrina. Negus had already obtained a culinary degree from the University of Texas, and at that point, was not using it.

Tafari and Negus found the experience to be valuable and applicable to a business idea, which led to the creation of The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen.

These two business owners specialize in all organic, non-meat food preparation.  Both owners show a passion for the work that they do, as well as passing on their culinary expertise to their children and youth of the community.

Tikur Negus, a chef from the Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen, said making quality vegan food and teaching people the benefits of vegan meals is important when representing the business.

“Our focus is on health, vision, and wealth,” Negus said.  “So we educate the people on the better ways of living, while providing food for them to show that vegan food is good for everybody.”

Tafari has been a lifelong Tampa resident. He can be reached through Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen on Facebook, as well as the “SourceTalk Saturday” monthly community events at the Tampa Community Center on 22nd Ave and Fletcher Ave.

The kitchen can be found on social media, as well as a monthly appearance at the Tampa Community Center. They offer monthly trainings for kids under 10 years of age.

Social Media helps small business thrive

Local business owner Dee Laskowski is using technology to her advantage. She advertises her business products through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.

Laskowski and her husband own a small craft business called We Sell Sea Shells and More. She crotchets mermaid dolls in the comfort of her own home.

“I crochet the head and the body and I do it in custom colors so people can order whatever colors they would like,” Laskowski said.

Each mermaid doll costs about $45 depending on how customized the purchaser wants it to be. A lot of hard work goes into making the dolls and it takes an average of three days to make one.

“It takes about two hours to cut the yarn and put it on the doll’s head,” crafter Liana Laskowski said.

Laskowski advertises her business on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. Recently she created a business account on Etsy, a popular crafting website.

“It seems like a lot of small businesses, craft businesses and baking businesses are using social media sites in this manner and getting orders that way,” Laskowski said, “there’s generally a website associated with the account where they can click on the link and go to that account to make purchases.”

Social media has become a prevalent part of today’s society. With Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 7, technology continues to change our everyday lives.

Singing for Shriners Reaches New Heights, Hospital Shows Appreciation

In 2012, the University of South Florida chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity had a wonderful idea for a philanthropy event that would provide fundraising for a worthwhile cause. The event would also intend to provide incredible entertainment for all involved. Theta Chi focused on the local community and realized that they could help bring funding and awareness to the Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa located on USF’s campus.

Groups, primarily from the Greek community, collaborate in order to select two songs to be performed on the day of the event. This year, the concert had the most registered groups ever, with 10 female performances and 5 male performances competing for the title of champions.

So where does the fundraising come in? That process begins months before the actual day of the event. Each group contributes a registration fee and is expected to make an effort to raise funds from the USF community by encouraging t-shirt and ticket sales. The higher the funds raised, more points are added to the overall performance scores at Singing for Shriners.

When performance day came along, the Theta Chi brothers experienced an unexpected dilemma, as the audience reached maximum capacity in the theatre. Of all the problems that they could have faced this was a welcome one.

Jessica Hill, the Public Relations Specialist at Shriners-Tampa, was front and center for the show, even speaking on behalf of the hospital to the crowd.

“It means so much to have the support”, she said. “Theta Chi, in doing this, is helping to send love to the rescue for so many kids in our area.”

USF student Ally Lindsay has been attending the event for several years and she said that although it’s always nice to have a night full of entertainment, having representatives from the Hospital in attendance, “It'[s] a very important part of the event because you can see these people and see where all the money that everyone’s raising is going to.”

The performances didn’t disappoint and the crowd was enthralled from beginning to end. Perhaps the best part of the evening was finishing off the event with Theta Chi handing over a check to Shriner’s Hospital for $11,000.

Corolla Turned “Truckolla”

There are many reasons people in the United States love trucks.  They are great for driving off-road, hauling trailers and managing fuel economy.  Trucks are the kind of vehicle that can turn boys into men in a heartbeat.  However, can a car be like a truck or at least look like one?

“Turning cars into trucks can happen,” said Nikola Vlacic, a graduate from the University of South Florida.

On Feb. 26, with the help of his friends, he proved this to be true.  The car that Vlacic chose to get the job done was his beloved 2001 Toyota Corolla.  As a result, the car went from Corolla to “Truckolla” in a 12-hour conversion.  Sit back, relax and see the all new 2016 Toyota “Truckolla” come to life.

