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David Walker is a quadruple threat. PAGES 2-3



Film review: ‘Unfinished’ Song’ Page 7


Spotlight on comedian Mary Tischbein PAGE 6

HOME&GARDEN | home of the month by Robert Plunket | Contributing Writer

Designed in the storybook style, this Indian Beach home looks like the setting for a fairy tale come to life.

Courtesy of Michael Saunders and Co.

A mysterious past adds romance to a famous Sarasota home. HOME&GARDEN COVER STORY CONTINUED ON PAGE 4




// Arts&Entertainment: quadruple threat

by Mallory Gnaegy | A&E Editor

‘Master of the House’ Even if it feels like Manatee Players’ ‘Les Misérables’ costume designer David Walker will never get there, the sew must go on.

Mallory Gnaegy

“A normal person doesn’t understand why you would take two months of your life to put on a show,” David Walker says. “They just don’t get it, and if they don’t get it, then they really aren’t going to get me.”

It’s a week before opening, and Sarasotan David Walker sits at a sewing desk in the lobby of the old Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre, which has been turned into a makeshift costume shop for “Les Misérables.” “This isn’t even half of them,” Walker says of the overwhelming amount of French-flag-colored costumes, cira 1815 to 1845, wigs, hats and shoes strategically organized into piles and on racks. There are 49 members in the cast, and each has a minimum of five wardrobe changes (some have nine changes) —  making costume designer Walker responsible for more than 250 costumes. Some of his decisions are complex. “Normally, Cosette is dressed in black and looks very drab because, in the book, she was raised in a convent — but in the musical they don’t mention that,” Walker says. He costumed the character, who is about to fall in love, as “a woman who wanted to wear something pretty (for the occasion).” Of course, he had to make decisions based on the budget of a community theater rather than a big-screen film, or even the budget of a touring Broadway production. The budget allowed him to spend approximately $10 on each costume, from the wigs down to the undergarments. “I went from Tampa to Port Charlotte begging and borrowing

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// Arts&Entertainment Courtesy photos

Five things that inspire David Walker:

2. Humor — There is nothing too serious for a joke, and I learned a long time ago that you need to laugh your way through life to stay happy. 3. My mother — She has turned every lemon given to her into anything I could,” he says of pulling costumes for the show from fellow community theaters. And, he created 25% of the pieces from scratch, such as Madamé Thénardier’s (played by Stephanie Woodman-Costello) purposely bawdy hot-pink, aqua-and-apple-green wedding costume littered in ruffles and bows that took him 40 hours to make. It’s enough work that it could be a day job, but being the box office manager of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is already his day job — and has been for the past five years. So, instead, he spent his two-week vacation making costumes, and he takes lunch breaks to run errands. He rushes from work to rehearsal every day, because, to round out his time commitment, he’ll also play the villainous comedic relief, the thief and innkeeper, Thénardier. Walker promises the end result is going to be worth it. For one, Walker doubts he will ever be in another show that has as many talented singers in the ensemble as this one. “There are people in the ensemble who have no solo lines, but who have been leads in oth-

lemonade. She shows me that you can survive anything and come out on top. 4. Nature — No costume is as beautiful, and what naturally occurs outside our windows, I am constantly in awe. 5. Friends — My friends are not the family I was given but the family I chose. er shows,” Walker says, speaking about the strong ensemble. For instance, this past season, Jason Ellis played Finch in Venice Theatre’s “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying”; Caitlin Longstreet played Janet in Venice Theatre’s “The Rocky Horror Show”; and Danae DeShazer played Violet Hilton in The Players’ “Side Show.” Walker has been in community-and-professional theater production in Sarasota since he was in high school — his first production was Manatee Players’ “Fiddler on the Roof” 20 years ago. He has graced the stages of all of the community theaters in Sarasota and Manatee counties, most recently as The Boss in The Players’ “Side Show.” He has many memories. There was a costume malfunction during Venice Theatre’s 2009 production of “Reefer Madness,” when one character was supposed to rip her T-shirt off, revealing a corset underneath, but she accidentally ripped off the corset and exposed herself to a full audience. Walker laughs heartily as he tells this story. There’s also a memory from

if you go “Les Miserables” When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8; runs through Aug. 25

