Holidays and celebrations can be fleeting, but not in 2013. Florida's quincentenary has been a continuous, yearlong festivity in Florida as we commemorate the 500th year marking Spanish conquistador Ponce de León traversing our soil and effectively founding our "flowery land."
But what does this anniversary really mean? It’s easy to shrug it off and trudge on, overlooking the rich history drilled so deep into the soil beneath our very feet.
The Florida Humanities Council, partnered with Creative Sanford, is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen. So determined that they present Dreamers and Schemers: An Afternoon with Great Floridians.
This show, which is a statewide series of programs, has been ongoing throughout the year. With the ultimate purpose of teaching residents of our state about legendary Floridians, played by actors of note in Dreamers and Schemers. The final Tampa Bay installment will be staged at Centro Austuriano on Sat., Oct. 5 at 2 p.m, as the show lands in Tampa once again. Tickets are $10. (The program made its way to Tampa’s Studio@620 and in Tarpon Springs earlier this year.)
In this particular installment, we get to know Pedro Menendez, Zora Neale Hurston and Jacob Summerlin. After all, they’re more responsible for your habitation in this state than you might think.
Pedro Menendez de Avilés, played by actor Chaz Mena, founded St. Augustine in 1565, making it the oldest city in the United States.
Mena, who has long divided his work between New York and Florida, has worked with Wynn Handeman on various solo projects at the American Place Theatre in New York, landing roles in plays such as Broken Eggs and O Jerusalem. Mena’s performances have been highly praised by writers of the New York Times and have also helped him gain nominations for the prestigious ACE award.
The actor has numerous film and television credits. His one-person play Yo Solo … Bernardo de Galvez on the Stage of the American Revolution was recently taped at WSRE, a PBS affiliate station in Pensacola. PBS will also air Mena’s Moments in Florida History in both English and Spanish on all state PBS stations. He was a regular this season on Grachi, a Nickelodeon Spanish language series.
Zora Neale Hurston, played by Phyllis McEwen, is an American folklorist, author and poet from the time of the Harlem Renaissance with strong ties to Florida.
Count on Ewen to deliver a spot-on characterization of Hurston. Well-known locally, the independent scholar, Chautauquan and poet has led discussions and workshops on the author and has portrayed her in previous shows.
Audiences will also get to know with Jacob Summerlin, better known as “King of the Crackers.”He and his business partners inspired the coinage because of the "crack" of their long whips they used to drive cows.
Summerlin is reputed as the first child born in Florida under American rule — imagine that. His contributions to the early settlement of Florida, more notably to Orange and Polk counties, include founding the county seats and making hefty donations to churches and schools. During the American Civil War, Summerlin was a blockade runner; he smuggled beef and medicine to Confederate troops.
Brian Shea, an alum of Tampa’s very own University of South Florida, will play Summerlin during the Tampa show. Shea is familiar to local theatergoers. He has been a professional actor performing around the Bay area for around 20 years, having performed at American Stage, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Straz and many more local theaters. He has a few Creative Loafing Best of the Bay awards under his belt too.
To learn more about Dreamers and Schemers: An Evening with Great Floridians, visit the Florida Humanities Council website.