Cultural Connection

Vero Beach is a bastion of the arts, and this season promises to uphold that tradition in spades

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The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine will bring Swan Lake to the historic Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce next month
The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine will bring Swan Lake to the historic Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce in December.

Grace Under Fire

Even in times of tribulation, Ukraine shares its rich cultural heritage with the rest of the world. This season, the Treasure Coast will welcome two performing troupes from the cradle of Eastern Slavic civilization.

Stanislav Khristenko, a native of Kharkiv, will be the featured piano soloist when the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine performs in Vero Beach early next year
Stanislav Khristenko, a native of Kharkiv, will be the featured piano soloist when the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine performs in Vero Beach in January.

On December 28, the State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine will dance Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable Swan Lake at the historic Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce. With its 2022–23 tour, the company, consisting of more than 55 dancers, is bringing its rendition of this 1877 classic to U.S. stages for the first time.

On January 13, 2023, the Indian River Symphonic Association will host the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine. Under the baton of Theodore Kuchar, an American of Ukrainian descent, the orchestra will perform two works by Brahms and one by Sibelius. Featured piano soloist Stanislav Khristenko is a native of Kharkiv, a city that sustained severe damage and casualties in the early days of this year’s Russian invasion.

Vero Beach Opera’s much-anticipated season kicks off in January with an original VBO production and wraps up with the annual Rising Stars concert and competition. Photo by J. Patrick Rice
Vero Beach Opera’s much-anticipated season kicks off in January with an original VBO production and wraps up with the annual Rising Stars concert and competition. Photo by J. Patrick Rice

In Good Voice

As always, the Vero Beach Opera is excited about its upcoming season. This year’s original VBO production will be L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love), an 1832 Gaetano Donizetti composition of the opera buffa genre. In a whirlwind of operatic operations, the VBO production team will gather musicians, chorus singers, and opera vocalists from far and wide to stage this show January 8. Opera fans will also not want to miss “Phantom Goes to the Opera,” VBO’s best of Broadway and opera concert February 4, and its always-much-anticipated Rising Stars vocal competition and concert in March.

Also in the vocal vein, the Vero Beach Choral Society is thrilled with the challenging repertoire it has planned this season. Artistic director Jacob Craig is preparing his ensemble for a performance of Vivaldi’s “Gloria” in December. Another concert with an all-new repertoire will take place in April 2023.

The Space Coast Symphony takes a wide-ranging series of concerts to venues in Vero Beach and Melbourne
The Space Coast Symphony takes a wide-ranging series of concerts to venues in Vero Beach and Melbourne.

Take Note

Vero Beach residents don’t have to go far to enjoy a robust selection of symphonic music.

The Atlantic Classical Orchestra has entered its fourth decade of fulfilling the dream of late conductor and French-horn player Andrew McMullan for the Treasure Coast to have its own professional orchestra. In addition to its four-part Masterworks series, performed at the Community Church of Vero Beach, the ACO collaborates with the Vero Beach Museum of Art to present the Chamber Music Series, which consists of three concerts.

The Indian River Symphonic Association likewise uses the spacious Community Church as its venue, welcoming orchestras from around the United States and the world. This year, IRSA brings the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Palm Beach Symphony, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to Vero Beach.

Space Coast Symphony, with its inspiring mission to “make professional classical music affordable and accessible to people of all ages,” puts on an eclectic lineup of shows in both Melbourne and Vero Beach. Between now and May, nine Vero Beach performances are scheduled.

Ballet Vero Beach’s signature production is the December show Nutcracker on the Indian River
Ballet Vero Beach’s signature production is the December show Nutcracker on the Indian River.

A Decade of Dance

Ballet Vero Beach is celebrating its tenth anniversary! For more than half of BVB’s existence, Nutcracker on the Indian River has been a cherished event each December. This year the three-day treat will begin December 29 with the Accessible/Family Friendly version, followed by the Main Stage shows December 30 and 31. Three additional performances, Tastemakers, Beyond the Ballets Russes, and Choreographer’s Notebook: Samuel Kurkjian, will carry ballet lovers all the way through spring.

Q&A with Adam Schnell

Adam Schnell
Adam Schnell

We caught up with BVB’s founder, artistic director, and CEO, and asked him to share some inside information about the Nutcracker that we in Vero Beach can call our very own. 

Were you the sole creator of Nutcracker on the Indian River?

I came up with the concept, the libretto, and 95 percent of the choreography. There are a couple pieces where I pulled from the choreography of the traditional ballet.

How did the idea come about?

