By Jessica Fondo
Kevin Kantor makes their Gainesville debut as Rexy in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” onstage at the Hippodrome.
Originally from Chicago, Kantor began acting as a child and, before graduating high school, decided they wanted to pursue it professionally. They studied playwriting in Denver, and finished a nine-month apprenticeship at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville before coming to Gainesville. They currently live in New York, but often travel for theatre.
Kantor identifies as genderqueer and chooses the pronouns they and them for themself. Kantor said they have enjoyed this particular show as an opportunity to make their Gainesville debut.
“I’m always excited to be playing queer characters, complex, three-dimensional queer characters who get to survive their own stories and celebrate their existence,” they said.
Kantor’s character, Rexy, provides exactly that.
“She is a sardonic, cutting, strong and powerful drag queen who has worked so hard to carve out a space or herself in her life. She’s a warrior. She’s hard-fought, but she’s incredibly flawed,” Kantor said. “She has battle scars, and I love being able to showcase that you can be resilient but not at the cost of your humanity.”
Kantor said they hope the audience takes “The Legend of Georgia Mcbride” as an opportunity to celebrate the people whom Rexy represents.
“There is room for all of us to take time to celebrate queer joy,” they said. “I think that this show is so full of life and fun and love.”
This production welcomes everyone into a space that queer people had to fight for, Kantor said.
“It’s inviting people into our inner circle and saying, ‘We love you. We want you here. We want you to celebrate with us,’ while also realizing and paying respect to the hardships that we had to overcome to earn this space.”
Kantor has enjoyed how supportive the community of Gainesville has been for this production to be featured on the Hippodrome’s Mainstage. They said the audiences seem warm, welcoming, excited and supportive of the arts.
Finding that support makes creating art possible, Kantor said.
“Ultimately, I’ve found that it’s about finding your people who will, you know, take those free hours they have between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., in the middle of the night, to get their hands dirty and just create some magical art together.”
In addition to being an actor, Kantor is also a poet and a playwright. They said they admire the way young artists refuse to limit themselves to one artform.
“There used to be this sort of, I think, belief that you have to choose what you wanted to do,” Kantor said. “You wanted to be an actor, or you were a writer, or you were a director. And now we are saying, ‘Screw that. We are interdisciplinary creators.’”
By Amanda Grohowski
After a hop-skip-and-a-jump of 3,661 miles, Caroline Strang is now in Gainesville, Fla., charming audiences at the Hippodrome Theatre as Jo in “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” But, believe it or not, Strang was not always an actress nor was she used to the pounding heat of Florida.
Strang was born and raised in the chilly town of Fairbanks, Alaska. Her first exposure to acting was in her hometown church, where she used to participate in plays. Despite her natural attraction to acting, her parents did not allow Strang to participate in any shows outside of her church.
Her mom thought theatre people were “wicked,” to which Strang teasingly agrees is true.
So, Strang pursued singing instead, which she says has always been her long-time passion. Strang even thought at one point that she was going to be a Christian popstar.
Strang started her undergraduate studies of opera at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but later transferred to Western Connecticut State University to finish her degree. After vocal nodes forced her – at least temporarily – to abandon singing full time,
Strang decided to take a few acting classes before graduation to keep herself busy.
This fateful pursuit of acting led Strang to discover a whole new side of herself and a new world of vulnerability and emotion altogether. She went on to pursue a master’s degree in acting at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she simultaneously was able to work herself back up to a healthy vocal state to be able to sing again.
During her graduate studies, Strang acted in a variety of plays, ranging from light-hearted comedies to emotionally-turbulent dramas.
But Strang says some of the most impactful roles she’s ever played are those that challenge society’s perspective and portrayal of race.
Strang says that she now understands that every time she is in a show, “Race is an element.”
Even as Jo in “Georgia McBride,” she feels empowered to take the stage as the only black (and female!) cast member.
Strang praises Jo’s unapologetic nature, which she says challenges many antiquated stereotypes of women. Strang believes Jo’s struggle to keep her life balanced is very relatable and will be to many women that come see the play.
“For Jo, she has to be strong, black and independent and still deal with the realities of life, like paying rent and working hard toward a relationship with Casey,” says Strang.
Strang says she is excited for everyone to see “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” a play that she feels does a great job casting and portraying people of color and differing gender identities.