USF’s Bullstock to Host Local Performers Student Bands

The University of South Florida is ready to celebrate their most eventful week of the year, as its annual USF week began on Monday. USF week is a week-long celebration, headlined by the Bullstock music concert on Friday night.

“Bullstock is the biggest event USF has to offer,” Richard Scibetti , a coordinator at the University’s Center for Student Involvement who oversees Bullstock, said.

The event has hosted bands such as Panic! at the Disco, Young the Giant, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Twenty One Pilots. This year, the organizers decided to do something different.

“This year we wanted more of a festival feel,” Scibetti said. “Where there is no big key headliner. There is a group of bands that have their different audiences.”

The performers at this years Bullstock are New Politics, Børns, and a package of bands featured in this years Vans Warped Tour. Those bands are Mayday Parade, The Maine, Reckless Serenade and Assuming We Survive.

The event also showcases some of USF’s talent as well. Athena Bressack, who oversees USF Week as a whole, said that this was her favorite part about Bullstock.

“The first two bands that open (Bullstock) are student bands,” Bressack said, “Earlier in March we had an event called Battle of the Bands that we have every year and there is a judge winner and a people’s choice winner. So both of those bands get to open up Bullstock and who knows? Maybe they’ll be headliners somewhere one day.”

Bullstock is expected to draw a crowd of over 5,000 people. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. in parking lot 22D at the USF Sun Dome.

Bullstock is free and open to the public.

Tampa park undergoes artistic renovation

Since 1979, Perry Harvey Sr. Park has been a staple in the Tampa Bay community. Named after the Bay’s first African-American councilman, the park has been a landmark for civil rights.

April 2 marked the grand opening of the park’s renovation. Various forms of artwork depicting civil rights leaders will be displayed throughout the park.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Monday, March 21, Lara Alexander helps put the final touches on the art gallery at Perry Harvey Sr. Park, commemorating civil rights leaders.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Michael Parker, the artist responsible for the renovation, labors under the sun. The commemoration took Parker a year to construct.

 

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Parker constructed a stone portrait of one of Tampa’s African-American pioneers, Georgette Gardner. Gardner was a principal of several African-American schools in the Bay area.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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Among other pieces of Parker’s work is this portrait of entertainer, Henry Joyner. Joyner established and owned the Tampa night club, Cotton Club.

Photo by: Brian Fernandes

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A portrait of Tampa’s Meacham School founder, Christina Meacham. For 40 years Meacham devoted her life to teaching children in Florida.

 

 

 

Dinosaurs in Motion

Gaming technology can open up a new realm of ideas and possibilities to those involved in gaming, computer engineering, and for other fields and occupations. MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, is the prime example of its technology by bringing dinosaurs to life with levers, pulleys and the Sony PlayStation controllers in their new exhibit “Dinosaurs in Motion.” 

Grayson Kamm, the communications director of MOSI, explained the concept of the mechanics of the way the dinosaurs are manipulated. 

“Controls can get more complex and machines can get more complex,” said Kamm. “So you start with a lever moving the T-Rex all the way up to a PlayStation video game controller, and getting that to work to where you’re using these controls to run electric motors to coordinate everything is not an easy task. 

It’s an interesting experience to everybody who visits MOSI, especially the employees who work at the exhibit. Stephen Shuey, a MOSI employee, has witnessed the visitors’ experiences and expressions with how the PlayStation controller controls the dinosaurs. 

“It’s like manual and game control both are fun,” Shuey said. 

This exhibit expands visitors imagination of what game controllers can do besides controlling something in a video game. Things like controlling robots, a crane, or anything in the real world.  

“By getting to think about new ideas, fresh ways to do different things, that’s what it’s all about at MOSI because the possibilities down the line are going to be totally different and totally endless,” Kamm said.

 

Tampa Theatre Hosts True West With a Twist at USF

University of South Florida alumni returned to their old stomping grounds on Sunday for the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of “True West,” a comedy about two brothers arguing over a screenplay that could change their lives.

Screenplay director Megan Lamasney was excited to come back to her alma mater and showcase her work.

“I was an undergrad here in the theater department and it was cool to come back to home base and see where it started,” Lamasney said. “It was great bringing some exciting work here.”

Although Lamasney was excited for the project, actor Jack Holloway was rather nervous when asked to perform. Rather than sticking to one role, Holloway had to alternate roles between both brothers in the screenplay.

