Sick Puppies Comedy

Posted on 09 September 2016 by LeslieM

sickpuppies090816By Rachel Galvin

If you have ever been stricken with fear at the idea of speaking publicly in front of a crowd, or just being on stage period, then Improv is for you. Aside from Toastmasters, which is another excellent organization, doing Improv is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of performing, whether you are an actor or need to do a business presentation. Doing Improv is an opportunity to be free and explore a part of yourself you may not have even known you had inside you. Plus, it is a great chance to laugh and learn with many new friends.

Improv is also an excellent tool for those pursuing film or theater. Sometimes, a director will ask you to Improv a scene in a film, or even for an audition. Being prepared is always paramount and having one more thing to put on your resume is a plus.

If you are thinking of getting involved in Improv, there is a place to go just around the corner in Boca Raton. The company, which started in 2012, is called Sick Puppies Comedy. They offer five different levels of classes from beginner to expert, as well as stand up classes, sketch comedy, and more.

Our beginners Improv class is titled ‘Permission to play,”’ said one of the founders, Casey Casperson. “We do a lot of exercises that help you come out of our own head. Word association, movement, music and silliness are incorporated early to teach everyone that if one person does something weird, they look like an a**. If everyone does it, it’s art. So let’s make art together. We get into some scene work and, toward the end of the series, we start to dive into [Improv] games.”

He added, “The majority of students take Improv classes to overcome some sort of fear or shortcoming regarding presentations or public speaking,” he clarified. “The main benefit is that it provides you the confidence in yourself to know that you are enough. Everything you need to be the best version of you is right there, inside your mind. Improv teaches you to trust your instincts and helps you understand your point of view and, most importantly, the point of view of others.”

Casperson works primarily with Sick Puppies, but sometimes is asked to do a guest set with other casts. There are other troupes in South Florida. He also teaches companies how to improve themselves through Improv.

Improv lets me explore all of my emotions, premises, theories and ideas. I can be anyone that I want and say anything that I think that the character believes to be true,” he said. “Improv is always opening night and closing night. But the main thing that keeps me coming back for more is our cast. These are the best people on the planet. Improvisers are collaborators. We want to work together to make incredible art.”

Another founding member Aniela McGuiness agrees with that sentiment.

To see someone follow their dreams by creating a space and teaching others to follow their dreams is awe inspiring, and that is exactly what Casey Casperson did with Sick Puppies Comedy,” said McGuiness.

Sick Puppies also holds a lot of special events in which people can watch and interact. The troupe has a special event called “The Other World” show on Sept. 17 in which the cast develops an alternate parallel universe and creates a series of narratives that make you ask “If this is true, what else is true?” On Sept. 24, they are creating “The Play,” an Improvised play from start to finish based on one word suggestions. This is a way for those seasoned in Improv to practice and show off their stuff, and have a lot of fun with the audience in the process.

Improv is for everyone. It’s not about being funny because, if humans are acting honestly, they are naturally funny. Improv teaches you to be a better listener, a better friend, a better companion, a better soul. If everyone could be the best version of themselves and stop judging their thoughts, we would have an incredibly productive and funny world,” said Casperson.

Their next beginner’s Improv class is Sept. 21. Sick Puppies Comedy is located at Center Stage at 7200 W. Camino Real #330, in Boca Raton. For more information, visit www.sickpuppiescomedy.com.

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Riding the waves: Tom Leeman talks about kiteboarding

Posted on 09 September 2016 by LeslieM

kiteboard090816By Rachel Galvin

If the wind is blowing, Tom Leeman is kiteboarding. He began back in 2002 when he saw a friend, who is a professional kiteboarder, braving the surf. He learned by trial and error, but he suggests learning from an expert.

Anyone who wants to learn how to kiteboard should take a lesson from a qualified instructor who is licensed and insured. That’s the safest way to get started. Kiteboarding is an extreme sport and there is a lot of inherent risk. The ocean can be very unforgiving. Sometimes, the waves are 20 ft. in the currents running 5 to 8 knots. It’s a dangerous place for the inexperienced,” said Leeman, adding, “It’s not too expensive [to get set up]. You’ll probably end up spending about $1500. You need a harness, a board and a couple kites and a bar. Most people start out with a 12 m kite.”

He added, “I was kitesurfing with my friend Jay in Hurricane Dennis and my kite went down into a huge wave that dragged me under. The winds were about 40 kn and it was a pretty hairy situation. When I got back, my friend Jay had broken both bones in his right leg. We had to rush him to the hospital so it was a pretty crazy day.”

