By Thom Smith After producing cutting-edge theater in Manalapan’s Plaza del Mar for nearly 20 years, Florida Stage is cutting out, heading to a new home at the Kravis Center. The move, announced in November, won’t be made until July, but tickets for the summer musical go on sale in January. While it’s a blow to Plaza del Mar, which lost its anchor Epicurean gourmet market last spring, it was not a bolt from the blue. For years, Producing Director Lou Tyrrell had looked for an opportunity to move to a more central location that would enlarge his subscriber base. Until recently he thought it might be Palm Beach. The Sterling Organization had big plans to tear down the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in the Royal Poinciana Plaza and replace it with condos and a new, 350-seat theater. Florida Stage would call it home and the Kravis Center would provide the management. Community opposition and the economic downturn thwarted that plan. However, Tyrrell and Kravis Center CEO Judy Mitchell continued to talk. With a little tweaking, they realized the Kravis’ own Rinker Playhouse would work. The deal was cut, and local architect Young Song designed the new space that will include a three-quarter thrust stage. “We’ll be increasing revenue and cutting expenses, while improving production values and the audience experience,” Tyrrell said, noting his company will save $250,000 a year in rent and utilities. “When you combine the reconfiguration of the Rinker with two-story sets, improved lighting, special effects, plus the location in the middle of the community, it really was a no-brainer.” Times are tough, and nonprofits across the board are looking for new models to increase audience and minimize costs. Tyrrell couldn’t look back. “How much will we lose?” asks Tyrrell, whose been winning over fans since he first appeared in The Elephant Man at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre in 1981 and first staged shows at the Norton Museum in 1986. “Virtually everyone in our audience already goes to the Kravis Center. Plus you’re looking at tens of thousands of people who could be added to our audience base. As for Plaza del Mar, Tyrrell believes it will find a new tenant. Someone recently looked at the space for a possible jazz club, he said. “Sure I’ll miss it,” he said. “When I drive up and see an audience in the lobby and think of the almost 20 years we’ve served here, I get nostalgic, but I’m a person who looks forward. “When I think of the people who will find us now, who’ll discover us, it’s so exciting.” Time marches on at Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery in Lake Worth. More and more customers are finding their way to the nonprofit co-op at 605 Lake Ave. that features the work of 28 artists, whose creations range from ceramic goblets to phallic bronze doorknockers to fused glass to stonework.

Among the artists to be featured in January is sculptor Mary Ellen Dohrs. An octogenarian, she nevertheless still exudes the exuberance of youth in her meticulously detailed work, ranging from dramatic action among basketball players and sumo wrestlers to whimsical “smiling” snails. She’s also Miss October in the gallery’s first “Artists Uncovered” calendar. Inspired by the legendary English gambit that led to a movie, the gallery’s brain trust decided to give the gallery and its artists a boost by posing them with their art, au naturel.

Tastefully, of course. Cover girl Sara Lerner, for example, sits serenely on the gallery floor, surrounded by her stone sphere sculptures, her dark tresses cascading over her shoulders, her arms wrapped around her drawn-up knees. Durga Garcia, curator of exhibitions at the Palm Beach Photographic Center and a crack shot with a camera or a gun (She was a member of the U.S. International Pistol Team), took the photos.

Incidentally, not all the artists are women. Well-known centaur Norm Gitzen also makes an appearance and husband and wife Kelly and Linda Manganaro are the February lovebirds. Half of the 1,000 original edition already have been sold, the gallery’s Joyce Brown said. Price: $19.95. Jim Taube has been through this before — 17 times in Palm Beach County — but this is the first time he’s tried it in Delray Beach. “It’s still exciting, but I’m always a bit concerned when I open a new one,” he said as he looked around Surf Sliders, his new restaurant at the corner of A1A and Atlantic Avenue in the site formerly occupied by Shore. Actually, Taube, a Palm Beach countian for 38 years, needn’t have worried. His opening on Dec. 15 was actually a little ahead of schedule, and it fits nicely with his other nautical eateries — Key Grill in Juno and Boca Raton, Bimini Twist in West Palm Beach, Coola Fish Bar in Palm Beach Gardens and the longstanding Jetty’s at Jupiter Inlet. Surf Sliders, by the way, has nothing to do with baby burgers. “Sliders,” Taube said, “are anything that slides in the ocean — fish, surfers …” Mind you, burgers are on the menu — topped with ’shrooms, guac, bleu cheese ($9.95) — but the menu is classic American bistro, offering sandwiches and entrees of fresh fish, chicken, filet mignon and imaginative salads including sweet-potato-crusted fresh fish over mixed greens and scallions and mango remoulade topped with the house vinaigrette ($14.95). With a bar out front by the sidewalk, Sliders will get its share of beachgoers, who’ll feel right at home. Woven bamboo board covers the ceiling beams, ferns hang from stained wood baskets, surfboards hover here and lean there, and two giant marlin keep watch from the south wall. A distinctive aroma permeates the room, possibly the wormy chestnut, Taube says. In an earlier day, folks used to gather around a cracker barrel or a toasty stove to share news and gossip. Packaging has replaced the barrels and, except for a few days each year, stoves aren’t needed in South Florida. But people still like to chat and that old convivial mood abounds at 259 NE Second Ave. in Delray Beach’s Pineapple Grove. You’ll also find some good buys and people who want to help, which is why Gulf Stream resident Caron Dockerty wrangled the space in a building owned by husband Bob to start Treasures 4 Charity. Dockerty and her friend Brooke Qualk saw the space’s potential as a boutique where donated goods and clothing could be sold at thrift store prices to raise money for local charities. It started with a few friends, but word quickly spread and now Treasures 4 Charity is a community force. “On opening night we sold half our merchandise,” Dockerty said of the planned two-month run, “but then the next few days were a bit slow. We thought, ‘Oh, well, it was a good idea … But then momentum started to build. More and more people started to bring in donations and more and more people offered to volunteer. We went from being open three days a week to five, from helping four charities to 14.” The volunteer list has grown to 24 who staff the boutique from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 to 2 on Saturday. “Everyone is having a blast working here,” Caron said. “We have become a community gathering place.”

As honorees assembled on stage at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion Dec. 10, Anne Bright’s cell phone rang. The caller: her husband and lifelong prankster Reeve Bright. Anne brushed it off with typical aplomb, but she took quite seriously her inclusion among 33 women honored by the South Florida Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America at its inaugural Best and Brightest luncheon. Bright was recognized for her work with Lupus and with the Achievement Center for Family and Children in Delray. Also honored was Lula Butler, Delray’s director of community improvement, who coordinated the city’s successful All-America City campaigns in 1993 and 2001 and co-founded the Delray Beach Youth Council. Finally, some action at Las Ventanas, the much-anticipated residential/commercial complex at the corner of Woolbright Road and Federal Highway. First in: Butterfly, a Chinese restaurant, and it’s already seeking votes in the national Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the USA competition. Tsunami Subs & Wraps is next, and a construction supervisor said an Italian restaurant will soon be ready, adding that 40 percent of the retail space is under contract. Thom Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at thomsmith@ymail.com
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