Honestly, the show almost predates Ballet Vero Beach, or rather they jelled at the same time. I knew BVB would need a Nutcracker eventually, and I knew I did not want to follow the traditional story line. I wanted something that reflected the uniqueness of our area and that our community could be proud of. It premiered in December 2017.

Has the performance changed or evolved over the years?

Every time we mount the production it changes a little. Aside from improving sets and special effects, I always tweak the choreography slightly—not a lot, but sometimes to play to the strengths of a dancer or to make the story tighter.

Nutcracker on the Indian River
Nutcracker on the Indian River

Do you have any idea how many people have seen Nutcracker on the Indian River performed?

In person, the full show has been seen by 3,000-plus people. The abbreviated version we did outdoors last year was seen by an additional 500-plus people. It is impossible to tell how many people saw the film version we did in 2020, as we not only housed it for free on our own platforms, but it was picked up by South Florida PBS and shown from Vero to Key West.

What is the most rewarding bit of feedback you’ve received about the show?

The most rewarding thing is honestly that people got it right away. I wanted to create something that captured the magic and wonder of the original ballet but really transported people to a localized and unique setting. The show does that, and I am really proud of that accomplishment.

Riverside Theatre is celebrating 50 years of entertaining stage enthusiasts in Vero Beach. This season’s full slate of performances has just gotten underway. Photo by Holly Porch
Riverside Theatre is celebrating 50 years of entertaining stage enthusiasts in Vero Beach. This season’s full slate of performances has just gotten underway. Photo by Holly Porch.

Curtain Calls

Vero Beach is celebrating two major milestones on the theater scene this season. The Vero Beach Theatre Guild, the oldest community theater on the Treasure Coast, is turning 65. In addition to its inaugural Theatre Festival, “10 by Tenn,” a monthlong tribute to playwrite Tennessee Williams held in September, the guild will stage Yasmina Reza’s Art; Musical Chairs: The Musical; Love, Loss & What I Wore; Visiting Mr. Green; The Lifespan of a Fact; The Boy from Oz; Equus; and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile. Having produced more than 335 main stage shows, the guild is, as current artistic director Jon Putzke says, “a theater for, of, and by the community … with a professional staff and hundreds of volunteers on- and backstage.”

Our small town also boasts Florida’s largest professional theater, which is raising a glass on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. For its March gala, Riverside Theatre will host Broadway and television star Kelli O’Hara. Additional highlights of the upcoming season are the romantic comedy Butterflies Are Free; Man of LaMancha: The Musical; Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors; 42nd Street; and Honky Tonk Angels, a tribute to the women of country music.

In January, a new display of rare, elegant Art Deco cars will roll into the Vero Beach Museum of Art. Photo by Peter Harholdt
In January, a new display of rare, elegant Art Deco cars will roll into the Vero Beach Museum of Art. Photo by Peter Harholdt

Feasts for the Eyes

Vero Beach always enjoys a full platter when it comes to the visual arts. Underway right now at Vero Beach Museum of Art is “Changing Nature: A New Vision, Photographs by James Balog,” which will run through December 31. This thought-provoking exhibition examines the patterns of life on earth and the role of human activity in those patterns. Balog is passionate about exploring the relationship between man and nature.

On January 30, 2023, VBMA will shift gears with “Rolling Sculpture: Streamlined Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles: 1930–1941,” which will run through the end of April. This stunning show, guest curated by Ken Gross, former executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, will place 20 rare cars and two motorcycles, all sleek and svelte, throughout the museum’s multiple galleries.

The Vero Beach Art Club, a treasured fixture in our community since 1936, is tireless in its efforts, offering classes, exhibitions, and refreshing outdoor events. Art in the Park takes place various Sundays throughout the year, and the club’s flagship event, the seventy-second annual Under the Oaks fine arts & craft show, will draw more than 200 artists and many thousands of guests from near and far to Riverside Park March 10 through 12.

Fashion designers Mark Badgley, standing, and James Mischka, seated, will be at VBMA February 22, 2023
Fashion designers Mark Badgley, standing, and James Mischka, seated, will be at VBMA February 22, 2023.

The Fabric of Society

Celebrating fashion as its own distinct art form, and a ubiquitous one at that, Vero Beach Museum of Art is now in its sixth year of bringing sartorial luminaries to Vero Beach for Fashion Meets Art. The 2023 FMA is scheduled for February 22, and event co-chairs Gregory Allan Ness and Leslie Bergstrom are excited to announce this year’s guest speakers—renowned design duo Mark Badgley and James Mischka. The Badgley Mischka brand, launched in 1988, is characterized by classic Hollywood glamour reinterpreted for the contemporary woman. They will be joined onstage by presenter Tiffany Corr and will dish details from their decades in the fashion industry. Tickets go on sale to the general public November 16.