Come see Strang take the Hippodrome Mainstage alongside a talented cast in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” through Nov. 5.
Visit thehipp.org/georgiamcbride for tickets or call the box office at 352-375-4477.
How does a down-on- his-luck Elvis impersonator with an empty bank account and a pregnant wife become the most popular drag queen in the Florida Panhandle? The Legend of Georgia McBride is a show-stopping, hilariously extravagant comedy about discovering your true voice with music and glitter galore. A New York Times CRITICS PICK. “Stitch-in-your-side funny…full of sass and good spirits.” —The New York Times. “A genuine crowd-pleaser.” – The Hollywood ReporterBuy Tickets
Giving Tuesday is the perfect day to make a year-end contribution to the Hippodrome!
Like all non-profit arts organizations, the Hippodrome relies on community support to make up the difference between ticket sales and programming expenses. Even taking into consideration the past 10 years of funding cuts, today we fear that the relatively small amount of funding we receive from federal and state grants will be cut even further. As a community, we cannot sit back and wait for Washington or Tallahassee to make funding the arts in Gainesville a priority.
If the Hipp’s home in the heart of our historic downtown is important to you, then please add your name to our growing list of supporters! Every dollar counts! All contributions are leveraged back into our community through the programs we fund and create in our building.
Get the hottest ticket in Gainesville, FREE! If you haven’t had the chance to see The Elephant Man– THIS Wednesday at 7pm is your chance! The Hippodrome Theatre is celebrating their 35th anniversary on their current mainstage in a BIG way and want YOU to be a part of it!
Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play, this compelling story recently enjoyed a sold-out Broadway revival. The Elephant Man is based on the real life of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century British man on the traveling freak show circus, who was later rescued by a caring doctor and went on to become the darling of Victorian high-society. This production celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Hippodrome’s first production on our current mainstage.
$30 savings! Tonight only. Call the Hipp Box Office at 352-375-4477 to reserve your tickets ahead of time or walk up to the Box Office for first come, fist served seating.
Standing in the spotlight can be thrilling, nerve wracking, an adrenaline rush, but standing behind the spotlight, can be just as fascinating.
You may not know Bob or give him a standing ovation on a Saturday night, but you have seen his work scattered across Gainesville for the last 35 years.
Robert “Bob” Robins is the Hippodrome’s lighting designer and also designs lights for the Ocala Civic Theatre, Dance Alive National Ballet, Florida Repertory Theatre, and other places across the southeast region.
Bob lives by an organic process, and it’s one of the reasons he fell in love with the Hippodrome 31 years ago.
Bob asks himself, “How can I help shape the director’s vision? How does lighting help create the story?”
“Before designing the lighting, the physical world has to be created; the costumes, the set, the props. I let everyone else create the world first, and then I illuminate it,” says Bob.
For The Elephant Man, he looked at what the play was trying to convey to the audience. Joseph Merrick lived in a sterile world and was restricted by his deformity. Everyone saw him as an outcast and Bob captured that through the lighting.
“Merrick had a harsh, sharp existence. He was always on display and my lighting design goes along with those themes,” he said. “I use bright light and effects that sculpt the actor’s bodies since there is a simple set.”
Bob said capturing the actor’s voice and the story was his main goal and the design was about restrain.
The first step to designing light for a show is to create a light plot, which is similar to an architectural blueprint. After a technical dress rehearsal, he picks and chooses every light and configures them. There‘s a lot of algebra and geometry that goes into this and no two shows are ever the same at the Hippodrome.
The next step is sending the information to Jed Daniels, the Hipp’s Master Electrician, and people come to set all the lights in place. A Hipp show can utilize up to 150 light bulbs, and each one takes anywhere from three to 10 minutes to set up.
“Every blub has to be touched, and since every show is different, it can take a good amount of time to get them just how I want them,” says Bob.
Bob’s love of theatre started when he was a little kid who enjoyed acting. His passion later turned to behind the scenes when he was a teenager.
“I walked into my high school auditorium and saw all the really cool lights. I thought to myself, I could do that,” he said.
He pursued a theatre production degree from the University of Florida, and before he could even graduate, he had a job at the Hippodrome Theatre.
He ran spotlight for the 1981 Hipp production of The Revenge of the Space Pandas.
35 years later, Bob still has a love for his life career.
So the next time you’re standing in the Hippodrome audience, take a second and look up.