It’s Too Darn Hot

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Summers in Florida have always been unbearable to the uninitiated. Whenever some visitor comes into the studio and makes the statement that he/she is thinking of moving here, I always tell them not to make a final decision until they come back and spend a little time here in August.  That’s the unofficial state residence test… If you can make it through August, Florida is a fine place to live.

But the weather can admittedly be hard to handle which is why I am glad that I have an excuse to leave the state during the summer every year, even if just for a week. The Home Video Studio corporation holds its annual getaway for all the studios operating under their brand in July and August… which are the two hottest and most uncomfortable months of the year here in Florida. So it is often a relief to get away from the Sunshine State for a brief respite during this time.  This year our destination is… Tucson Arizona.

I checked the forecast today. 117 degrees. D’oh!

Good thing it’s a dry heat. If there were any humidity we’d get a third degree burn just walking through the steam in the atmosphere.

In any case, it is sure to be a grand time (spent primarily indoors in the manufactured cool air of the hotel). This post is intended simply to inform that our studio will be closed for a week while we attend our getaway. We’ll try to post any items of interest that may come to our attention during our week away.  Until then, delight yourself with this blast from the past:  Ann Miller singing and dancing to It’s Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. Please note, we will be closed from July 23 through July 29. We will reopen on Monday July 30.

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Here I Come, To Save The Day…

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I saw a photo yesterday. It was of a matchbook from Harlequin Dinner Theater (Rockville Md). The Harlequin was one of my families’ favorite venues for an evening’s entertainment. I found it unique in that the waiters/waitresses that took drink orders and served them at intermission were also members of the cast. They were usually from the chorus but sometimes a supporting actor or actress would serve a table or two. It was fun to see our server play a character onstage and I guess they were happy for the opportunity to make some tips.

I’ve only had two dinner theater experiences as an actor. And the only reason I had the second one was because my wife coerced me into it. The first one was an unmitigated disaster. It was just after college. I found myself stranded in Toledo Ohio due to some financial miscalculations on my part. While I waited for my coffers to be refilled, I had some spare time so I did theater at night. A couple of shows with the Toledo Repertory Theater led to a paying gig at the Commodore Perry Dinner Theater. The show was How The Other Half Loves, a British sex farce.

The production was rough. The audience was rougher. The producers, thinking a comedy would be well served if the crowd was in the proper mood to laugh, offered ridiculously low prices on their alcoholic beverages. By the time the show started, the audience was half in the bag. Instead of making them laugh, their inebriety just prompted heckling.

What may prove to be my lowest moment onstage came when I, playing a husband who is having an affair with the wife of his boss, stepped out of what was presumed to be the bathroom and appeared onstage wearing a towel as a cape, a big S on my chest sculpted with shaving cream while wearing a pair of Underoos two sizes too small – with a plastic Mighty Mouse embarrassingly glued to a location where I would have rather not had the audience’s attention drawn. It has taken me decades but I have finally blocked out of my memory the comments and catcalls that were hurled my way.

I determined that my time in Toledo would be cut short. The very minute my contract at the Commodore Perry ended, I loaded my car with the few possessions I had and hit the highway. No lie… I literally left that night after the curtain call. My embarrassment trumped my lack of funds. I figured I would drive until I was out of gas and money. And this I did… and survived to tell the tale.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Our Neighborhood Movie House

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Mount Dora is about to get a new Epic Movie Theater! Opening date is just around the corner and it is exciting news for our little town. We haven’t had a movie theater in our local environs since 1996. And to say our citizens are excited would be an understatement.

Even before the theater has officially opened, news has arrived that the Central Florida Film Festival has chosen our new theater as its official venue. Our cup runneth over. And it prompts a memory which has become something of a family favorite.

Back in the day, when I was running my Christian film review website, I was invited to review the entries of the Florida Film Festival hosted by the Enzian Theater in Maitland Florida. As I waited for the festival date, I continued to review the mainstream movies that were being released weekly.

My reviews, which I called “movie parables,” were designed to explore spiritual truths to be found in the secular entertainment of our day. It was a new concept and I received a lot of hate mail because of it. Non-Christians resented my bringing my faith into their entertainment world and religious Christians didn’t much care for my bringing secular entertainment into their faith.

It was an interesting time but one that led to a ten year career in the film review business.