Above: David Walker and Grace Gibbs in Walker’s costumes for Manatee Players 2008 production of “Cats.” Above: David Walker in Venice Theatre’s “Godspell” — he says it is his favorite experience in theater, and that to this day, he’s best friends with all the cast. His partner, Jason Gimble, played Jesus. high school, when he first learned the term, “break a leg.” He said this phrase to a member of the chorus line before a production, and, during the first number, she took his wish literally. During dress rehearsal of The Player’s “Willm—S.” Walker dis-

covered the costume designer had forgotten he was in the production and had nothing for him. So, Walker put his sewing skills — learned from a book as a teenager — to the test. He constructed his costume, along with a few pieces for other cast members,

Where: Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton Cost: Tickets $26 to $36 Info: Call (941) 749-1111 overnight. And, six weeks into the Manatee Players’ 2011 production of “Seussical,” when the costume designer quit, Walker gladly took on the role. Later that year, he interned in the costume shop at Asolo Repertory Theater under David Covach, where he assisted on costumes for 2011’s “The Lady from the Sea.” And, although it’s the week before the opening of “Les Miserables,” he’s already planning what he wants to do for Manatee Players’ “Peter Pan.” “Steam-punk pirates,” he says with an excited grin.


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Left: Stephanie Woodman-Costello in Venice Theatre’s “Godspell” wearing costumes designed by David Walker. Walker and Costello have played a couple previously, and will in “Les Misérables.”

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// HOME&GARDEN : home of the month

by Robert Plunket | Contributing Writer (continued from page 1)

A mysterious past adds romance to a famous Sarasota home. o other home in Sarasota has been the subject of as many romantic legends as the famous “midget house,” which stands with its next-door sibling on Sarasota Avenue, just north of Jungle Gardens. Many old-timers swear that John Ringling built the homes for his circus stars, the diminutive Doll family (not true). Or, that there was a gorilla cage in the backyard (no, it was a well house). Or, that a ghost has been sighted descending one of the signature pecky-cypress staircases (definitely true — if you’re a cat.) In reality, the two are the town’s prime examples of the storybook style of architecture, which dates back to the 1920s and ’30s, and which drew as its inspiration the iconic illustrations of artists, such as N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. The goal was to design a house that looked like the setting of a fairy tale come to life. One can easily imagine Goldilocks peeking through the window at three bowls of porridge, or Hansel and Gretel setting out on their journey into the woods. Now, as the homes near their centennial, they still retain their power

to enchant. The current owner of 4237 Sarasota Ave., Anita Bartholomew, felt the enchantment the moment she saw her hometo-be. She was a newcomer to Sarasota, happily ensconced on Siesta Key, but she fell in love with the cottage when she was looking for investment property in 1999. She bought the house,

which hadn’t been lived in for a year. “It was in really, really bad shape, but I didn’t know it,” she remembers. “It took a lot of work and a lot of money.” But, the hard work was well worth it. The cottage proved such an inspiration that Bartholomew, a writer and editor for Reader’s Digest International,”

began to imagine a story about her storybook cottage. The result is her novel, “The Midget’s House,” a tale that mixes history, circus lore, ghosts and the supernatural. (It’s available at the Ringling Museum gift shop, plus Amazon and Kindle.) And, although the tale may be fiction, the house that inspired it is real enough.


TOP: The entrance hall reinforces the storybook atmosphere. BOTTOM: The home’s signature pecky-cypress staircase is set inside a turret.