“I was terrified when Megan called me and told me about doing the roles and then switching every night,” Holloway said. “I had never done that before in terms of switching roles, so I was a bit nervous.”

Being back in the Theatre Arts Rehearsal Building brought back several memories for Holloway.

“It was wonderful, but it is strange because a part of the play is about coming back home and it feels like I don’t have to act that,” Holloway said. “It’s honestly surreal because you’re acting in a place where you grew up.”

On the other side of the play is actor Dan Granke, who is a performing arts professor at USF. Granke admitted that getting to perform and being able to teach students was a unique experience.

“This is home for me, this is where I work and it very much feels like home,” Granke said. “I have so many students who haven’t seen me perform, and it feels great to show them rather than just tell them.”

Granke worked constantly with Holloway to perfect the art of switching the roles each night and staying in character. While difficult, Granke enjoyed the challenge and said it comes with good parts.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s a piece that has its hard moments, but it also has its comic moments. So getting to do both allowed you to feel like you’re not stuck to one role,” Granke said.

Granke moved to Tampa in 2013 to become a professor, meanwhile working with Holloway as an artistic director for the Tampa Shakespeare Festival.

“It was interesting because when I moved here three years ago, I was told that I have a doppelgänger,” Granke said. “We both love working together, Jack and I do comedy, stage combat and we’ve gotten close over the years.”

Aside from the great role and being able to perform in front of students, Granke said his first priority was and always is to entertain.

“I go out as an actor, I’m also a director and a fight director,” Granke said. He directs the combat onstage during scenes.“My goal is always to entertain people. I want to challenge people and just let people have a good time so they want to come back and see more.”

Granke holds theater performances close to his heart because in today’s age of digital streaming and technology, the art of live theater seems rare to him.

“Any time there’s a chance for live theater I think it’s great, and with everything becoming live streaming it’s kind of hard to appreciate it,” Granke said. “I just think theater is just one of those places where you can’t do it any other way.”

 

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Jack Holloway and Dan Granke alternated roles between Austin and Lee in the Tampa Reportory Theatre’s rendition of “True West”

Poetry fights against black on black crime

 

Andrea Little and Hector Angus are not your typical college students. They are owners of a grocery store, 1 Apple Grocery.

The University of South Florida students put their money together to help a low-income neighborhood thrive in this “food desert.”

Phil Scott has been president of Black on Black Rhyme Tampa for the last three years.  The poetry troop is the longest running in the Tampa area.

The troop assembles every third Friday of every month at Joffrey’s Coffee House. Their aim is to help the people in the poorer side of the community be able to express themselves in a healthy way.

When asked, “is it worth it,” Phil Scott answers, “Undoubtedly. From the neighborhood that I come from, it’s vital to our survival as a community, in order to have these outlets for us”.

Located at the corner of 8th and 15th street in downtown Ybor, Joffrey’s Coffee House hosts the Black on Black Rhyme shows every third Friday of each month.

Phil Scott is FAMU graduate, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Music. He is currently the band director at Van Buren Middle School.

He says, “I didn’t choose Black on Black, Black on Black really chose me.  It was kinda like they just welcomed me with open arms”.

Black on Black Rhyme Tampa show times are available on the Tampa Bay Poetry page on Facebook. Be sure to check out there show this Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m.

Keeping Sinatra alive, one performance at a time

Rick Michel laughs as he recalls a conversation with his mother before singing Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

At the age of seven, already dabbling into the world of impersonations, he asked his mother which of his impressions was her favorite.

While first requesting Paul Newman, his mother responded with, “How ‘bout Frank Sinatra?”

Michel, a Las Vegas singer, attributed this moment to the start of his career.

“I went down to the basement and got one of the old 33 and one-third albums out, it was Nelson Riddle’s “Sound for Swinging Lovers”, and I took the first cut and I put it on my Panasonic Reel to Reel that I got for my bar mitzvah,” Michel said in between songs at the Largo Cultural Center’s Tonne Playhouse. “Next thing you know, I’m doing Frank Sinatra.”

Michel has been an impersonator for more than 30 years, first as a stand-up comedian and now as a musician. Michel has had the opportunity to share the stage with many successful 1960’s and ‘70’s celebrities; including Rich Little, Mickey Rooney, John Byner and Sherman Hemsley.

“Forever Sinatra: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is different from the other comedic acts in his repertoire.  He doesn’t pretend to be Sinatra, but rather pays tribute to his idol’s long and wonderful career.