One day, I stopped at the post office to pick up any correspondence that may have arrived to my film website’s PO Box address. Among the bills, there was a small package wrapped in brown paper addressed to me in a crayon scrawl. I didn’t recognize the return address and I wasn’t expecting anything. I thought it odd but I took it and put it in the back of my car and drove home.

When I arrived home, I told my wife about this package. She, knowing about the hate mail I had received, freaked. She made me promise to call the police to find out how I could x-ray the package before I opened it.

I, being a dutiful husband, did as she asked. It was a brief call. I was told to stay put and not touch anything. Within minutes, two firetrucks, three police cars and a few unmarked cars blocked off the street where I lived. I normally would have sent my wife out to deal with this since calling the police was her idea but she somehow decided this would be a perfect time to take a shower.

I walked out the door and the man in charge came over to me. He asked me where the package was so I went to my car, took it out and started walking back to him. He sternly instructed me to stop where I was and put the package gently on the ground. I obeyed.

He studied it for about five minutes then took a penknife out, slit the bottom of the package and withdrew its contents. As he handed it to me, he could not disguise the smirk on his face.

It contained a videotape of a film that had been entered in the film festival and sent to me for review purposes. It was a documentary of the life of porn star John Holmes AKA Johnny Wadd.

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I am pretty sure I was the butt of many a joke that night at the station house.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Song and Dance Man

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I have been asked to digitally preserve a number of videotapes containing theatrical performances for a local actress whose career spanned decades and over 60 stage shows at various venues. Most of them musicals. I love getting these jobs.

As an actor, I always envied the triple threat people… you know, the ones who could act, sing, AND dance. Myself, I was more of a threat and a half kind of performer. I could act, and move across the stage without tripping over my feet. Singing was something I reserved primarily for showers and while stopped at red lights.

But the desire was always there. And sometimes desire, if left unchecked, will overrule common sense. And so one day I found myself auditioning for the lead of a musical – a community theatre production of They’re Playing Our Song. The audition song I used was one I had written for myself while in college, something I prepared in the unlikely event I was ever asked to sing in order to be considered for a role. I called it The Audition Song and it began like this:

I can act my way from a paper bag,
Quote Shakespeare til I’m blind.
But there’s one thing that I must confess:
I can’t sing worth a dime.
But I can sell it… any song that I sing.
Gotta sell it… just to make the voice ring.
I will sell it… so that you’ll never know
When I open my mouth, out comes a sound like a crow.

While I may have been crazy to think I would ever be considered, I know with all certainty that the directors were crazy when they decided to cast me. I was now the lead of a musical. It was my Gene Kelly fantasy come true.

Truth be told, I had a blast working the show and my performance of the titular number was, in all modesty, the evening’s showstopper. My singing never did improve but boy did I “sell” the heck out of my numbers. One reviewer put it like this, “Mr. Ondrasik does not let his untrained voice stand in the way of enjoying himself onstage.”  I took that as a compliment. It was, wasn’t it?

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

A.R. Gurney Wrote My Pickup Lines

 

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You’ll have to indulge me… I’m having a bit of a spousal pride moment. Yesterday, I attended a party held in honor of my wife who is retiring from her position with Orlando Health after 17 years. It is always nice to hear kind words of esteem and appreciation directed towards the woman I love. It came as no surprise – she has always impressed me.

I met her in 1991. I had just moved to Orlando and didn’t really know anyone in the area. I decided to audition for a community theatre production of A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour to help pass the lonely nights. During the process I noticed an attractive actress who was auditioning for a supporting role. I was delighted when we were both cast.

If you have never worked in community theater before, the process is a bit different. In professional theater, the object is to move the production from rehearsal stage to live audiences as quickly as possible in order to begin recouping production costs. In community theatre, there is an extended rehearsal process followed usually by a short performance run.

I got to know my future wife fairly well during the six weeks we rehearsed. Well enough for me to not want the show to end. When the show opened, the time we spent together was dramatically reduced.  Concocting a reason to stay connected and continue the flirtation, I suggested we run our lines backstage before the show started. I had never done that before in any other play.

The other cast members noticed our mini-rehearsal routine and wanted in. It wasn’t long before our four person cast was doing a full backstage performance of the entire show before the show actually started. I can’t say it served the play well. I know I had more than one deja vu moment onstage where I felt like we had already done a scene before we actually did it. But the audiences didn’t seem to mind. The show was held over by popular demand and a year later that actress and I got to deliver some more rehearsed lines… our marriage vows.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides (and yes, we do have a digital copy of the show we did together as part of our memory collection.) For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.