First-time visitors are always afraid they are going to bump their heads on the ceiling of Bartholomew’s house. It really does seem like midgets lived here and that everything is about half the size of what it should be. Actually, it is a cleverly contrived series of optical illusions that create this effect. The interior is normal size, if cozy, and an addition to the rear, probably done in the 1970s, adds a large dinning room/family room that gives the home light and space. But original details are everywhere. The living room, which Bartholomew uses as a library and office, has a wall of bookcases, wood floors, a beamed ceiling and a gas fireplace. The kitchen has been modernized but retains its window seat, with a bay win-

dow of lead glass. At one time, the garage was converted to a bedroom, with a high-vaulted ceiling of unpainted wood that suggests the interior of a rustic tower. The stairway, enclosed in the square-shaped turret on the north side of the house, is perhaps the most evocative feature of the midget house. Entirely clad in cypress, it angles its way up to the second floor, with glowing panels of slag glass letting in a milky glow. Traces of ancient paint — red, green and blue — are still visible in the grooves of the wood. Bartholomew has noticed this technique used in other older homes in the neighborhood. The second floor remains virtually untouched. Two bedrooms, both painted a light cream with green trim, feature a wealth of original built-ins — closets, cupboards, vanities, drawers and cabinets. Each has three different exposures, a big plus in the days before air conditioning. The upstairs bathroom (there is another attached to the downstairs bedroom) is completely original, with black and yellow tile in the early Art Deco style. “If I had to imagine my dream home, this would be it,” Bar-



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// HOME&GARDEN tholomew says. And she has lavished time and effort on getting all the details just right. The furniture and décor have been culled from local antique stores, estate sales and the Woman’s Exchange. And, although she has not altered the home’s footprint, she has added details to enhance the period atmosphere — glass doorknobs, wainscoting and bathroom fixtures, many acquired from Van Dyke’s, an online source for old-house restorers. Aside from the cracked pipes and the termite damage, there was one other undesirable remnant from the past — the ghost Murphy the cat saw on the turret stairway. “He was frozen, staring at something,” Bartholomew recalls. “Then, he jumped straight up in the air, like a Jack-in-thebox.” As a writer who knows the power of imagination, Bartholomew called in a feng shui expert, who solved the problem to Murphy and Bartholomew’s satisfaction. Bartholomew is moving to Oregon to be closer to her son, a musician, and the home is currently on the market. Though she and other local historians have done extensive research, much still remains a mystery about the place. The architect’s name is known (H. S. Sprague), as is that of the builder (Paul Bergmann, who also built the Powel Crosley Estate) but exactly when the house was built

and for whom, and whether it is original or a remodel of an earlier structure — all are questions that have been lost to history. Maybe it’s better that way. For such a sunny, cheerful little home, it retains a powerful hold on the imagination. It’s a storybook home with a million

stories attached to it. As Bartholomew and Murphy have learned, that may be more important than the truth. 4237 Sarasota Ave., in Indian Beach, is listed for sale at $314,900. For more information, call Annette Bentley of Michael Saunders at 941-3740318.

Photos courtesy of Michael Saunders and Co.

TOP LEFT: The owner uses the original living room as a study, complete with fireplace. top right: A vaulted ceiling of beautifully aged wood tops the ground-floor master bedroom. bottom right: A sunny garden behind the home Bottom left: An upstairs bedroom, still exactly as built circa 1927, offers windows on three sides.

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// Arts&Entertainment: Spotlight