Literary Lineup

Riverside Theatre’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, the longest continuously running lecture series in Vero Beach, presents its twenty-fourth season. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will kick off the series in January, followed by former Secretary of Defense retired Gen. James Mattis in February and author Bjorn Lomborg in March. In April, acclaimed historian and best-selling author Walter Isaacson will provide the season finale. In addition to his other works, Isaacson has penned detailed biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger.

The Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary of literary pursuits on the Treasure Coast. On January 19, in honor of Jackson’s January 16 birthday, the foundation welcomes Vero Beach’s own Carl Hiaasen, best-selling author of more than 20 books, for “Laughing Out Loud” at the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center. Spring will bring LRJF’s twelfth annual Poetry and Barbecue event, “Collaborative: When Poets Marry.” Two married couples of poets will be on hand to discuss this topic: Barbara Hamby and David Kirby of Tallahassee and Chelsea Rathburn and Jim May of North Georgia.

Q&A with Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

The Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation’s new executive director, Sara Wilson, has given us her perspective on this exciting season and beyond.

What is your favorite part of LRJF’s work, and what do you think is LRJF’s most important role in the community?

I was trained as a historian, so I’ll admit to a little personal bias towards the preservation and exhibition of Laura (Riding) Jackson’s home and belongings, and the all-native Florida gardens we’ve established there. I urge anyone who hasn’t been to tour the house, located at the Indian River State College Mueller Campus in Vero, to go ahead and do that! The house opens for tours November 1, after hurricane season is over. As interesting as the house itself is, the most important role of the foundation in the community is its support and encouragement of writers of all ages. Laura herself wrote prolifically from childhood until her death at age 90, and our programs nurture writers in every stage of life, as well.

How did you decide on Carl Hiaasen to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary? What is he going to talk about at the event?

As a hugely talented and successful writer of nonfiction and fiction, both for adults and young readers, Carl represents a life devoted to the written word. Like Laura, he’s known for his passion for the Florida environment. Plus, he’s really funny! The topic of his talk is “Laugh Out Loud” which we chose because, in our first really big gathering in the post-pandemic world, we wanted to joyfully celebrate our 30 years with the community. What better way to do that than through laughter?

What are your fondest hopes for LRJF’s next 30 years?

We’re just getting started! Thirty years from now, I expect our writing programming to have reached hundreds of thousands of people and contributed to the appreciation and publication of every kind of writing. In the coming decades, we will bolster Vero’s reputation as the cultural heartbeat of Florida. And Laura’s house and native garden will ensure that Florida’s past and unique environment are remembered and celebrated.

How would you sum up the role of literature in society in one sentence?

Through the imagination and skill of writers, literature enriches human life by allowing us to temporarily step into new worlds where we can encounter observations, emotions, and awareness different from those we’ve experienced in our own lives.

McKee Botanical Garden’s presentation of the “Garden of Glass Exhibition by Jason Gamrath” represents the first time the collection will be displayed in an outdoor garden in Florida
McKee Botanical Garden’s presentation of the “Garden of Glass Exhibition by Jason Gamrath” represents the first time the collection will be displayed in an outdoor garden in Florida.

Beauty in Bloom

As a subtropical paradise known as the Hibiscus City, Vero Beach has always cherished botanical beauty as part of its cultural landscape.

The Garden Club of Indian River County has just released its thirty-first annual Christmas ornament, honoring the twentieth anniversary of the club’s popular Gardenfest, which took place earlier this year. The ornament, designed by Bonnie Pfeister, will join the beloved collection of 30 prior ornaments, all depicting historical aspects of Indian River County and all designed by Arun Wijetilleke, who has finally decided to hang up her pencils.

Maxine Owens will appear at VBMA’s Art in Bloom
Maxine Owens will appear at VBMA’s Art in Bloom.

Also on the floral front, you will not want to miss the stunning exhibition McKee Botanical Garden is hosting January 20 through April 30! The “Garden of Glass Exhibition by Jason Gamrath” will feature 10 colorful, larger-than-life works by the renowned Seattle-based glass sculptor. These 6-to-14-foot orchids, water lilies, and other plants represent Gamrath’s first outdoor garden exhibit in Florida.

Rounding out the gardening genre, Vero Beach Museum of Art will welcome
esteemed floral designer Maxine Owens for its annual Art in Bloom event March 8 through 10. Owens is the owner of Max Owens Design, formerly The Southern Table, based in Dallas, Texas. She has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Martha Stewart Weddings, Style Me Pretty, and Brides magazines.

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