“Nobody can fill his shoes, that’s why I call it an interpretation not an impersonation,” Michel said. “I’m emotionally drained after every show.”

Michel has had Frank Sinatra, President Gerald Ford, Tony Curtis, Bob Hope and Steve Allen in his audience. Meeting Frank Sinatra, he said, was the height of his career.

“There are a lot of moments where I have literally pinched myself,” Michel said. “His aura, I mean standing next to him I can see why women get weak at the knees.”

Michel’s goal is to touch upon all aspects of Sinatra’s life by choosing a variety of music that best represents his career.

In Sunday’s matinee performance, the audience was treated to Sinatra’s greatest hits, including “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Lady is a Tramp,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Strangers in the Night,” and “New York, New York.

Almost every seat, in the Tonne Playhouse’s 466 seats, was sold as the audience routinely interrupted the performance with applause.

“It’s just like Ol’ Blue Eyes,” said B.A. Rand Marsters, a Canadian painter and musician in the audience. “I’m a big Sinatra fan and he does him justice.”

The audience responded especially well to the chemistry between Michel and the three other members of his band: Ray Von Rotz on Drums, Mark Neuenschwander on Bass and Stan Collins on the Piano. Michel doesn’t travel with a band, instead he picks up local musicians in the city where he is performing.

“It’s too expensive to travel with a band,” said Leslie Gregory, Michel’s wife of nine years. “You play so many cities, you know people and who contracts bands.”

The performance did not miss a beat once, in fact, the four of them were chatting on stage like old friends throughout most of the show.

“When you’re pros, it makes it easy,” Michel said.

Michel loves being able to bring the audience to a different time. Hearing people tell him if they close their eyes it’s like Sinatra was there is one of his favorite parts. He couldn’t imagine another career.

“It’s the music, it’s the passion, it’s the words,” Michel said. “I can feel the music through my soul.”

 

 

Photo gallery: Fun in the Sunset at Pier 60

The Sunset at Pier 60 Daily Festival is located at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. It is a weather permitting event that is every day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It starts two hours before the sun sets and lasts two hours after the sunset fades away.

At this event, skilled crafters and artisans come together to display their handmade crafts and entertainers perform their latest tricks for the public to watch. The Sunset Celebration Festival started on March 17th, 1995 and in 2015 the festival celebrated their 20th Anniversary.

Tarpon Springs High School Marching Band achieves success

Tarpon Springs High School’s marching band program is a National Pilot Program that focuses on building leadership skills through the arts. The marching band has won many state and national competitions as well as a world competition. Two years ago, the marching band had the honor to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Poetry highlight of USF German Day

This year’s German Day theme was “25 Years of German Unity.” The event was held on Oct. 23rd and was sponsored by the German Embassy in D.C.  The German Section at USF and the German Culture Club presented the event, which consisted of a poetry slam and a poster contest. There were also free refreshments, raffle prizes and other items given away. 

Local Artists Showcase Talent at Don’t Stop St. Petersburg

Don’t Stop St. Petersburg just came back for the event’s third year in the Arts District of downtown. Over 40 local and regional musicians came out to play on the streets showcasing some of the raw talent this city holds.

The event was crowded with people checking out all of the musicians, artists and other vendors that volunteered for the event. There was a wide variety of art styles and food, representing the artistic diversity in St. Pete. The event served as a great venue for bringing the community together for the day.

Several successful bands such as Underoath and Sleepwave have come out of St. Pete, and events like this are a great way for local musicians to get noticed and supported. The same thing goes for the other vendors that are hoping to grow their businesses.

Don’t Stop St. Petersburg was a great success, and there is no doubt that we will be seeing it come back again next year.

Students Escape Stress at USF Botanical Gardens

Located just steps from some of the most popular spots on the University of South Florida campus lies a hidden gem, the USF Botanical Gardens.

From whimsical plant displays and breathtaking views of the water to educational facilities, the gardens have been offering a wide variety of services to USF students for over three decades.

The gardens were established in 1969 and were used primarily as a research and education facility. Throughout the 1970’s the biology department was the only educational group to conduct research within the gardens.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s that the area was expanded, incorporating the palm garden, wetland forest and many of the other displays seen today. During this expansion period university staff aimed to create an area that all students could use. Garden Director Laurie Walker says that today almost every college utilizes the space.

“We have classes from the college of fine arts, arts and sciences and engineering,” Walker said.