of Dance

For Tischbein, laughter is the best medicine Comedian ‘Long Island Mary’ hopes to remind the audience of their crazy aunt or funny co-worker. Comedian Mary Tischbein’s self-diagnosed “meeting disorder” led her to comedy. She dealt with excruciating shyness and social anxiety; the kind that made her turn beet red and get sick to her stomach. So, Tischbein prescribed herself a comedy class at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre along with some cures for the symptoms: mineral powder, Xanax and Imodium A-D. “But I’m off all of those now,” she says. “Except the mineral powder — I snort two lines before every show.” Tischbein laughs at her joke, which she likes to use as an opener for her smart, clean, comedy routine. Since her first time performing standup at the close of the comedy class, she has been performing regularly at open-mic nights, comedy nights and at festivals around the region —  she’s been to eight states, so far. In 2011,  she was named Florida’s Funniest Comedian in the Sarasota division. And, the last weekend of July, she returned from the Cape May (N.J.) Comedy Festival, where she was one of three Florida comedians out of nearly 100 performers. In just five years of performing, she is now recognized at supermarkets and the airport, which she thinks is strange. And, she’s just finished filming a pilot for an untitled program on Comedy Central for writer Matt Harrigan (“Late Show with David Letterman”). The pilot, deemed “Untitled Cruise Ship Project,” centers on corrupt employees of a cruise-ship line. They filmed it in West Palm Beach, and she thinks it will premiere this fall. Tischbein plays the principal role of Grieving Wife. Tischbein only does comedy-related business on the weekends or when she takes a vacation from her day job as the junior accountant for the Exceptional Student Education for Manatee County School District. In 1998, she moved here from Long Island, N.Y. with her twin sister, Margaret Keller, whom she refers to as “my skinny twin.” “What’s it like having a skinny twin?” she

Mallory Gnaegy

“I hate to admit it, but I have a deep-seated desire for everyone to like me,” Mary Tischbein says. “But that’s something I’m almost over.” asks. “I had to distract with jokes.” Tischbein’s plans for moving here were to take care of her mother, Margaret, because her mom wasn’t doing well. Her mother is doing better than she had expected, and now the 87-year-old is her biggest fan. Tischbein loves seeing her in the audience. “I feel like I know a million people and someone’s always got a relative in the hospital, a lost dog or a breakup, and if you are able to gently add humor to the moment — you can see the pain come out of their face,” Tischbein says.

Online For more information on Mary Tischbein (and where you can see her perform) check out her website:

Aug. 9-Sept. 11, 2013

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// Arts&Entertainment 431 St. Armands Circle Sarasota, FL

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FILM // ‘Unfinished Song’ The latest gem on the growing list of films about aging couples is the endearing “Unfinished Song.” It’s a film that celebrates life, elevated immensely by exquisite performances from two veteran acting legends. Terence Stamp, 74, and Vanessa Redgrave, 76, prove that talent can only improve with age in this bittersweet tale of love. It’s a simple story about people getting on with life. Marion (Redgrave) and Arthur (Stamp) have been happily married for decades. Their relationship is one of those opposite-attraction relationships. Outwardly, he’s a stodgy, sarcastic twit, while she’s charming and gregarious. They live for one another; and when Arthur’s greatest fear is realized, his life is shattered. Marion’s cancer has returned and her physician prescribes “chips and ice cream.” Knowing that the comment refers to a hopeless prognosis, Marion whispers into Arthur’s ear, “I love ice cream.” Even faced with imminent death, Marion continues to sing daily

with a hip group of seniors led by a charming young hottie, Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). The choir is slated to take part in a regional competition, and when Marion passes away, Arthur, in a surprising move, joins the group. In this effort to honor his beloved wife, he discovers a kind and gentle soul (seen only by Marion) that he’s been repressing. “Unfinished Song” is written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams in a vast departure from his previous work (“The Cottage,” “London to Brighton”). Known primarily for his horror and crime films, Williams proves he can take some pretty sappy material and turn it into a beautiful commentary on human nature. It doesn’t hurt that he evokes stunningly, brilliant performances from Stamp and Redgrave. But, then again, these formidable actors never fail to showcase their unparalleled prowess whenever on screen. If you’re not brought to tears by Redgrave’s soulful rendition of “Time After Time” and Stamp’s quietly powerful lullaby, “Goodnight, My Angel,” get a heart. Sometimes, it takes something horrible in life to bring out the best in human beings. “Unfinished Song” stands as a testament to the power of love, the emancipation of change and age being a state of mind.






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