+ Signing a name to 3,400 lives lost
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke as part of the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall Lecture Series. Before the lecture, he took part in a Q&A roundtable of journalists.
We asked him about the 3,400 condolence letters he wrote to families who lost a loved one in action.
“I never wanted those who had fallen to become a statistic for me,” Gates says.
Gates had a routine when he was notified that a soldier died in action. He would request a photo and clippings from the soldier’s community newspaper so he could read comments from family, friends, ministers, teachers and coaches.
“I got to know a little bit about each one of these young people and how they liked to hunt or fish,” he says. “It allowed me to make a connection with each of them.”
Gates thinks war should be the last resort and not the first option — it’s expensive and there are too many casualties lost. These soldiers weren’t numbers to him.
For a war to be worth fighting, Gates believes we should stay true to the doctrine “a clear and present danger.”
“In the past years I think we are too ready to reach for a gun to solve problems,” he says.
+ Introducing FST’s new-ish staff kittens
Eight months ago, Rebecca Hopkins, managing director of Florida Studio Theatre, found Kander, a kitten in a dangerous area of the about-to-be-renovated Gompertz Theatre. Hopkins coaxed her to a safe area by the old buildings when she noticed another kitten, Ebb.
In October, Kander had a litter of kittens the staff named after playwrights Shakespeare, Shepard, Tennessee, Ionesco and Beckett. Hopkins took them all to the vet where they were spayed and vaccinated. The cats have slowly disappeared and it’s down to Kander and Shakespeare. Hopkins believes they have been “stolen,” or mistaken as strays, but hopes they are in good homes. If someone takes Kander, however, “That would break my heart!” Hopkins says.
It wouldn’t be the first time she’s lost a beloved FST cat. Albee was around for seven years before she died, and many patrons were vocal about their grief.
“It’s good luck to have cats around,” she says. She explains that in the old days, sailors were hired to do
pulley work at rat-infested theaters, so they would bring the dock cats along to eat the mice.
“They catch a rat every once and a while,” she says.
And they leave it for Hopkins at the bottom of the stairs.
+ Every dog has its day
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, area dogs had the opportunity to become the next top dog of Sarasota with an audition for a role in Sarasota Opera’s “Of Mice and Men.”
The role called for a medium-sized, old, ragged, herding dog — one on its last leg. It’s a 20-minute scene that requires the dog to lie still and possibly wear a little stage makeup. Seven dogs thought they were right for the part, but only one will get the paid position.
CoCo, a 3-year-old Bouvier des Flandres, will hire a press agent and host a Facebook page if she gets the role, her owners Fonda Giacoia and Michael Hickmott joked.
St. Berdoodle Ben isn’t a newbie, and has modeled and gone on several auditions — he even has his own headshots and personal photographer. But his mom, Jeanine Brawn, has been a dog trainer since 1974, so being a good boy comes naturally.
Nine-year-old Roscoe, a chow-shepherd mix, has a real limp (a plus for the role). In 2010, he starred in “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. He beat out 45 other dogs for the role. He came with his resume in paw. If he doesn’t get the part, his tail will still be wagging.
FST Improv: FST Improv uses audience suggestions to create hilarious characters, situations and sketches on the spot. The group’s run ends Feb. 23, so get tickets while they last. See the show 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16, if you need something to laugh about following Valentine’s Day. Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Tickets $12. For more information, call 366-9000.
‘Soul Crooners 2’: West Coast Black Theatre Troupe’s first “Soul Crooners” featured WBTT men crooning music of the 1970s. The same guys are back by popular demand for the second showcase beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, and running through March 24. West Coast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota. Tickets $28. For more information, call 366-1505.
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March 10: The great debate
The Observer will hold a debate for Longboat Key Town Commission candidates at 7 p.m. March 10, at Bayfront Park Recreation Center, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Greg Hoffman SCOREs award
Longboat Key resident Greg Hoffman received Manasota SCORE’s Platinum Leadership Award at the organization’s 50th anniversary awards luncheon Feb. 24.
Spring forward for Daylight Saving
Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, so turn your clocks forward by an hour before bedtime Saturday night.