+ Sarasota dad nabs award for baby book
Eric Piazza certainly knows how to one-up new dads.
When his son, Will, was born three years ago, Piazza decided to write a children’s book inspired by the one question everyone seemed to ask him after the baby was born: “How did your dogs react?”
Piazza and his wife, Meredith, who moved last January from Baton Rouge, La., to Sarasota, have two 80-pound dogs: Maddie, a black lab mix, and Max, a golden retriever.
The 10-year-old pooches were the couple’s first babies.
Although they responded well to the baby on his first day home, a mouse found its way into the Piazza home and scurried across the house in the middle of the night, sending Max and Maddie into a barking frenzy.
Says Piazza: “There was real commotion going on and my wife and I kind of looked at each other and thought, ‘Is this how it’s going to be every night?’”
Over time things got less chaotic, and one night, as Piazza, a software engineer by trade, was reading a book to Will before bed, he had an a-ha moment.
“I Wonder if the Baby Will Look Like Me,” a board book written from the perspective of several household pets, was published one year later. Piazza even formed a small publishing company, Muddy Dog Publishing, to distribute the story.
He entered the book this fall in the Florida Publishers Association’s 2011 President’s Book Awards.
On Nov. 5, he took the silver medal in the competition’s Children’s Picture Book category and beat out titles in 17 categories to win the President's Choice Award at a ceremony at the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel.
Piazza, who now has a 2-month old daughter, Caroline, says he’s fielding a new question from family and friends.
They all want to know when Caroline’s book will be published.
+ Venice Theatre lures audiences with giveaway
Struggling arts organizations should take note of the clever marketing strategy being implemented this season at the Venice Theatre.
Last weekend, VT held auditions for the world premiere of “Stand by Your Van,” a play about a group of people who participate in a competition to win a pick-up truck by standing for hours with their hands on the side of a vehicle.
Directed by English director Paul Bourne, the play will function much like an actual contest with six different endings depending on which character wins the competition.
And here’s the kicker: People who buy tickets to see the show, which runs April 3 through April 22, are immediately entered in a chance to win a 2012 Scion IQ from Cramer Toyota.
Sounds like a good time and an excellent opportunity to score a new set of wheels. I’ve already written the show in my planner. The transmission is failing on my beat-up old Honda, and I’m now too embarrassed to valet park it at events.
+ Famous NYC mime will leave you mum
The FSU Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training only has one fundraiser a year, and this year it’s headlined by Bill Bowers.
The New York City-based actor and mime will perform his autobiographical one-man show, “It Goes Without Saying,” at 7 p.m. Dec. 9, at the Historic Asolo Theater.
A student of Marcel Marceau, the eccentric Bowers has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He’s appeared on Broadway as Zazu in Disney’s “The Lion King” and Leggett in “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
His show — part mime and part monologue — includes funny and heartbreaking stories from Bowers’ Montana childhood and showbiz career. A collection of sketches, the work has been compared to the self-deprecating anecdotal storytelling of David Sedaris.
‘In the Heights’
at the Van Wezel: This feel-good musical about a Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2008. (It won four.) It was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and its cast recording won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. It makes its Sarasota premiere at 7 p.m. Nov. 27, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. For tickets, call 953-3368 or visit vanwezel.org.
Tickets are $75 and include a catered post-performance reception with the artist. For more information, call 351-8000 or visit asolorep.org/conservatory.
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