Despite the dangers, Leeman likes nothing more than being out in the elements in the blue sea off South Florida shores. Depending on the wind, he may surf all the way up to Boynton.

Kitesurfing is an addictive sport if you’re an adrenaline junkie you’re going to love it, but if you’re afraid of the ocean and you’re afraid of sharks, and you’re afraid of big waves, you’re not going to like it. Kitesurfing immerses you in nature. You use the energy of the wind to propel you over the ocean. It’s like nothing else on earth. It is experiential. You have to experience it to understand it.”

When not kiteboarding, Leeman is teaching it at Delray Beach Kiteboarding. To get a lesson, give them a call at 561-703-5367 or find them on Facebook. They have teachers who are licensed and insured.

You’ll learn the proper way to kitesurf and all of the safety systems, including how to rescue yourself in case of emergencies,” he said.

When on land, Leeman also teaches JKA Karate, works on producing movies occasionally and works for BirthdayComp, which provides free birthday discounts and gifts from local businesses on people’s birthdays (www.birthdaycomp.com).

The local to Deerfield Island Water Sports might not have the gear needed for kiteboarding, but they have plenty of surfboards to get your feet wet out in the ocean. They are located at 1985 NE 2 St. in Deerfield Beach.

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Service for James W. Stills, 74, of Deerfield Beach

Posted on 19 July 2016 by LeslieM

stills071416James W. Stills, 74, of Deerfield Beach, FL, died Sunday, July 17, 2016, at Holy Cross Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, following surgery for an aneurism.

Born in 1941in Mt. Pleasant, TN, he moved to Deerfield Beach 1952 where he attended Deerfield Beach

Elementary and later graduated from Pompano Beach High School. As a youngster growing up in old Deerfield, he played on the local baseball team and worked a paper route for pocket change. After a brief stint in the National Guard, he worked as a certified general contractor in the South Florida area until his retirement. He then worked for a Boca based structural engineer doing building inspections in the Miami and Boca areas. He spent his second retirement working in the yard, fishing at the lake and visiting with his neighbors.

Jim was preceded in death by both parents and six siblings. He leaves behind his wife of 51 years, Janice, and two grown sons, James Timothy of Orlando and Christopher David of Boca Raton, a sister Barbara Jones of Deerfield Beach and various nieces and nephews.

Visitation: Thursday, July 21, 11 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. Service to follow, 12:30 p.m. Kraeer Funeral Home, 217 E. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441

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Mag Chop

Posted on 15 July 2016 by LeslieM

Artist Kenneth Ruiz’s collages piece together parts of life

magchop071416By Rachel Galvin

Once a graffiti artist and gang member, Kenneth Ruiz has turned his life around to become an amazing artist.

He began his journey in life in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area before moving to South Florida and attending Deerfield Beach High School. This 1995 graduate took art classes and was voted “Most Artistic” in his senior year. Little did he know at the time that art would be so powerful in his future.

The challenges he faced in his early life were nothing compared to what would happen later.

He explained, “I have lived through some things most people only read about. None of those experiences prepared me for losing my mother. I was devastated. It completely altered my life. It changed me in a way that I wish she was here to see. It made me appreciate life and the people in it.”

He added, “Losing my mom also had a strange effect. I lost the ability to draw. I used to draw freehand very well; but when she passed away, I was no longer able to do it. It was as if something turned off.”

Luckily, his wife encouraged him to turn back to an artistic style he had tried years before making collages, which came about after speaking with a friend involved with fine art back in 2008. Ruiz asked him about art and he said that art should tell a story, what the artist is about, which inspired Ruiz to create something for his wall at home.

For 4-1/2 months, everyday, when I came home, I worked on a collage that represented things about me and my life,” he said, adding, “My second piece was not until five years later when my mother passed away.”

His collages are made the old-fashioned way, by cutting and pasting. After that, it becomes a bit more complicated.

It is quite tedious. Once the piece is done, it goes to a fine art photographer who specializes in collage art and it is shot at very high resolution. The original accompanies the image to color correction, where the only adjustments made is to the colors to make sure they match the original. The final piece is a fine art giclee on canvas or museum paper. The image is sprayed on at 300 dpi making it extremely clear. None of my pieces are created digitally, nor are they touched up. They are cut with scissors and on some of the new pieces I have used razor blades,” said Ruiz.