However, as the gates opened to the public in the 1990’s the gardens shifted to incorporate aspects of relaxation and recreation.

“We also have picnic tables, benches, beautiful places to sit and relax and study or have lunch drawing in the public for a unique look at Florida’s natural beauty,” Walker said.

University of South Florida sophomore Mack Galdames says it is the perfect place for him to take a break from the stress of school work.

“I usually come out here by the lake and sometimes just stare or I’ll read a book or play guitar,” Galdames said. “It’s just a wonderful peaceful place. It’s isolated and it’s not isolated, it’s got a balance to it.”

Florida Studio Theatre Improv brings excitement to Sarasota

If there’s one thing that you can find an abundance of at Florida Studio Theatre Improv, it’s laughter. Florida Studio Theatre  is located in downtown Sarasota off Palm Avenue. The theatre features musicals, plays, improv and a full restaurant and bar.

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The FST Improv troupe has a new show every Saturday night.   This season’s show is called Out of Bounds. It incorporates two teams that compete for points given by the audience. The teams can range from as little as two cast members to as many as four. The winning team receives a trophy they get to keep until next week’s show where they compete all over again.

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One of the most important aspects of improv is rehearsal. The entire troupe gathers at 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays to practice improv games and discuss how to improve their acting.  Darryl Knapp is a performer for FST Improv.

“I think rehearsal is very important because it is good for camaraderie for one thing, to get to know other players,” said Knapp.

Rehearsal

Normally one wouldn’t think of preparation as something that goes into a show that is thought up on the spot. However Chris Friday, who also performs with FST Improv, feels strongly that it is preparation is key.

“It’s very important. We don’t rehearse what we’re going to do in the shows as far as these are the lines we’re going to use or any of those kinds of things. Because we’re really creating the show with the audience in the moment. But you rehearse the technique of the game and part of that rehearsal and part of what makes an improve show go so well is playing with people,” said Friday.

FST Improv also features piano accompaniment. Not all improv troupes have a pianist to accompany the scenes, so FST makes use of the piano to enhance the shows. Pianist Hunter Brown brings his unique skills to the table.

“I’ve been playing piano since I was 8 years old. And I was like ‘yeah sure’ so I ended up playing a little diddy from there, for some reason they had enough faith in me to be the accompanist for this and I had no idea what to get into. But I was just like ‘yeah sure I’ll do it’. And from there I guess it ended up turning out really well cause I feel like my talents suit improve pretty well,” said Brown.

Hunter Brown

The Florida Studio Theatre tries to get as much audience participation as possible. They lay out suggestion cards on the tables before the performance that the audience can fill out. The scenes are then used in the shows.

Scenes from a Can

Improv is a popular thing, not only in the Tampa area but also around the country. Edith Jones is an audience member for one of the Out of Bounds shows.

“I love improv. But I’ve never been to it in Sarasota so I thought it would be fun to see how it is. I’m looking forward to it,” said Jones.

There is no doubt that when you go to an FST show, you’ll have a great time.

 

Festa Italiana spreads Italian culture

 

Festa Italiana was hosted in Ybor City for the 18th year with the help of Joe Capitano Jr. The festival, celebrating Italian culture in Centennial Park, took place Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.

The celebration of Italian culture allows the community to come together to share the culture and support local businesses, while raising funds for the Italian Club of Tampa.

“It brings awareness to Ybor,” Alice Mueller, the Italian Club manager said. “Sometimes there’s a negative connotation attached to Ybor City, but really it’s a great place to come.”

The Italian Club begins preparing for the event in August each year and continues working up until the event takes place in April.

Over 15 thousand people attended each day. Every day offers unique events to draw in crowds.

The annual Bocce Ball tournament takes place Saturday morning, while Sunday morning kicks off with a Catholic mass in the Italian Club.

Following mass, Centennial Park opens up to the public where over 100 food and beverage vendors line up along the street to sell their unique dishes and drinks.

“It’s really a family event,” Gilda Ferlita Capitano, President of the Italian Club, said.

Though family is near to many Italian’s hearts, food is a close second.

“Food, Italian food, a bunch of other Italians they get it,” Andrea Diaz, a festival attendee said.  “When they see loud voices, big gestures, it’s welcomed.”

Gilda Capitano couldn’t be prouder of her son Joe Capitano Jr. who works hard to ensure this event lives on.

“Seeing so many people together, it’s really just gratifying,” Gilda Capitano said.