He added, “The first piece I sold was inspirational because they were not for sale at the time. We were having dinner with a well-known person in the art world and he spotted one my pieces hanging on the wall. When he found out I made it and saw, surprisingly, that I had more, he said to me, ‘I have traveled around the world and seen collage art and I have never seen it done like this.’ He said if I decided to make it a business, he would buy the first one, and he did. I was thrilled!”

That was in 2013. He registered his business as MagChop in 2014. He has been creating a diverse collection of pieces ever since, including custom-made ones. He sells them to individuals he knows and also at events.

When people see his pieces, he gets an excited response.

He said, “A lot of my art takes them back to an era of good memories and they are thrilled about that. Some people relate right away and say, ‘This is so me!’ I have had clients call me and say, ‘I look at this everyday and I see something new!’”

When asked how he gets inspired to do his pieces, he replied, “It depends on the piece. To create, I have to relate. I have to know the inner aspects; for instance, I created “The Champions Line,” the first official fine art memorabilia for champion race car driver Ernie Francis Jr. I was never a fan of racing and didn’t know much about it, but I am an auto [and Lowrider] enthusiast so this was an exciting project. I attended the races, spoke to fans, went to the paddock with the team, stood at the pit and even helped work on a car at a race. I learned little details about racing that I otherwise would have gotten wrong. They loved it! It took about four months to complete and actually had a revision that made it remarkable.

One piece called “Ladies Touch” took seven months to complete. The influence came from different women in my life whom I have loved in different ways.”

His favorite piece is called “First Impression.”

It is my favorite piece. It is the first piece I made and it really is symbolic of aspects of my life. It is also the only piece my mother had seen,” he said.

He added, “There are “Easter Eggs” in all my pieces … little hidden things that relate to me … even in custom pieces.”

My art has opened a door for me to speak to youth through art workshops at the Boys & Girls Club in Ft. Pierce and I have spoken at youth conferences for “E.N.D. IT” at a church in Port St. Lucie. I believe in giving back to our communities,” he said.

Asked where he hopes to be in five years, he responded, “To have one of the many upcoming MagChop products in every home! It sounds wild, but think about the jobs I can give people with MagChop growing to that level. We have created movie posters and book covers and hired the assistance of local artists. The dream is more about the opportunities for my children, my community and our country.”

To find out more about this artist and his work, visit www.MagChop.com or find him on social media.

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Pat Anderson Paints in plein air

Posted on 18 June 2016 by LeslieM

anderson061616-1By Rachel Galvin

Pavilion One, just south of Pompano pier, has a perfect view of sea grapes, Palm trees, sunny skies and crystal blue waters, and it serves as the perfect inspiration for art. This is the latest location for artist Pat Anderson’s Plein Air painting class. Here, her students set up their leaf bars (easels that wrap around a column or a tree) and await instruction.

On this day, June 13 (session two of a four-week class), she has them prepare their palette with the right colors. Next, she does an outline of a shape of their choosing – either a palm tree, conch shell or turtle — with liquid rubber, which will dry and create interesting white lines in the finished product. Next, she has students “warm up” with the No. 20 brush, showing them how to move their arm while keeping their hand perfectly still as they practice their thin and thick brush strokes. Today, they will be making puffy clouds with blues and grays, softening the edges with a Q-tip. She showed them how they could paint blades of grass in quick upward strokes.

In order to save paint, which can be expensive, they do “speed painting,” working on two paintings at once. One painting is an abstract using the pigments of their paper palette

and the other one is the landscape they are creating.

Lynn Radtke came with her 13-year-old daughter Olivia.

I usually order Pat’s ornaments [which she creates every year for Christmas] and I got to an e-mail about the class and signed up. I was looking for something my daughter and I could do together. She likes art but prefers acrylics. I thought this would get her out of her comfort zone. If she wants to stick with art, it’s a perfect thing to do,” said Lynn, who has worked in fashion design for awhile.

Ramona Myrick also has a fashion background and went to school for fashion merchandise.

I thought it would be fun to do. I haven’t done it for awhile,” said Myrick, who has worked with mixed media in the past.

She added, “In the first class, last week, we had homework to paint the alphabet and we did a picture of a leaf”.

This month is on Pompano Beach, next month’s classes (July 11, 18, 25 and Aug. 1) will be in Harbor’s Edge Park (1240 NE 28 Ave.). She tries to change up the location. She also has classes using acrylics as well.

I want to get more use of our parks. These posts [columns on pavilion] are not used. We are making use of them. I introduced this art program for parks, to paint in plein air, outdoors. The students are learning the different elements of the painting. I give them a rough sketch of where the sea grapes are, where the trees are, etc. In the end, they will paint a picture of the park they are in and will get a T-shirt with the picture and a certificate for participation.”

Interested in joining her classes? Each two-hour class includes some supplies and access to a leaf bar easel. Cost is $200 for four weeks. Thirty percent of proceeds benefit the Parks & Recreation Dept. You must register in advance at Emma Lou Olson Civic Center, 1801 NE 6 St. in Pompano. For more information, call 954-786-4111, visit www.PatAndersonArtist.com.

anderson061616-2

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Cyndi Lauper takes “Detour” to Boca Raton

Posted on 03 June 2016 by LeslieM

cindy0602116 By Rachel Galvin

When you think of Cyndi Lauper, you may picture the edgy bohemian with big, bright red hair, flamboyant styling and adorable New Yawk accent. But Lauper has transformed through the years, since being thrust into the mainstream scene in 1983 with She’s So Unusual, changing her style in fashion and music. Once known for her pop music hits like “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Time After Time,” she has moved on to embrace other styles, including Blues, in her last album Memphis Blues.

Now, in her newest album, Detour, she firmly embraces Country. The album is a collaboration with the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Jewel. This 11th studio album was recorded in Nashville and includes all covers of classics like Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall To Pieces; “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana and Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” and many others.

The Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning singer likes to employ a wide variety of genres within all her original songs.

I think it was an eclectic sound to begin with. It’s all a mixture,” said Lauper of her early music during an interview with The Observer. “It’s Jamaican, it’s street and Motown-ish, all mixed together but in a pop format. [If it makes you happy], then that is the kind of music it is.”

Creating happiness is key to her musical choices. In this latest album, she is returning back to her roots, to music she listened to as a child.

[I cut my teeth] listening to all the Rockabilly Rock & Rollers … Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline,” she said. “[For this album], I picked songs with stories I could relate to.”

Lauper added, “I thought country would be hard, but once I found myself in it, I was ok. I think that all of it is the roots of the music that I play. It’s a singer’s record. I really love music and feel blessed. My favorite right now is this but I did love the Blues, and they are very close. This is same time period as [songs within] Memphis Blues.”

Cyndi, who has been a songwriter, singer, actress and well-known LGBT activist, also recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with Harvey Fierstein, who worked with her on the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots.”

Right next to Gary Cooper!” she enthused. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

Her advice for people trying to get into the business?

Keep going and do what you were put on this earth to do. If it’s singing and writing, don’t stop and there’s plenty of gate keepers, look beyond their shoulders and see where you are going. Make a map, make a plan and stick to it. Sometimes, you might take some detours, detours that are good. Don’t do the bad ones,” she said.

Cyndi has had struggles in her life, within her childhood and while navigating through stardom. When asked how she handles challenges that have arisen, she said, “Sometimes, I just write down on a piece of paper what I would like to happen. Every time I put a ‘but’ in there, I turn that paper over and start again until there are no ‘buts’ or ‘ifs.’ I think the written word is very powerful and I’ve actually done it and been able to turn things around for myself. It’s a mindset. I always believe in life there’s a lot of people that want to do things but they always say ‘but’ and they always think ‘but.’ They can’t send mixed messages. They [have] to just keep their aim true. I think that the people who succeed in life are the people who don’t quit. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, you don’t quit.”

She added, “There are trappings that come with music. If you are lucky enough to become successful, fame comes along with it. There is no handbook for that. Nobody writes, ‘Rule No. 1… when you’re famous …’ They don’t do that. Your path is your own so try and accept yourself for who you are and you’ll accept others too and try and find happiness in everything you do because life is short.”

Lauper didn’t always start out on this particular path. In fact, she didn’t set out to be a lead singer at all.

I actually learned to sing in the clubs and learned to be a front person because I wanted to be a background singer. I had my heart set on being like Merry Clayton. [When I was singing in a band], the platform shoes I was wearing kept falling. The only manager who would manage us said he would only manage us if the girl in the back who keeps falling, but sings pretty good, would come up front and be the lead singer. So that’s what happened,” she explained.

Her son, “Dex” (Declyn), is now getting involved in doing Hip Hop. She has seen how the industry has changed. She isn’t sure if she started out today if she would make it the way she did in the ‘80s.

I don’t think I could be on all those [reality] shows. You get tortured.” said Lauper (who has had her own reality show called ‘She’s Still Unusual’). “It’s a different ballgame because of social media.”

She wonders if singers in the past had to go through the same steps as singers today if many of them would have become famous.

Would [Bob] Dylan do it? Would he make it through?” she wondered.

She added, “When I started in 1983, I was more of a performance artist. [I would get questions like] ‘Why can’t you wear jeans and a T-shirt like Katrina and the Waves? After awhile, it wore me down until I did Diva Glam thing with Lady Gaga. It [woke me up], saying wait a minute, I could dress the way I dress without feeling like a freak because there was somebody there who [dresses that way too]. I hope that I told her ‘Don’t listen. Be who you are.’ She is a performance artist. Bowie was the first performance artist. To come back now and do this album and have a little performance art I can do, I am so grateful.”

As for Lauper’s future following the tour?

I am going to tackle another musical … she said.

Cyndi has a Boca Raton spot on her tour. See her perform, with The Peach Kings, at Mizner Park Amphitheatre on June 11. For more information on her career, visit www.cyndilauper.com.

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Dr. Julia Breur

Posted on 28 April 2016 by LeslieM

dr-julia

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Sleuthfest 2016

Posted on 06 March 2016 by LeslieM

sleuthfesta

Author C.J. Box signs autographed books.

By Karen Newcombe

The Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) held their annual conference “Sleuthfest” in Deerfield Beach last week, at the Doubletree by Hilton, from Thursday through Sunday.

The MWA is the leading association for professional writers of crime fiction and non-fiction. The conference focuses on technical topics for writers, and brings national A-list authors, editors and literary agents to speak and work with participants. Professionals in the criminal justice field conduct workshops on procedures and technical aspects of crime solving, the law and other factors important to the crime writer.

This year, New York Times best-selling author C.J. Box, whose 18 books include the popular Joe Pickett series, was the keynote speaker at the Saturday luncheon. Box spoke about his life in Wyoming and the growth of his writing career. His experience as the owner of a marketing firm and as a journalist “working every aspect of a small, community newspaper” helped him develop the skills needed to become a successful author. Box is known for combining authentic details of Western life into his masterfully-plotted novels. Box’s newest Joe Pickett mystery, Off the Grid, will be available on March 8.

Other keynote speakers included P.J. Parrish – the pen name of sisters and co-authors Kristy Montee (a Ft. Lauderdale resident) and Kelly Nichols – former CIA operative Valerie Plame, and John Hartnett of Jack Farrell and Associates, a talent recruiting agency for the publishing and media industry.

Mystery Writers of America

Victoria Landis, the co-chair of Sleuthfest, told The Observer that about 250 attendees were at the conference from all over the United States, Canada, and even from Ireland and Spain.

The Florida Chapter of MWA is one of the most active in the country,” Landis said. “The MWA has 11 regions. Membership is $115 per year, and is open to professional writers who are paid by an approved publisher for their work.”

The MWA board reviews all applications and writers must meet other criteria as well; for example, self-publication does not qualify. An Associate Membership category is open to publishing agents, journalists, filmmakers and others in related fields.

Our focus at the conference is to offer support to writers at all career levels. We have workshops for new writers, those in mid-career and those who are already successful but want to learn how to move up to the next level.”

Writers attending the conference could schedule time to meet with literary agents and editors, including Neil Nyren, the well-known editor-in-chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons division of Penguin Random House; Anne Speyer, editor at Ballentine Books; Kirsten Carleton, literary agent at The Prospect Agency, and many others.

For information about joining the MWA, visit www.mysterywriters.org, or for upcoming meetings of the Florida chapter, www.mwaflorida.org.

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JAWorld Uncorked

Posted on 05 February 2016 by LeslieM

collage1By Rachel Galvin

Lines of food options and a bevy of spirit selections awaited those who attended JA World Uncorked! Jan. 23. The event takes over the JA World Huizenga Center on the Broward College campus yearly to benefit Junior Achievement of South Florida, which teaches students of all levels about business, economics and about issues they will face in the workforce in an interactive way. This year’s event featured models , live entertainment by the EDGE band, raffles and prizes. People could even commemorate the occasion at Stache’s photo booth.

The event was chaired by Circle of Wise Women members Lynne McGrath and Taylor McGrath with honorary chairs Bob & Susan Drinon and Renée Korbel Quinn. Breakthru Beverage Florida returned as presenting sponsor.c2

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Watch the Boat Parade LIVE on ObserverTV

Posted on 11 December 2015 by LeslieM

Tune in this Sunday evening, December 13th to watch the Pompano Beach Boat Parade LIVE on ObserverTV!

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